Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Russell Hauslaib (1897–1970)

by James H. Coleman

This article was published:

William Russell Hauslaib (1897-1970), businessman, was born on 18 May 1897 at Bucyrus, Ohio, United States of America, son of William Housleib, merchant, and his wife Sophia, née Meyers. Rus was educated at Bucyrus High School and in 1915 entered Western Reserve University, Cleveland. In World War I he served with the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. After his demobilization he attended the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania (B.S.E.). About 1921 he married Helen Springer in New York; they were later divorced. Hauslaib (as he spelt his surname) came to Sydney in 1935 when appointed managing director of the automotive importing firm, Ira L.& A. C. Berk Ltd, Australian agents for the Packard Motor Car Co. At St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Macquarie Street, on 2 February 1937 he married A. C. Berk's daughter Vivienne Berk Audette, a widow with four children. In 1950 he became chairman of the firm.

From his early days in Sydney, Hauslaib took an active part in civic and business organizations, especially those involving American interests and the local American community. He was president (1939-40) of the Chamber of Automotive Industries of New South Wales, a member (1939-41) of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and an executive-member of the Motor Traders' Association of New South Wales. During World War II he served (from 1941) on the State Liquid Fuel Control Board. In 1958 he was appointed chevalier of the Ordre du Mérite Commercial by the French government for fostering trade between France and Australia. While president (1959-60) of the Rotary Club of Sydney, he organized a campaign for more street signs and for visible numbers on every house to assist the police, ambulance and fire brigade. He was president (1946-47) of the Australian-American Association and a director (from 1949) of the United States Educational Foundation in Australia.

His most lasting contribution to the community was made as foundation treasurer (1947) and president (1950-67) of the American National Club. The fledgling club, located in an historic terrace house at 129 Macquarie Street, was established to provide a place to enhance relationships and to promote goodwill in Australian-American commercial dealings. As the club grew, it was able to acquire adjoining buildings on either side. In 1962 a deal was negotiated with a French company, Citra Australia, which purchased the real estate and built a sixteen-storey building—the first high-rise in Macquarie Street—with the club owning and using the top three levels.

Hauslaib also belonged to Tattersall's Club. He enjoyed gardening at his Point Piper home and surfing. Survived by his wife, he died on 29 November 1970 in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and was cremated; his estate was sworn for probate at $282,443. The American National Club became the American Club of Sydney in 1989 and occupies the same premises.

Select Bibliography

  • The First Thirty Years of the American National Club 1947-1977 (Syd, 1977)
  • MTA Official Journal, 15 Jan 1939, p 17, 15 Feb 1941, p 17
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 May 1936, 19 Jan 1940, 26 July 1941, 14 June 1947, 7 Feb 1950, 8 July, 27 Oct 1959, 4 Mar 1960, 9 Sept 1971
  • private information.

Citation details

James H. Coleman, 'Hauslaib, William Russell (1897–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 May, 1897
Bucyrus, Ohio, United States of America


29 November, 1970 (aged 73)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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