Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick Thomas Humphery (1841–1908)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published:

Frederick Thomas Humphery (1841-1908), merchant, financier and politician, was born on 16 September 1841 at Oldbury, near Berrima, New South Wales, son of Thomas Bott Humphery and his wife Mary Ann, née Thorn. Educated in private schools, he entered commerce at 13. Recommended by Sydney merchants and bankers, he was appointed on 30 May 1864 an official assignee of insolvent estates while retaining his private business as a commission agent. He was receiver and manager of large pastoral and mining estates, a liquidator under the Companies Act and often arbitrated in commercial and financial issues. About 1871 he acquired a cattle station at Mount Debatable and three others near Gayndah in the Burnett district of Queensland, holding them until 1908.

In September 1880 Humphery failed to win Shoalhaven in the Legislative Assembly after the Sydney Echo falsely claimed he was 'a disguised denominationalist', but held the seat in 1882-87. As a supporter of Alexander Stuart he spoke mainly on financial questions. He preferred an income tax to a land tax on improved valuations which, he claimed, would oppress free selectors as well as moderately wealthy metropolitan landowners. In December 1887 he was appointed to the Legislative Council where he used his 'large experience in the administrative details of the laws of property and commerce'. He never accepted ministerial office but served on the parliamentary standing committee, on royal commissions into the civil service and city and suburban railways and in 1900-03 as acting chairman of committees. As a member and vice-chairman of the Public Works Committee he initiated enabling legislation for various companies in 1894-97.

Humphery had resigned as official assignee when he entered politics but retained his business interests. He was a director and in 1905 chairman of the Mutual Life Association of Australasia, a founding director and later chairman of the Permanent Trustee Co. of New South Wales Ltd, a director of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, chairman of the Federal Bank of Australia and many other public companies. In 1896-1901 he was also a vice-president of the Hospital for Sick Children. He died on 10 April 1908 at the Hotel Australia from diabetes and heart failure and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery. He was survived by a son of his first wife Helena Annie, daughter of Rev. George King, whom he had married on 20 January 1875, and by his second wife Lucy Alice Matilda, daughter of W. J. King, and two daughters. His estate was valued at £16,774.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • Shoalhaven Telegraph, 30 Sept, 28 Oct, 4, 11, 20, 25 Nov, 2 Dec 1880, 2, 6, 14 Dec 1882, 14, 17 Oct 1885, 15 Feb 1888, 15 Apr 1908
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Apr 1908.

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Humphery, Frederick Thomas (1841–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 September, 1841
Berrima, New South Wales, Australia


10 April, 1908 (aged 66)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.