Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Hanlon Knipe (1828–1895)

by Keith Henry

This article was published:

John Hanlon Knipe (1828-1895), auctioneer and estate agent, was born on 4 August 1828 in London, son of George Edward Knipe, silversmith, and his wife Mary Ann, née Hanlon. After apprenticeship he worked as a silversmith in London until he migrated to South Australia in 1853. He arrived at Adelaide on 29 March in the Sisters and joined the auctioneering firm of Sampson & Wickstead.

In January 1854 Knipe left Adelaide for the Bendigo goldfields. He had no luck as a digger and opened a store in Old Camp Street but soon joined a rush to Maryborough where he became an auctioneer in partnership with Henry Joseph Smith. He campaigned for the abolition of diggers' licence fees and was a delegate to a conference at Ballarat, where he was taken prisoner at the riots. At Ballarat in 1855 Knipe set up as an auctioneer and land speculator, with branches at Creswick and Fiery Creek but the depression in land values led to his insolvency on 1 December. He returned to Bendigo in 1857 and again set up as a general auctioneer and horse-dealer. He also sold mining leases and became a founder of the Johnson's Reef and Hustlers' Reef Gold Mining companies and a prominent local sharebroker.

In 1861 Knipe joined a rush to Otago but in 1862 settled in Melbourne as an auctioneer, share-broker and estate agent, specializing in large suburban subdivisions, and in 1868 was managing the short-lived First Practical Building Society of Victoria. He was managing agent of the Royal Arcade in 1870-90 and an energetic founder of the Victorian Manufacturers' and Exhibitors' Association, serving as a director in 1877. In March 1876 the association had 'demanded' construction of a permanent exhibition building, and in 1877 Knipe led a deputation which prevailed on the government to build it in time for the International Exhibition in 1880. Knipe had been a founder of the Victorian Humane Society in 1874 and served on its committee; he helped to establish the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Co. in 1883 and the Federal Stock Exchange Co. Ltd in 1888. He also advocated the formation of a Government Employment Exchange and circulated about 23,000 copies of his pamphlet on the subject, claiming that Irish and Scottish colonists had the backing of their national societies in gaining employment and left English migrants at a disadvantage.

In May 1866 Knipe had been elected borough councillor of Prahran. Challenged by rivals because of undischarged insolvencies in 1855, 1858 and 1862 he was removed from office by a Supreme Court order. However, Knipe soon obtained his discharge and despite narrow defeat in the ensuing by-election headed the poll in August. He served two terms at Prahran and several more as borough councillor of Hawthorn. He was a strong advocate of land reform, progressive land tax and tariff protection of native industries. He often tried for election to parliament but without success. In 1877, after standing down in Boroondara in favour of Charles Pearson, he contested East Melbourne in May, and failed again in the Boroondara by-election in December, East Melbourne in 1886, and Jolimont and West Richmond in 1889 and 1892.

Knipe died at his home in St Kilda on 31 August 1895 and was buried in the Methodist section of the Melbourne general cemetery. He was twice married: first, to Ellen, née Crouch, in London on 18 January 1847; and second, to Jane, née Munro, at Ballarat on 29 June 1855. He was survived by two sons and a daughter of his first marriage and two sons and two daughters of the second.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Humphreys (ed), Men of the Time in Australia: Victorian series, 2nd ed (Melb, 1882)
  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. B. Cooper, The History of Prahran (Melb, 1912)
  • J. M. Tregenza, The Life and Work of C. H. Pearson, 1830-1894 (Melb, 1968)
  • Bendigo Advertiser, 1, 20 Feb 1858
  • Age (Melbourne), 16 Feb, 2, 15 Mar 1877, 2, 3 Sept 1895
  • Argus (Melbourne), 25 Dec 1877, 31 Aug 1883, 4, 6 Mar 1886
  • Table Talk, 19 July 1889
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Keith Henry, 'Knipe, John Hanlon (1828–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 August, 1828
London, Middlesex, England


31 August, 1895 (aged 67)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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