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Kraegen, Francis Frederick (Frank) (1906–1997)

by Glenn Mitchell

This article was published online in 2022

Francis Frederick Kraegen (1906–1997), chartered accountant and timber industry representative, was born on 24 March 1906 at Mosman, Sydney, younger child of New South Wales-born Edward Charles Kraegen, union organiser and public servant, and his Victorian-born wife Louisa Margaret, née Dunkley, union leader and feminist. Frank went to Lindfield Public, Chatswood Public, and North Sydney Boys’ High schools, completing his Leaving certificate at the latter. He studied accountancy with the firm of Halberg, Parsons, and Anderson, and was admitted to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1928, becoming a fellow in 1936.

Having earlier excelled at athletics as a member of the Roseville Boy Scout Troop, Kraegen played grade tennis and first-grade pennant bowls and was a foundation member of the Lane Cove Rowing Club. Accountancy, however, dominated his life. He had founded his own firm, F. F. Kraegen and Company, in 1929, and in the 1930s became involved with several companies either as accountant, director, or subscriber. Like his father, who had been the founding president of the Post and Telegraph Officers Association, he was interested in communications technology. In 1935 he was secretary of the Australian Radio Manufacturers’ Patents Association when it was appointed by Baird Television Ltd as its representative for the building of experimental transmitters as a precursor to commercial television broadcasting. On 23 August 1941 he married Enid Margaret Jones, a librarian, at St Canice’s Catholic Church, Katoomba.

Kraegen became familiar with timber products and building work through his clients and directorships of firms such as J. S. Booth Ltd, timber brokers, and Town and Country Home Builders. World War II changed the timber industry. There was an increased demand for the product for use in military hardware such as aircraft, ships, and armaments, as well as infrastructure. Meeting this demand required strong organisation, but the industry was fragmented, with divisions between State and Federal governments, timber producers, and sawmillers. When the Federal government introduced price controls at the beginning of the war, Kraegen’s accountancy skills became vital to the sawmillers’ interests. In April 1941 he was elected a vice president of the Associated Country Sawmillers of New South Wales Ltd (ACS), and in June he became the association’s secretary. He helped sawmillers to produce professional costings and improve their bookkeeping, contributing to favourable decisions from (Sir) Douglas Copland, the prices commissioner.

Additionally, Kraegen helped ensure the supply of timber for rifle production at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, worked with the Liquid Fuel Control Board to secure petrol supplies for country sawmills, and in September 1942 was appointed to a Commonwealth advisory committee on manpower needs for the sawmilling industry. What followed was an extensive career dedicated to prosecuting the interests of sawmills and their products. In 1943 he was instrumental in holding a conference of forestry officers from New South Wales and Queensland that led to the formation of the Eastern States Timber Industry Stabilisation conference (later the Australian Timber Industry Stabilisation conference). In 1946 he was appointed ACS’s general secretary and in 1947 its manager.

During Kraegen’s time with ACS, there were significant developments in the use of timber in domestic construction, especially in the years immediately after the war. In a context of declining local sawmills and increasing imports, he often noted that it was cheaper to import timber from Oregon, United States of America, than to transport it from the New South Wales north coast to Sydney. He helped to found the Australian Timber Producers Council and the New South Wales Timber Advisory Council. The councils of the Timber Development Association of New South Wales, the Timber Trade Industrial Association, the Building Industry Congress of New South Wales, the Building Industry Suppliers’ Association of New South Wales, and the New South Wales Housing Advisory Committee also benefited from his membership. Understanding the management of forests and the sustainability and renewal of trees, he did not favour indiscriminate felling.

Retiring from ACS in 1971, Kraegen was appointed OBE the following year. He was ‘a popular and dedicated manager who had earned the respect of all sections of the industry and the community’ (Hudson and Henningham 1986, 213), and he brought the same enthusiasm for reform, advocacy, and communication to his work that his parents had displayed in their lives. Survived by his wife and two sons, he died on 23 July 1997 at Wagga Wagga and was cremated.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Henningham. Gift of God—Friend of Man: A Story of the Timber Industry in New South Wales 1788–1986. Sydney: Australian Forest Industries Journal, 1986
  • Kraegen Papers. Private collection
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Frank Kraegen OBE.’ 5 August 1997, 35

Additional Resources

Citation details

Glenn Mitchell, 'Kraegen, Francis Frederick (Frank) (1906–1997)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kraegen-francis-frederick-frank-31766/text39226, published online 2022, accessed online 6 December 2022.

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