Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Loader (1830–1901)

by John Lack

This article was published:

Thomas Loader (1830-1901), businessman and politician, was born in London, son of Isaac Loader, merchant, and his wife Elizabeth, née Minifie. Educated at Christ's Hospital, he was employed in industry and with railway firms in England but overwork impaired his health. He decided to migrate and in 1852 arrived in Melbourne.

Loader set up as an ironmonger, wholesale saddler and importer of rolling stock. Calling for democratic reforms and an end to the squatters' land monopoly, he contested the Legislative Assembly seat of North Grant at the general election in 1856 but was defeated by J. B. Humffray. Later that year he helped to form the Victoria Land League and the Land Convention of 1857. In 1859 he was elected for West Melbourne as a Conventionist. In the Heales ministry, 1860-61, he served as commissioner of railways and then as postmaster-general but his appointment as commissioner of trade and customs raised objections that his seat was vacant because he had accepted a place of profit under the Crown. Loader promptly resigned but a parliamentary committee ruled in his favour. He was re-elected for West Melbourne, rejoined the ministry and received his salary as commissioner. He had moved successfully for a renewal of assisted immigration in May and published his own scheme in the pamphlet Family Immigration for Victoria (1861). He retired from parliament in August 1864 under pressure of private business. He was associated in the early 1870s with the West Melbourne Improvement League which advocated reclamation of the West Melbourne swamp and other improvements. He gave evidence to the commission on low lands in 1873 and to the 1887 royal commission on the extension of Melbourne westward. In 1877-96 he represented Melbourne's merchants and traders on the Harbor Trust Commission.

In 1872 Loader had founded the Apollo Stearine Candle Co. By 1882 the Footscray plant employed two hundred men and supplied raw materials to branch factories in Sydney and Brisbane. Intercolonial duties hampered the company's operations and, while Loader defended Victoria's protective duty on candles to the royal commission on the tariff in 1883, he favoured a uniform tariff for the Australian colonies and political union of New South Wales and Victoria. By 1884 he was calling on the politicians to recognize that commercial interests were silently making for Federation. He was president of the economy, trade and manufactures department at the 1880 Melbourne Social Science Congress and in his inaugural address argued that the empire should distribute its surplus population to the colonies to secure the great future of the English-speaking people and to prepare for the coming conflict with the 'hordes of the Asiatic races'.

Loader was a founder in 1873 of the City of Melbourne Bank and a director of the Squatting Investment Co., the Mutual Assurance Society of Victoria and the Perpetual Trustees and Agency Co. He suffered humiliation in Victoria's economic crisis of the 1890s. Allegations of reckless management led to an investigation in 1896 of the City of Melbourne Bank, of which Loader was chairman. At best he appeared incompetent. Alfred Deakin defended him when, with three other directors and two auditors, he was charged with concurring in the issuing of false balance sheets. All were acquitted. After a brief illness Loader died on 26 February 1901 at his home, Craigevar, Malvern, survived by his wife Anna Maria, née Hall, whom he had married in 1865, two sons and two of his four daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Hoare, Jubilee History of the Melbourne Harbor Trust (Melb, 1927)
  • G. Serle, The Golden Age (Melb, 1963)
  • M. Cannon, The Land Boomers (Melb, 1966)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1860-61, 2 (D11)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 13 Aug, 20 Oct, 1, 5, 12 Nov 1856, 6, 13 Aug 1861, 27 Feb 1901
  • Age (Melbourne), 14 Nov 1872, 10-13, 20 Mar 1896
  • Federal Australian, 10 Jan 1885
  • L. C. Duly, The Land Selection Acts in Victoria 1859-69 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1959)
  • G. R. Quaife, The Nature of Political Conflict in Victoria 1856-57 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1964)
  • Deakin papers (National Library of Australia)
  • Defunct trading companies papers (Public Record Office Victoria).

Citation details

John Lack, 'Loader, Thomas (1830–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 14 July 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

Thomas Loader (1830-1901), by unknown engraver

Thomas Loader (1830-1901), by unknown engraver

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, A/S14/02/80/212

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


26 February, 1901 (aged ~ 71)
Malvern, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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