Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick John Ludowici (1873–1969)

by Audrey Tate

This article was published:

Frederick John Ludowici (1873-1969), businessman and conservationist, was born on 27 November 1873 at Willoughby, Sydney, eighth child of John Charles Ludowici, a tanner from Prussia, and his London-born wife Elizabeth, née Fay. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Frederick began work at the age of 16 as an apprentice in his father's firm, J. C. Ludowici & Son Ltd, 'Mill Belt Manufacturers, Tanners, Curriers and Importers'. In 1891 he became its secretary on a salary of £13 per month. At St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 30 April 1902 he married Annie Maria Yates. Ludowici was appointed a director of the company in 1905 and general manager in 1914. Tall, fair haired and unaffected, he had a lively interest in the leather business and allied fields, and a genuine concern for people. Before World War I he went 'stagecoaching out West to find . . . the uses and abuses of belting in the ever-growing industry'.

Several times president of the Master Tanners and Leather Manufacturers' Association, in 1940 Ludowici deplored the difficulty of obtaining permits to import hides from New Zealand in a period when Australian cattlemen continued to brand their stock on the rump which led to excessive waste. Despite a quick temper, he was a much-loved employer. He retired as managing director in 1959, and resigned as chairman in 1962 and as a board-member in 1966 (at the age of 92). By the 1950s the business employed some 300 people at its 10-acre (4 ha) site at Lane Cove and its factory at Marrickville.

Ludowici was a complex man, shy and diffident, yet fond of company, with 'great personal charm which covered a strong, determined inner character'. Known to colleagues and friends as 'Ludo' or 'Jack Ludo', he loved literature and music, and delighted in unobtrusively helping people, including, it is said, Henry Lawson's wife, Bertha. He was sympathetic to Aborigines, and supported the Royal Blind Society of New South Wales, the (Royal) Flying Doctor Service and the Church of England's Carlingford Boys' Home. A Freemason and Rotarian, he also belonged to the Commercial Travellers' Association, the Royal Australian Historical Society and the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, and was sometime president of the Royal Horticultural and Naturalists' societies of New South Wales.

His absorbing interest, outside work, was horticulture, especially the propagation of native wildflowers, trees and shrubs. Ludowici donated trees to Sydney City Council, to catchment areas and to Balls Head Reserve where, from 1930 until he was in his nineties, he worked voluntarily to restore the area. On his retirement, he humorously identified his interests as 'belts, beetles, bugs and birds'. In 1967 a ceremony was arranged by the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia and North Sydney Municipal Council to unveil a plaque dedicating the F. J. Ludowici Grove. Survived by two of his three sons, Ludowici died on 7 August 1969 at Hornsby and was cremated. His friend P. J. Hurley ('Waratah', gardening writer for the Sydney Morning Herald) described him as 'a man who loved trees with a great intensity'.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Henderson (ed), Monuments and Memorials (Syd, 1988)
  • Australian Leather Journal, 15 Dec 1958
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Mar 1924, 10, 14 Feb 1940, 11 Mar 1959, 8 Aug 1969
  • North Shore Times, 28 Dec 1967
  • private information.

Citation details

Audrey Tate, 'Ludowici, Frederick John (1873–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 November, 1873
Willoughby, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


7 August, 1969 (aged 95)
Hornsby, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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