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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mullens, Josiah (1826–1915)

by Jim Bain

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Josiah Mullens (1826-1915), stockbroker, was born on 4 July 1826 in London, one of seven children of Richard Mullens, a clerk in the Court of Chancery, and his wife Anne, née Mather. After attending school, Josiah began work with Drummond's Bank and later became clerk-in-charge of the bank's stock exchange department. In November 1852 he reached Melbourne in the City of Poonah, then went to Sydney. Through his family connexions, and in particular the Congregational Church, he obtained employment with G. A. Lloyd, gold-merchant, and was later appointed gold-buyer for the firm. On 18 February 1854 at the Independent Chapel, Pitt Street, Josiah married with Congregational forms Mary Ann Broome (d.1904), from London. They had six children.

On 3 January 1860 Josiah set up his own stockbroking firm. The only other Sydney broker then was (Sir) Edmund Barton's father William. Elected an alderman of Balmain council in 1869, Mullens was mayor next year. When the Sydney Stock Exchange was established in May 1871, he became a founding member. The mining boom of 1872 brought major challenges to the new exchange. There was a dramatic increase in membership from 22 to 131. Most new entrants were inexperienced in share trading and some were recent arrivals who lacked the ability to give sound investment advice.

By 1874 Mullens had become Sydney's most respected and successful stockbroker, dealing only in high quality shares and New South Wales government securities. With a reputation for integrity and financial acumen, he was the obvious choice of the members as second chairman of the exchange upon the death that year of W. F. Cape. Under Mullens, the exchange developed policies for controlling the listing and trading in shares, established the call system of trading and restored its reputation, for which he was largely responsible. His record term ended in 1889, Joseph Palmer succeeding him. Mullens's son Arthur had joined the firm in 1887; after a trip to Egypt and Britain in 1889, Josiah retired from stockbroking in 1892. He was a director of the Joint Stock Bank briefly in 1893 and of the Sydney Exchange Co. (the Royal Exchange) for some twenty years from that year.

Mullens was of 'studious and retiring habits'. His hobby was Egyptology and archaeology, and he took a deep interest in the Palestine Exploration Society and the discoveries in Babylonia and elsewhere. He was appointed vice-president of the Australian branch of the Egyptian Exploration Fund and was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London. In 1861 he drew the attention of Professor John Woolley to the availability of a facsimile edition of the Codex Sinaiticus, which was obtained for the University of Sydney library. Mullens was also a committee-member of the university's Nicholson Museum of Antiquities. A connoisseur of the fine arts, he was a vice-president of the National Art Gallery, Sydney. He was elected to the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1877 and frequently attended its meetings.

A 'staunch Nonconformist', Mullens took a leading part in the Congregational Church and was deacon and Sunday School teacher at Balmain and from 1875 at Burwood. He was interested in higher Biblical criticism and familiar with current philosophical and theological literature. A founder of Camden Theological College, he was treasurer and a member of the college council until failing health compelled him to retire. He also fostered from its beginning the Congregational ministers' retirement fund.

Mullens died on 21 October 1915 in his home at Burwood and was buried in Rookwood cemetery with Congregational forms. Three daughters and one son survived him. His estate was sworn for probate at £26,501. Mullens had been the most influential stockbroker in the first fifty years of the Sydney Stock Exchange, of which his son Arthur and great-grandson Frank were also to become chairmen.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Salsbury and K. Sweeney, The Bull, the Bear and the Kangaroo (Syd, 1988)
  • S. Salsbury and K. Sweeney, Sydney Stockbrokers (Syd, 1992)
  • Congregationalist (Sydney), 10 Nov 1915, p 5
  • Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 50, 1916, p 6
  • University of Sydney Gazette, Apr 1970, p 293
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 22 Oct 1889, p 7, 22 Oct 1915, p 9
  • Australian Independent (Sydney), 1 Nov 1889, pp 10 & 20, 15 Dec 1889, p 235
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Oct 1915, p 6, 23 Nov 1915, p 7
  • private information.

Citation details

Jim Bain, 'Mullens, Josiah (1826–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 9 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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