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Frederick Augustus Peters (1866–1937)

by G. P. Walsh

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Frederick Augustus Bolles Peters (1866-1937), ice-cream manufacturer, was born on 12 July 1866 at Scio, Michigan, United States of America, third son of George Augustus Peters, farmer and miller, and his wife Jannette, née Jacobs. He left Dexter High School, Michigan, at 18 and worked as a travelling salesman for a Boston drug firm. In 1891 he became a salesman for the Union Manufacturing Co., Toledo, Ohio, and within three months was sales manager.

Fearing the collapse of a New York firm, which exported bicycles and parts to Australia and in which he had an interest, Peters visited Sydney. At the Australia Hotel on 14 September 1897 he married a Canadian nurse Daisy Edith Eliza Stephen (d.1929); they had two daughters. The year after the business failed he returned to America where his father told him, 'Son, the place to find your money is where you lost it'.

Back in Sydney in 1899 Peters began business with several agencies including the Union Manufacturing Co. In the early 1900s he manufactured 'Peters' Pile Cure'. Homesick and craving ice-cream (which was not readily obtainable), he leased two rooms in an ice factory at Paddington and set up Peters' American Delicacy Co. Ltd on 27 August 1907. In 1920 the initial capital, £2000, was increased to £50,000 and the company was reconstructed with a nominal capital of £250,000. New works to manufacture 'The Health Food of a Nation' were opened at Redfern in 1923 and business flourished. In 1927 he set up Peters' Arctic Delicacy Co. Ltd in Brisbane and opened a branch at Newcastle. In 1929 associated companies were established in Victoria, Western Australia and at Townsville, Queensland, with a manufacturing branch at Rockhampton. These flotations created Australian records: applications for the Victorian company exceeded the number of shares available by almost fifteen times.

Peters was largely responsible for introducing to Australia the small refrigerated cabinet, which he hired out to retailers. He attributed his success to modern equipment, good staff and a strong emphasis on cleanliness and quality control of his product. He prided himself on excellent staff relations, paid all his employees a cash bonus based on the company's yearly dividend and encouraged them to become shareholders. His business suffered in the Depression, but he kept his staff intact.

Peters was also a director of Peters' Paterson River Dairies Ltd, Hardy-Johnston Motor Co. Ltd and McKimmins' Golden Gate Sundae Shops Ltd. He retired as managing director of Peters' in 1936. He took little interest in politics although, as a leader of the American community in Sydney, he encouraged closer trading relations between Australia and the U.S.A. Golf, shooting, fishing and motoring were his chief recreations. Solidly built, he had closely cropped white hair and bushy black eyebrows. He was vice-president of the Royal South Sydney Hospital.

At Burwood, Sydney, on 24 May 1929 Peters married Mildred Matilda Mallard (d.1931), by whom he had two daughters. He then successively wed Hilda Katharina Hogberg (d.1935) on 1 October 1931 at Marburg, Queensland, and Theodora Dorothy Sunshine Pitkethly on 17 December 1936 in Sydney. Survived by his wife and daughters, he died at his Strathfield home on 14 May 1937 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His estate was sworn for probate at £56,439.

The company Peters created was later known as Petersville Australia Limited, with its headquarters in the Melbourne suburb of Mulgrave. Most of its ice-cream products continued to be manufactured there into the 21st century. Petersville however was taken over by the Adelaide Steamship Company in the 1980s; when that company collapsed, the Petersville interests went to Pacific Dunlop, then in the 1990s to the Nestlé group, which continued to manufacture various Peters ice-cream brands. Nestlé’s interest became nationwide in 2009, when it acquired control of Peters’ Western Australian interests. The European company R&R Ice Cream bought Peters in 2014, becoming part of Froneri – a joint venture between R&R Ice Cream, Nestlé and PAI Partners, a private Paris-based equity firm – four years later.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Pratt (ed), The National Handbook of Australia's Industries (Melb, 1934)
  • Rydge's Business Journal, 9, Mar 1936
  • Australasian Confectioner and Soda Fountain Journal, 24 Sept 1936, 25 Jan, 24 May 1937
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 22 May 1937
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 1937
  • M. Janda, ‘Peters ice cream sold to European food giant’. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 27 May 2014

Additional Resources

  • retires, Truth (Sydney), 3 January 1937, p 17
  • funeral, Labor Daily (Sydney), 17 May 1937, p 4
  • funeral, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 1937, p 11
  • probate, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 October 1937, p 4

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Peters, Frederick Augustus (1866–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Frederick Peters, n.d.

Frederick Peters, n.d.

State Library of Western Australia, 59786980

Life Summary [details]


12 July, 1866
Scio, Michigan, United States of America


14 May, 1937 (aged 70)
Strathfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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