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Friedrich Jacob Theodor (Fritz) Pflaum (1846–1923)

by J. Cashen

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Friedrich Jacob Theodor Pflaum (1846-1923), by unknown photographer, c1912

Friedrich Jacob Theodor Pflaum (1846-1923), by unknown photographer, c1912

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B45299

Friedrich Jacob Theodor (Fritz) Pflaum (1846-1923), miller and politician, was born on 17 July 1846 at Itzehoe, Holstein, then a Danish province, third son of Johann Friederich Sebastian Pflaum, tanner, and his wife Catherina Luise Henriette, née Andersen. After elementary schooling Pflaum did voluntary work in a Hamburg mercantile house. He migrated to South Australia in 1867 and worked in a store at Lyndoch. Two years later he was joined by his younger brother Heinrich Adam Theodor, who migrated to avoid national service, and they bought a store at Blumberg, a village in the Adelaide Hills. A third brother Conrad Christian Theodor also migrated, and farmed at Nairne. In 1871 Friedrich was naturalized. That year, on 12 March, he married Margareth Livonia Wilke; they had one daughter who died young.

'Fritz' and Heinrich established a tannin-mill alongside the Blumberg flour-mill and used its steam power plant. The abundance of wattle scrub suitable for milling and tannin's high price on the world market brought F. Pflaum & Co. prosperity. In 1877 they bought the flour-mill. As the supply of wattle declined the brothers expanded their flour-milling. In 1887 they built a new mill for £7000; this was bold, given the colony's agricultural recession. The mill boasted the latest German and American technology, including steel rollers. Pflaum's experience in overseas trade ensured profitable exports of 'Peerless' superfine flour which won prizes at international exhibitions. He often travelled in Europe, the United States of America, China and Japan. In 1889-1908 he and Heinrich alternated as councillors on the Talunga District Council. Friedrich was chairman in 1890-91 and 1894-97, and was a justice of the peace. When the firm became a limited liability company in 1897, he turned to politics.

He failed to enter the Legislative Council next year, but in 1902 he became one of the two representatives for the House of Assembly seat of Murray, which embraced Blumberg. Anti-Labor, Pflaum later joined the Liberal Union. In his maiden speech he warned of the dangers of the Northern Territory being 'overrun by colored races'. He supported closer settlement, with fixity of tenure, and in 1907-13 sat on eight government inquiries associated with the extravagant railway expansion promoted by Liberal Premier A. H. Peake. A keen debater, Pflaum was thought to exert influence in parliament; World War I ended that. Strong anti-German feeling ignored his loyal record: Pflaum polled the fewest votes of any candidate in the 1915 election for Murray and his colleague there, Hermann Homburg, was also defeated. In 1917 the town of Blumberg succumbed to jingoism when its name was changed to Birdwood.

After his defeat the Pflaums lived in Adelaide. A bearded, austere-looking man, he remained active in cultural and community affairs; in November 1915 he was re-elected as a council-member of the South Australian Institutes' Association, and he was on the board of the Old People's Homes. Survived by his wife (d.1945), Pflaum died of chronic bronchitis and emphysema on 28 July 1923 and was buried in North Road cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £22,951; two of the principal beneficiaries were his nephew, 'in recognition of having done his duty to his country during the late war', and his niece, 'for her patriotic work in the war'.

Select Bibliography

  • Register (Adelaide), 30 July 1923
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 4 Aug 1923
  • Observer (Adelaide), 4 Aug 1923, 10 July 1926
  • South Australian, 6 Jan 1927
  • private information.

Citation details

J. Cashen, 'Pflaum, Friedrich Jacob Theodor (Fritz) (1846–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 25 May 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

Friedrich Jacob Theodor Pflaum (1846-1923), by unknown photographer, c1912

Friedrich Jacob Theodor Pflaum (1846-1923), by unknown photographer, c1912

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B45299

Life Summary [details]


17 July, 1846
Holstein, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany


28 July, 1923 (aged 77)
Parkside, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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