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Frederick Proeschel (1809–1870)

by Thomas A. Darragh

This article was published:

Frederick Proeschel (1809-1870), map-maker and publisher, was born on 11 March 1809 at Colmar, Haut Rhin, France, son of Jacques Proeschel, rope-maker, and his wife Madeleine, née Trautt. In 1832 Frederick married Christine Marguerite Hafler, with whom he had at least two children. By 1833 he was living in Paris carrying on his trade as an upholsterer. In the 1840s he experimented with various materials in the manufacture of bedding, including designing mattresses with springs. Proeschel also invented a method of making moisture-resistant bricks, for which he received a silver medal in 1841 and a cash prize of 400 francs in 1843 from the Société d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale. After suffering substantial losses in the revolution of 1848, he migrated to the United States of America, but departed in 1852 aboard the William Frontingham, reaching Melbourne—probably without his family—in December.

By the end of July 1853 Proeschel had set up an English, French and German (he was fluent in all three languages) information and labour agency in Little Bourke Street and published a map showing routes to the gold diggings. A map of Melbourne quickly followed, then maps of Collingwood, Richmond, North Melbourne and Geelong in 1855. For a fee, he would number houses, in 1859 taking credit 'for the foundation of a good numbering of the houses in Geelong, Collingwood, Richmond and North Melbourne'. His first map of Victoria was issued in 1856. These early productions were fairly crude lithographs but in 1859 he issued a more sophisticated engraved map of Victoria, updated as new information came to hand and issued in several editions. He also published maps of Hobart Town and Launceston, of New South Wales, South Australia and another one of Melbourne, as well as of the routes to the Snowy River goldfields.

Proeschel was extraordinarily successful in selling his maps, which he promoted by brochures, once by a lottery and by publishing the lists of subscribers around the edges of the maps. In 1863 he issued his Atlas of Australasia, based on his earlier maps of the eastern Australian colonies, together with new material. He was unlikely to have recouped his outlay of over £3000 on this expensive undertaking, though the atlas was widely acclaimed in reviews. Apart from his map-making, he experimented in separating gold from quartz, but did not produce any useful process. He also embarked on an atlas to show exploration of the world in the 400 years previous to the 1860s but this was never finished. In May 1860 he became a member of the Royal Society of Victoria.

Proeschel left Melbourne for London in February 1864 to promote his work there, apparently unsuccessfully, and soon returned to Paris. There his attempts to promote his atlas through the Ministère de l'Instruction Publique and his requests for support for the atlas of exploration had no success. In the late 1860s he published pamphlets in Paris on cholera and investment. He died on 1 May 1870 at his residence in Paris leaving an estate valued at a mere 40 francs. During his eleven years in Victoria Proeschel was its only private map publisher, who enjoyed considerable success by applying the methods of canvassing throughout the colony and other parts of Australia for selling maps.

Select Bibliography

  • T. A. Darragh, ‘Frederick Proeschel, Colonial Map Maker’, Bibliographical Society of Australian and New Zealand Bulletin, 15, nos 3 and 4, 1991
  • T. A. Darragh, Commercial Map Publishing in Nineteenth Century Melbourne’, Globe (Melbourne), no 37, 1992, p 74.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Thomas A. Darragh, 'Proeschel, Frederick (1809–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 March, 1809
Colmar, France


1 May, 1870 (aged 61)
Paris, France

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