Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Whistler Smith (1824–1859)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

Thomas Whistler Smith (1824-1859), businessman and banker, was born on 26 September 1824 at Hornsey, Middlesex, England, the eldest son of Thomas Smith and his wife Penelope, née Whistler. At the invitation of his brother Henry Gilbert Smith, Thomas Smith brought his family to Sydney in November 1830 and went into partnership with his brother as Smith Bros., importers, agents and merchants; they had a warehouse and residence in Macquarie Place. At 9 young Thomas entered Smith Bros as a clerk. After his father's death in 1842 and his uncle's retirement in 1848, he took over the business and entered into partnership with John Croft, under the name of Smith, Croft & Co. The partnership was dissolved in 1858 when T. W. Smith decided to go to England.

On 29 June 1847 he married Sarah Maria, second daughter of John Street and his wife Maria Wood, née Rendell; and they lived at Ecclesbourne, Darling Point, until 1850, when they moved to the family home, Glenrock, on the site of the present Ascham School. Public spirited and a zealous churchman, he was an original warden of St Mark's, Darling Point, the first vice-president of the Union Club, director of several companies, and a member of the Legislative Assembly representing the North Riding of Cumberland from 1857-59. He was a founder of the Sydney Exchange Co. and at 27 the youngest man to be elected to its board of directors, of which he was deputy-chairman for some time. He was a director of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, the Australian Gaslight Co., the Australian Trust Co., the Australian General Assurance Co., the Australian Steam Navigation Co., and the Sydney Exchange Co. In 1859 he resigned his directorates and went to London to open the first office of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney there and to act as managing director of its board. Previously he had been a director of the bank from 1850 to 1851 and again from 1857 to 1859, when he became deputy-chairman.

During his stay in London he had intended to study politics to prepare for his return to the colonial parliament, but these ambitions and his brilliant business career came to an abrupt end, when he caught diphtheria and died on 12 November 1859. His family returned to New South Wales; his widow Sarah Maria died in 1892; they had four daughters and two sons.

Select Bibliography

  • K. W. Street, Annals of the Street Family of Birtley (Syd, 1941)
  • W. J. Lyons, ‘Prominent Business Figures of Sydney in the 1850's’, Bulletin of the Business Archives Council of Australia, vol 1, May 1957, pp 1-11
  • The Commercial Banking Co. Sydney Ltd, Half-yearly reports, 1848-1910 (Syd, 1911)
  • manuscript catalogue under Thomas Whistler Smith (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Smith, Thomas Whistler (1824–1859)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Whistler Smith, Thomas

26 September, 1824
London, Middlesex, England


12 November, 1859 (aged 35)
London, Middlesex, England

Cause of Death


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