Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Stedman (1840–1913)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

James Stedman (1840-1913), confectionery manufacturer, was born on 25 December 1840 at Parramatta, New South Wales, son of Henry Stedman (d.1893), servant, and his wife Catherine, née Murphy. Henry, who came from Surrey, had reached Sydney in the Mermaid on 6 May 1830, sentenced to fourteen years for robbing his master. James attended a private school at Brisbane Water, started work in a butcher's shop and at 14 joined William J. Cates, a Sydney confectioner whose business at 436 George Street was taken over by Wright & Smith in the early 1860s. At Christ Church St Laurence, Stedman married Margaret Noble on 14 February 1860. After John Smith sold out, Stedman worked as foreman for John M. Wright for twelve years and bought the business in 1875. Meanwhile Margaret ran a retail confectionery at their Crown Street premises.

About 1888 Stedman moved to new premises, with a shop in George Street and a factory (on which he spent £6000) in Clarence Street, adjacent to the Grand Central Coffee Palace and convenient to the wharves. Stedman (who 'would not sell for £25,000') employed between forty and fifty people in his wholesale and retail business which had an output of over five tons a week in 1889. As well as confectionery, he manufactured a range of pastry products; he also imported confectionery and essences, and advertised purely vegetable 'colouring matters'.

His success was largely due to his innovative outlook and quality control. In 1889 and 1896 Stedman visited England and brought back improved plant. Another feature of the business was close family involvement: two brothers, six sons and two nephews worked for the firm. In March 1900 James Stedman Ltd was incorporated with authorized capital of £60,000; Stedman was managing director and his second son George Albert became secretary. By 1903 popular lines included peppermints, brandy balls and bull's eyes, and Stedman's Imperial Steam Confectionery Works had about 130 staff. His 'Lion' brand sweets—among them 'Butter Scotch', 'Tofflets' and 'Lankee-Bill Toff-E'—were awarded a silver medal and diploma at the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition in London.

Active in community work, Stedman was a director of Sydney Hospital, the Benevolent Society of New South Wales and the Society for Destitute Children's asylum at Randwick; he was also a trustee of the City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen. In 1890 he had been appointed a justice of the peace. Balding and bearded, with a compact, burly figure, he was a keen patron of sport, especially cricket and athletics. Survived by six of his eight sons, Stedman died on 1 February 1913 in Highbury Hospital, Hobart, after an appendicectomy and was buried in Waverley cemetery, Sydney. His estate was valued for probate at about £150,000.

In June 1920 James Stedman-Henderson's Sweets Ltd was registered as a public company with Stedman's eldest son James Noble (1860-1944) as chairman. It became celebrated as the manufacturer of 'Minties'.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark, vol 2 (Syd, 1889)
  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • Old Times, Apr 1903, p 74
  • Town and Country Journal, 5 Feb 1913
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Aug 1893, 3 Feb 1913, 8 June 1944.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Stedman, James (1840–1913)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 December, 1840
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


1 February, 1913 (aged 72)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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