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Joseph Vardon (1843–1913)

by Malcolm Saunders

This article was published:

Joseph Vardon (1843-1913), by Fruhling Studios, c1910

Joseph Vardon (1843-1913), by Fruhling Studios, c1910

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23514372

Joseph Vardon (1843-1913), printer and politician, was born on 27 July 1843 at Hindmarsh, Adelaide, eldest son of Ambrose Edward Vardon, shoemaker, and his wife Elizabeth, née Painter. Educated at Moody's School, Hindmarsh, and James Bath's School, North Adelaide, at 13 Joseph found work on a farm before being apprenticed to Henry Denyer Hilton, a printer in the city. On 26 December 1864 Vardon married Mary Ann Pickering (d.1905) at Brompton. In 1870-74 he published the Strathalbyn Southern Argus and in 1871 established Webb, Vardon & Pritchard (later Vardon & Sons Ltd) which grew to be one of Adelaide's biggest printing and publishing companies; it was eventually absorbed by the Advertiser. Vardon was president and secretary (for twenty-three years) of the South Australian Typographical Society and belonged to the Master Printers' Association. He became a director of the Adelaide Fruit and Produce Exchange Co. Ltd and State president of the Australian Natives' Association. A Freemason, he was a deacon and in 1892 lay chairman of the South Australian Congregational Union; he studied elocution and in 1904-08 served as president of the Young Men's Christian Association. Mayor of Hindmarsh in 1888-91, he later sat on both the Adelaide and Unley city councils.

Having thrice attempted to win a seat in the House of Assembly, Vardon represented Central in the Legislative Council in 1900-06. He was commissioner of public works and minister of industry (1904-05) in J. G. Jenkins's government, and chief secretary and minister of industry in (Sir) Richard Butler's cabinet (March-July 1905). Vardon led the government in the Upper House and advocated the temperance cause. Robust, genial and optimistic, self-made without being ostentatious, he proved a 'plodding' politician, though he was liked and regarded as 'broadminded', even 'cosmopolitan': he went abroad several times. He was president of the State and national branches of the Liberal Union of Australia in 1910-13, and of the Effective Voting League of South Australia. In 1906 he had been a senator for South Australia, but next year, owing to technical irregularities, his election was declared void. At the fresh election, in 1908, Vardon won easily and held his seat until 1913; unpleasant incidents during that campaign affected his health. Survived by four sons and a daughter, he died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 20 July 1913 in Adelaide and was buried in Hindmarsh cemetery; his estate was sworn for probate at £19,139. The Vardon Memorial Congregational Church at King's Park no longer exists, but Hindmarsh Historical Society holds his portrait.

His eldest son Edward Charles (1866-1937) was born on 10 November 1866 at Hindmarsh and educated at North Adelaide Grammar School. After joining his father's firm, he became chairman of directors of Mile End Cold Stores Ltd, of the Adelaide Fruit and Produce Exchange Co. Ltd, and of the East End Market. On 28 August 1888 at the Congregational Church, Port Adelaide, he married Ellen Peel. He was president of the South Australian Chamber of Manufacturers (1910-12) and of its federal body, and sat on the Apprentices Advisory Board of South Australia. Like his father, he was a Freemason. Edward was a National (1918-21) and Liberal (1924-30) member for Sturt in the House of Assembly; in 1921-22 he was a senator for South Australia. Although sincere and charming, he never won the respect accorded his father. Survived by his daughter, Edward died of coronary thrombosis on 23 February 1937 at Unley Park and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1887 (27), 1907 (51) (52) (61), 1921 (24)
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 3 Mar 1905
  • Mail (Adelaide), 18 May 1912
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 21 July 1913, 17 Feb 1921, 24 Feb 1937
  • Register (Adelaide), 21 July 1913
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 26 July 1913
  • Observer (Adelaide), 26 July 1913.

Citation details

Malcolm Saunders, 'Vardon, Joseph (1843–1913)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 May 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

Joseph Vardon (1843-1913), by Fruhling Studios, c1910

Joseph Vardon (1843-1913), by Fruhling Studios, c1910

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23514372

Life Summary [details]


27 July, 1843
Hindmarsh, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


20 July, 1913 (aged 69)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.