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Heinrich Ludwig Vosz (1812–1886)

by Eric Richards

This article was published:

Heinrich Ludwig Vosz (1812-1886), hardware merchant and paint manufacturer, was born on 3 May 1812 at Bodenwerder, Hanover, Germany, of poor parents who a few years later moved to a village near Hamburg. From the age of 12 Vosz worked for local farmers, but at 15 he was apprenticed to a carpenter. After careful saving he set up as a carpenter and builder in Hamburg and was successful until, apparently engulfed in the turmoil of 1848, his business collapsed. Leaving debts behind him he migrated to South Australia. With his wife Friederike Dorothea Sophie (1810-1875) and their two sons, Vosz arrived in Adelaide in the Alfred on 6 December 1848, reputedly with a few sheets of window glass and little else.

Vosz was naturalized on 9 August 1849 and set up as a cabinetmaker and joiner. After a period on the Victorian diggings, he established himself at 82 Rundle Street, Adelaide, as a painter, paper-hanger and glazier. Assisted by his sons he developed a flourishing business in the import and sale of glass and as a house decorator and plumber. In 1860 he had the great satisfaction of repaying all his Hamburg debts, including interest at ten per cent. He became an expert in artesian wells and specialized in importing and installing pumping machinery when the city of Adelaide was starting a water-supply and drainage system. Although influential in the economy and society of South Australia Vosz held aloof from politics, but was an Adelaide City councillor for Hindmarsh Ward in 1860-62 and a justice of the peace.

Self effacing, Vosz nevertheless was widely known for his generosity and charity and his kindly paternalism as an employer. Born in 1842, his younger son Adolph Frederick Emil died in 1868; his elder son Wilhelm Hartwig Edward (1840-1883) also predeceased him, but left a considerable part of his estate of £155,591 to his father. For many years Vosz had suffered from severe neuralgia and visited Germany for treatment and an operation. He died of old age at North Terrace, Adelaide, on 10 March 1886 and was buried in West Terrace cemetery. His estate, sworn for probate at £73,947, was distributed among local charities, relatives in Germany and many former employees. His business, said to have been the first to manufacture paint in Australia (originally in a backyard workshop), became a limited liability company, H. L. Vosz Ltd, in 1904 and in 1915 changed its name to Clarkson Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • F. E. H. W. Krichauff, Water Supply by Artesian and Tube Wells (Adel, 1879)
  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1908)
  • Clarkson Ltd, The Romance of a Great Business (Adel, nd), and Seventy-Fifth Birthday, 1848-1923 (Adel, 1923)
  • Observer (Adelaide), 13 Mar, 3 Apr 1886
  • Pictorial Australia, May 1886
  • Progress in Australia, June 1933.

Citation details

Eric Richards, 'Vosz, Heinrich Ludwig (1812–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 May, 1812
Bodenwerder, Hanover, Germany


10 March, 1886 (aged 73)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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