SMITH, James


SMITH, James
1) (1820-1910)
journalist
was born near Maidstone, Kent, England, in 1820 and was educated for the church. He, however, took up journalism and at the age of 20 was editing a country newspaper. In 1845 he published Rural Records or Glimpses of Village Life, which was followed by Oracles from the British Poets (1849), Wilton and its Associations (1851), and Lights and Shadows of Artist Life and Character (1853). In 1854 he emigrated to Victoria and became a leader-writer on the Age and first editor of the Leader. He joined the staff of the Argus in 1856 and wrote leading articles, literary reviews, and dramatic criticism. He also wrote leading articles for country papers. Feeling the strain of over-work in 1863 he intended making a holiday visit to Europe, but was offered and accepted the post of librarian to the Victorian parliament. Smith was not content to merely carry out the routine duties of his position, he had always been a tireless worker, and during his five years librarianship he reclassified and catalogued about 30,000 volumes. The office was temporarily abolished in 1868, and Smith resumed his duties on the Argus, and continued to work for it until he retired in 1896 at the age of 76. He still, however, did much journalistic work, and even when approaching the age of 90 was contributing valued articles to the Age under the initials J. S. He died at Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne, on 19 March 1910. He married and was survived by a son.
In addition to the works mentioned Smith was the author of From Melbourne to Melrose (1888), a pleasant collection of travel notes originally contributed to the Argus, and Junius Unveiled (1909). He also published many pamphlets, some of which are concerned with spiritualism, in which he was very interested during the last 40 years of his life. He contributed a large amount of the letterpress to the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, and edited The Cyclopedia of Victoria (1903), a piece of hack-work in which he could have taken little pleasure. He wrote a three-act drama, Garibaldi, successfully produced at Melbourne in 1860, and A Broil at the Café, also produced at Melbourne a few years later. He was a member of the council of the working men's college and a trustee for many years of the public library, museums, and national gallery of Victoria. A good linguist he was interested in the Alliance Française and the Melbourne Dante Society, of which he became the president. These activities led to his being made an officer of the French Academy, and a chevalier of the order of the Crown of Italy.
Smith was a thoroughly equipped journalist who with his well-stored mind and fine library could produce an excellent article on almost any subject at the shortest notice. During his 56 years of residence at Melbourne he had much influence on the cultural life of the city.
The Argus and The Age, 21 March 1910; Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903; British Museum Catalogue.
2) (1827-1897)
discoverer of Mount Bischoff tin mine, Tasmania
was born at Georgetown, Tasmania, on 1 July 1827. He was educated at Launceston, and after working for some time in that city in 1851 went to the Victorian gold diggings. Returning in 1853 he took up land at Westwood on the Forth River, and making this his headquarters began exploring and prospecting. There was much barren and mountainous country to the south of his home, and Smith had to endure many privations. He discovered gold on the Forth River, copper on the west side of the Leven, and silver and iron ore at Penguin. On 4 December 1871 he discovered tin at Mount Bischoff. His specimens when smelted yielded the first tin found in Tasmania, but it took some time for the importance of the find to be realized. In August 1872 Smith took a small party with him to the field and in 1873 several tons of ore were sent to Melbourne. In that year the mine was visited by William Ritchie, a solicitor at Launceston, and with his help the Mount Bischoff Tin-mining Company was floated with 12,000 shares of £5 each. Of these 4400 were reserved for Smith who also received £1500 in cash. One expert who visited the mine at this time pronounced it to be the richest tin-mine in the world. The company, however, had many difficulties, one being that the bush track to the coast for many months of the year was almost impassable. Eventually a tramway was constructed, the mine became extremely successful, much employment resulted, and an enormous sum was paid in dividends. In February 1878 Smith was publicly presented with a silver salver and a purse of 250 sovereigns. The address which accompanied the gifts stated that as a result of his discovery commerce had developed, property had increased in value, and all classes of the community had been benefited. About the same period the Tasmanian parliament voted him a pension of £200 a year. In 1886 he was elected to the Tasmanian legislative council but he resigned his seat in 1888. Smith, who was an excellent assayer and a close student of geology, continued his prospecting for the remainder of his life. He died at Launceston on 15 June 1897 leaving a widow, three sons and three daughters. A quiet, somewhat reserved man, benevolent and charitable, Smith was a natural explorer of much determination, whom no hardship could daunt. His work was of the greatest use to Tasmania not only for its own sake, but for the encouragement it gave to others who made further discoveries.
J. Fenton. A History of Tasmania; The Launceston Examiner, 16 June 1897; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Sir Henry Braddon. Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XIX, p. 242.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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