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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Best, Henry (1809–1878)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

This is a shared entry with Charles Best

Henry Best (1809-1878) and Charles Best (1816-1882), printers, were born in England, sons of John Best who sailed from London with his wife and a party of eighteen in the Orelia and arrived at Hobart Town on 8 May 1829. The family gradually dispersed, one son, John, becoming postmaster at Norfolk Plains. The father, John Best, died on 10 May 1863 at New Town at the age of 73, predeceased by his wife on 10 November 1858.

Henry and Charles appear to have set up as printers in Collins Street, Hobart, about 1836 and to have printed the Hobart Town Courier for William Elliston. Charles stayed with the business while Henry tried his hand as publican and pastoralist in the early 1840s. Probably backed by Elliston, he leased a property in Grant County of Port Phillip in partnership with H. D. G. Russell in 1840-41. He continued to hold the lease alone until 1846, but returned to live in Hobart in 1842. In that year he bought Lachlan Village and Park, and in 1844 sold out of the Royal Hotel at Bagdad. Thereafter he stuck to printing. In 1848 Elliston retired and the Best brothers became sole managers and lessees of the Courier. It was a conservative newspaper, reflecting Church of England views, and for five years from 3 January 1852 Henry and Charles also printed the Tasmanian Church Chronicle.

A move by a Hobart group in November 1850 to take over the Courier for political purposes was successfully resisted. Two months before the Post Office Act introduced prepaid postage into Tasmania on 1 November 1853, the first stamps were printed under the watchful eye of a government official at the Bests' Collins Street premises. On the seventh anniversary of their proprietorship, their twenty employees presented Charles and Henry with a congratulatory address for raising the 'character of Newspaper Literature' in the colony and for enlarging their paper to meet the advanced requirements of the colonists. The brothers were evidently good printers, but not very successful newspaper proprietors. The Courier lost support; its last number appeared on 31 May 1859, the copyright having been bought by John Davies and incorporated in the Mercury.

The brothers then faded from the public eye, except for a brief period in 1874 when Henry became sessional serjeant-at-arms in the House of Assembly. Charles Best died in Hobart after a long illness on 10 May 1882, in his sixty-sixth year. Henry died of a heart attack on 22 February 1878, aged 69. He was survived by his widow, Jane, daughter of Captain Thomas Whyte, whom he had married at Campbell Town on 16 May 1843. Of their sons the eldest, Henry, rose from a clerkship in the Treasury to become a manager in the Bank of New South Wales; Francis was a solicitor at Dunolly, Victoria; and the youngest, Douglas, was in the Bank of Australasia.

Select Bibliography

  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Philip (Melb, 1932)
  • Hobart Town Courier, 11 Feb 1842, 5 July 1855
  • Mercury (Hobart), 22 Feb 1878
  • G. T. W. B. Boyes diary (Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart).

Citation details

'Best, Henry (1809–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]




22 February 1878
Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence