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Blundstone, John (1831–1895)

by David Young

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

John Blundstone (c.1831-1895), bootmaker, was born at Derby, England, son of William Blundstone, a jeweller. On 11 May 1853 at Friargate Presbyterian Chapel, Derby, aged 22 and described as a coach-body maker, John married 19-year-old Eliza Martin. In 1855 he and Eliza migrated to Van Diemen's Land, arriving on 14 October. John began in business in Hobart as a coachbuilder, but in 1870 set up as an importer of boots and shoes. By 1878 he had opened his own bootmaking firm. The enterprise grew rapidly and in 1882 John was in a position to purchase his rented Collins Street factory.

The Blundstone family also expanded, six boys and four girls being born between 1856 and 1873. In 1883 the eldest surviving son Sylvanus (1858-1915) joined his father in the firm, renamed John Blundstone & Son. In addition to boot manufacture and wholesale importing, the company sold a wide range of leather and rubber goods as well as boots and shoes. By 1891 a subsidiary retail business, W. H. Blundstone & Co., was created under the management of William Henry (1864-1918), the second son. To finance this expansion, John took out a mortgage of £900 in 1887 and one of £300 in 1891. He also built a new factory at 126 Collins Street. In 1894 both companies displayed their wares at the Tasmanian International Exhibition, W. H. Blundstone & Co. winning a second-class and John Blundstone & Son a first-class certificate.

A respected and active member of the Hobart community, from 1879 Blundstone acted as a trustee of the Mechanics Hall. Some time after his arrival in Tasmania he changed his religious affiliation from Church of England to Wesleyan and for a number of years was an office-bearer of the Melville Street Wesleyan Church. In 1891 he was appointed a justice of the peace and for a time was a judge of vehicles for the Southern Tasmanian Agricultural and Pastoral Association. Blundstone died of pleurisy on 24 September 1895 at his residence in Campbell Street, Hobart, and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. He was survived by his wife and eight children.

His sons continued to run the two businesses. Both appeared successful, but by 1900 neither of the mortgages taken out by Blundstone had been reduced and the companies had incurred further debts. In February 1901 Sylvanus filed for the bankruptcy of John Blundstone & Son and in May Henry Cane, a Hobart hardware merchant, acquired the firm. The retailer, Blundstone & Co., filed for bankruptcy in 1909. From that date, no member of the original family had any connexion with the Tasmanian-based footwear company although subsequent owners have retained the name Blundstone. By the 1990s the brown, elastic-sided work-boots had become an internationally known brand name, sometimes abbreviated to 'Blunnies', and featured in the Australian stage entertainment Tapdogs.

Select Bibliography

  • Tasmanian International Exhibition Souvenir (Launc, 1896)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 15 Oct 1855, p 2, 27 Sept 1895, p 2, 31 Jan 1983, p 4, 22 Feb 1996, p 6, 24 Nov 1997, p 3
  • CB7/17/2, SC84/23, SC342/1 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

David Young, 'Blundstone, John (1831–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/blundstone-john-12807/text23115, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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