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Hall, Hayden Hezekiah (1825–1888)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Hayden Hezekiah Hall (b.1825), merchant and mail contractor, was born on 27 August 1825 in Hartford, Connecticut, United States of America, son of Elisha Hall. At 15 he entered Canandaigua College and was later apprenticed to an uncle who had steam-engine works in New York. About 1846 he began building steamers on Lake Ontario, in 1848-50 promoted shipping in China and in 1852 ran steamers among the Philippine Islands. On 23 March 1854 he arrived at Sydney in his General Urbistonolo; when no buyer offered, he renamed her Ben Bolt for the Hunter River trade. In 1855 as 'the handsome American' he rented James Paterson's wharf and store at Morpeth. Declared bankrupt in December, he was discharged on 8 March 1856 and left for New York where on 27 January 1857 at a Baptist Church he married Rachel, née Cole. In September 1857 he opened the 'American Stores' in West Maitland, but on 11 December 1862 was again declared bankrupt; released next March he returned to America.

In 1864 Hall settled in Sydney as a partner of Samuel Hebblewhite & Co. He floated the Mineral Oil Co. to manufacture kerosene from Hartley shale and persuaded Ebenezer Vickery that his Illawarra land would yield oil. Hall left Sydney in July 1866 to have Vickery's shale samples tested at Yale University but the results were negative. On 1 November Hebblewhite & Co. went bankrupt: Hall severed the partnership and returned to Sydney in February 1867; after litigation the estate was released in May.

In December 1866 Hall was appointed United States commercial agent in Sydney. He reported to the secretary of state that earlier consuls had stood in bad repute with the New South Wales government 'owing to their ungentlemanly conduct'. In 1867 he encouraged the migration to California of some 300 labourers and their families by issuing under his official seal worthless certificates of employment on the Central Pacific Railroad. The migrants' destitute condition on arrival brought inquiries in Washington and London, and Henry Parkes published a caution in the Government Gazette, 21 July 1868. In reply to Governor Belmore, Hall fulsomely explained the 'stigma that now rests on me'.

In 1868-69 Hall failed to interest three American companies in his 'favourite idea' of a steamship line from Sydney to San Francisco. On 6 January 1870 he signed a mail contract with the New Zealand government and chartered three ships. Competition and lack of a New South Wales subsidy forced him in September 1871 to abandon the project and on 30 November he was again declared bankrupt. Next January he sought in vain a United States subsidy, mentioning his 'past services in opening up the Pacific by a mail line … and holding it at great loss'. For some months after February 1872 he assumed the title of 'United States Consul' but was repudiated by Washington. In May his estate was released and on 19 November Hall tendered privately to the New South Wales and New Zealand governments for a permanent monthly mail service with passengers between Sydney and San Francisco. In 1873 the contract was signed in London, with Hall as managing director of the Australasian and American Mail Steam Ship Co., although some members of the Legislative Assembly claimed that Parkes had been bribed into a dubious contract. The first chartered steamer left Sydney on 13 January 1874 but in June the company's San Francisco agents arrested three of its ships for debt. In haste Hall left Sydney on 1 August but six weeks later the company and his own estate were sequestrated. He failed to raise funds in London and advised the colonial governments on 24 February 1875 that his company could not pay the penalties for non-fulfilment. In April he was employed by the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. of New York, which took over the mail contract. In September he returned to Sydney and next May his private estate was released. The company's affairs were never settled. Hall left Sydney in March 1876. For some years he promoted the building of a railway and canal in Mexico. In the 1880s his name was in New York directories as 'manager' and later 'president' of unspecified companies, and living in Brooklyn and New Hamburg. His last known address was a New York office in 1888.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1868-69, 2, 111, 1870-71, 67, 1873-74, 2, 963, 1875, 3, 1
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16, 17, 27 Oct 1873
  • Town and Country Journal, 6 June 1874
  • New York Times, 30 Dec 1879
  • dispatches from U.S. consuls in Sydney, 1836-1906, vols 6-7 (State Library of New South Wales and National Library of Australia)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • bankruptcy papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • information from New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Hall, Hayden Hezekiah (1825–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/hall-hayden-hezekiah-3695/text5785, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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