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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ritchie, Samuel Sextus (1825–1879)

by E. A. Beever

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Samuel Sextus Ritchie (1825-1879), company manager, was born at Greenwich, England, son of William Ritchie, merchant, and his wife Sarah, née Pitcher. He arrived in Victoria from Gravesend in the Norfolk on 29 June 1857 and set up as a merchant in Melbourne; by 1860 he had a wine, spirits and general importing business in Elizabeth Street. In London and Melbourne Ritchie gained much knowledge and experience of food preserving, especially meat. In 1867-68 he promoted the Melbourne Meat Preserving Co. which, operating the first successful meat cannery in extensive works of solid bluestone at Maribyrnong, inspired many later ventures; it also provided an essential boost to Victoria's export trade and to a depressed livestock market. As manager Ritchie contributed greatly to the company's success; he received one-fifth of profits after payment of a 10 per cent dividend, which earned him a small fortune in the boom years at the start of the 1870s, but later proved a major source of friction for discontented shareholders. Ritchie accumulated many shares in the company. In 1877 he was prominent in the outcry against a proposed duty on all imported livestock which endangered the company's cheap sources of supply; the same year he contributed the greater part of a pamphlet, The Property Tax on Livestock, which attacked the tax.

Although suffering for some time from bad health, Ritchie's death at Maribyrnong on 8 March 1879, aged 53, was unexpected. Only months earlier he had invented canning machinery claimed to be far superior to that used in the United States. At the time of his death he still actively managed the company; he was also a justice of the peace and president of the Braybrook Shire Council, a position that he had held for several years.

Ritchie had married Emma Matilda Windsor on 25 April 1867 at Christ Church, South Yarra; they had three sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian, 11 Apr 1868, 15 Mar 1879
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Mar 1879
  • E. A. Beever, A History of the Australian Meat Export Trade, 1865-1939 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1968).

Citation details

E. A. Beever, 'Ritchie, Samuel Sextus (1825–1879)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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