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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tooth, Sir Edwin Marsden (1886–1957)

by Elizabeth Davies

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Sir Edwin Marsden Tooth (1886-1957), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 9 October 1886 at Sherwood, Brisbane, fourth of five children of Sidney Herbert Tooth, grazier, and his wife Emily Isabella, née Hassall, both of whom came from New South Wales. His grandfather was William Tooth, his great-grandfather was Rev. Thomas Hassall, and his great-great-grandfather was Rev. Samuel Marsden. Educated at Brisbane Central School, Edwin spent a year with the South Australian Land Mortgage & Agency Co. Ltd as a salesman before joining the Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 5 July 1915, Tooth was commissioned in October and promoted lieutenant in January 1916. He reached the Middle East in April and in the following month was sent to the Western Front where he served with the 2nd Tunnelling Company. In June 1918 he was gassed. From 29 September to 3 October that year he took charge of roadwork near Bellincourt, France, while under heavy fire and won the Military Cross. He was also mentioned in dispatches (1919). His A.I.F. appointment terminated in England on 10 June 1919. On his way home to Brisbane, he studied the motor industry in the United States of America.

In 1923 Tooth obtained the dealership for Dodge Bros motorcars to distribute its vehicles throughout northern New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. He formed Austral Motors Pty Ltd in 1924 and established his business in Boundary Street, Spring Hill. Queensland motorists readily accepted Dodge cars because they were solid enough to withstand long distances on outback roads. From 1928 Tooth's company expanded to include De Soto, Chrysler, Plymouth and Standard Motor Co. vehicles, making him a leader of the motorcar industry in Brisbane.

At St John's Cathedral, Brisbane, on 24 April 1935 Tooth married with Anglican rites Elsie Marguerite Fuller. The couple settled into a large house in Eldernell Avenue, Hamilton, built in 1869 for William Hemmant. They renamed it Farsley, after Samuel Marsden's birthplace in Yorkshire. Tooth formed several other companies—Stradbroke Motors Pty Ltd (1928), British Tractor & Implements Pty Ltd (1948) and Farsley Motors Pty Ltd (1952). Business boomed after World War II and he opened new showrooms in the suburbs. In 1956 Austral Motors was converted into a public company, with Tooth its chairman.

Towards the end of his life, Tooth became involved in philanthropy. He gave generously to medical, educational and charitable institutions. In 1956 he contributed £35,000 to the Brisbane Hospitals Board for the construction of the Edwin M. Tooth Lecture Theatre and the Edwin M. Tooth Laboratories for Research in Medicine at (Royal) Brisbane Hospital. Although the new facilities belonged to the board, they were made available to the University of Queensland's medical school. He subsequently endowed the Edwin Tooth scholarship for postgraduate study in medicine. In addition, he provided £20,000 for a visiting professorship at Brisbane Hospital to enable an eminent teacher of medicine, surgery, or obstetrics and gynaecology to work there each year.

A member of the Brisbane, Tattersall's and United Service clubs, Tooth enjoyed fishing, shooting and golf. He was knighted in 1957. In April that year he donated £5000 to the Legacy Club of Brisbane. Suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, he died of chronic nephritis on 27 May 1957 at his Hamilton home and was cremated. His wife survived him; they had no children. His estate was sworn for probate at £719,852. From this sum he bequeathed about £500,000 to charities and educational institutions run by the Anglican diocese of Brisbane, including provision to establish the Edwin Marsden Tooth Memorial Home for the aged. Further money was left to the University of Queensland for an institute of agricultural research. In 1962 the diocese purchased Farsley as a residence for the archbishop.

Select Bibliography

  • North Brisbane Hospitals Board, The Royal Brisbane Hospital Centenary (Brisb, 1967)
  • R. L. Doherty (ed), A Medical School for Queensland (Brisb, 1986)
  • J. H. Tyrer, History of the Brisbane Hospital and its Affiliates (Brisb, 1993)
  • Church of England, Diocese of Brisbane, Church Chronicle, 1 Apr 1962, p 8
  • Austral Motors Holding Ltd, Annual Report, 1972/73
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1 Jan, 13 Apr, 28 May, 16 Oct 1957.

Citation details

Elizabeth Davies, 'Tooth, Sir Edwin Marsden (1886–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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