James Curtis

From Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project
Jump to: navigation, search
Ballarat Gold Pioneers Prior to the Issue of the Gold License, 1851

James Curtis was one of a party of eight from Geelong who signed a cooperative mining agreement on 8 October 1851. Later he became a printer at Armstrong Street, Ballarat then Mair Street, Market Square, Ballarat in 1855.[1] He was director of Caxton Steam Printing Works on Armstrong Street for a period of at least 4 years - from 1876 to 1879.[2]



James Curtis was a printer operating from premises on Drummond Street, Ballarat in 1887.[3] James Curtis was born in Fordingbridge, Hampshire, England. He emigrated to Adelaide in 1849 where he worked as a compositor on the newspaper South Australian. In 1851 he moved to Geelong, Victoria possibly following the discovery of gold in that colony. He worked on the Victorian Colonist newspaper.[4]

Curtis travelled to the goldfields of Ballarat with a group of newspaper colleagues. Unsuccessful as a gold digger he moved to Melbourne where he worked for the Argus and the Herald newspapers. Here he was the secretary of the Victorian Typographical Association.

He moved again, this time to Geelong where he was associated with Thomas Comb, setting up a printing business in Kardinia Street known as Comb and Curtis. Curtis must have made good because he had enough money to return to England in 1861. Afterwards, still travelling, he moved back to Australia and established a printing press in Ballarat in 1863. This was known as James Curtis or James Curtis, Caxton Steam Printing Works.

He was a Director of the Prince Regent Co. and the Sebastopol Plateau Co. in 1887.[5]

Curtis was a Freemason and Spiritualist by the latter part of the nineteenth century. He wrote under his own name and the pseudonyms 'Austral' and 'Philo'. He also published for his friends such as William Little and self-published his spiritualist experiences in Rustlings in the Golden City: A Record of Spiritualist Experiences in Ballarat and Melbourne (Ballarat, 1896).

The printing business of Curtis, Caxton Steam Printing Works, became large, using cylinder presses in 1863 and it was converted to steam power around 1872. Curtis later acquired a Crossley gas engine said to be the first in Australia. The firm was also the first to import a 'Minerva' treadle platen press to Australia.[6]



Mr James Curtis, the well known printer,. of Armstrong-street, died at his residence, Drummond-street, this morning, after a comparatively brief illness. The deceased gentleman arrived in Victoria in the fifties, and was for some time on the staff of the 'Argus',but subsequently removed Geelong, where he accepted an engagement on the " Advertiser." Mr Curtis proceeded to Adelaide, and shortly after his return to this State, the gold discovery drew the attention of all eyes to Ballarat. A party was formed in Geelong, of which Mr Curtis was a member, and they arrived in Ballarat about September, 1851. The party was fairly successful in their efforts. Mr Curtis entered on the business which he has so successfully conducted for a number of years, in Mair-street, opposite the Hay market, about 1862. A few years later, about 1855, he built the premises in Armstrong street, which he occupied up to the time of his death.[7]

See also

Caxton Steam Printing Works

In the News

Mr. A. T. Morrison, accountant and treasurer, died at his residence, Webster street, this afternoon from general break up of the system. The deceased was born at Bow Church-yard, London, 13th January, 1840, and was, therefore, 63 years of age. In April, 1850, he sailed with his father in the Woodbridge, and landed in Geelong after a voyage of 120 days. The father of the deceased, Mr. "William Morrison, through, the instrumentality of a distant relative, the Hon. Dr. Thompson, who represented Port Phillip in the New South Wales Parliament before Victoria became a Crown colony, and who owned the Kardinia Park estate, started and edited the Port Phillip "Patriot" at Geelong, said to be the first daily paper published in Victoria. When the gold fever broke out in 1851 the deceased and his father came on to Ballarat, together with the late Mr. James Curtis and Mr. Wm. Horman, who had been employed on the same paper. Deceased took a keen interest in public affairs and was twice mayor of the city. He was twice married, and leaves a widow and two sons.[8]


  1. Dickers Ballarat Directory 1856-6.
  2. University of Ballarat Historical Collection, invoice dated 01 February 1876 [Cat. No. 5488]
  3. Rogers, J. W. F. (ed.). (c. 1887). The Australasian Federal Directory of Commerce, Trades & Professions. Melbourne: J. W. F. Rogers.
  4. http://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A104157
  5. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~carrick/Ballarat%20a%20to%20b.html accessed 15 March 2013.
  6. http://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A104157
  7. Geelong Advertiser, 20 November 1901.
  8. Geelong Advertiser, 18 July 1903

Further Reading

External links

--Sallyanne Doyle 23:19, 6 October 2012 (EST); --Clare K.Gervasoni 11:05, 10 January 2015 (EST)

Personal tools