Item 5 - Letters received

Identity area

Reference code



Letters received


  • 1875-1894 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

72 letters (35 mm film negative only)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

James Smith (1827-1897) was born in George Town, son of John and Mary Ann (Grant) Smith. His father was shot when he was aged 5 and he was taken under the guardianship of John Guillan, a Launceston merchant and mill owner. After working in the mill, and then exploring the country west of the Tamar and prospecting for gold in Victoria, James Smith settled on land at the River Forth, and planted orchards. He discovered silver ore on Mt. Claud near Sheffield and, in December 1871, tin at Mount Bischoff and began mining in 1872 and in 1873 the Mt. Bischoff Tin Mining Company was formed. He then then returned to farming at "Westwood", Forth, and extended his property but continued to take an interest in mining and prospecting, having a laboratory built at his his home. He also took part in public affairs. He married Mary Jane (Pleas) in 1874 and had 6 chidren. He was widely known by the nickname "Philosopher" but the origin is not known. He read a lot and was a strict Christian and member of the Congregational Church, resigning from the Town Hall Committee over a proposal that a museum should be open on Sundays. For more information see

Name of creator


Biographical history

Sir Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon (1829-1904), civil servant and politician, was born on 11 June 1829 at St Kew, Cornwall, England, son of Henry Braddon, solicitor, and his wife Fanny, née White. Braddon set sail in March 1878 for Tasmania at the age of 49 and settled on a small, run-down property at Leith on the north-west coast of Tasmania. He worked extremely hard to make it a worthwhile enterprise. Few people then lived in that part of the colony, and Braddon undoubtedly stood out as a man of experience and proven ability. He was soon asked to join community committees, and accepted nomination for the seat of West Devon, an election he won in July 1879 — as he won all that he contested thereafter. In 1894-1899 he was Premier of Tasmania. For more information see :

Name of creator


Biographical history

John Henry (1834-1912), politician and merchant, was born on 1 September 1834 at Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland, third of the seven sons of John Henderson Henry, merchant, and his wife Christina, née Henderson. Educated at Lerwick and the Normal School, Edinburgh, John worked for an Edinburgh grocer before migrating to Melbourne with his father and brothers William, George and Charles in May 1854. In 1872 he settled at Don, Tasmania, after buying into the local merchant firm Cummings & Co., renamed, initially, Cummings, Henry & Co., and in 1880 when Edwin Cummings retired the River Don Trading Co. Ltd. About 1890 the company's headquarters were moved to West Devonport; Henry, as managing director, followed in 1893 and branches were subsequently established at Ulverstone, Zeehan, Burnie, Wynyard, Penguin and Sheffield. 1885 Director of the Mt Lyell Prospecting Association. Fro more information see:

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Copies only. Original documents held in the Archives Office of Tasmania.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Microfilm copies of letters to James Smith from Sir Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon (1829-1904) (82 letters) and John Henry (1834-1912), politician and merchant (72 letters).

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Conditions governing access

Open for research

Conditions governing reproduction

This material is made available for personal research and study purposes under the University of Tasmania Standard Copyright Licence. For any further use permission should be obtained from the copyright owners. For assistance please contact

When reusing this material, please cite the reference number and provide the following acknowledgement:
“Courtesy of the UTAS Library Special & Rare Collections”

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Publication note

Held TAHO : Diary of James Smith NS234/1/1/1

Publication note

Haygarth, Nic (Nicholas Paul) 2003 , 'The "Father of Tasmania"? : measuring the legend of James "Philosopher" Smith', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

CE October 2018




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