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So who was C. H. Smith?

CHARLES Henry Smith spent nearly 50 years in Launceston building a very successful family business that operated for a century. C. H. Smith still trades today but not from the premises in Charles Street that have become a Launceston landmark for all the wrong reasons.

The crumbling C. H. Smith buildings in Charles Street are finally to be redeveloped and provide a more fitting reminder of a very successful Launceston businessman.

Born in Watton, Herefordshire, in 1827, C.H. Smith was only two years old when his father died. His mother remarried and Charles was educated at a private school in Twickenham and joined the family shipping business.

At the age of 25 it seems he decided to seek his fortune in Australia, landing in Melbourne in 1852 and immediately becoming involved in the shipping industry.

His obituary in The Examiner on Thursday, December 8, 1904, said that he had been in Melbourne only a few months before he went to Singapore. "There he freighted two ships with bamboo houses for Victoria, returning to Melbourne again in 1854."

Smith then got a job with pastoral house Dalgety, Blackwood and Co in Melbourne as an accountant where he worked for 12 months before being sent to Launceston to act as managing clerk.

He went back to Melbourne for a time and married Miriam Dowle in 1856 and returned to Launceston to become a local partner in the firm. The couple had seven children between 1857 and 1869 and in 1874 made their home at the well-known High Street residence Beulah.

The Examiner reported that in 1884 Dalgety and Company, which was on the corner of St John and Cimitiere streets (now Neil Buckby Motors), was made into a limited company.

The Launceston branch was separated from the parent company to became Du Croz, Smith and Company. They used buildings at 22-24 Charles Street as wool stores.

When Frederick Du Croz retired Charles Smith took control of the business and the name of the firm was changed to Charles H. Smith and Co.

The company held various shipping and insurance agencies in addition to being large exporters of wool and produce.

In 1918 the company moved its entire operation to lower Charles Street and by 1936 C.H. Smith and Co had acquired all five lots between 16 and 24 Charles Street and built a new woolstore at 20 Charles Street.

Two of Mr Smith’s sons, Percy and Norman, followed him into the business and he involved himself in many local organisations. These included serving on the Launceston Chamber of Commerce, where he was president from 1876 to 1881, and the Launceston Marine Board from 1876 to 1878 and again in 1882.

He was also the Italian Consul for 25 years and a director of the Union Bank and the Cornwall Coal Company. When the Tasmanian Permanent Executors and Trustees Association was formed he became a director and was its chairman for 15 years.

The Examiner obituary noted that Charles Henry Smith worked almost up until his death in 1904 at the age of 77.

"For the past two years his health had been impaired, but he was able to attend fairly regularly at his office until a few weeks ago when he was compelled to take to his bed.

"Although the deceased never took any active part in politics or municipal matters, he displayed a keen interest in mercantile affairs."

Percy Smith took over as managing director of C.H. Smith and Company in 1900 and the business continued to operate from its extensive premises in Charles Street until 1986.

First published in The Examiner on 10 – 11 – 2011. Sources: Launceston Family Album (Gus Green); The Examiner archives.

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