Queensland Places – Thursday Island – European Businesses in the 1880s

On Thursday Island during the last part of the nineteenth century, alongside those businesses operated by people representing a wide range of countries and backgrounds, particularly those of Chinese and Japanese descent, a range of European businesses operated.

Many of these businesses advertised their goods and services in the Torres Strait Pilot and New Guinea Gazette. Prominent amongst these was W.H. Bennett, merchant and general importer and commission agent. In addition to a range of grocery items, he sold patent medicines, tobacco and ship chandlery as well as trading in pearls, pearl and tortoise shell and beche-de-mer. He also operated a billiard saloon as well as manufacturing aerated waters and cordial.

P.J. Doyle advertised his services as a customs, shipping, insurance and general commission agent, all in addition to his formal role as clerk to the Torres Divisional Board. John Moreman was advertising “comfortable accommodation at reasonable charges” at his European Boarding House in Douglas Street. James Silva, in addition to operating a general store, was also running a boarding house in Victoria Parade.

Keenan & Co, wholesale and retail shippers and family butchers in Douglas Street, advertised their high quality beef and mutton. Mr. George Gummon, superintendent of the Thursday Island cemetery was also providing his services as a contractor, carpenter, joiner and undertaker. Mr H. Legg was operating as a building contractor as well as his ability to undertake “all kinds of carpenter’s and joiner’s work, carried out with good workmanship, prompt execution and lowest prices guaranteed”. Mr Viggo Jacobsen, accountant of Victoria Street, was detailing the services he provided in his advertisements as including “accounts made out, books posted up and every description of clerical work carried out”.

This diverse group of business people, with the wide range of goods and services they provided, ensured that the residents of Thursday Island enjoyed a standard of living comparable to similar towns and settlements on the mainland.

Thursday Island, ca. 1895. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg 67481

Thursday Island, ca. 1895. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 67481

This image shows a view of Thursday Island, looking across the jetty, in around 1895.

Brian Randall – State Library of Queensland.