University of Tasmania
whole_HaygarthNicholasPaul2003_thesis.pdf (46.16 MB)

The \Father of Tasmania\"? : measuring the legend of James \"Philosopher\" Smith"

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posted on 2023-05-26, 18:13 authored by Haygarth, Nic(Nicholas Paul)
James 'Philosopher' Smith sparked the Tasmanian mining industry by discovering tin at Mount Bischoff in 1871. This was an enormous boost to a colony depleted by economic depression, mainland Australian import tariffs and emigration. Tin-mining widened not only Tasmania's principally agrarian economic base, but the vision of its then unsuccessful gold prospectors, who were thereby encouraged to search out other minerals. Tin, silver, copper, iron ore and zinc - as well as gold - continue to form a vital export industry today. By the 1880s, when the mining industry had helped make Tasmania prosperous, Smith had become the island's first native-born popular hero. Among the metaphors and titles foisted upon him was 'father of Tasmania'. As well as considering that claim, this thesis explores Smith's character and the motivation for his quest for minerals. The following questions are discussed: Did Smith prospect in the name of Tasmanian progress or for personal gain? What led him to begin prospecting? What made him a more successful prospector than his contemporaries? How tough were his highland expeditions? Why was he nicknamed Philosopher? What was his system of beliefs and how did it develop? What was the impact upon Smith of the stigma of convictism and the Victorian-era working-man's charter of 'self-culture'? Did he love the bush, or did it, perhaps, represent an escape from the painful realities of human company? Smith is measured against his legend. The strongest pillar of the legend in its modern form, that he withdrew from the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company as an expression of disgust at the mining management, is found to tell only part of the story. Part I of the thesis focuses on Smith's formative years, analysing the factors which shaped his character, ethos and ambitions. Part II examines the period of regular prospecting in Tasmania, culminating in his discovery of what was then regarded as the world's richest tin deposit. Part III discusses Smith's 'retirement', the years following his withdrawal from the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company, and his return to prospecting towards the end of his life. The conclusion considers Smith's legacy to the Tasmanian mining industry, his significance generally in the course of Tasmanian history, and why his 'star' has faded in the century since his death.


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Copyright 2003 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2003. Includes bibliographical references

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