Tuesday, November 2, 2010

George Fischer- aka The Man Who Built Our House

Brismod over at The Sow's Ear has been researching her home's former residents. It prompted me to run the details of our original owner through the new Australian Newspaper Archives. I do this regularly, as it seems they are uploading and indexing often.

Here's the latest reference I found to George. It's a bit of a 'clunky' read but I love the older style of English the writer uses. It seems that George was quite the traveler and entrepreneur!

Queensland Pottery Ware

The advances made in this branch of manufacture, although quite decided, are, as yet, all in the useful walks. At the works of Mr. George Fischer, to which the reader's attention is invited, but little in the finer branches is done ; but in the more useful branches of the art,, in the manufacture of out-door wares, flower-pots and stands, drain-pipes of sizes up to 2ft in diameter, and in many useful contrivances for household use. Mr. Fischer's place develops much to interest and instruct. The Doulton and Wedgewoodwares, and the finer productions, of the art, will no doubt come in time.

Mr. Fischer is no novice in the business. He has been a potter for forty years. A Swiss by birth, he served his apprenticeship in one of  the quaint little towns of his native land, and then went to travel to see the world and learn his trade, as practised in the various towns, cities, and countries of Europe to which a man could travel on foot. This is the old continental method of qualification, and before the handicraftsman could work on his own account, could become a master he had to prove his experience both in travel and in what he could do at his business.

The process made good workmen and masters whose business was a life-long
study for them. They never thought of changing to other occupations. But things have changed in Switzerland in Bavaria, Austria, Italy, and Wurtemburg, through all of which Mr. Fischer travelled, haversack on back, in search of experience for his trade. He was twelve years on the road, or rather moving from place to place. The stories he tells of experiences in that time are curious, as illustrative of the primitive character of the people in those days.

After a short spell in his native land, Mr. Fischer started for Australia. In 1865 he came to Brisbane, then a most unlikely place for a pottery. After the usual ups and downs of colonial life, he commenced business on his own account. Many of our readers are familiar with the rediled, buildings near the Hamilton, on the road to Nudgee. There a pottery business was carried on for some years.

In his rambles Mr. Fischer came on the ground where he is now located, and found there the extensive and very fine banks of clay from which he has been working for seven years -- a literal gold diggings. This clay is of two kinds, one on low ground is of dark reddish-brown material with patches of leaden blue, which is common about Brisbane, The other clay is on high ridge; it is in bulk pure white in color, with patches of bluish substances running    through the mass. So hard and solid is this material that is has to be ground fine; but when reduced it is fine as flour, without sign of grit, and when wet is quite plastic and unctuous.        

The premises in which the pottery business is carried on are extensive. They are seen plainly from the elevations around the Albion Hotel, and from the roads passing from Breakfast Creek towards Sandgate. There are several ranges of one-story buildings, covered with tile--strange this tile does not come into more common use. It makes a neat and durable roof; the water from it is excellent.

The work commences at the higher portions of the premises. There is erected a large two-roller crushing or grinding machine for clay. Near the machine is a large receiver or vat of
timber, into which the, clay is shot from drays; water is mixed with it until the mass is quite soft. Then it is shoveled into a hopper over the rollers. The ground stuff falls immediately into a pug mill, below the rollers, where it is mixed, and cut, and turned about, until discharged at the bottom a soft plastic mass. For bricks another work of that kind, the clay is next moulded into the shape desired. A powerful lever press gives a beautiful finish to the bricks made at these works, amongst which an excellent quality of firebrick is included.

For finer work the clay is passed through a second, mill, and again through a pug mill. Some of the finer qualities of clay, after being thus worked and reworked, become fine as putty, and are molded into water bottles, water coolers, pretty vases, and ornamental pots. Others are converted into tiles and pipes, the latter forming a prominent branch of the whole business.

There are several potters' wheels in the works on which pots of various kinds grow up from wet masses of plastic clay under the hands of the workmen with astonishing rapidity. The making of drain pipes is also a very interesting process.

The clay is fed into a large cylinder, from which it is pressed in any desired sized pipe up to 2ft. in-side measurement. As may be supposed, the soft material has to be handled carefully. When moulded the articles are set out to dry, and at this stage heavy losses dour at times; as when westerly winds continue for some days. So rapid is the evaporation in such cases that the articles crack while drying, and are lost or have to be re-

Amongst the articles made here recently in order to meet colonial requirements are sugar  safes - large covered vessels standing in a lower vessel surrounded by water; butter coolers, the covers of which are hollow, and when filled with water, have rapid evaporation, and great cooling powers ; cake moulds of various designs, and handsome ornamental baskets and designs for gardens. There are also various devices in  brick-making for corners, for arches, battery cells for the Telegraph Department, lightning-rod insulators. The baking or firing of the pottery is in kilns, in which a fierce fire is maintained for three days and nights. Mr.Fischer speaks highly of the quality of the Waterstown coal, near Ipswich, for this kind of work. Two of the kilns have underground flues; that is, the fire heat after doing duty in the kiln, is carried downwards and under the floor of the workshop to a tall chimney or smoke-stack, which ensures sufficiency of draught.  

Business at the pottery has been very brisk, but is now quiet, and there is a large stock of building material on hand. The wares that come into use in our summer season are in more active demand, and are bespoken in advance.

As a preparation for the busy time to come, Mr. Fischer has ordered, through Messrs. Smellie and Co., a disintegrator or pulverising machine of a very powerful kind. With this he intends bringing a still finer kind of clay into use, and to get into new branches of his very miscellaneous trade. We heartily wish him every success as an enterprising colonist. Power for the presses and heavy machinery is obtained from a compact twelve horse-power Tangye engine, with boilers for a full supply of steam.

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