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

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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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

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Haygarth, Nic(Nicholas Paul)
Keywords: Smith, James, 1827-1897, Prospecting
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2003. Includes bibliographical references

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