The Fairfax Media Business Archive is what its name suggests, archives created by the company in the course of running its business. Correspondence, memorandums, reports, ledgers, and minute books that provide evidence of the day to day running of the company, the decisions made, and the issues faced, make up a significant portion of this archive.
However, Fairfax archivists also collected material to add to the archives, items which they considered would contribute further to the memory and understanding of the company. These could be donations of personal items from the family of a former employee, records discovered in a long-locked company locker, or the company archivist’s concerted attempt to bring together ephemera that would normally not survive time’s natural selection of records.
John Fairfax & Sons started as a family business and it is no surprise to also find a small amount of early Fairfax family records mixed in with the business records.
Together these “non-business” records provide another perspective into the company, perhaps a glimpse of the social aspect of working in such a company, or the feelings staff had towards their employer.
As we work our way through the archives we are coming across an array of these types of records. Three examples are given below.
Records of John Fairfax and the Congregational Church (1805-1877)
Fairfax was a major contributor to the Pitt Street Congregational Church and was for some time until his death senior deacon of the church. The records relate to John Fairfax’s work with the church and provides an insight into the administration of the Pitt Street Congregational church. The records also link Fairfax to other influential business people. No doubt his connection with the church provides an understanding of the character of the man, his approach to running the company, and his generous attitude towards his staff.
David Russell, Testimonials
On the 18th of January 1867, members of the literary staff of the Sydney Morning Herald presented to their co-labourer, David Russell, a testimonial on the eve of his departure for London. Russell had been associated with the paper for 13 years. Somehow this bound volume of letters found its way back to Fairfax archives. It contains written testimonies from long-time associates of Russell, including Ralph Wardlaw, David Robertson, W. Meikle, James Hedderwick & Sons, James Roberton, William Burns and Samuel Cook. Many of these letters were written in 1852 when Russell first left Glasgow to go to the United States of America.
David J Stewart, Boer War Records
Mr David J Stewart moved to Australia, from New Zealand, at the end of 1892, where he became associated with Mr Nelson P Whitelocke of the National Advocate, Bathurst. After serving for several months he was appointed editor of the Illawarra Mercury, Wollongong. He resigned at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 and served continuously with the NSW Mounted Rifles or B Squadron 2nd N.S.W.M.R. Throughout the whole of his war service Mr. Stewart acted as special correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, and soon after his return entered the service of John Fairfax and Sons. In 1980 his daughter offered Stewart's collection of photographs and correspondence to John Fairfax Ltd. This extremely interesting collection holds five books of photographs with captions taken by Stewart during his time in the Boer War. It also includes one scrap book of published reports by Stewart to the Illawarra Mercury, and Sydney Morning Herald, a leather folder with hand-written correspondence as well as some Dutch and Egyptian official papers.
These are only a few examples of the interesting range of materials contained in this archive and we hope to bring you more information about these items in the coming months.
Peter Arfanis, Project Lead, State Library of New South Wales, 2017