Genesis in Sydney
Arriving in Sydney from the United States in 1875, John Althouse and FA Geiger quickly found work with painter and decorator JA Kean. Kean was a major figure in Sydney’s temperance movement and became a founder of the Master Painters Association in 1889.
Within a year of beginning work with their abstemious employer, Althouse & Geiger established their partnership as signwriters, painters and decorators to the trade. Like many artisans in the city’s competitive market, they were able to supply a wide range of services including the arcane science of silvering mirrors.
Althouse had worked in graining and marbling in Philadelphia, where Geiger had apprenticed. Little is known of their family backgrounds, but when Geiger came to Sydney he took classes in drawing and painting with the Sydney Art Society. Paintings signed by FA Geiger have been noted in auction records, including an oil portrait of Sir Henry Parkes dated 1916.
Advertisements for signwriting in the Sydney Morning Herald since the late nineteenth century reveal that practitioners worked across a number of other trades such as traditional painting, gilding on glass, wallpapering and decorative painting such as faux wood-graining. While Althouse & Geiger and their highly trained craftspeople supplied general house painting and the traditional trades, they possessed considerable skill in decorative and banner painting.