Sunday, July 22, 2018

Augustus Moon, Pedigree of…

Augustus Graham Moon's Pedigree: an angry man in matters regarding Octavia, but not without a little justification, I think.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thomas Mooney, Part Two

Mr. Thomas Mooney had commisioned to be built, the National Hotel, just around the corner from Astley’s Amphitheatre, and also had a tunnel built to direct thirsty theatre patrons migrating from performance's end straight to his hotel rather than have them leave by the front and naturally gravitate toward the White Hart. It all seemed rather dramatic, but it was effective.

One has to wonder, whence came the money for such a venture? The usual explanation is that a person had made their fortune on the goldfields, but such was not Mooney’s case, for he had quite the adventure—both physical and literary—before his arrival here in Melbourne.

Mooney was Dublin born between 1809-1815 (dates vary) and went to America in 1841 on a speaking tour, taking in all the towns that he could, and Canada, to boot; and all of it for the purpose of addressing Irishmen about independence. Just how effective he was at lecturing it is not reported, but he had made a good deal of gingerbread (the door takings) and wrote a popular book, ‘Nine Years in America’ being a compendium of letters sent to his brother Patrick back in Ireland, published in newspaper columns and then set to press as a volume in 1850.

He also wrote a significant two-volume work entitled the ‘History of Ireland from its First Settlement to the Present Time’ even before he came to Australia. I found a version printed in Boston of 1853 though it was likely first printed long before that (and took great liberties with the truth, and made a few wild conjectures). It sold very well and it is upon its renumeration that I think he emigrated to Australia and built the National Hotel.

The ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ the paper of record for Beechworth and surrounds, made much sport of keeping up with Thomas Mooney’s shennanigans; his ever increasingly calls for Fenian belligerency; his self-serving and Yankee style oratory; odd financial schemes; and the general escalation of silly anecdotes—and some of those gems I will post next. For now though, let us hear from the Age, of 10 Oct 1859:—

“Mr Thomas Mooney, better known as ‘Mooney,’ the whilom agitator of Melbourne
and the Ovens [Beechworth area] has started a paper in America under the title of ‘Mooney's Falsern and Placerville Express.’ The Golden Era noticed the event in a paragraph which was republished in the Express as follows: — ‘Mr Thomas Mooney, who possesses the varied talents peculiar to the cultivated Irishman, with all his dashing and go-a-head ways, announces that he has shut down the curtain for ever on the story of his matrimonial troubles, (as befits a genuine disciple of Caudle), and in the same breath offers himself as a candidate for the office of General Controller. Mooney compels our admiration and disarms our wit.

In the brief space of three or four months he has established a newspaper, published a volume of history, enacted a romance by carrying off from the custody of her watchful relatives a blooming bride, and entered the field of politics as an applicant for one of the first offices in the gift of the people. What brilliant coup will this young reprobate of fifty (born therefore, 1809) next be up to? (Forty only, 'pon honor. — En. Express.) By the way, anent the history of Ireland, now republishing in the columns of the Express, we perceive that Mr Mooney has gone backward to the days of the Egyptians, and is new floundering among the gods and goddesses of the heathen mythology. Does he intend eventually to prove that Venus was an Irishman?’”

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thomas Mooney (1809— ca.1887) Part One

Thomas Mooney ("bird of passage") is one of those footnote creatures, and in his case, he built the "National Hotel" and later had a brief fling with the Royal Hotel connected to the Theatre Royal. He was a man who made a decent bag of money on American speaking tours as a "Fenian" platform speaker, and I suspect, ran off with money that he should not have.

His story is long and interesting, so here is part one:—

Entry, Truth, 24 feb, 1912, EARLY MELBOURNE No. 126 by “Old Chum” (J. William Forde”)

“The Mr. Thomas Mooney who built the Amphitheatre for Mr. G.B.W.Lewis in the latter part of 1854 was merely a bird of passage, and disappeared whence he came when the roaring fifties begand to get quiet, about the year 1857. He was typical of many other agitators who have ventured on Australian soil in the last 60 years: an immense amount of ‘blow’ with little or no lasting merit. A successor to Mooney in the ‘gas line’ was one Osborne, but of him more anon. Mr. Mooney’s stock phrase was that every Australian should ‘have a rifle, a farm and a vote.’ There was no land open to the public at that time, so that Mooney had a ‘peg’ on which he could hang his hat. When he opened the National Hotel—or rather, when he became its tennant—Mr F. A. Harris having had the liscence before him, did a good business, as the gold fields attracted men from California where Mooney had graduated in stump oratory. When he built—largely, if not entirely, on credit— the Amphitheatre, he had wisdom enough to make an underground passage from the circus to his hotel, and thereby scooped in much of the coin that might have gone elsewhere. It will be seen that, if Mr. Mooney had not secured the underground passage to his drinkery, the circus patrons, on coming into Spring Street would have simply walked accross to the ‘Old White Hart’ and there, slaked their thirst. The ‘National’ and the ‘Old White Hart’ were the only public houses in the locality in 1854. When the circus, or Astley’s Amphitheatre was done away with, the underground passage was closed up, and all public entrances to the building being from Spring Street. Mr. Mooney returned to California early in 1857, I think, and I have heard rumours against his commercial credit, which went down after he gained the Pacific Slope."


And until next time, let us leave him. There is much more to come, and the Australian Press continued to have fun with him long after he left Australia.

Cafe de Paris

As coming posts will feature comments on the Café de Paris, Bourke Street, I present here for your preparation (from my own collection of Illustrated London News Prints) the Theatre Royal, Royal Hotel, "Vestibule" and the Café de Paris.

The whole building and its parts have a fully fanned-out history — from tainted to aspirational— some of which has been touched upon in earlier entries on Mr. Gregory and Mr. Henelle.

Click to enlarge, s'il vous plaît.


Miss Findlay, Canada

I interrupt the historical flow of late, to bring a tinted image of a Miss Findlay, by Notman of Canada. The 1870s included the First Bustle period, the evolution of which is fascinating for the cascade of necessities that followed incidents of utility.

Prior to the bustle springing into being dresses where thrown over a crinoline cage covered in an underskirt. The underskirt was a thing a simple utility: it provided support and  a barrier between the cage and the expensive outer fabric. Princess Alexandra, when crossing a brook — so the story goes — pinned the hem of the outer fabric (difficult to clean when soiled) several inches above her hem line, exposing some of the underskirt (no shame there as she had a quite expensive underskirt) and the pinning up brought into being an aesthetic of two complimentary skirts.

It slowly became imitated, then elaborated, and finally evolved beyond its parent event; material was hiked up, slowing over the fashion seasons, moving to the back where tie mutated into bows and other rear furniture was added. The aesthetic required a visual balance so ladies hair became braided and raise, and increased in visual mass, and in turn hats became smaller, higher and more concentrated with bird, bows and flowers enough to balance out the silhouette.

All because the Princess of Wales protected her hem from a little walk out in the grounds.

Colour too moved. The heaviness of colours of the 1860s with the heavy, dark shades (a simple lack of chemical innovations and limited dyes, and of course the dark mourning promoted by Victoria) made everyone so throughly sick of the sombre that the 1870s saw a hunger for light fabrics, with muted day tints: fadé as the Fashion Journals of Paris called them. The 1870s also saw the manufacture of machine made trimmings sold by the yard enabling women with home machines to decorate their dresses as insanely as they wished.

It was a very pretty period, as Miss Findlay, below, will attest.


Achilles King (1830-1873)

Achilles King is a minor figure in Melbourne; a man good with money but unlucky with litigation and ingrates. He is a mysterious figure, a native of Milano, Italy, whose name probably was not King; or perhaps it was. It was a great Italian patriot and is remembered for exuberant celebration upon Garibaldi's success. Who was he really? We have no idea.

I post here in thanks for his finance of the early Melbourne Theatrical world. We tend to pay attention to the creatures before the limelight and seldom to the generous financiers.

“Gentleman, charge you glasses
raise them high, and let them sing
let the claret lament and the crystal praise
the glorious Achilles King”


The following is from the “Weekly Times” 25 Jan 1873 p9:—

“Death of Achillies King:—We regret to have to record the death [22 Jan] of Mr. Achilles King, and the more so that it occurred under melancholy circumstances. Mr. King having died an inmate of the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum. The deceased gentleman was well known in Melbourne for the excellent manner in which he conducted the old Cafe de Paris at the Theatre Royal, and more recently the Athenaeum Club in Collins street. He came to this colony in the year 1853, and for about twelve years carried on the businees of a commission agent.

Being an active and shrewd man, and possessing, as he did, a thorough knowledge of mercantile pursuits, he was in the early days frequently despatched to the other colonies to execute commissions, and he made some money. When Messrs. Spiers and Pond, in 1863, expressed their desire to go to England, he entered into partnership with Mr. Mallam, their manager, and purchased the good will of the Cafe de Paris from them, and also that of the refreshment rooms on the Victorian and suburban lines of the railway, for £6,000. After the lapse of about eighteen months the firm of Mallam and King was dissolved, and Mr King carried on the cafe himself, while Mr. Mallam took the railway refreshment rooms.

Subsequently Mr. King obtained a lease of the Princess's Theatre for Bix years, and expended about £3,500 in improving it, and shortly afterwards the well-known disagreement between him, Mr. Barry Sullivan, and Mr. Ambrose Kyte, with reference to the use of the Vestibule of the Theatre Royal, took place. Many of our readers will remember that time when the building was for several days in a state of siege, and injunctions upon injunctions were obtained in the Supreme Court by either of the disputants to restrain the others from doing something or other. The end of it was that Mr. King gave the Cafe up in disgust, and from that time henceforward he was never the same man. The persons who took the business from him were unable when the time came to pay the amount they had stipulated for it, and he had to re-take possession. But by the time there had been a large falling-off in the business, and though he fought a hard up-hill battle for twelve months, he had finally to succumb. In the meantime he could not let the Princess's Theatre, and he was compelled to effect a compromise with his creditors. He was naturally of an excitable temperament, but after this he frequently lost all control over himself, and everybody noticed the alteration in his looks.

He went to New Zealand shortly after the compromise, and was absent about eighteen months. In the beginning of the year 1868 he returned to Melbourne, apparently much better in health, and carried on the commission business again for twelve months, when, in January, 1869, he entered into partnership with Mr. J. G. Knight, in connection with the Atheneum Club, and in conjunction with him conducted the club until June, 1871, when the furniture and everything in the place was seized under a bill of sale, and the club was closed for awhile. Mr. King then devoted the whole of his attention to the hotel, 82 Collins street, which he had opened in April, 1870, but his failure deranged his mind, and he had to retire from business altogether.

He became more and more disordered in his intellect, and had taken passage on board a vessel for England, but on the day for the departure he conducted himself so peculiarly on board the ship as it lay alongside the Sandridge pier, that it was deemed advisable for his own safety to confine him, and he was taken to the Yarra Bend Asylum, where he has remained ever since — a period of about eighteen months, and he died from acute disease of the brain. The deceased was a native of Italy, and was well connected, He was highly educated, and spoke several languages. His friends will regret his death under such distressing circumstances.”