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Marks, Joseph (1835–1919)

The death of the veteran wool-buyer, Mr. Joseph Marks, which took place recently at the advanced age of 85, removes one of the longest links with the past in the wool trade, and when auction sales once more resume a well-known and genial face will be missing.

The late Mr. Joseph Marks, J.P., was born at London on July 2, 1835, and arrived in Sydney in September, 1854, some 65 years ago. He first settled in West Maitland, and was employed, as a young man, in the firm of Messrs David Cohen and Co., at the same time as the late Mr. Justice Cohen, both of whom were friends from youth till the latter's death a few years ago. He afterwards started in business for himself at West Maitland, and carried the business on until about 1882, when he came to reside in Sydney. While in Maitland he held amongst other positions that of District Trustee to the Savings Bank of New South Wales. He was also one of the founders and first Hon. Treasurer of the West Maitland Synagogue, and a prominent member of the early Volunteer Corps.

For several years in the north he speculated in wool and produce, and was a big shipper of copper and tin to London, being part-owner of the Vegetable Creek Tin Mining Company. On his arrival in Sydney he joined the late Edward Lee (a brother of Hon. Charles Lee, M.L.A.), who was previously a wool-scourer in Maitland, in business as a wool-buyer and exporter of Colonial produce to London, and took offices at Royle's Chambers, Bond Street, where ever since he has carried on the business. In all produce, especially in tallow, leather and fur-skins, he was in past years a very big operator, and had a re-packing store in Hunter Street, on the present site of the Perpetual Trustee Company's building. Of recent years he devoted himself nearly entirely to wool, and exported large quantities of scoured wool for re-sale in London.

In 1889, some 30 years ago, he was joined by his son, E. S. Marks, who is still in the business. Although offered at different times buying agencies in both wool and produce on commission, the late Mt. Marks would not accept same, always buying and selling on his own account.

His knowledge of wool and produce was availed of by the Government, who appointed him a Commissioner to the Melbourne International Exhibition and the Chicago Exhibition, which he visited in 1893 in connection with the Wool and Produce Exhibits. About that time the State was in the throes of a financial debacle, causing local credits to be largely discounted by foreign financiers. The late Mr. Marks availed himself of every opportunity to restore his country's credit in America by writing numerous articles and interviewing journalists on the American press. From America he visited England and the Continent of Europe.

Although 80 years of age at the time, he was actively connected with his business till shortly after the outbreak of war, when the Government restrictions on the sale and purchase of wool caused him to retire from active participation in the business. He saw during his life-time the rise of the wool trade from small beginnings to its present position.

An interesting heirloom belonging to the family is a passport granted to his maternal grandfather, Joseph Hiam, after whom he was named, dated Brussels, June 9th, 1815, a few days before the battle of Waterloo, signed Colonel Comdamin, D.A.C.G., granting the bearer permission to pass through the British lines to deliver produce, which he had contracted to supply the British Anny.

The late Mr. Joseph Marks married Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Benjamin, one of the old-time city merchants of Sydney, who carried on business where the present Bank of New South Wales in George Street is now situated, known in those days as Barrack Square. He leaves a family of two sons and a daughter.

Original publication

Citation details

'Marks, Joseph (1835–1919)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/marks-joseph-20232/text31287, accessed 21 October 2019.

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