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Tallerman, Daniel (1832–1903)

He is one of the self-made men of the time.

The name of Mr. Tallerman is principally associated in England with the movement for the introduction of Australian meat, and the many efforts that have been made of late to supply the humbler classes with food of good and wholesome quality, but it is one that is also famous throughout the length and breadth of our colonial empire. Its bearer has passed through many strange, and in some instances extraordinary adventures, and the varied incidents of his remarkable career supply examples of energy and indomitable perseverance of no ordinary character.

Daniel Tallerman was born in London, in the year 1832; he is descended from parents of the Jewish persuasion, who, at the time of his birth, occupied the position of respectable tradespeople. He received an ordinary education, and from an early age assisted in the establishment of his parents, who were boot and shoe manufacturers on an extensive scale, and he soon exhibited so great an aptitude for mercantile pursuits that at fourteen years of age he became its commercial traveller. After visiting America and getting into ill health he sought Australia for the benefit of its climate. He obtained an appointment as purser on board the 'Theoxena,' a sailing vessel, bound for Melbourne, at which port he arrived in August, 1853. On landing he at once jumped into harness, and three days afterwards started on a commercial trip to Geelong and the western district, on returning from which he determined to go to the diggings and open a store.

Arriving at Barker's Creek, about ninety miles from Melbourne, he set up his tent and hoisted his flag, according to the custom and requirements of the settlers, the latter being a blue guernsey surmounted by a cap. The appearance of this sign was so novel, that Tallerman's flag soon became famous among the settlers, who night after night gathered round his store, and converted his eccentric banner into a target for rifle practice.

Early in December, 1853, it became bruited about on the Creek that a party of miners were working quietly in the bush, and that something was going on well worth knowing. It was, therefore, determined to watch their operations carefully; this was a work of tediousness and care, and required the exercise of the greatest amount of caution. Mr. Tallerman and some of the leading men consulted together, and determined to select a party of the best miners to track out their movements; this was done, and resulted in the discovery of the party at work on some claims, at the foot of Mount Tarrengower, twelve miles distant as the crow flies. They had a camp in the midst of the bush, and the party was headed by the celebrated gold explorer Captain Mechosk, who, finding that they were discovered, took the usual extended claim that prospectors are allowed, and gave the fullest information possible as to the prospects of the field, which were of that brilliant character that an enormous rush set in, and Tarrengower became the most noted and extensive gold-field of the day. Mr. Tallerman was early in the field, and erected the first store in the place; the miners came in by thousands in the wildest state of excitement, but no time had existed for the erection of ovens, and there was no bread. Mr. Tallerman met this difficulty promptly by arranging with the whole of the bakers of Castlemaine for them to bake as fast as they could, and he drove waggons down there in the night— a work of great difficulty in those days— in order that the miners' wants might be supplied in the morning. Mr. Tallerman's efforts were recognised by the miners, and resulted in his business becoming one of a most extensive character. As the field extended, and gully after gully and lead after lead were opened up, so his establishment increased, till he had five large auction marts and stores at one time. He then built a place called Maldon Hall, of so vast a character, that it has not even to the present day been exceeded in extent in any of the colonies. When it was known that deal boards cost 2s. 6d. per square foot, the Tarrengovians were even staggered by the costly character of the building, when gold was so little cared for that diggers in their excitement, would throw nuggets at each other like snow-balls, eat five-pound notes as sandwiches, or, out of mere bravado, light their pipes with ones. Maldon Hall being floored, the leading inhabitants induced Mr. Tallerman to allow its use for a series of balls, which they organised; but the swallow-tailed coat not having then appeared in that section of the country, they were called 'Jumper Balls,' and gentlemen were allowed to appear in the ordinary dress then worn, which was similar to a Garibaldian shirt, the colour and material being left to the choice of the wearer, the principal run being upon a silk velvet with satin, gold, or silver trimmings. The company and their characteristic costumes at these reunions formed a most picturesque scene, and the old inhabitants of the district to the present day carry a vivid recollection of the enjoyment they experienced through the liberality and enterprise of Mr. Tallerman.

The Government having surveyed the land in the district, Mr. Tallerman purchased a large section, and resurveyed it into a township, with allotments of a small size, so that miners might have a homestead of their own to live upon; many thus became freeholders and attached to the place.

In June, 1854, the gold-fields of Maryborough, or, as they were then called, 'Simpson's,' were discovered, and as the yields were of a most extravagant character, the whole population of Tarrengower migrated, Mr. Tallerman being with them, and, in anticipation of a continued run of luck, he built a large hotel and amphitheatre, and became the great purveyor of every kind of amusement and pastime, theatrical representation, gymnastic sports, balls, concerts, and all those pleasant and agreeable relaxations that make digging life in a primitive country tolerable, if not enjoyable. He soon became popular in the new settlement, and Dan Tallerman, as he was familiarly called by all the miners and tradespeople, occupied a leading position in the town, and was included in every movement that required energy and industry in its execution. As the geldfields extended, so Mr. Tallerman erected branches of his establishment, and Waterloo flat, the Alma and Adelaide leads, found him with large hotels upon each.

The main lead of the gold-fields at this time began to give out, and the miners commenced prospecting for new leads in other districts. This caused them to remove their tents, so as to be closer to their work, a migration which interfered with the business of the old districts very much; and the great Avoca rush springing up at the time, drew away all the inhabitants, leaving Mr. Tallerman with a large number of establishments and no business. To move his buildings was impossible, to sell or leave them equally ruinous. Having nothing else to do, he in connection with an artist, prepared and produced an entertainment descriptive of colonial life and adventure, illustrated by a series of dissolving views, but the difficulty of obtaining good transparent colours for the views militated against its success, and for the time it was abandoned. The many speculations he entered into proved too much for him, and after a somewhat dazzling career, commenced with £3000, he was compelled to beat a retreat with only 17s. 6d. in his pocket.

The rush to Fiery Creek was then taking place, and Mr. Tallerman wended his way there, and still being possessed of his licence, he determined to follow his profession as knight of the hammer. He was warmly supported by his old friends and constituents, and by the time the rush had subsided he found himself with considerable means.

No new gold-fields being then open, Mr. Tallerman proceeded to the old settled field of Ballarat, and after looking about him determined to start a brick-field, tricks being then very scarce, and profitable in their production. Having purchased his plant, and made every preparation for commencing, the rainy season set in, which continued for three months, swamping the field. This put a severe damper on his new speculation; which proved a total loss.

About this time Mr.Tallerman was subjected to an attack of rheumatic fever, brought on by exposure while on an inland journey, from which he suffered severely, and was not expected to recover for a long time. For two months he hovered between life and death, but being possessed of a sound constitution, strengthened by temperate habits, he overcame the disease. After his recovery we next find our ubiquitous traveller at Ararat, where, once more settling down to mercantile pursuits, he became again a man of importance and a leading spirit in the 'Ararat Improvement Committee,' which was formed among the principal inhabitants of the township and vested with powers of a semi-municipal character. Laws and regulations were made and enforced, and Ararat, before long, became a well-directed and orderly township. Mr. Tallerman here became once more a prosperous man, but, afflicted apparently with the desire of perpetual motion, he relinquished his position and returned to Melbourne, and turned his attention to his earliest occupation, of commercial traveller, in which capacity he became attacted to a large Melbourne firm, of which his brother was one of the partners, and for whom he made some opening trips to New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia, and did much towards establishing that commercial prestige for which the colony of Victoria became celebrated as the principal market of Australia. Perceiving the vast amount of indiarubber goods that were imported into the country, his enterprising mind conceived the idea of starting a manufactory of such goods in Melbourne, especially as no such establishment existed in the Australian colonies. The entire absence of all the necessary material for this business was an obstacle too trifling to daunt such a mind as his, and he soon opened a trade with Singapore, Calcutta, England, and South America for the supply of caoutchouc. When this was accomplished, his establishment was opened, and a new branch of manufacture was introduced for Victorian industry. Mr. Tallerman afterwards appeared in the Melbourne and Geelong Exhibitions as an exhibitor of indiarubber goods, which obtained for him first-class prizes in both. The great difficulty in obtaining skilled labour and also raw material at a moderate price, rendered the business unremunerative, and it was abandoned, for the purpose of enabling Mr. Tallerman to accept an offer to proceed to New Zealand, the gold-fields of which had just opened. He arrived in Dunedin in June, 1863, for the purpose of establishing there a branch house for an extensive Melbourne firm. His occupation here was again principally that of a commercial traveller, and in that capacity he visited every European settlement in that interesting colony. If our space would permit, we should like to follow him through his many adventures, the daring and energy of which used to astonish his friends and all the other travellers in the province, and formed a continual topic of conversation wherever they met. No place was inaccessible to him, although roads and bridges were not then in existence, and the country was wild and mountainous. It was sufficient for him to know that a settlement existed, and he would reach it, even if the doing so required him to mount Gentle Annie, overcome Roaring Meg, get round the Devil's Elbow, cross the Rocky Ridge or the Knobbys, or ford the Molyneaux, or any other of the furiously rapid running streams with which Otago abounds, in the execution of which he sustained many hair-breadth escapes; on one occasion, especially, he narrowly escaped being snowed up with 600 others near the Dunstan gold-fields. His occupation not only called him inland, but also to the other provinces along the coast, and the rapidity of his movements were surprising to other commercial men, who would see him go round the whole island, transacting his business at each port while the steamer stayed there; so rapid in fact were his movements, that, during the three years he was so engaged, he travelled over 70,000 miles at sea. At the end of this time he returned to Melbourne, where he engaged a troupe of dancers, gymnasts, and theatricals, twenty-five in number, and set off with them on a fresh tour to New Zealand, and after a highly successful adventure he returned again to Melbourne with the intention of taking a rest.

At this time the question was fairly afoot what to do with Australian meat, the supply of which was so much in excess of the demand of the colonists, that the carcases of sheep and oxen were boiled down for the sake of their fat, and then commonly used as manure.

Various schemes were propounded for preserving meats and shipping them to England, where it was currently understood that there was a demand for all Australia could supply. Mr. Tallerman, with his wonted business habits, preferred practical knowledge to theory, so he determined to proceed to England, and make, on arrival, personal inquiries on the subject.

Having fully satisfied himself as to the prospects or trade in this article of consumption, he returned to Australia, and while others were discussing in the columns of colonial papers the best means of preserving, or trying costly experiments, he quietly pursued a course of his own, making every preparation to enter into this new trade with his usual spirit, and preparing his first shipment for England. This consisted of 550 sheep and 5 tons of beef, which were preserved in various ways, and brought over to this country by the indefatigable experimentalist himself.

Mr. Tallerman arrived in England in the summer of 1868, and, to use his own words, the whole consignment opened up in fine order and condition; in every respect the meats were in the same condition when opened in this country as when packed at Melbourne. The next business was to satisfy the British public as to the boon that was about to be conferred upon it; but John Bull is always suspicious about innovations of every kind, how much more so then when it was proposed to supersede his beef and mutton? To make matters worse, other consignments of preserved meats from Australia, as well as from South America, had previously reached this country, and had turned out invariable failures. In respect to the previous consignments from Australia, the mode of preserving and packing were faulty, and when the meat arrived it was all tainted, but in respect to the South American consignments, the mode of preserving and packing were not only faulty, but the meat itself in the living animal, could bear no comparison with the productions, of Australia.

Mr. Tallerman's long absence from England had by no means impaired his sense of the difficulties he had under taken to contend against, for in a letter addressed to a member of the Australian Press, soon after his arrival here, he says: — 'Although this is the largest, it is also the worst market to dispose of anything new that varies in any respect from the commodities ordinarily in use; and the time, trouble, and expense, required to introduce novelties are incalculable.' And again, ' Much requires to be done before the Australian meat becomes a regular article of consumption, with a quotation in the prices current. I know it is folly believed in the colonies that it is only necessary to have good meat here, and it will find a ready sale. There never was a greater mistake. The people here, especially the poorer classes, have the most difficult taste to please, and it is impossible to get them to use anything that they are not accustomed to, or that requires any trouble in its preparation.'

Undaunted, however, by these obstacles, Mr. Tallerman lost no time in making it publicly known that he was in a position to supply Australian beef and mutton of the purest quality, and without bone, at from 5d. to 6d. per lb. To give greater publicity to his undertaking, he invited different members of the Press to call upon him and judge for themselves as to the quality and condition of the meat, the result of which was so satisfactory that premises were soon after taken by Mr. Tallerman at No. 31, Norton Folgate, where the Australian Meat Agency is now established, and a succession of luncheons and dinners got up, to which the public, especially the working classes, were freely invited.

To give completeness to this mode of trial, the wives of working men were also invited to cook the meat and prepare the dishes for table, for Mr. Tallerman perfectly understood that to gain the good opinion of the wife was the most important thing to accomplish ; and it is particularly worthy of note, that, although every woman, without exception, who offered her services on these occasions, did so with a strong prejudice against the dishes she volunteered to prepare, yet after she was properly initiated into the simple arts and mysteries of cooking Australian meat, and had herself tasted of the dishes, her prejudices entirely disappeared.

The dinners thus prepared and given at different times and places invariably gave satisfaction, and largely aided to popularise what now began to be considered the Australian meat movement among the great body of the public; meanwhile, penny and twopenny dinners were daily provided at the dining-rooms, now known as 'Tallerman's Hall,' in Norton Folgate, and where over a thousand people dine daily during the season.

Many large establishments and public offices— notably the Bank of England — are now supplied by Mr. Tallerman, and, as prejudice is wearing down, the poorer and the middle classes are more and more availing themselves of the advantages offered to them.

Soon after Mr. Tallerman had established his agency the fame of his preserved meats reached the French capital, and Napoleon III expressed his desire to test their qualities. Mr. Tallerman visited the Tuileries, and was most kindly received by his Majesty, and the result was that large supplies were soon ordered for stores for the French army which prepared the way for the general introduction of this commodity into France, where an extensive trade is now being carried on in Australian meats.

Nor was Mr. Tallerman without the countenance of royalty in this country, for her gracious Majesty the Queen, who takes an interest in everything that is for the benefit of the poorer classes of her subjects, came also to hear of the penny dinners, and of their good and wholesome quality, and she directed a letter to be addressed to their enterprising promoter, congratulatory of his praiseworthy efforts in so good a cause.

Thus it may be fairly said that Mr. Tallerman has brought his indefatigable labours to a successful issue; he has been the means of opening up an extensive trade, which not only enables the colonists of Australia to convert millions of cattle and immense flocks of sheep, that cover vast pasturages, many of which are larger than England, into a source of wealth, which were annually being destroyed and used for manure, but which presents him to be a great public benefactor, inasmuch as he has developed the means of placing before the poorest in the land good and nutritious animal food, to whom it was before utterly unattainable; more than this, he has put a severe check upon the extensive traffic in putrid carrion which hitherto tempted the labouring classes, by its cheapness, to risk its dangerous and poisonous influences.

The extent of good that he has done in these respects will best be made apparent by reference to the recent returns of the Board of Trade, from which the extraordinary fact is gleaned, that while our importation of preserved meats from Australia in 1866 was only 4½ tons, it rose in 1867 to 336 tons, in 1868 to 817 tons, in 1869 to 1415 tons, and in 1870 to 3640 tons, an increase of so extensive a character that seems almost incredible, but which may be more forcibly evidenced by the fact, that while the value of the importations in 1866 were £321, in 1871 they reached £203,874, certainly a most striking augmentation. The enormous benefit that these large importations have been to the country can hardly be realised, but it will be seen that they have supplied requirements that would otherwise have been made upon our fresh meat supply, which would without doubt have caused an immense increase in its value; but the reduction of the price of fresh meat is not the only benefit that has resulted from Mr. Tallerman's labours, for the demand for cattle and sheep that has been caused by the opening up of this new trade has had the effect in the colonies of enhancing the value of all pastoral property to that extent, as to almost magically transform it from a state of helpless insolvency to one of affluence. But it is not in the meat market alone that Mr. Tallerman has benefited the colonies, for on all occasions when movements are made here tending to develop their resources, he is found assisting; and at the recent 'Working-man's International Exhibition he displayed a collection of raw material, photographs, maps, statistics, and general information upon the colonies, that formed one of the principal objects of interest to all working-men, and was fittingly described by a well-known colonist as giving them at a glance just the information they wished for. Mr. Tallerman's collection secured for him from the jury the special gold medal, and laid the colonies under another obligation to him for services rendered, that they will find much difficulty in repaying. — Chimney Corner.

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'Tallerman, Daniel (1832–1903)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/tallerman-daniel-21111/text31645, accessed 11 December 2019.

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