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George Franklin Garton (1845–1893)

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George Franklin Garton (senior) (1845-1893) bootmaker, anarchist and trade union activist

Birth: 10 June 1845 at Sydney, New South Wales, son of Franklin [or Franklyn] John Garton (1820-1892), tanner, later postmaster, and Harriet, née Ridgeway (1821-1914). Both parents were born at Manchester, Lancashire, England. Marriage: 2 November 1867 at Sydney with “Free Church of England” rites to Sydney-born Margaret Jane Spence (1845-1927). They had three sons and four daughters, one of whom died in childhood. Death: 25 April 1893 in his usual residence at Waterloo, Sydney. Religion: Unitarian. 

  • His parents had arrived in Sydney with his uncle and aunt as free settlers aboard the Columbine on 3 December 1841. The family lived at Bullanaming Street, Redfern, and ran a tannery. In the 1890s his father was postmaster at Alexandria, in Sydney.
  • George was prominent in political movements in NSW in the period 1870-1893, however it is difficult to distinguish his activities from those of his cousin and namesake, George Franklin Garton (junior) (1846-1923), a painter and decorator. Both were active political proponents of Protectionism and supporters of democratic reform.
  • George (senior) spent some time at Ironbarks, Wellington, NSW, during the early 1870s, working on the gold reefs.
  • An anti-Chinese immigration activist, he was corresponding secretary and president of the Anti-Chinese League, as well as champion of ‘rational, philosophic anarchism’.
  • From the 1870s he was a member of the Bootmakers’ Protective Union and was secretary in 1872. He was elected president of the Boot Trade Union in August 1890 and was active in attempting to end “sweating” in the industry. In February 1891 he was on the platform, representing the Trades and Labor Council, at an anti-sweating meeting with W. H. McNamara, S. A. Rosa, W. H. Sharp and others in connection with the Australian Socialist League. In a speech attacking “that curse – the employment of child labour”, he stated that “he was getting an old man, and in consequence had great difficulty in obtaining a livelihood”.
  • Activities with which either or both of the Gartons might have been associated included the Psychological Society (1880-1882) and the School of Arts Debating Club (1884-1885), chaired by L. F. Heydon.
  • In 1885 George (senior) was probably the George Garton who was secretary of the Sir Roger Tichborne inquiry committee in January, prominent at a public meeting in Kiama in February considering the annexation of New Guinea and named as a possible candidate for the Redfern electorate in October.
  • He described himself as a journeyman bootmaker in evidence to the Royal Commission into the causes of conflicts between capital and labour in 1891. Stated that he made, on an average, 33 shillings per week. Had experience as an employer.
  • Protectionist Labor candidate for the seat of Redfern in June 1891.
  • In 1892 he established a branch of the Democratic Alliance in Penrith, advocating protection, payment of parliamentary members, land tax, absentee tax, and tax on cereals.
  • Cause of death: epithelioma of toe.

R. James, Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne 1886-1896: An argument about Australian labor history, (Newcastle, 1986); information from R. James, 1992.

Citation details

'Garton, George Franklin (1845–1893)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


10 June, 1845
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


25 April, 1893 (aged 47)
Waterloo, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (toe)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism