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Henry Abraham Harwood (1839–1919)

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Henry Abraham Harwood (1839-1919) cabinet maker, trade union official 

Birth: March 1839 at Edmonton, Middlesex, England, son of Davison Harwood (1804-1877), dealer, later clerk, and his first wife Eliza (or Mary), née Campbell (1808-1846). Marriage: 9 November 1881 at Adelaide, South Australia, to native-born Rosa Adams (1860-1915). They had one son. Death: 14 September 1919 in hospital at Melbourne, Victoria; usual residence Major street, Northcote, Melbourne. 

  • His father was a “curiosity dealer’ at Hornsey, Middlesex, in 1841.
  • The family arrived in South Australia aboard the Enmore in May 1848 and lived at Stepney, Adelaide. His father, who remarried in 1865, worked as a warehouseman and clerk.
  • Henry moved back and forward from South Australia to Queensland in the 1860s, trying his hand at gold-mining in the Wide Bay region in 1868 and working in the furniture trade in Brisbane and Adelaide.
  • He was a cabinetmaker in Melbourne, Victoria, by December 1871, when he was honorary secretary of the Associated Journeymen Cabinetmakers. He was secretary of the United Furnishing Trade Association (and/or United Furniture Trades Society of Victoria) in 1872.
  • He then returned to South Australia, where his father died in May 1877, where he married in 1881 and where his son was born in 1883. Became vice-president of the SA Furniture Manufacturers Association and spoke in favour of the exclusion of Chinese from the colony.
  • Promoted the concept of insurance for workers' tools 1882.
  • Moved back to Victoria from SA with his wife and son in about 1886. Was appointed member of the Victorian Commission for the Adelaide Exhibition in June 1887 and justice of the peace in February 1888.
  • Trades Hall Council delegate with Council of Australian Federation League of Victoria.
  • Prominent in Protectionist movement. President of the Anti-Chinese League in 1887 which was established to restrict the ability of Chinese people to work in the colony and to exclude further Chinese people from immigrating. The Anti-Chinese League was motivated by the cheaper types of furniture that the Chinese were making in competition to unionised workers in the furniture trades. Chinese people in the industry were generally engaged in a “putting out” or “cottage” type of practice where standard of hours and wages were not enforced.
  • Large economic expansions and declines occurred in the industry in the 1890s with a decline in about 1893 causing the number of Europeans employed decreasing from 1241 in 1889 to 471 in 1893.
  • Harwood was member of the Anti-sweating League. Held numerous official positions on the Trades Hall Council during the 1880s and 1890s, including president, vice-president, chairman and committee member.
  • Promoted amalgamation amongst allied crafts at the intercolonial level.
  • Was defeated as Political Labor League candidate for seat of Prahran in the Victorian Legislative Assembly in April 1892, supporting “one man one vote”.
  • Long-standing supporter and council-member of the Working Men’s College in Latrobe Street.
  • Cause of death: “heart failure, operation prostate not stated”.

Andrew Markus, ‘Divided We Fall: The Chinese and the Melbourne Furniture Trade Union, 1870-1900’, Labour History, No. 26, May 1974, pp 1-10; Ken Carr, ‘Reply to Andrew Markus’, Labour History, No 26 (May 1957), pp 11-13; Frank Bongiorno, The people’s party: Victorian Labor and the radical tradition, 1875-1914 (Melbourne, 1996); Merrifield Card Index, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.

Citation details

'Harwood, Henry Abraham (1839–1919)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

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