Thomas Ham

Ham's Squatting Map of Victoria, Port Phillip District, New South Wales. 1851
Ham’s Squatting Map of Victoria, Port Phillip District, New South Wales, 1851. © Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.

HAM, Thomas (1821-1870) — Melbourne & Brisbane

Engraver, lithographer, photographer, publisher, land & commission agent. Produced Alexander James Skene, Map of the district of Geelong 1845; Map of New South Wales, shewing at a glance the recent inland tour of Doctor Leichardt 1846; To be published by subscription, to appear in December : a map of Australia Felix … compiled, engraved and published by Thomas Ham 1847; A map of Australia Felix 1847; Map of the purchased and measured lands, counties, parishes, etc. of the Melbourne and Geelong districts 1849; Ham’s squatting map of Victoria (Port Phillip District, New South Wales) 1851, with an accompanying booklet; Map of the suburban lands of the city of Melbourne 1852; Hams’ map of the routes to the Mt. Alexander & Ballarat gold diggings 1852; Map of settled district of Melbourne 1853; Plan of the city of Melbourne embracing Collingwood, South Melbourne and Sandridge 1854 — engraved by William Knight and published with a book of reference by Cyrus Mason; T. Watson, Suburban & country allotments in the parishes of Meerai, Yarpturk, Cooramook & Bullanbull 1856; A. R. Morrison, Plan of the Township of Wallan Wallan 1857; R. W. Larritt, The township of Axedale, & suburban allotments 1858; T. W. Dawson, Country lands in the parishes of Bundalaguah & Nuntin, Gippsland 1858; sheets for the Geological Survey of Victoria 1860-1862; J. W. Buxton, The new map of Queensland compiled from the most reliable and recent public & private surveys 1863; Slater’s pocket map of the city of Brisbane 1865; Electoral district of Port Curtis, Queensland and many other electoral maps 1865; Colony of Queensland, Australia 1865; Map shewing position of Queensland to the Australian colonies, India, China &c. &c. with existing & proposed telegraphic & steam routes 1865; “Atlas of the colony of Queensland” 1866; E. P. Bedwell, Wide Bay Bar 1868 — with Knight; Map of the Kennedy District, Northern Queensland 1868; Map of Queensland. Compiled by Thomas Ham 1871, etc. He also engraved prints, banknotes and the first Victorian postage stamps. He published, with his brothers, the “Illustrated Australian Magazine”, the first of its kind in Australia.

Born 17 Feb 1821 at Teignmouth in Devon, the son of the Reverend John Ham, a Baptist minister, and his wife Ann Job, née Tonkin. He was baptised Thomas Job Ham (by his father) at the Cannon Street Meeting House in Birmingham 11 Nov 1837. The family emigrated to Australia in the Dublin, arriving on 13 Dec 1842, where John Ham became the first minister of the Collins Street Baptist Church. Trained as an engraver in Birmingham, Thomas Ham soon established an engraving and lithography business in Melbourne, advertising a full range of engraving services in the Port Phillip Gazette 8 Feb 1843. Press reports of a drunken spree in March 1843 were rapidly corrected — the real culprit was one Thomas Hand. He advertised as a plain and ornamental engraver in the Melbourne Weekly Courier 4 Jan 1844, offering copper-plate, letterpress and lithographic printing — “Views of public buildings, bank notes, cheques, drafts, maps, plans, charts &c. circulars, bill heads, address, visiting, and wedding cards, in the first style of workmanship. Door and window plates of every description. arms, crests, cyphers, mottoes, and inscriptions engraved on plate, seals, jewellery, &c., &c., &c”. He announced a return to Collins Street in January 1845, stressing the “cash only” nature of his low prices. He had added seal-cutting and die-sinking to his range of services by July 1845, at which time he was increasingly advertising for map and chart work. In 1846-1847 he repeatedly canvassed for subscriptions for his map of Australia Felix, to be engraved on a large copper plate and “printed on the best Imperial drawing paper, and neatly coloured, the work forming a valuable acquisition to the Australian Colonist. As the object of the compiler is to publish it at the lowest remunerating price, he has determined to adopt the plan of publishing by subscription, being able, by this system, to issue the map at a much lower rate than he otherwise could. The price will be — to subscribers — 12s.6d — paid on delivery. Non-subscribers — 16s.0d — ditto” (Melbourne Argus, 27 Oct 1846, et seq). Publication was delayed for the insertion of additional information, but the map appeared in the spring of 1847 and was followed by a revised second edition in 1849. A much larger map of the Melbourne and Geelong area was announced as in preparation in April 1848, although Ham announced, “As I do not feel inclined to publish at a loss, I propose to defer the execution of it until I have sufficient copies subscribed for to pay the expenses, which in a map requiring such accuracy as this, are considerable; and as soon as the required number of subscribers is entered, the engraving will be immediately commenced. In order to place the prices within the reach of all classes, I publish at 21s. to subscribers; 30s. non-subscribers” (Melbourne Argus, 26 May 1848). In 1849 he was advertising forgery proof plates made by machine engraving. He was joined by a brother Jabez in 1850, the business becoming “Ham Brothers” for a short period, with a branch in Sydney — the partnership was formally dissolved 5 Jul 1853. He married Mary Jull Collings (1827-1903), originally from West Malling in Kent and daughter of John Collings, a man who ran a circulating library for his neighbours from his own home, at Melbourne 18 Sep 1851. In July 1853 Ham announced that he had become a “land agent, and colonial map publisher” at his new premises in Swanston Street, “feeling assured that his eleven years’ experience as colonial map publisher will enable him materially to serve his fellow-colonists, more especially gold-diggers and new arrivals, by aiding them in the selection of land and other properly. Thomas Ham is now prepared to undertake any agency with which he may be favored, as he has secured the services of an efficient surveying staff, in order to facilitate the arrangements of parties disposing of their properties through his office … A series of parish and township plans will be issued every month, in order to supply the public with all available information, at as low a price as possible” (The Argus, 18 Jul 1853). In December 1857 he joined the Victorian Geological Survey Office, where he had charge of the lithography of sale plans. He appeared as an expert witness in forgery trial in July 1858, stating that he had undertaken engraving “more or less for all the old-established banks, but especially for the Union and the New South Wales” (The Argus, 21 Jul 1858). In 1861 he moved to Brisbane, announcing his arrival in the Brisbane Courier 25 Jul 1861 — “Thomas Ham, of Melbourne (formerly engraver and lithographer to the Colonial and English banks, and to the government of Victoria) begs to intimate that he has commenced the practice of his profession in every branch of the engraving and lithographic art”. With his future brother-in-law, William Knight, he formed “Thomas Ham & Co.”, general engravers, lithographic artists, printers and photographers — “Mr. Ham, so well known as the engraver and compiler of Ham’s Squatting Map of Victoria, has commenced his art in this city, and is provided with every description of copper-plate and lithographic machinery. Associated in business’ with Mr. Ham is Mr. William Knight, photographer, who brings with him a high reputation as a successful operator in every branch of the photographic art. These gentlemen have not as yet had opportunities of furnishing specimens to the public, but competent judges affirm that their productions will excel anything hitherto produced in the colony. We will not say a word about the success of these gentlemen, believing that it will be steady and certain: for when we have an establishment in full operation among us, carrying on the combined operations of engraving, lithography, and photography, we feel certain that the public will appreciate the convenience, and retain to itself the services of experienced professional men” (The Courier, 25 Jul 1861). The partnership was dissolved in November 1868. In 1862, Ham stood in for a period as the Secretary of the Queensland Insurance Company, until a permanent successor could be found. He became Lithographer to the Survey Office and was appointed Chief Engraver to the Government Printing Office in December 1866. He was involved as a director of the Victoria Cotton Company in its plans to grow cotton in Queensland and later developed sugar plantations on the Albert River, buying a farm at Redcliffe. He resigned as a director of the Pimpana Sugar Company in February 1867 and sold his 425-acre sugar estate in 1868. He died at Brisbane 8 Mar 1870 “after two and a half years suffering borne with Christian resignation”, and is buried at Paddington Cemetery. “Mr. Thomas Ham, passed away this week. Mr. Ham was for some years in business as an engraver, and since the organisation of a lithographic staff has held the appointment of Government engraver. The pioneer spirit was strong in Mr. Ham; he was amongst the first to take up land upon the Hotham and Albert rivers, where he engaged in cotton and sugar growing. At the time of his decease, he had a plantation at Redcliffe; he had the strongest faith in this country for the production of cotton and sugar, and followed his faith by works. Mr. Ham’s genial and unassuming nature won him a large circle of friends, by whom his loss will be severely felt” (The Queenslander, 12 Mar 1870). A later obituary of his widow recorded that “Her husband, Thomas Ham (eldest son of the Rev. John Ham, Baptist minister, Sydney), was the publisher of ‘Ham’s Magazine’, the first in Australia. He was also the first geographer in Australia, compiling maps for the Government of New South Wales, and had the contract (in 1849) for engraving and printing the first Victorian stamps. Mr. Ham was engraver and lithographer to the colonial and English banks, and the Government of Victoria. In 1861 Mr. Ham came to Queensland, and commenced the practice of his profession as engraver and lithographer, with a photographic branch attached; he also started sugar-growing on the Albert River. He afterwards accepted the position of engraver and lithographer to the Government. Mrs. Ham joined her husband in Brisbane in 1862, and although she never lost her love for England and English things, she preferred Queensland to Victoria” (The Queenslander, 14 Mar 1903).

Collins Street, Melbourne — 1843
Collins Street East, Melbourne — 1844
Market Square, two doors from Hobson’s London Hotel, Melbourne — 1844
Collins Street, opposite the Melbourne Club House, Melbourne — 1845-1849
— Collingwood, Melbourne (home) — 1847-1848
Collins Street, opposite the Mechanics’ Hall, Melbourne — 1850-1851
Collins Street East, near the Mechanics’ Hall, Melbourne — 1851-1852
68 Collins Street East, Melbourne — 1853
35 Swanston Street, Melbourne — 1853-1854
85 Swanston Street, Melbourne — 1854-1855
45 Swanston Street, Melbourne — 1855
35 Swanston Street, Melbourne — 1858
Surveyor General’s Office, Melbourne — 1857
Public Lands Office, Melbourne — 1858
Queen Street, Brisbane — 1861
George Street, opposite the Courier office, Brisbane — 1862-1865
— Martin Street, Bowen Terrace, Brisbane (home) — 1870

ADB. Paul Ballard, “Thomas Ham, Melbourne map engraver and lithographer”, 1980. BM. John Wilton Collings, “Thomas Ham : pioneer engraver, publisher etc.”, 1943. COPAC. DAAO. NA. NLA. Trove.

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