Cyrus Mason

MASON, Cyrus (1829-1915) — Melbourne

Painter, draughtsman, engraver and lithographer. Produced Map of the city of Melbourne including the municipalities of Emerald Hill & Collingwood ca.1854; Plan of the village of West Pentridge and farms 1854; Thomas Ham, The squatting map of Victoria 1854; Map of the colony of Victoria 1854 — with Francis Stringer; Thomas Ham, Plan of the city of Melbourne embracing Collingwood, South Melbourne and Sandridge 1854 — engraved by William Knight; Thomas Oldham & T. E. Rawlinson, City of Melbourne harbour & railway accommodation 1855; Plan shewing the several contracts for the main trunk lines for which tenders were received 1858; Map of Victoria ca.1871, etc. Also produced “The practical lithographer : dedicated to painters and artists”, published by the Depot for Lithographic Artists’ Materials 1852; “The gold diggers portfolio : consisting of a series of sketches of the Victoria gold fields”, views, etc. 1854, etc.

Born in Camberwell, London, and baptised 20 May 1829 at Christ Church, Southwark, the son of John Mason, a cabinet-maker and upholsterer, and his wife Jane Eliza, née Browning. Apprenticed (Stationers) 1 July 1845 to Alfred James Waterlow (see BME 2011) for a fee of £70, his family then living in Paul Street, Finsbury. Recorded as an artist on the 1851 census return, living in Staines with his family. He married (1) Jane Elizabeth Hall of Burslem, Staffordshire, at Dartmouth, Devon, 27 Jan 1853, but no more is heard of her and he departed from Dartmouth for Australia on the James L. Bogert the very same day. He was recorded as a lithographer on his arrival in Melbourne 26 Apr 1853 and married (2) his fellow passenger Jessie Montagu (1825-1909), née Campbell, widow of George Conway Montagu, at St. Peter Melbourne 16 Jun 1853. In October 1853, Mason took over the Melbourne business of Thomas Ham, briefly in partnership until early 1854 with the engraver Francis Stringer (1816-1876), as “Stringer, Mason & Co.”. In October 1854 he advertised, “Maps, railway plans. Land sale plans, mechanical drawings, architectural designs, show cards, and every description of artistic work executed with precision and despatch. Business and visiting cards, invoice heads, bills of lading, acceptance and exchange receipt notes, &c., &c. A compendious map of Melbourne and suburbs, with book of reference; maps of the colony, &c., &c.” (The Age, 20 Oct 1854). From his new premises in Flinders Lane, he issued a pocket map of Victoria — “a very neatly executed lithographed pocket map … The novelty, of this publication is the arrangement of the map into circles of ten miles, so that travellers can, at a glance, ascertain distances and routes. It is tastefully coloured, and has the various districts and gold localities very distinctly set out” (The Age, 1 Feb 1855). He was also at this time awarded a silver medal for his “highly admired” lithographs at the Exhibition of the Victoria Industrial Society. Later that year he acquired Ham’s entire stock of maps and moved to Collins Street East. In August of that year he announced a new illustrated weekly paper, “The Illustrated Family News”, but the publication did not last very long. He subsequently joined the Victorian Railways as a lithographic draughtsman and set up its printing office. In 1863, he and William Robert Martin applied for a patent for “improvements in the method of producing spectral illusions”. Having left the Victorian Railways, Mason moved to Woods Point and became a mining agent and share-broker, acting as secretary to various gold-mining companies and as manager of the Columbia Quartz-Mining Company, the Emerald Quartz Mining Company, the Jericho Gold Mining Company, etc. He was declared insolvent in September 1867, having made losses at mining and also after guaranteeing the debts of the local Anglican Church. He returned to Melbourne and returned to working as a draughtsman as well as lecturing and working for an insurance company. In 1869 he founded a short-lived journal called the “The Building Times”. He later wrote and illustrated a small children’s book, “The Australian Christmas story book” 1871, producing a second number in 1872. In that year he re-joined the Victorian Railways, working there until his retirement on 15 Oct 1889, having reached the age of sixty. He exhibited widely as an artist and also served as Secretary of the Art Union of Victoria. In 1883 he founded the Buonarotti Club for the “cultivation and practice of art, literature and music among its members”, meeting at the old Melbourne Coffee House, but what was an apparently very jolly club petered out after Mason retired to the country. He retired to Tynong, before returning to Melbourne in about 1900. Mason died at East Melbourne aged eighty-six on 8 August 1915 and was buried at St. Kilda.

George Walk, Hoxton — 1841
Staines, Middlesex — 1851
35 Swanston Street, Melbourne — 1853-1855
38 Flinders Lane East, Melbourne — 1855
77 Collins Street East, Melbourne — 1855-1856
Wood’s Point, Melbourne — 1864-1866
Octavia Street, Melbourne — 1866-1879
100 Pitt Street, Melbourne — 1890
Post Office Chambers, Pitt Street, Melbourne — 1891
Florence Street, Mentone — 1903
Gordon Street, Sandringham — 1909
40 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy — 1913
Verona, Clarendon Street, East Melbourne — 1914-1915

BNA. Census 1841-1851, 1891. COPAC. DAAO. NLA. Tooley. Trove.

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