29 May, 2007
The Museum of Printing
When Fred T. Wimble made his first batch of ink in Melbourne in 1868, he was the first to produce an Australian manufactured printers' ink. Born in London in 1846, Wimble came from a strong family tradition in the industry. His father, Benjamin Wimble, had pioneered coloured printing ink in England, creating the first supply of red ink to Cambridge University Press.
Fred travelled to Austria at the age of twenty-one. Suffering from ill health his doctor had advised a sea voyage, which his father financed to Australia. Arriving in Melbourne in July 1867 with a selection of lithographic materials, bronzes and a large consignment of inks, Wimble soon recognised that there was an opportunity to manufacture the first Australian made printing inks. This was an obvious benefit to local printers, providing greater profit than using imported inks. Fred wrote to his father in England asking for fresh supplies and permission to use his recipes. His father not only granted his request but also sent an ink mill, steam engine and other equipment.
The year of 1868 was a year of beginnings in Australian manufacture with the opening of Australia's first woollen mills, first paper mill and first printing ink. It was also the first year an Australian newspaper, the Melbourne Star, was printed using Australian made paper (produced by Ramsden Paper Mills) printed in F.T. Wimble's blue ink.
It soon became clear that Melbourne alone could not provide the market Wimble desired and from 1869 he began to travel extensively throughout Australia introducing local printers to his inks while emphasising the need for people to support and develop Australian industries. Gaining the tender for the first Australian manufactured coloured stamp, the South Australian 'penny red' printed in 1869, Wimble acquired other government printing contracts for Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and New Zealand. By 1875, seven years after he had arrived in the colony, his inks were being used across Australia and New Zealand.
During 1876 Wimble travelled home to England via America securing the Australian agency for a number of American and English firms. Only a few months after his return Australia, Fred Wimble moved headquarters to Sydney where he proceeded to establish the first electrotyping and stereotyping processes.