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Macpherson Robertson, Confectionery Manufacturer & Philanthropist (1859-1945)

Lantern Slide - Universal Opportunity League, Man Sitting at Desk

Image: Lantern Slide - Universal Opportunity League, Man Sitting at Desk

Source: Museum Victoria

Macpherson Robertson was born in Ballarat in 1859 of Scottish parents. The family moved back to Scotland during his childhood while his father pursued a venture in Fiji. They remained in Scotland for five years, living close to the poverty line. They returned to Australia on the maiden voyage of the Loch Ard, later wrecked at Port Campbell. The family settled in Fitzroy, and Macpherson became apprenticed to the Victorian Confectionery Company. In 1880 he decided to go into business for himself, and began making confectionary in his family's bathroom. The business grew steadily over the next few decades, benefitting specially from the removal of interstate (formerly intercolonial) tariffs after the Federation of Australia in 1901. MacRobertson Confectionery Manufacturers Ltd became the largest confectionery business in the Australia, employing 2,528 people by 1934. Its 'MacRobertson' brand name became a household name throughout Australia and was responsible for the introduction of such famous product lines as 'Old Gold' Chocolate, Freddo Frogs and Cherry Ripes. Macpherson Robertson also introduced chewing gum and fairy floss to Australia and one of his companies, Maize Products Pty Ltd, pioneered the manufacture of glucose.

Later in life, Macpherson Robertson became a great philanthropist, providing financial support for the Mawson Antarctic expedition, the MacRobertson Round Australian Expedition in 1928, the Herbarium, the Shrine Fountain, the MacRobertson Girls' High School and MacRobertson Bridge over the Yarra River. He also financed the MacRobertson International Air Race from England to Australia, held in 1934 to celebrate the Centenary of Victoria and Melbourne (see NU 42206).

References:
Jewell, Raymond N. (1988). The MacRobertson (Victorian) Centenary Air Race, NMAA Journal, No.4 (March), p.3-11.
Australian Science Archives Project website Bright Sparcs Biographical Entry 1. http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs/bsparcshome.htm

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