John Fairfax (1804–1877), newspaper proprietor, was born in Warwickshire and as a teenager completed an apprenticeship in the printing and bookbinding trade. After a period working in London, Fairfax returned home, marrying his childhood friend, Sarah Reading, in July 1827 and subsequently becoming a part-owner of two newspapers. Bankrupted as a result of a libel suit, Fairfax opted for emigration to Australia, arriving in Sydney with Sarah and their three children in September 1838. Three years later, he and Charles Kemp purchased the seven-year old Sydney Herald, renaming it the Sydney Morning Herald in 1842. By the mid-1850s, under the management of Fairfax and his eldest sons, Charles and James, the paper boasted daily circulation figures bettered only by the Times and Telegraph in London. In addition to building his newspaper empire, Fairfax held positions with businesses such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Australian Gaslight Co and the Savings Bank of NSW. He was also a leading figure in the Congregational movement in Australia, helping to establish the Pitt Street Congregational Church and serving there as a deacon and Sunday school teacher. Active in organisations including the Temperance Society and YMCA and a generous supporter of various other charities, Fairfax was a member of the Legislative Council from 1874 until his death in June 1877.
Gift of John Fairfax Holdings Ltd 2002
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2002.83
More about the artist and subject
Permanent collection catalogue
On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.