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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

John Fairfax

c. 1860
Edwin Dalton (attributed)

pastel on paper laid on canvas (frame: 80.0 cm x 65.7 cm, support: 63.7 cm x 58.4 cm)

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.

Artist and subject

Edwin Dalton (age 53 in 1860)

Hon. John Fairfax MLC (age 56 in 1860)

Subject professions

Media and communications

Donated by

Fairfax Media Limited (13 portraits)

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency