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David Jones, 1853

Henry Robinson Smith

oil on canvas laid on composition board (frame: 126.5 cm x 106.0 cm, support: 106.2 cm x 86.5 cm)

David Jones (1793–1873), merchant, born in Llandilo, Wales, began his retail career in Pembrokeshire and London before emigrating with his family to Sydney via Hobart. His first two wives having died, he had married Jane Hall in 1828. At the end of 1835 he became a partner in Appleton and Co, trading in Sydney. By 1838 he had opened commodious premises on the corner of George and Barrack Streets opposite the GPO. His mission was to sell ‘the best and most exclusive goods’ but at the same time to carry ‘a stock that embraces the everyday wants of mankind at large’. The business prospered and Jones retired from active management in 1856; a few years later, faced with bankruptcy, he had to return to redress its affairs. The store’s full recovery was accomplished with the involvement of David’s son, Edward Lloyd (1844–1894) who had travelled widely overseas, seen European ‘department stores’ and returned to implement retailing innovations. David Jones became gravely ill in 1866 but his life was prolonged by his older son Philip, an eminent physician. Retiring in 1868, he died in 1873; though it referred to his vicissitudes, his obituary stated that ‘the long career of Mr Jones, who arrived in the colony more than forty years ago, has been distinguished for benevolence and uprightness’. He had been active in banking, shipping, insurance and building companies; a pillar of the Congregational Church; a considerable benefactor to his own and other churches and charities; and a member of the first Sydney City Council and of the NSW Legislative Council. Jane, mother of their four sons and four daughters, died three weeks after he did. Their grandson, Charles Lloyd Jones (1878–1958) became a director of the company in 1906, and was its chairman from 1920 to 1958, during which premises on Elizabeth and Market Streets were opened and the first interstate branch established. In 2013 the business could lay claim to being the oldest department store in the world still trading under its original name.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Susanna de Vienne, Sarah Wood and David Lloyd Jones 2009.
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.

Accession number: 2009.96

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Henry Robinson Smith

David Jones (age 60 in 1853)

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Donated by

Sarah Wood (3 portraits)

David L. Jones (3 portraits)

Susanna de Vienne (3 portraits)

Related portraits

1. Jane Mander Jones, 1853. All Henry Robinson Smith.
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