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Joseph Moir, Economy House, Hobart

By Museums Victoria    |   Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Joseph Moir came from Kelso in Scotland. He and his brother John migrated to Tasmania (then Van Deiman's Land), sailing from Leith on the North Briton on 24 May 1827. The ship called at the Cape of Good Hope in August, and arrived in Hobart Town on 20 September 1827.

Moir had been a builder in Scotland and stayed in that line of work when he migrated. He constructed a number of houses and churches in and around Hobart Town. His buildings included a number of substantial dwellings that he retained as rental properties, and were eventually bequeathed to his children and brother. His biographer, Richard Lord suggests that his prosperity came quickly, as he bought three blocks of land in the town during his first four years as a resident. In August 1834 Moir was appointed clerk of Public Works for the colony, a position that had a salary of 150 pounds. He was clerk for three years. In 1844 he visited Scotland and married Elizabeth Paxton, a woman from his home town of Kelso, before returning to Hobart.

Joseph Moir - Economy House

Moir was elected a Commissioner under Hobart's paving & lighting bill in 1846. The commissioners were the precursors of Hobart's City Council, on which Moir later sat. In 1849 he again visited Britain, this time with a view to securing goods for an ironmongery business. He returned in early 1850 and established "Economy House". His stock was described in the imports list of the Hobart Town Courier. In an advertisement announcing the opening of his store he stated that having relinquished the business of Builder carried on by him for twenty years in Hobart town he has arrived from England with a large assortment of general Ironmongery suitable for this market, all having been selected by himself.The chief part of the Goods are of a quality hitherto unknown in the Colonies. The business was quickly established as one of the leading Ironmongery establishments in Hobart. Moir ran Economy Hous until his death in 1874, and his son Joseph Paxton Moir continued it until 1884.

In 1870 Moir began selling shot, which he manufactured in his Shot Tower at 'Queenboro Glens', his property at Taroona, then seven miles outside Hobart. He constructed the tower himself with the assistance of two masons, to a height of 157 feet, six inches, it was the only such business in Tasmania. There were also significant factory and store buildings on the same site. The shot tower and some of the associated buildings are preserved today, and are included on the Register of the Australian National Estate. A number of historical images (paintings and photographs) of the shot tower are held by the State Library of Tasmania. After his death his son James George Wood Moir continued the business, and won prizes at the 1879 Sydney Exhibition, and the Melbourne Exhibition of 1880. The business was initially protected by a 7 pound per ton tarrif. The business was never spectactularly successful, and in 1887 James Moir had to surrender it to his creditors, and his brother took over the business. It changed hands one more time before finally closing in 1905, partly as a result of the removal of the Tasmanian tariffs that had protected the business before Federation.

Joseph Moir died aged 65 on 11 March 1874, at Queenboro Glen. He left substantial bequests to his family, including 40 shillings (2 pounds) a week to his wife Elizabeth 'if she shall so long continue my widow,' as well as granting substantial properties to his sons and daughter. He also left properties to his brother John, and granted an income to John's housekeeper. The Archives office of Tasmania holds a will dated 1874 for a Joseph Moir - Name: Moir Joseph 1874 Reference: AD960/9 Page: 451 Will No.: 1679.

McPhail's National Directory of Tasmania for 1867 - 1868 includes a quarter page advertisement for Economy House. The advertisement lists a wide range of products including: 'IRONMONGERY, LEAD, PAINTS, OILS, VARNISH, BRUSHES, SPORTING & BLASTING POWDER' and gives his address as Murray-street, two doors from Liverpool-street, Hobart Town.

Moir issued one variety of token only. Richard Lord argues that Moir brought his tokens back with him from England in 1850, based, on the date shown on the token - 1850. This date has elsewhere been taken to be the date of the establishment of the store. The evidence for each of these arguments is less than conclusive. The Museum Victoria catalogue gives the year of issue as circa 1858, and Roger McNeice does not suggest a date in his work on Tasmanian Tokens. Their maker is unknown.

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