Almost coinciding with World Biscuit Day (29 May), Glynis Conlon’s book, The Biscuit Factory, encapsulates the life of early South Australian colonist, Alexander Murray, who arrived in 1840, just four years after proclamation of the colony. An entrepreneur with many skills, he established a biscuit and jam factory alongside the Sturt River on 10 acres of land he bought at Coromandel Valley.
Alexander Murray planted a variety of fruit trees that would provide the initial fruit needed for his planned jam and biscuit factory, which John Weymouth began building using local stone quarries nearby. The factory grew to a four-storey building, progressing from using horses which operated unsophisticated machinery, to steam power with increased mechanisation.
Between 1850 and 1860, the factory produced more than 70 tons of biscuits a year, four times the quantity consumed in Adelaide, and employed up to 40 people from the local community. Murray & Sons’ biscuits were exported to other Australian colonies and to the British colonies and exhibited at exhibitions in London and Philadelphia.
With a love of sketching and painting, Alexander Murray recorded some of the earliest portraits of Adelaide in its infancy, and his numerous paintings were exhibited in London; he was perhaps our first ‘ambassador’.