Page 1: Biography
Hamilton, Frederick Orton
Hardware merchant, company director, horticultural produce promoter
This biography, written by Natalie Kuchciak, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.
Frederick Orton Hamilton was born at Greymouth on 27 December 1873, one of five children of Francis Hamilton and his wife, Jane Sarah Orton. After his mother's death his father remarried; nine more children were to be born. In 1881 his father (a hardware merchant and one-time mayor of Greymouth) bought the mercantile firm of E. Buxton and Company in Nelson.
Frederick Hamilton was educated at the Bishop's School in Nelson, then in 1891 he entered his father's firm. He represented Nelson in rugby and as a member of the Nelson Rowing Club rowed in its junior fours national championship team two years in a row. He left Buxton's in 1895 and for three years travelled the East Coast of the North Island as a representative for the hardware firm of Briscoe, MacNeil and Company. On 21 April 1897, at Gisborne, he married Isabelle Porter, second daughter of Colonel T. W. Porter and Herewaka Porourangi Potae, a woman of high rank in Te Whanau-a-Apanui. Isabelle's older sister was the noted singer Te Rangi Pai (Fanny Howie). Following the deaths of her mother in 1904 and sister in 1916, Isabelle inherited the high rank of Ariki Tapairu.
On the death of his father in 1901, Hamilton was appointed a director of E. Buxton and Company. Buxton's had handled farmers' produce since 1881, and when apples began to be grown for export, he saw the potential of the industry. In 1908 he visited the fruit-growing region of Tasmania, then discussed the possibility of large-scale expansion with the Nelson orchardists Arthur McKee and Frank Walker. Hamilton played an important part in the development and success of the industry by offering financial help to growers, and by organising the collection of their produce through Buxton's. He also persuaded the government to offer a guaranteed price of one penny per pound to exporters and helped with marketing arrangements in London.
Buxton's was the largest dealer in hops in the Nelson district. Following the founding of a district hop growers association in 1918, Hamilton offered the full co-operation of the firm to the association. His enthusiasm and encouragement were instrumental in developing the marketing of hops, and Buxton's became the association's managing agent.
Nelson's tobacco industry also owed its introduction to Frederick Hamilton. In 1914 Gerhard Husheer, who had recently formed the New Zealand Tobacco Company, travelled through the country looking for a district suitable for tobacco growing. Hamilton introduced him to local farmers, and through Buxton's arranged the distribution of the first commercial seed. He encouraged local farmers to grow the leaf, and offered financial help and supervision of the culture of the crop. When the tobacco firm of W. D. & H. O. Wills (NZ) approved the use of Nelson leaf, growers under Frederick Hamilton's influence were encouraged to meet the company's high standard, and sales to the company were a stimulus to the industry.
In recognition of his work for primary producers, Hamilton was appointed one of New Zealand's representatives to the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa in 1932. He later travelled to England and Ireland to find further markets for Nelson's produce.
Frederick Hamilton was active in the Nelson community. He was a trustee of the Cawthron Institute Trust Board for some years, a foundation member of the Nelson Rotary Club and a committee member of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce. Hamilton also served on the Nelson Harbour Board. He was a member of the Nelson Jockey Club and president for many years, later becoming a life member, and represented Nelson–West Coast at national racing conferences. For his services to the community and the horticultural industry he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935.
Frederick Hamilton was a tall, striking man of distinguished appearance with a warm outgoing nature. He was a very sociable and generous host, and he and Isabelle were leading personalities in Nelson. Isabelle Hamilton died in 1936. Frederick died, after a lengthy illness, in Nelson on 25 July 1945, survived by four daughters and two sons.