First Edition ImprintSource: OpenLibrary
Frank Coffee - Alaska 1916
Source: Frontpiece - Forty Years on the Pacific 1925
Born at the village of Warsaw, in New York State circa 1852, Mr Coffee
began his career as a journalist with the New York Herald and
subsequently worked for several other American newspapers. He developed
a passion for travel and his experiences became a theme of his writing.
Frank Coffee moved to Sydney in 1881, leaving behind his journalism
career for business. He established the Oceanic Publishing Company, a
publishing and indent business with offices at 89 York Street in the
city. Frank Coffee was the permanent manager and a director, together
with Samuel Coffee, Arthur Wood and Eva Coffee. The company later moved
to 191 Clarence Street, while Coffee was also co-founder, with JP
Garvin, of the Citizens' Life Assurance Company Ltd, which later became
the Mutual Life & Citizens' Association Company Limited (MLC).1
In 1888 Coffee built Iroquois, a grand Victorian mansion at 240-260
Mowbray Road, Artarmon. It is thought that he chose the name because of
his association with the USS Iroquis, a warship that visited Sydney in
1884 and again in 1916. During the latter visit, the captain presented
Coffee with a painting of the ship. The Coffee family lived at Iroquois
until 1930. It was later renamed Windsor Gardens.
His success in
business enabled Coffee to maintain his passion for travel from his
base at Chatswood. He made almost countless voyages between Australia
and America and he went round the world several times. He was one of
the first members of the Circumnavigators Club of New York.2
Frank Coffee never lost a flair for writing. He decided to set down
impressions of ocean travel, places he visited and interesting
sidelight of life that came to his attention. His initial writing was a
series of letters to friends, followed by a number of newspaper
interviews. Finally his autobiographical book, Forty Years on the
Pacific: The Lure of the Great Ocean, was first published in the autumn
of 1920 by the Oceanic Publishing Company and A. M. Robertson, Stockton
Street, San Francisco, CAL. (evidently a US branch of his Sydney
publishing venture).3. There were a number of errors in the
first edition, so the second edition of 1925 corrected these and
incorporated additional information. He is best remembered for this
work, which has considerable literary merit and is a recognised work of
Frank Coffee was an enthusiastic gardener and he planted a number of
feature plants in the grounds of Iroquois, many of which are still
there today. By 1900 he was operating a six acre nursery in Smith
Street, now the East Chatswood Industrial Area. His Warrawee Estate in
the suburb of that name was auctioned in 1902 and he subsequently
operated the Universal Nursery at Wahroonga for 15 years. In this
period he imported many fruits from Luther Burbank in California and is
credited with introducing Valencia oranges to New South Wales.
The Coffee family comprised his wife, Sarah, and three boys and three
girls who grew up at Iroquois. Frank stood as a Protectionist candidate
for the Willoughby electorate in the 1894 election and his name
regularly appeared in Sydney newspapers as attending various
functions.4 As late as 1928, Frank attended a civic reception in Sydney
for the visiting Stamford University baseball team. He was a generous
supporter of the local Catholic community and made generous donations
toward the building of the first Our Lady of Delores Church in Archer
Frank's sons, Frank Jnr. and Jack both fought in World War I.
Frank Coffee, who was in the 24th Battalion of the AIF was killed in
action at Brown's Dip at Gallipoli and was buried at Lone Pine Cemetery
on 18 November 1915. Driver Jack Coffee returned to Sydney in 1919,
having served in the Australian Transport Corps for three years.6 A
daughter, Mildred, married Dr Daniel Kelly at St Marys Catholic Church
in North Sydney in 1905, while Molly Coffee married Dr Charles Hughes
in December 1910.7
Frank Coffee died on 17 March 1929 aged 77 years. A requiem mass was
celebrated at St Marys Cathedral, Sydney two days later and he was
interred in South Head Cemetery that day.8
Terry Fogarty and Joan
1. Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 18 March 1929, p 12.
2. Coffee, Frank, Forty Years in the Pacific, San Francisco, Oceanic
Publishing, 1925, p xiii. Coffee compares himself to Mark Twain who
turned from publishing to authorship, Coffee states 'I am a publisher
venturing to become an author'.
3. Coffee, Frank, 1925, as above, p xi.
4. Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 3 July 1894.
5. Antarakis, JN, Changing names; changing faces, Chatswood,
6. Sydney Morning Herald, 29 November 1915, 'Heroes of the Dardanelles.
7. State Record Office of NSW, NSW Government Register, BDM.
8. SydneyMorning Herald, Wednesday 29 March 1929.