Cuthbertson's boot factory in 1910: the firm took over the Blundstone business in 1934 (AOT, PH30/1/7141)

John Blundstone, 24-year-old carriage builder, emigrated to Hobart in 1855 as a bounty emigrant, accompanied by his 21 year-old wife, Eliza. John worked as a coachbuilder until 1870, when he set up J Blundstone's Boot Warehouse as an importer of high quality English boots and shoes. In the late 1870s Blundstone's company diversified into boot-manufacture.

In 1890 John Blundstone's 32-year-old son, Sylvanus, joined his father as a director of the family firm. This now occupied two addresses, one a retail warehouse and the other a factory and wholesale store. In 1891 the two halves of the company separated into John Blundstone & Son, boot manufacturer, and WH Blundstone & Co, boot importer and wholesaler. The second company was run by 27-year-old William Blundstone, John's second surviving son. Both companies initially prospered and both received awards for the exhibits they displayed at the Tasmanian International Exhibition of 1894-95.

John Blundstone died in September 1895 at the age of 65, a respected and well-liked citizen. His boot-making business was one of the most successful in the colony, and specialised in boots for working men. In setting the company up, however, Blundstone had overcapitalised, and when in the years following his death a price war raged in the footwear industry, John Blundstone & Son found itself unable to honour its debts. It was liquidated in 1901, the purchasers and new directors being the Cane family, who ran a Hobart ironmongery business. Meanwhile, the retail company, WH Blundstone & Co, continued in business until 1909, when it too filed for bankruptcy.

The Cane family ran Blundstone & Co until the Great Depression, when the company's profitability declined sharply. In 1934 they sold the firm cheaply to Cuthbertson Bros, another of Hobart's boot and shoe makers. The Cuthbertson family still ran Blundstone in 2005. From the late 1960s 'Blundstone' has become a byword both in Australia and internationally for a diverse range of affordable footwear.

David Young