Bernhardt Holtermann

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Bernhardt Otto Holtermann
Bernhard otto holterman with 630lb gold from Hill End.jpg
Holtermann and the gold "nugget"
Born 29 April 1838
Hamburg, Germany
Died April 29, 1885(1885-04-29) (aged 47)
St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
Resting place
St Thomas's Cemetery
Residence Germany and New South Wales
Occupation gold miner, businessman, and politician
Spouse(s) Harriet Emmett
Children (unnamed male) Holterman (1869 – ), Harriet Esther Holtermann (1873 – 1901), Bernard Edward Henry John Holtermann (1875 – 1875), Burlington Otto Holtermann (1876 – 1897), Sydney Hermann O. Holtermann (1879 – 1956), St Leonard Leichardt Ratchford Holterman (1882 – 1950)
Relatives Hugo Louis Beyers (husband of sister in law) and business partner

Bernhardt Otto Holtermann (29 April 1838, Hamburg, Germany - 29 April 1885, Sydney, Australia[1][2]) was a successful gold miner, businessman, and politician in Australia. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is his association with the Holtermann Nugget, the largest specimen of gold ever found, 1.5 meters (59 inches) long, weighing 286 kg (630 pounds), in Hill End, near Bathurst,[1] and with an estimated gold content of 5000 ounces (57 kg).[3] A larger find was made by the same men, but was broken up soon after being brought to the surface without being photographed.

Early life[edit]

Holtermann emigrated in 1858 to avoid Prussian military service.[1][4] He departed Liverpool aboard the ship Salem and reached Melbourne in August after a journey lasting 101 days.[5] After working at a variety of jobs, he teamed up with Polish miner Ludwig Hugo 'Louis' Beyers. They began prospecting around Hill End, New South Wales. Years of unrewarding labour followed. On 22 February 1868, Holtermann married Harriett Emmett, while Beyers married her sister Mary.


In 1871, the Star of Hope Gold Mining Company, in which he and Beyers were among the partners, struck rich veins of gold. Then, on 19 October 1872, the Holtermann Nugget was discovered. It was not strictly speaking a nugget, but rather a specimen or matrix (a vein of gold embedded in rock, in this case quartz),[3] nor was Holtermann the sole finder, but the name stuck. Holtermann attempted to buy the nugget from the company, offering ₤1000 over its estimated value (₤10,000, according to one source[6]) but was turned down, and the nugget was sent away to have the gold extracted.[5] Disheartened, he resigned from the company in February 1873.[5]

The view of Sydney Harbour from Holtermann's St Leonards residence

He built a magnificent mansion in St Leonards, a suburb of Sydney, complete with a stained glass window depicting himself and the nugget. He invested wisely and kept his wealth, allowing him to take up his true passion, photography.[7]

Holtermann was also interested in patent medicine. He was proud of having cured fellow passengers on his 1858 sea voyage to Australia.[8] After he retired from mining, he wrote papers and devised formulae for medicines, and promoted and sold "Holtermann's Life Preserving Drops".[2][8]

In 1882, on his third try, Holtermann was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for St Leonards.

He died on his birthday, 29 April 1885, of "cancer of the stomach, cirrhosis of the liver and dropsy",[8] leaving a wife, three sons, and two daughters.[1]


Holtermann financed and possibly participated in Beaufoy Merlin's project to photograph New South Wales and exhibit the results abroad to encourage immigration. The work was taken up after Merlin's death in 1873 by his assistant, Charles Bayliss. In 1875, Holtermann and Bayliss produced the Holtermann panorama, a series of "23 albumen silver photographs which join together to form a continuous 978-centimetre view of Sydney Harbour and its suburbs."[9] Some of the photographs, including the panorama, were displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, where they won a bronze medal.[9] The panorama was also displayed at the 1878 Exposition Universelle Internationale in Paris.[9]

Almost seventy years after Holtermann's death, more than 3,000 of the glass negatives created by Merlin and Bayliss were retrieved from a garden shed in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood. The UNESCO-listed collection of negatives, known as The Holtermann Collection, is housed in the State Library of New South Wales.


  1. ^ a b c d Burke, Keast (1972). "Holtermann, Bernhardt Otto (1838–1885)". Australian Dictionary of Biography 4. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Holtermann, Bernhardt Otto (1838 - 1885)". Encyclopedia of Australian Science. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Famous Gold Nuggets / "The Beyers and Holtermann Nugget"". Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "Bernhardt Otto Holtermann". Goethe-Institut Australien. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Carl Fredrik Holtermann (Summer 2008). "The Holtermann Gold". Cabinet Magazine. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "You are in: Hill End". AboutNSW ( Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "Famous Germans in Sydney". Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c "Hill End Dispensary, 1872". State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c "Holtermann panorama". National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
James Farnell
Member for St Leonards
With: Dibbs
Succeeded by
Isaac Ives