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Bernhardt Holtermann

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Bernhardt Otto Holtermann
Holtermann and the gold specimen discovered at Star of Hope Mine in 1872
Born29 April 1838
Hamburg, Germany
Died29 April 1885(1885-04-29) (aged 47)
Resting placeSt Thomas's Cemetery
Occupation(s)gold miner, businessman and politician
SpouseHarriet Emmett
RelativesHugo Louis Beyers (brother-in-law and business partner)

Bernhardt Otto Holtermann (29 April 1838 – 29 April 1885[1][2]) was a successful gold miner, businessman, politician and photographer in Australia. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is his association with the Holtermann Nugget, the largest gold specimen ever found, 59 inches (1.5 m) long, weighing 630 pounds (290 kg) and with an estimated gold content of 3,000 troy ounces (93 kg), found at Hill End, near Bathurst, New South Wales.[3] This gave him the wealth to build a mansion in North Sydney.[1]

Early life[edit]

Holtermann was born in Hamburg, Germany. He 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 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. On 19 October 1872, the Holtermann Nugget was discovered. Not strictly speaking a nugget, it was a gold specimen, a mass of gold embedded in rock, in this case quartz.[3] Holtermann attempted to buy the 3,000-troy-ounce (93-kilogram) specimen from the company, offering £1000 over its estimated value of £12,000[6][7] (about AU$1.9 million in 2016 currency, AU$4.8 million on the 2017 gold price), but was turned down, and it was sent away to have the gold extracted.[5] Disheartened, he resigned from the company in February 1873.[5]

Later life[edit]


Bernhardt Holtermann in 1880

He built a large mansion, "The Towers" in North Sydney, complete with a stained glass window depicting himself and the specimen. Located at a panoramic location near Blue and William streets, he resided there until his death in 1885 and its site is now the Sydney Church of England Grammar School.[8] He invested wisely and kept his wealth, allowing him to take up his true passion of photography.[9]

The view of Sydney Harbour from 'The Towers'

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."[10] Some of the photographs, including the panorama, were displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, where they won a bronze medal.[10] The panorama was also displayed at the 1878 Exposition Universelle Internationale in Paris.[10]

Holtermann and Bayliss also made the largest glass plate negatives produced in the nineteenth century. These were made in Holtermann's tower in 1875, and three are held in the Holtermann Collection at the State Library of New South Wales.

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[11] and presented in Gulgong Holtermann Museum.


When the Hill End Borough Council was constituted on 6 August 1873, Holtermann was elected an alderman of the first council.[12] In October 1874, Holtermann was elected an alderman in a special election for the Belmore Ward of the Borough of St Leonards.[13]

In 1882, on his third try, Holtermann was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for St Leonards, which he served until his death.[14]

Patent medicine[edit]

Holtermann was also interested in patent medicine. He was proud of having cured fellow passengers on his 1858 sea voyage to Australia.[15] After he retired from mining, he wrote papers and devised formulae for medicines, and promoted and sold "Holtermann's Life Preserving Drops".[2][15]


He died in Sydney, Australia on his birthday, 29 April 1885, of "cancer of the stomach, cirrhosis of the liver and dropsy",[15] leaving a wife, three sons and two daughters.[1]


  • Hein, Christoph: Australia 1872. How Bernhard Holtermann turned gold into a unique photographic treasure, Emons Verlag, Cologne 2020, ISBN 978-37408-0841-9


  1. ^ a b c d Burke, Keast (1972). "Holtermann, Bernhardt Otto (1838–1885)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 4. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-522-84459-7. ISSN 1833-7538. OCLC 70677943. 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". Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  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. ^ "Death of Mr. Henry King". National Advocate. Bathurst, NSW. 18 March 1915. p. 3. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Gold Mining Statistics". Bendigo Advertiser. 24 May 1871. p. 3. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  8. ^ "'THE TOWERS' NEAR BLUE AND WILLIAM STREET, NORTH SYDNEY (DEMOLISHED)". At Home in North Sydney. North Sydney Council. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Famous Germans in Sydney". Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  10. ^ a b c "Holtermann panorama" (PDF). National Gallery of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 April 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  11. ^ "Holtermann Collection now digitised" (PDF). SL Magazine. 4 (2): 30. Winter 2011.
  12. ^ "2460: Hill End Borough Council". Record Agency. NSW State Archives & Records. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  13. ^ "BOROUGH OF ST. LEONARDS". New South Wales Government Gazette. No. 232. New South Wales, Australia. 9 October 1874. p. 3043. Retrieved 16 April 2019 – via Trove.
  14. ^ "Mr Bernard Otto Holtermann (1838–1885)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  15. ^ a b c "Hill End Dispensary, 1872". State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 2 June 2012.

External links[edit]


New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by Member for St Leonards
With: Dibbs
Succeeded by