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Frederick Samuel Wallis (1857–1939)

by Suzanne Edgar

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Frederick Samuel Wallis (1857-1939), by unknown photographer, 1911

Frederick Samuel Wallis (1857-1939), by unknown photographer, 1911

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5002

Frederick Samuel Wallis (1857-1939), printer and politician, was born on 22 November 1857 at Macclesfield, South Australia, eldest son of Richard Wallis, shoemaker, and his wife Anne, née Gamble. While attending Norwood Grammar School, Sam worked as a newspaper-boy. Apprenticed in 1872 to J. H. Lewis, printer of the Protestant Advocate, he joined the South Australian Register as a compositor in 1877 and rose to proofreader six years later.

A lay preacher of the Unitarian Christian Church and secretary of its mutual improvement association, Wallis published a booklet about truth and the Trinity, Three Ones (1879), under the pseudonym 'Arith Metic'. He was president (1884-87) of the South Australian Typographical Society and represented it in 1886 at meetings of the Fourth Intercolonial Trades Union Congress in Adelaide and of the Australasian Typographical Union in Melbourne. Sincere, straightforward and conscientious, he was a council-member of the South Australian Temperance Alliance. His neatness, clipped moustache and serious expression indicated restraint. He did not marry and lived with his mother at Goodwood Park.

Sacked in 1888 for joining a strike at the Register, he remained rueful: 'that was my first and last'. As unpaid secretary (1887-1909) of the typographical society, Wallis was a delegate to the United Trades and Labour Council, sat on the committee responsible for building the Trades Hall, and attended the Selborne Hotel meeting on 7 January 1891 which formed the Legislative Council Elections Committee, precursor of the United Labor Party. Next year he gave evidence to the shops and factories commission. President (1896) of the U.T.L.C. and its secretary (1897-1909), he compiled the Trades Hall Review for twelve years from 1897. During the 1890s he worked night shifts at the Advertiser. In 1901-04 he was vice-president of the U.L.P. and in 1905 secretary of the Women Employees' Mutual Association.

Having unsuccessfully contested three elections, in 1907-21 he represented Central in the Legislative Council where he was chief secretary and minister of industry (March-June 1909) in Tom Price's cabinet, chief secretary (1910-12) under John Verran, Opposition leader in 1912-13, and a member of eight government inquiries. Expelled from the Labor Party in 1916 for supporting conscription in World War I, Wallis regained membership in March 1917, but two years later was again forced out and eventually joined the National Party. In 1925 he was debarred from his trusteeship of the Trades Hall after publicly admonishing striking seamen.

Active in the Boy Scouts' Association, Wallis was a board-member of the Royal Institution for the Blind, a South Australian vice-president of the League of the Empire, and a Freemason. One of the founders of the local branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, he helped to produce its Centenary History of South Australia (1936). He had published Thirty Years' Record of the Labor Party in South Australia (1923) and in 1937-38 wrote a column about labour history in the Weekly Herald. He died on 13 November 1939 in Adelaide; following a state funeral, he was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • Proceedings (Royal Geographical Society of Australasia: South Australian branch), 40, 1938-39
  • Australasian Typographical Journal, June 1897
  • Quiz and the Lantern, 1 Sept 1898
  • University Studies in History, 4, no 2, 1963-64
  • Worker (Brisbane), 5 Jan 1901
  • Mail (Adelaide), 21 Mar 1914
  • Observer (Adelaide), 3 Mar, 7 Apr 1917, 11, 18 Feb 1928
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 13 Oct 1937, 14 Nov 1939
  • newsclippings (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar, 'Wallis, Frederick Samuel (1857–1939)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Frederick Samuel Wallis (1857-1939), by unknown photographer, 1911

Frederick Samuel Wallis (1857-1939), by unknown photographer, 1911

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5002

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Arith Metic

22 November, 1857
Macclesfield, South Australia, Australia


13 November, 1939 (aged 81)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.