"I have made a very bad calculation"

Pozzi used William Tell to help sell his services Collection Giorgio Cheda

Leonardo Pozzi did not find his fortune in Australia, yet he perservered and lived the rest of his life in Victoria, with the exception of a few years in New Zealand.

This content was published on January 7, 2009 minutes

In this autobiographical letter he wrote as an old man in 1905, he reflects on the trials and tribulations of attempting to make a life for himself in the New World. There is more than a hint of bitterness in his writing.

Unlike the two letters reprinted in the Journey into the Unknown section, Pozzi wrote this one in English, and signs off as "Leonard", not "Leonardo". Misspellings, sentence structure and punctuation have not been corrected or changed.

WILLIAM TELL – A.D. 1307. Trade Mark, SWISS ARMS DEPOT, L. POZZI. Gunsmith Fitzroy.

252 Johnston Street Fitzroy Melbourne.

January 4th 1905.

Dear Josephine.

The year 1904 is gone by forever, and here we are now in the year 1905 and let us hope that health & prosperity will maintain itself in the right groove for all of us in the passage of the new years, and for any future years to come. Mamma's and my health is at present fairly satisfactory, and hope that all members of our relations can the same.

But the year ended, has left the continuos cronic social disease and national discontent and the prevention of a natural prosperity, and the future expected general or national health and prosperity is far distant, in fact we will never see national prosperity, as long as the rulling power is in the hands of the money bags. We have New Zealand as an example, for when that country was ruled by the aristocracy, that country was rouined, and people had to leave by the thousand, every week from a country full of rich natural advantages. Canada has been kept in a similar lethargic (sleepy) state by the same class of the Commonwealth that rather for the benefit of capitalism, against the wellfair of the welth producers, that is the workers, while the United States made homes for 80'000'000 Canada have gathered only 6'000'000 discontented lot, within the same period of time, but at present Canada is prospering, having adopted some of the United States policy, such as liberal land laws, the highest wages paid for labour, the establishment of a national bank of issue of paper money and with other advantages Canada is now going ahead, and by causing prosperity for the workers, it means general prosperity. This country will never prosper until the industrial army are treated fairly, which can not be expected from disputing – rulling with a privileged upper house, and aristocratic misleading newspapers, but if the labour party gets into rulling power, all this will be altered for general prosperity the same as in New Zealand.

I was born...

At this time of the year, there is a general custom of giving an account or summing up of great things in all parts of the civilized world; and if it may interest you I will here give a summing up of my private wondering and historical career of my life.

I was born on the 18th February 1831, that is 74 years ago. I was born in company with another little fellow twin brother, since named Alexander, in the village of Giumaglio, Valle Maggia, Canton Tessin, Switzerland.

When I was a baby, my people made sure that I would not live very long, for when they carried me about, I look half dead with my head hanging over my shuldren. Being not able to defend myself of my rights, I was deprived of my mother's milk, and send me to a putative mother of subsistence, whereas the strong and helthy Alexander had the whole privilege of the mother's supply. Was it not that cruelty to animals? At the age of 6 years, I went to school to a prist school-master, and when 8 years old in 1839 I went to the Government secular and conpulsory school, and followed up to 17 years of age at the college. When I left the college I followed agriculture occupation and attending cows and nanny-goats upon the Alps, making cheese and butter, for the family or home consumtion.

In the year 1851, then 21 years old, I went to Losanna Canton Vaud in Switzerland, french speaking community, there I was engaged for 3 years as an apprentice at the gunsmith trade, paid 600 francs (Stg. £ 24) premium, had board and lodgen, but no pay.

My wages

After the 3 years apprentice, I went to work at Monsieur Jaccard, a European reputed Orthopedist in Losanna, there I was ingage making appareils or instruments for to cure deformities of young persons especially of children, such as club feet, bendered legs, deviation of the spine and arms etc...

My wages was 4 fr. per day, board and lodgeing (5 meals a day if you please) and a tip on Sunday. After been there about 12 months, I went home (about 3 coach journey) for to go to Australia and to stay 3 years only, that is to make a fortune in gold mining and then go back home again. I must confess that I have made a very bad calculation. Monsieur Jaccard advised me by letter not to go to Australia (that was good advise) to go back to him instead, but I was a too smart young fellow you know and I new better and refused his good advise.

On the 19th of May 1855 I left home for Australia, paid £ 22 for the passage right through, I was then 25 years of age, arrived in Hamburg on the 24th and sailed from there with 200 other Swiss for the same destination on the 25 May, arrived in Melbourne on the 10 of September, being on the see 110 from Hamburg to Melbourne. On the passage I had been acting as interpreter on land and see. My compensation for acting as interpreter, I had the ration myself where the other passengers had their ration 8 by 8. We had an agreement with the shipping Company to supply us passengers fresh bread all the way to Melbourne, but we never seen any fresh bread after we left Hamburg, also we received only half the quantity of butter per our agreement. I demonstrated to the Captain who will not to listen, and ordered his men to put in order the guns and revolvers, but thing went on peaceable.

A singing crowd

On the passage we have formed a singing crowd, of about 40 of us, and we did sing I can tell you all the way, all young and happy full of hope of making a fortune in Australia, and then go back home again. When our sailing ship arrived at the mouth of the river Yarra, we were so glad to land that all the way in the Yarra up to the Melbourne wharf we were singing like nightingals. You shut see people trotting towards us on the plains of Footscray, where houses were then invisible except some small crips here and there.

So we landed in Melbourne, and off we went with baggages looking for an hotel. Before leaving Losanna, I have lerned to speak a little english, consequently my ship companions look on me as their english interpreter, but I did not know but to speak a little, and I never know the meaning of the word – plenty -. So in looking for an hotel we came in front of a place where a man was standing at the door; I ask him – carefully – have you beds – he said plenty; I ask again – have you beds – he repitted – plenty, plenty, then I said to my followers about 40 of them, come on he got non, in going away he made a sign to come back, and ask again – have you beds, he said yes, so we all went in and stop there. The hotel keeper kindly offered me a drink. I moderatly said I will take a glass of wine, so he poured out in a tiny little glass, not much larger than a big timble, with a little long leg, and made it not quite full; in looking at it I thought it may be essence of wine, in putting this to my lips, in sfollowing it I found it scarsely a mouthful. The same thing happen with the milk at tea time, there was only a little jag of about ½ pint of milk for 20 persons. That coused a bad impression in me of finding myself in a poor country, comming from a country where wine and milk is drunk with a jok.

From Melbourne I went to Jim Crow, now called Hepburn, but before I left Melbourne the Captain of our ship offered me a good somme of money, if I would turn traitor to my ship colleague on the question of the ship agreement, but I refused the bribe. In Jim Crow I started to make the 3 years fortune by pushing a wheelbarrow in a very low tunnel, belonging to my brother Alexander & Co. where I had to bend down in going in and out to save my cocoanut, and in the evening my poor back was lamenting, having been a gentlemen for some months, you may immagine the position I was in. In any way all this did not discoraged me to make all attempt for to make a fortune and then go home within 3 years, but the quantity of gold obtained by the gold miners in round about, it gave me a very poor hope of the predicted or intended fortune.

In the year 1856

In the year 1856, the two brothers, the late Alexander, Stephan and myself, we started a bakery business, on the Old Race Course in Jim Crow, and after a little while we carried also grocery business etc. After 7 months in carrying on this business, the whole concern burnt down and lost about £ 700, and left us ruwined. A the time I was carrying on a branch store in Sailors Hill, near apposite Daylesford; I had £ 92 notes which was to be send down to the store in the Old Race Course, when a friend promise to call and take the money down the day before the fire took place, this friend instead of calling at me, he got dronk so the providence of drunkness save the £ 92 notes.

The Melbourne and other merchants insisted on us to start again, if we only put up the store building; we did. We put up the building with slabs for the wall and floor, and put shingles for the roof, and a building of luxury at the time. As soon we had the ready, the merchants supplied us of everything we wanted, and before we had a fair start again, we ran into debt to the merchants for about £ 3000. We carried on a large brisk business, and given plenty of credit to gold miners.

In 1859, I left the store there was too much tick for me; in taking stock we had no less than £ 2400 in the books, in 3 years business, and no security whatever; me comming out of the store we hawe settled by giving me L. 400, and left stock, buildings, horses and all to the two brothers.


On the 22 January 1859 I got married with a German girl of 18 years of age, and I was 28, her name was Margherita Leichner from Felterweil, Hessen, Germany. We got married by a fat catholic prist at the Mount Franklin Hotel, he charged us, or robed us £ 10 for the performance, then he got dronk and went to sleep in the hotel.

I and Lewis Tognini and John Body (now both dead also Tognini's wife, but there is a living son in Daylesford, and Body's wife and family are in Melbourne in good billets) we have bought the then Mount Franklin Hotel for £ 1000 also Tognini sold to the party a dancing and billiards Saloon in the Old Race Course for £ 250. We have done a very good business for a while, but when mining was done, our business was done too. This hotel was situated where Roleri's hotel is now, opposite the mineral water spring, at present there is no sign of it. I carried on the business in the Old Race Course, Tognini and Body the Mount Franklin Hotel. Just then a rush brock out in Yandoit and down we went to put up the first hotel in the place called the Yandoit Hotel on which we spent about £ 900 to build the hotel and for forniture, and £ 250 to build a stable at our expense, for Gobbs & Co. coach proprietors to get them to run through Yandoit, to bring traffic to the hotel. The first night that we opened the hotel, we engaged a brass band for a ball, and we took in port wine hot alone £ 60 at 1 – per glass, beside other drinks. We have done good business for a while, and then it ended the same as the Franklin Hotel.

At last we desolved partnership. In settling up our business I was left with the place I kept in the Old Race Course, and Tognini to compensate me with £ 16, but he was so honest that he never paid. After some 2 or 3 years I sold it to a man named Alexander Monighetti for 350, where I think that Monighetti never realized a penny for the property. Me and the wife, we good rush brok out in Yandoit, so we went down to start a billiard saloon business. We put up a building, and purchased a new billiard table for. 95 in all we spent about £ 250. We done well for about 3 years, I carrying this business, I was selling drinks without a license, so one I was find £ 50, and spent another £ 50 to try and defend my case, but lost it, Close to my place there was a quarz claim, which was sold for £ 20'000. I thought there was a splendid chance so I took up a claim, with another man, put down a deep shaft by blasting through sandstone, but when we got down to the quarz reef we diden see the color of gold. I had a great deal of expense with claim, I was in great hope of making a fortune but got disappointed.

Business was very slack

On the month of february 1863, as business was very slack in Yandoit, I made up an expedition of 5 with the intention of going to the gold field of Otago New Zealand. We bought 2 pack horses and 2 pack saddles, and off we went to the rush of Cadrona with the intention that 3 of us to go out prospecting and the other 2 packing provision to supply us out prospecting also to sell provision to any miner; but through circumstances, my intention and plan was not carried out, instead of that we took up a claim at river Molinou in the Dunstong we were vorking on the bank of the river, but were principally waiting for the water of the bank of the river to go down, with the espectation of coming into good gold; but the river did not go down for us and after scraping for about 4 months I got tired of it and went back to Yandoit in June 1863, and lost £ 90 on this speculation, in the 4 months that we been scraping 2/6, meat 3/6 and 2 – per lb.

In all my mining speculation of all sort, I fully lost about £ 600 but never got a penny return, exept I made a little when working myself. So how could I go home in 3 years as per my prediction?

In about the year 1865, my brothers wanted me to come up to Old Race Course and carrying on the store keeping business, in payment of over a £ 100 that I have lent to them, and a bad job I have undertaken, for instead, of going there it would have been far better for me to loose the money; you could not do any business without giving credit and nothing but tick business, and at the end found myself in queer street and rouined for bad business and bad luck mining speculations.

This struggling life

After all this struggling life, I have decided to travel, and off I went to Hokitika New Zealand, with £ 22 that I have made in taking portraits as an amature, also took with me the billiard table that I had in Yandoit also all the appliances of photography; and left my better half who stock with me all indurance that I had to battle in life in these colonies, and also left beyond with her 4 children, Giglia, Matilda, Emilia and Valerio, in Jim Crow.

After been in Hokitika for some weeks, I found myself with a shilling in my pocket an at last I have made and arrangement with a Greek pubblican to carry on billiards business, but that did not bring me anything. Two doors where I was, I bought a place for £ 60 on borrowed money from some old Swiss friend, then send for the Mrs and family; when the family arrived, I went to the wharf to receive them, to my astonishment miss Emilia then 2 years an 9 months, as soon as she seen me, she called uncle taking me for my brother Alexander. In this place that I bought, I turned my sleeves and work very hard in making it suitable for an hotel and billiard room. I applied for a publican license, and called it Crown Hotel (a big name eh!) I carried on this place from 1868, to 1871, when this old rookery was pulled down for the purpose of building a two story place or an addition to the Old Fellow Hotel that I bought for £ 100 on credit. We carried on a poor business for 8 years in this hotel, but we made some progress in the increase in the family, of 2 daughters.

In the year 1879, I decided to clear out of the Australian Colonies; so I have advertised the hotel for sale, and I was prepared to let it go for £ 500, which it cost me fully £ 500. I was offered £ 400 and refused, which I regreted ever since for I consider it the biggest mistake that I have made in my life, if I would have taken the £ 400 I would have been in America many years ago, and actually I had to give this property up for the morgage of £ 100.


On the 7th of March 1879 I left Hokitika for Christchurch and started gunsmith business, but all along the 11 years that I have been colony went to the dogs althogether, through the misruling of the money bags. Not being able to make a living there, I left, with the Mrs. and two daughters, where Valery & Emilia they came to Melbourne some time before us. We arrived in Melbourne, comming through Sydney, on the 23 feb. 1890. Started the battle of life (without any means exept my tools) in the gunsmith business and all sort of jobs. When I first started I soon found out that the colony of Victoria was going down fast, the same as New Zealand, through the land boom swindling and money bags rulling.

I first started a shop in Elgin St. Carlton, paid 27 – rent per week, then reduced to 26 -. After about 18 months I took a shop newly builded in Johnston St. No. 40 at 25 – a week rent afterwards reduced to 24 -. On the 15th feb 1895 took a shop in Johnston St. Fitzroy No. 252 at (...) rent per week, and on the 1 May 1900, increased the rent at (...). In Elgin Str. I paid for rent the total of £ 94.11.6. In No. 40 Johnston St. Fitzroy, paid total £ 164.10.0. In No. 252 from the 15 feb. 1895, up to the 31 december 1904 paid total rent of 369. Total altogether of rent paid in Melbourne from the 24 march 1890 up to 31 December 1904 £ 628.1.6.
At the present time I am carrying on a very fair business, but not a fat one, but it has been established with a great strugle, and the house has now been reduced to 3 members of the family (...).

In concluding this long historical letter I feel happy to know that all my family, and their respective families are at present in a very satisfactory state of health, and with my hearty whishes for a permanent future helth, happiness and prosperity to my 5 thoughters, to my son, to my 4 sons in law, to my 1 thoughter in law, to my 6 grandsons, to my 4 grand thoughthers, and I remain your affectionate father, father in law and grand father.

Leonard Pozzi

The Pozzi correspondence is taken from the two volumes on the migrations of Ticinesi to Australia (L'emigrazione ticinese in Australia) by historian Giorgio Cheda, and reprinted with his kind permission.

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