― 18 ―

3. Quong Tart—Business Man.

Mr. Tart was singularly endowed with great business capacity. Very few men could engineer success in the business line better than he could. Sagacity, forethought and the courage to act swiftly and unerringly in the carrying out of his schemes, traits of character which mark the really successful merchant, were developed in him to an unusually large degree. To perceive an opportunity is good, to seize it is better, to make the most of it when it is in one's possession is best. Quong Tart's ability for making opportune seasons yield their utmost was remarkable. Yet in all his dealings with men he had a strict regard for justice, and its principles were never sacrificed in the quest for gain. He thought it better far for a man to fail, than found a business on unjust principles, and build it up on the broken lives and bleeding hearts of men. In all his business relations he wore the white flower of a blameless life. Said Sir John Robertson, “Quong Tart was no ordinary man. He attained a high position in the city of industry, integrity and energy, and that in the face of the fact that he came of a race not held in favour by the people.” The story of his rise from obscurity to publicity, of the difficulties he surmounted on the way, and the manner in which he came to be recognised as one of Sydney's leading merchants and citizens, reads like the wonderful tales of “Aladdin” or the stories of the “Arabian Nights.”

A lad of nine years of age when he landed in New South Wales, he was sent to a store in the interior, and to his great delight found himself close to “Bell's Creek Gold Diggings.” Imagine a small Celestial of nine—active, smart, speaking a little pigeon English, just enough to make people understand he had come to look for gold, dressed in blue shirt and trousers, and a tiny cabbage-tree hat. No wonder the people of the store laughed at this minute gold-digger. Nothing daunted, however, little Quong persevered in his search for gold, and at the age of fourteen he had claims in which he was a sleeping partner, keeping one share and selling others. These claims multiplied, so that by the time he was twenty-eight he possessed the gold he coveted. So far all had gone well with him. Now his fortunes began to change. He lost some valuable horses, and his claims were worked at a loss to himself and the men employed.

It was noised abroad that luck had left Quong Tart, and, although things were not so bad with him as rumour had it, he no longer prospered. He had now to learn how ready people are to forsake the man who is not prosperous; so he

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watched this part of his career with interest, exaggerating his difficulties in order to see how his fellow men would behave to him. The men he employed called a meeting, and decided to leave him, after paying him a few empty compliments for his past generosity and kindness. He accepted their resignations, and went to his house and sat down to think. Presently three or four men came to the house, and said, “Look here, Quong Tart, your luck will turn again. We will stay with you another week.” He thanked them, and after they had gone away, he took up a book sent to him by Mrs. Simpson, called “Line upon Line,” and read in it the Story of Joseph, who had been sold into bondage, and passed through many hardships in a strange land amongst a strange people; but who had nevertheless risen to be a great man in Egypt.

He fell asleep, but woke up with a start, for he thought he heard someone speaking to him—

“Courage, Quong Tart; you shall yet be great,” said the voice.

He jumped up feeling fresh and vigorous, and went to visit a claim. While examining a bit of ground already stripped he saw alluvial gold, and directed the men to dig further down. Presently a spade came up with gold sticking to it, and soon he was finding a half ounce of gold to the dish. His luck had come back again, and the men once more flocked to him.

But the crisis he had passed through had cured him of gold fever, and to the surprise of all at Bell's Creek he sold out.

Soon after this he went to China, and after a short visit returned to Sydney, where in 1881 he opened business as a silk and tea merchant.

Business was started on a very humble scale, a room in the Sydney Arcade being occupied for the purpose of selling dry tea. In order to advertise it, cups of it were supplied gratis at all hours of the day to all who cared to apply. So many availed themselves of the opportunity of tasting the delicious beverage that he decided to obtain larger premises where tea and scones could be served at a moderate cost. There are very few people, who, as they think of the vast number of tea and scone rooms in this great city of Sydney to-day, know that the one established by Quong Tart in the year 1881 was the first of its kind, no establishment of a similar character being existent there before that date.

The business increased by leaps and bounds and in the year 1885 he had opened no less than four places, and a number of large offices in the same Arcade.

The same year operations were extended to the Royal Arcade and the Pavilion at the Zoological Gardens, and, twelve months later refreshment rooms were started at 777 George Street.

  ― 20 ―

At the close of the year 1889, after his second trip to China, it became necessary, in order to cope with the increasing trade, to open in King Street. The tea rooms were on a magnificent scale, the total cost of their establishment being six thousand pounds (£6,000). The patronage here, as at all his places, was splendid every day of the year. It was the management which won this patronage and nothing else. His employees were ordered to treat all alike, whether they wore silk dresses or cheap prints, for Quong Tart had long learned that the silk dress did not make the lady, nor the fine black coat the gentleman. Visitors got the best of everything served with conspicuous cleanliness and most courteous attention. Watchful management was present over every table and over every visitor.

On the first floor of the King Street premises a reading room was established, and tastefully supplied with journals and magazines of interest to ladies, also writing materials, so that if one desired to write a letter or address a parcel, the means were at hand, free of cost, and this great convenience was much appreciated by visitors.

But it was with the occupancy of the Queen Victoria Markets that his name as a city providore became famous. It was the biggest success in the line known in Sydney. On the street floor he had a spacious and elegant well-served room, and upstairs was what was properly called the Elite Dining Hall and Tea Rooms. Taking the whole of these premises required a good deal of business courage, but the result as in the most of Quong Tart's undertakings showed the wisdom of the step.

The Elite Hall, from the very first day, was a decided success. A magnificent business was done and the “Elite” came to be recognised as the most elegant and best served dining hall in Sydney.

In addition to all this he still carried on an extensive trade in packet tea, which was imported direct, and sent unopened to the consumer. The trade mark in connection with the tea business was two hearts interwoven. When Quong Tart first started, it consisted of a single heart, but he soon found, per medium of a lawyer's letter, that in using this he was infringing the registered emblem of a “barbarian” tea merchant named “Love.” The King Street Mandarin was by no means as “downy” then as he was in after years, and he was much put out at this misadventure. So he went off to consult his benefactor, Mr. J. H. Want, K.C., and that worthy, noticing his woebegone face, said, “Hullo, in trouble? Woman, eh?” “No,” said Tart, “but I've lost my heart, and all through Love. But,” said he, “when you lose one heart you should gain another, should you not?” “Logic,” said Want. Then after Want had read the lawyer's note, Tart took a piece of paper from his pocket, on which was drawn a double heart, and

  ― 21 ―
said, “There, sir; in future my trade mark shall be two hearts instead of one, and closely interwoven.”

Photographs following page 20: Quong Tart - mandarin

Photographs following page 20: Quong Tart - a horseman, and Nobby His Horse, for years in Braidwood

Photographs following page 20: Directors of the Chinese Benevolent Society in 1902

Photographs following page 20: Chinese ambassadors (The First Men of Rank sent by His Imperial Majesty to visit Australia

Quong Tart was one of those who thought it far pleasanter to have a chop well cooked, daintily served by a well-apparelled waitress, with pretty surroundings, than to have it thrust upon one in a discourteous manner, and got up in any fashion. Accordingly his rooms were artistically arranged with marble reservoirs in which golden carp swam around, and ferneries designed in rock and virgin cork. Mirrors, hand-painted in Japanese art, were placed in every conceivable position, and these were relieved by massive Chinese wood-carvings in green and gold. Turn where one would there was a suggestion of coolness. Ferns, fountains, virgin cork, and water trickling could be seen, and hundreds of fans tempted the hot wayfarer to forget that the thermometer was among the nineties.

The rooms were replete with everything that the visitor could possibly wish for, in order to make himself comfortable, including a plentiful supply of lavatories, with hot and cold water laid on, writing rooms, luxuriantly furnished smoking rooms, and separate rooms for the accommodation of ladies.

No better proof of the excellence of the arrangements, the artistic manner in which the rooms were fitted up, and the perfection of the cuisine could be found, than the fact that the places were patronised by the best class of people in the city and from the country.

It was this genius for arrangement which contributed so largely toward the success of his business enterprise.

All things being equal, a genial personality counts for much in bringing to a prosperous issue any commercial undertaking, particularly of that character in which Quong Tart was engaged. His personal attractiveness disarmed criticism at all times, and won for him a large number of friends from among all classes. Those who patronised him were his friends first, and customers afterward.

This personal element entered largely into his dealings with his employees. There was none of that aloofness of spirit which so often keeps employer and employee apart. To get the best work out of his employees, he did not apply the pressure of the iron hand. Such a method fosters antagonism for each other, and produces class hatred and industrial revolt. Quong Tart saw that, “not through antagonism to each other, but through affection for each other,” would the greatest material result be obtainable. Hence his employees were not looked upon as mere machines, to be driven at high pressure from one week's end to the other.

They were men and women with souls and were treated as such. Every opportunity was seized for developing a kindly feeling for one another, and cementing the ties which bound them together. The unanimity and good-fellowship that existed between him and those in his employ cannot be better described than by the old phrase of the happy family, of which

  ― 22 ―
Quong Tart was the father and adviser. They felt that he was one with them in their sympathies and desires, and they opened their hearts to him, and sought his counsel in all their difficulties. It is said by those who knew him best, “He never cursed employees when they made mistakes; he was too much of a gentleman for that, and he was lenient even to the point of overlooking a fault.” So long as they conscientiously fulfilled their tasks, they had no fear of his disfavour. To keep in touch with them he adopted the method of holding social evenings and picnics for their entertainment. A pleasant harbour excursion or a musical evening arranged by him to which the employees and their friends were invited, served to promote good feeling and clear understanding between them.

Quong Tart recognised that in the business world it was not easy to be loyal to one's principles and preserve one's ideals unblemished. A temporary and seemingly unimportant tampering with principle may lead to considerable promotion of self-interests, whether it be in wealth, position or popularity, and the temptation to deflect from the right is great. But throughout his commercial career, morality and business were not divorced but united, and he never waved principle aside by saying “business is business.” He combined the astuteness of the man of the world with the high principledness of the Christian, and so left behind an example that business men might profitably follow.

Speech Delivered by the late SIR JOHN ROBERTSON,

K.C.M.G., on the occasion of his presiding at

the opening of MR. QUONG TART'S new premises

in King Street, Saturday, December 21st 1889.

“Fill your teacups, gentlemen all. (Laughter.) I was under the impression that my days for presiding at any festive board were all over, and, in fact, I told my old friend Quong Tart three days ago that nothing would induce me to take the chair again. Now, however, I find myself in my old age committing a breach of promise (laughter), and I suppose I'll have to make the best of it, and that best will be but the best of a very bad bargain.” (“No, no.”)

Toasts of Queen and Governor honoured.

Sir John Robertson: Quong Tart, who is now a Mandarin of China, and consequently high in public life, like our worthy Governor, Lord Carrington, has been not only successful in doing good for himself, but to my knowledge during the whole of his career in Australia has done his very utmost for the Colony and its Colonials generally. (Cheers.)

Toast of the Evening.

Sir John Robertson: Again fill your teacups, or your glasses, friends and gentlemen. I rise to propose the toast of the evening, and that is “The Health of Quong Tart.” (Loud cheers.) You all know him, and I'll pledge my word that not one of you know anything wrong of him. (Cheers.) Tart is no ordinary, jog-along-easy fossil of a slow-coach man. (Cheers.) He is a man who amongst the most abundant obstacles and against the worst and most trying difficulties has risen to a position of independence and high personal public esteem in this great city of Sydney, as well as throughout the length and breadth of Australia. (Loud cheers.)

I knew him when he was very, very young. He is young enough now for the matter of that (laughter); in fact, I knew him when he was a boy. Knew him when he was living in the home of that most estimable lady, Mrs. Simpson, sister of my learned friend, John Want, Q.C., M.P., and of Fred. Want. A more estimable man than he is not to be found. Of course he commenced life when young like all other men (laughter), but he commenced it with all the difficulties of being a foreigner (Hear, hear), and consequently with, to a certain extent, all sorts of popular prejudice against him; a prejudice which is very largely existent in these Colonies. Despite all that, he forced his way to the front, and has honestly earned the esteem of every man in the Colony whose esteem is worth having (Cheers.) There is no man more popular, or more singularly noted for his good citizenship, geniality and kindness than he. (Cheers.) He is known as well in the city as in the country, and I have known him to take a most active part in all charitable and public matters throughout the colony. He commenced his life, I believe, on the gold diggings at Braidwood at nine years of age. He was a smart young fellow with a head on him and a conscience in him, and, like most smart young fellows he got on.

I think I happened to be Colonial Treasurer when he landed as the bearer of a letter of introduction, the manuscript of which spoke of him in the very highest terms. He asked me to give him an introduction to the authorities in China and he took from me, and from the Governor of New South Wales, a letter bearing credentials to which I am proud to know and to say he was justly entitled, and to which he did every honour. (Cheers.) To no introduction did he do dishonour. He was received with every honour by the very highest in his own country—from the Emperor downwards, and as a result he was elevated to a Mandarinship. A few years ago he married in this country (Hear, hear.), and more than that, he married a most estimable young English lady. (Cheers.) And something more, he now has a beautiful and delightful little girl as a child (Cheers.), whose rearing in the family of a man like Quong Tart will be a guarantee of her becoming a lady estimable in the extreme. (Cheers.)

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You all know of Mr. Tart's and Dr. Ong Lee's reception of and by the Chinese Commissioners during their late visit to Australia, and you know also of his many associations with public matters and private charities. (Cheers.) It is no use for me to try and enumerate them. I might go on for a long while, but it is enough to say that a man, and a stranger into the bargain, to have come amongst us and to have acquired the position and esteem which he holds must be a man with the ring of true steel about him, and an honest man into the bargain.

Now, gentlemen, charge your cups and your glasses, and drink heartily to the health and continued prosperity of our esteemed host and friend, Quong Tart. (Great cheering.)

Quong Tart's Visit to His Native Land.

It was a pretty, touching story Quong Tart used to tell of his visit to his native land; how the Queensland regulations were relaxed in his favour; with what distinction he was received by the Viceroy of Canton, and sent in the Viceroy's steam yacht, with a guard of honour to his native village; how, before the Imperial flag, all vessels gave place, all drawbridges opened, all custom house officers or squeeze station men held the hands and made obeisance; how the villagers were in fear and trembling at the unwonted sight of an approaching steamer bearing the emblems of the Viceroy; how their fears changed to rejoicing, when they found that the Mandarin she carried brought honour to his native village; how his old mother wept and laughed and wept again, when in the official who, in his robes of dignity, flung himself at her feet, she knew her absent boy; how he observed the rights for his father, who had not lived to see the happy day; how his relatives were made comfortable, and leading citizens received appropriate gifts, and how the feast was spread in honour of the ancestors, who, as in the good way of the Chinese, were through him ennobled.

Again, a few years later, he gratified the wish of his aged mother by taking home his wife and three children, that she might see them before she died.

“Gladly do we greet the return of our genial fellow-citizen, Quong Tart, to the land of his adoption, and earnestly do we hope ere long to see his name again among those charities to which he was so great a contributor. Among the pleasures, or rather should we say the greatest pleasure that attended his visit to his own land was the meeting with his aged mother, a circumstance from which a useful lesson may be learned by Australians. Quong Tart has brought back portraits of his father (we believe long since dead), and of his mother, both invested with marks of the dignity he now as a Mandarin bears. Honours gained in China do not, as with us, descend, but revert to parents, therefore are the parents of Quong Tart decorated. A lesson, we repeat, may be gained from this reverence for parents and respect to all.” “Dawn,” June 1st, 1889.