These items were created and used principally by G. A. Kopsch. One item (the 1887 Christmas greeting) was exchanged between son and father.
Gustavus Adolphus Kopsch (1832-1898)
Gustavus Adolphus Kopsch was born in Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He was the second son of Carl August Kopsch, Commissioner of Woods and Forests for the Kingdom of Saxony.
Gustavus came to Australia on the 'Meteor'; disembarking at Adelaide in 1852. One of his first projects was to build a private observatory for a Sir Thomas Eldin (G.A. and C.F.G. Kopsch archive, Mitchell Library, Sydney, ref. MLMSS 2810X), presumably in South Australia.
He moved to the Victorian goldfields in October 1854. However, Gustavus did not remain on the goldfields, as he accepted a job (21 January,1859) as instrument maker and mechanician with the Victorian Post Office, Melbourne. He held this position until 14 March, 1861. It was during this time that Gustavus Kopsch developed the first arc lamp for Australia (probably in 1860). The lamp, which is in the Museum's collection, was first demonstrated at Sydney University and then at Challis House, Martin Place, Sydney. In 1868, the first public demonstration of the lamp was held at Sydney Observatory on 23 January, coincidently with the Australian visit by the Duke of Edinburgh.
The light from the lamp was produced by a battery that consisted of 400 cells. It was demonstrated with a variety of coloured glass sheets that were placed in front of the reflector. The demonstration was considered to be a success and very popular, with the Sydney Morning Herald commenting: "This powerful and brilliant light, which showed its rays over the city was exhibited from the Observatory with great success. It was the most brilliant object in the illumination [sic] and deservedly obtained universal admiration. The brilliancy of the light and the shades it cast were noticed by hundred and thousands [sic] in and about the city and suburbs". The lamp was demonstrated again in 1928. With all this light 'flooding' the Observatory and the 'city' generally, it would have been of interest too, had the views of the Observatory astronomers been placed on the public record.
In 1876, Gustavus Kopsch was appointed Chief Mechanician to the General Post Office (GPO), Sydney. Early into his appointment, he developed a telephone that was used to transmit the human voice between the GPO and La Perouse. A further telephonic development occurred in 1882, when the first telephone was installed at the Royal Exchange, Sydney, under his supervision. Gustavus also developed the magneto-detonator switch for the blast work for the Zig-Zag Railway.
He married Annie Brown, of Emerald Hill, Victoria, on 28 March, 1860. The wedding took place in Melbourne. They had two children. Charles Frederick Gustave Kopsch (1866-1932) (qv), inventor and optician, and Gustavus A. Kopsch (b. 1869) who died in the year of his birth.
On 17 December, 1868, G. A. Kopsch became an Australian citizen. His Denization Act Certificate is held in the Kopsch archive, Mitchell, Library, Sydney.
Gustavus's business was first listed in the Sands Directory in 1873. He is listed as a mathematical instrument maker and his address is given as 8 Bridge Street, Sydney.
In 1885, Sands Directory lists G. A. Kopsch's residential address as 'Saxonia', The Boulevard, Petersham, New South Wales. By 1890, he had moved to 33 The Boulevard, Petersham.
Gustavus Adolphus Kopsch died in 1898, at Petersham. Annie Kopsch (nee Brown) died there in 1910.
Charles Frederick Gustave Kopsch (1866-1932)
He was the first born to Gustavus and Annie. Charles is listed in the Sands Directory in 1895 as Electrician and Optician at 8 Bridge Street, Sydney. He was the representative of physicist Lord Kelvin (William Thompson) [1824-1907] in Australia, and nautical optician to the Royal Navy in Sydney for a number of years.
The Sands Directory for 1900 has Charles' business at the Bridge Street address, and his private address is given as 27 Aubin Street, Neutral Bay.
He married Lila Jane Burgess from Tempe, Sydney, on 10 March, 1898. They had four children (see below, for more detail).
Charles completed all the requirements for the B.Sc. (Sydney University) and was admitted to the degree on 29 May, 1924. This was an unusually 'late' degree for his time, as he was 58 upon admission to the science degree!
In 1899, Charles purchased land at 1 Wybalena Road, Hunter's Hill, from a Donald Cameron, schoolmaster, and by 1902 Charles had constructed a large Edwardian house with an observatory. The house was named 'Karlsruhe', which was the name for the capital of the grand duchy of Baden, Germany. By 1915, his residential address is unchanged, and the business address is listed as 'Chas F.G. Kopsch and Co., 8 Bridge Street, Sydney. However, by 1924, he had moved his private residence to 'Currawong' on the south side of Woolwich Road, Hunters Hill. Charles resided in this house until his death in 1932. His wife, Lila, died in 1939, at Hunters Hill. The house was sold in 1942, whereupon the name was changed to 'Morningsea'. At the time of writing, the house remains on the corner of Wybalena and Woolwich Roads, Hunters Hill.
As previously mentioned, Charles and Lila Kopsch had four children. Gustav A. Kopsch, born 1898, Mosman, died in the same year at Petersham; Karl Frederick Gustavus Kopsch, born 1899, Mosman. He attended Shore Grammar School and left there in 1918. He was the Manager, G and R Electrical Co., Ltd., The Strand, Sydney; Annie F.C. Kopsch, born 1902, Hunters Hill; Alvin Conrad Kopsch, born 1906, at Chatswood. Alvin was educated to secondary level, attending Shore Grammar school. He left Shore in 1926 and worked for the rest of his life in Sydney, where he died in 1973. He resided at 6 Havilah Street, Chatswood, New South Wales, and at his death, the items referred to in this acquisition, were left in his house, as was the arc lamp that was developed by his paternal grandfather (Gustavus Adolphus Kopsch).
The arc lamp went to auction after Alvin's death. It was auctioned by Steers at Parramatta on Wednesday 19 February, 1975. The Museum was successful in bidding for this item.
The tool kit and the three cards comprising this acquisition did not go to auction, but they were passed directly to the beneficiaries of Alvin's estate, and then to Richard Gilfillan's family as per Alvin's will, which was probated on 7 March, 1974.
The curator is grateful to the donor of the material for supplying information about the Kopsch family, and to the librarians at the Mitchell Library for their assistance in locating the Kopsch family papers.
The picture of Gustav Adolphous Kopsch was taken from: D. Fraser (ed.) (1989). Sydney, From Settlement to City: An Engineering History of Sydney. Engineering Heritage Committee, Sydney Division, The Institution of Engineers, Australia, Sydney.