Richard & Paul STRELITZ

Originally from Hamburg, Richard Strelitz was a German-born Jew who came to WA in 1893. He lived in High Street, Fremantle, and became a lieutenant in the Fremantle Infantry (militia). When his brother Paul arrived in 1894 they established Strelitz Brothers, Merchants and Shipping Agents, of Fremantle and Kalgoorlie, and then a second business in Perth and were influential in international trade and diplomacy and local politics in Perth and Fremantle. The Strelitz Brothers company was closely identified with the commercial expansion of Perth and Fremantle, during Western Australia's gold boom of the 1890s. Strelitz Bros also held the agency for Alfred Nobel's Hamburg Explosive Company, Ltd and through this had agencies for magazines in the goldfields. They also imported railway material and mining machinery.

Richard was popular and successful, and by 1901 he was consul to Denmark, and then also to Sweden and Norway. In 1897 Richard married NSW-born Bessie Blanche or ‘Bebe’ Solomon (b. 1876 d. 1958). Bessie’s wedding dress is held in the collection of the WA Museum - see photo (reference).

They initially lived at ‘River View’ in Richmond Crescent, East Fremantle, then in 1902 built another ‘River View’ on an enormous block of land on Buckland Hill (now Mosman Park). Bessie and Richard had five children: Olga (b 1898), Norman Richard (b 1901), Dudley (b 1902), Eric Paul (b 1904) and Jean (b 1909).

Richard Strelitz is pictured below in the front passenger seat of his 1906 Daimler, bought direct from England for £1,250 (around $184,000 today). Bebe sits in the back seat behind Jack Smith, the Strelitz’s chauffeur and reportedly WA’s first. At River View, Mosman Park, on 28 January 1905, Richard convened the meeting at which the motion was passed to form the Automobile Club of Western Australia (now the RAC), and he was its inaugural President.

Richard Strelitz c. 1913 can also be seen in the uniform of the Danish Consul-General, wearing the Knighthood of the Order of the Dannebrog (right), conferred on him by the King of Denmark in 1904, and the Knighthood of the Vasa Order (left), conferred on him by the King of Sweden, in 1912. (Photos courtesy RAC Archives and information from From Hooves to Highways, a Museum of Perth exhibition, 2019).

By July 1897 Paul was an inaugural East Fremantle Councillor, serving for a year, on the first Council and lived directly behind his brother at ‘Aldgate’ a significant residence built on a large, elevated river facing location on Preston Point Road. In 1904, he was selected for the consulship of Western Australia by the Netherlands Government.

Contrary to historic references of Richard Strelitz being interned as an enemy alien during the 1914 - 1918 war, he was not. But he was under a heavy cloud of suspicion from those who didn’t know him, and he moved his family to Sydney in 1917. Paul later followed with his family and, in NSW, they flourished.