Lancelot Iredale had established his wholesale ironmongery and hardware business Iredale and Co. in 1820, it being only the second company set up in Australia. The business was fairly successful until Iredale's death in 1848. Frederic Lassetter was born in 1828 at Somersetshire England and in 1850 at the age of 22 years bought into Iredale and Co. as a member of a three man partnership. Two years later he married Iredale's daughter.
The discovery of gold in New south Wales gave Lassetter the opportunity he wanted and he set off for the diggings with twenty team loads of goods. The trading currency at the fields was gold dust and it was reported that his first payment was 2 ounces, 9 dwts, 9 grains of gold. Following his return in 1852 the business thrived and quickly outgrew the original premises. A stone fronted building was erected which was at the time one of the largest business houses in Sydney. Lassetter was an astute business man and always one step ahead of his competitors, while they waited at the dock until a ship had berthed he made a habit of rowing out to the incoming vessel, checking its goods, taking an option on those he wanted and heading back to shore before the Customs Inspectors had even boarded the ship.
In 1863 the partnership was disolved and Lassetter carried on as the sole proprietor. In 1878 Lassetter converted his business into a Limited Company, causing considerable discussion in the commercial world. Many thought such a venture would be illegal under the Companies Act. Lassetter went wholly retail "at wholesale prices" in 1894 and by 1910 there were nearly a thousand employees and a hundred thousand account customers.
Frederic Lassetter had often expressed the wish that he would die in harness, this he eventually did on the 5th September 1911 at the age of 83. His son Harry Beauchamp Lassetter assumed control while continuing his military career where he was promoted to Brigadier General. He died in 1926. The Lassetter empire was a grand one, extending 220 feet along it's George Street frontage and covering four blocks down to Kent Street. In 1926 it was still flourishing but by 1929 thr firm of F. Lassetter and Co. had collapsed with the building being taken over by the firm of Nock and Kirby.
Mail order catalogues were not an Australian idea but the nature of the country ensured their widespread use. Distances were vast and the squatters, station managers and pioneer settlers were virtually cut off from the outside world. If goods were available they were bought in bulk for the next delivery might be six months away. Frederic Lassetter brought the world to the door of these people through his catalogues, the Lassetters Commercial Reviews. The items shown in the catalogues offered a functional, practical means to a better life. The Reviews averaged up to 7000 items tightly crammed into 1200 pages. The best years were between 1900 and 1914 and they appear to have vanished with the outbreak of World War One.
Firearms were a necessary commodity for farmers and settlers so Lassetter sold them. About 1864 he acquired the agency for W. W. Greener and by the 1880's had his own extensive gunsmiths workshop. In the 1890's he was the first Australian dealer to advertise "proprietary firearms". He was appointed agent for the Colony of N.S.W. for Colt firearms in 1889 and advertised the Colt Lightning slide action magazine rifle and carbine as the "Magic" rifle and carbine. He sold Winchester firearms under the trade name "Daisy" and sold numerous muzzleloading and breechloading shotguns under various trade names. His contemporary newspaper advertisements show he retailed most of the well known handguns of the period although there are no known examples with his name on them
Frederic Lassetter 1828 - 1911
Lassetter's George Street Store circa 1878