Jules Archibald
(1856 – 1919)

Journalist and publisher
Co-owner and editor of The Bulletin
Founder of the Archibald Prize
Benefactor, NSW Journalists’ Benevolent Fund

While editor of The Bulletin Jules Archibald had pushed for federation, white Australia and national pride. There had been a flirtation with republicanism, but when it proved unpopular it was left to fend for itself. Mateship was good. So too were the cartoonists. Julian Ashton, Livingston Hopkins, Phil May, Alf Vincent, Bert Levy, G.A. Taylor, George Lambert, Will Mahony, B.E. Minns, Tom Durkin, Ambrose Dyson, Jack Eldridge, D.H. Souter, Percy Spencer, Fred List, Alex Sass, Will Dyson, Norman Lindsay and many others contributed to The Bulletin when he was editor.

Archibald had a love of life and thought the only reason to have money was to do something with it. He wanted quality of life, social reform and daily life to be better and on one occasion said, “Look at this place. It’s full of rich men, and any one of them could write his name across it forever by bequeathing it a public monument or institution, or endowing scholarships or the arts. But they carry money-grubbing into the grave with them and rot there forgotten, as they damned well deserved to be.”

He died on September 10, 1919; he was only 63 but had been such an institution in the Sydney newspaper industry, many thought him much older. On the same day in the federal parliament Prime Minister Billy Hughes had reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the White Australia Policy. In her book The Archibald Paradox, Sylvia Lawson wrote of Archibald’s death, “… the observer with journalistic imagination might have grieved that the worst of Archibald’s Bulletin thrived long after it, while the best was buried before the editor’s death.”

Archibald’s obituary in The Bulletin said in part, “He gathered round him, too, the nucleus of that great band of contributors who to this day make The Bulletin like no other paper anywhere, and he was able to inspire men to produce the best that was in them. That indeed constitutes his great service to Australian literature.”

Archibald left money in his will to build the Archibald fountain in Sydney’s Hyde Park and establish the Archibald Prize for portrait painting. The biggest part of his 90,000-pound estate went to the New South Wales Journalists Union for the “relief of distressed Australasian journalists”.

Henry Lawson said he could not quarrel with Archibald and that “he knew his limits and, therefore, ours”.  He also wrote, “J.F. Archibald was the friend and father of Australian Literature and of Australian Art, for their own sakes, and for the sake of the land he was born in. As we all are. And he made it possible for us to fight for that Land, as he had fought for it all the days of his life.”

Norman Lindsay, who also said he had never had an argument with Archibald, wrote long after his death, “We know Archie endowed Australian art with the Archibald Bequest [Prize] and bestowed on Sydney the splendid Archibald Memorial fountain, the only true fine monument the city possesses, and has thereby written his name across it for as long as it may endure. But he wrote his personality deeper on this country’s culture when he sought for and published the best poetry and prose and draughtsmanship it could produce, and fostered in it the spirit to envision life in its own term and not on any culture borrowed from other countries.”

For his contributions to Australia, Archibald was given a State funeral and buried at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney’s east over looking the Pacific Ocean. Following generations would recognise it as almost the Australian dream of living near the water. After Archibald’s funeral it was discovered he had been buried, wrongly, in the Catholic section. He was quickly exhumed and reburied in the right grave, next to his wife in the Protestant part of the cemetery.