Browse Entries

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Biographical entry

  • Trove


  • The Study of Australian Eucalypts

Biographical entry Harper, Charles (1842 - 1912)

15 July 1842
Toodyay, Western Australia, Australia
20 April 1912
Woodbridge, Western Australia, Australia
Agriculturalist and Legislator


Charles Harper was a successful businessman who worked in a variety of fields: he ran several sheep stations and mixed farms; carried out vital research into farming and agricultural techniques and was the first person in Western Australia to irrigate with artesian water; invented many useful technologies including a shearing machine and a process for treating effluent from septic tanks; a proprietor of three newspapers (Western Australian Times, West Australian, Western Mail); a successful pearler; a long-term member of the Legislative Council; a Parliamentary Speaker and a chair of many royal commissions. Harper also explored remote parts of Western Australia in search of pastoral lands (1860s) and became fluent in the local Aboriginal language.


At a very young age (around 16), Charles Harper set off to the south-east of Western Australia to establish his own farm. He spent several years farming there before joining the search for pastoral lands in the Yilgarn district. He then took up pearling for a short term and from those proceeds bought into the de Gray sheep station (1871). He sold his share in 1878 and bought into a smaller property in Yanrey.

In 1879 Harper bought the Western Australian Times newspaper, got married and moved to Woodbridge where he established a mixed sheep, dairy, wheat and orchard farm. The farm proved to be very successful and lead to many agricultural advances including irrigation with artesian water and the establishment of the first local wheat varieties. In 1885 he established the West Australian and Western Mail newspapers and used them to report his farming research findings.

Charles Harper joined the Legislative Council in 1878 as a representative of the North District. He spent the most part of the next twenty-seven years in the Council representing various districts. Harper also chaired many royal commissions including those into customs (1893) and immigration (1905) and was appointed parliamentary Speaker in 1903 by the Liberal premier Walter James.


Career position - Exploration for pastoral lands in the Yilgarn district of Western Australia (WA)
Career position - Exploration for pastoral lands in the Yilgarn district
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus orbifolia F. Muell. Harper collected the type
Career position - Exploration for pastoral lands in Roebourne, WA
1871 - 1878
Career position - Co-owner of de Grey station in WA
1878 - 1880
Career position - North District representative of the Legislative Council
1878 - 1904
Career position - Co-owner of a station in Yanrey, WA
1879 -
Career position - Proprietor of the Western Australian Times newspaper
1884 - 1890
Career position - York representative of the Legislative Council
1885 -
Career position - Owner of the West Australian and Western Mail newspapers
1890 - 1905
Career position - Beverley representative in the Legislative Assembly
Career position - Chair of the Royal commission on customs
Career position - Chair of Committees
Career position - Chair of the Royal commission on the Coolgardie water scheme
Career position - Chair of the Royal commission on forestry
Career position - Speaker of the WA Parliament
Career position - Chair of the Royal commission on immigration

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Brooker, Leslie, Expedition Eastwards from Northam by the Dempster Brothers, Clarkson, Harper and Correll, July-August 1861, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, 2007, 87 pp. Details
  • Mercer, F. R., The Life of Charles Harper, Perth, 1958. Details

Book Sections

  • Battye, O. K., 'Harper, Charles (1842-1912), agriculturist, legislator and newspaper proprietor', in Douglas Pike (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 4, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1972, pp. 348-349. Also available at Details

Online Resources

McCarthy, G.J.