Grubstake finance

Posted October 7, 2015

grubstake

Jack & Newell stores gave many early arrivals to the tinfields a leg up through a practice known as grubstaking.

The new miners could obtain the food and equipment needed to get them started on credit, with the account to be settled with tin from their claim.

The Historical Society of Mareeba website explains how such transactions made sense in these remote communities, where cash was often in short supply.

Extending credit was an investment in future customers for Jack & Newell, and the new miners would be bonded to them rather than any rival storekeeper.

However the society’s research also unearthed many memories of John Newell cancelling miners’ debts or continuing to grubstake them when he knew they would never be able to repay the store.

It suggests that the former miner may well have been sympathetic to the plight of those who scratched around for years with little reward.

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