Joseph James Craig - entrepreneurial vision

Friday, March 14, 2014
Joseph James Craig, owner of the  largest shipping and transport company  in Auckland Province.  Alexander Turnbull Library Collection

In 1885, Joseph James Craig inherited his late father’s 20-year-old general merchant and cartage contracting business. For the next 45 years, nearly every piece of cargo that arrived at the Port of Auckland was carted by a J.J. Craig horse and cart, or vehicle.

Wanting to be based where the action was, J. J. Craig Ltd built large premises on the city’s wharves on Auckland Harbour, and kept several hundred draught horses in stables near the sea. 
In the 1890s there was an unprecedented demand for timber in Australia, and J.J. Craig built up an impressive fleet of sailing ships to carry wood across the Tasman Sea and bring back coal from New South Wales. 

A wealth of cargo in sheds and on wharves inevitably led to the theft and damage of goods. Merchants complained about their security, so in 1914, the Auckland Harbour Board installed the first cast iron red fences along the entrances to Queen Street Wharf and the Railway Wharf. The Auckland merchants and shipping agents breathed a sigh of relief as now their cargo was more secure. 100 years on the red fences still stretch along the city’s waterfront today.

J. J. Craig’s interests were not limited to horse, cart and sail. In the early 1900s, he created New Zealand’s largest brick manufacturer, and he was involved in quarrying and mining.  His company became the New Zealand Government contractors for coal, lime, cement and carting – making J.J. Craig one of the colony’s largest and industrious enterprises. 

On the 12th March 2014 we celebrate that 100 years ago the lamps along the red fence were lit and continue to be a reminder to Auckland of the early years of trade in our city.
J.J. Craig premises on Railway Wharf, Auckland. (top left); Craig's horse and carts on Quay Street, January 1905. Auckland Harbour Board Album 67, Voyager NZ Maritime Museum