APPLETON, WILLIAM THOMAS (1859-1930), businessman, was born on 2 May 1859 at Leeds, Yorkshire, England, son of Thomas Appleton, bookbinder, and his wife Mary, née Burnley.
Appleton was an able and energetic organizer in the field of industrial relations. His thorough understanding of shipping management and his mastery of detailed administration assisted him as architect and advocate of the Australasian Steamship Owners' Federation, which grew into a very powerful organization; he was its founding chairman in 1899-1903, and in 1908, 1911-16, 1920-21 and 1925-30. First appointed as a shipowner representative on the Melbourne Harbor Trust in November 1906, Appleton was chairman from April 1911 until the trust was reconstituted in February 1913, and was thereafter a senior commissioner. Throughout, he was a staunch advocate of harbour improvements and strongly supported the trust's long-term plan for new dock construction. Appleton Dock on the north side of the River Yarra was named after him.
Appleton died of cancer on 16 February 1930 at his home in Malvern, and was cremated with Presbyterian rites. He was survived by his wife, two daughters and three of his five sons of whom the eldest had been killed at Pozières in 1916. His estate was valued for probate at £131,323. One of the most influential men in the Australasian shipping world, Appleton was respected by both shipowners and maritime unions for his strength of leadership and fairness of judgment.