A.A. Kidd published a brief biography of Hurley in The New Zealand Numismatic Journal, June 1979, (pp. 32-35). A summary is given below:
John Hurley migrated to New Zealand with his parents and siblings in 1842, at the age of 12. They settled in Wellington where his father, Alexander, ran a bakery on Lambton Quay.
In 1853 John moved to Wanganui and opened his own bakery in Victoria Avenue, the first in the town. His range of goods included bread, biscuits, confectionery and groceries; he also supplied ships. He married a local woman, Lorenna Cunnabel, on January 24, 1855 at Brunswick Station, a few miles from the town. They had four children.
Kidd included the following quote about Hurley's business, written by Cornelius Burnett when he visited the town in 1857:
"Next came Mr. John Hurley's bakery, a busy place, where a variety of industries were carried on, afterwards taken up by some new arrivals, who are said to have done very well with them indeed. A description of this place will give a very vivid idea of the locality. The shop, a mere shanty, long and low, had evidently at first been built upon the level of the street, but as the wind and rain hollowed out Victoria Avenue into a gully which must have been at one time nearly 25 feet below the original level, step after step had to be added so as to allow of access from the road to the level of the shop. At the time I first knew it there were five or six shops, and many an old whaler 'half seas over' have I seen disappear at night from the door of the shop, head first into the pitch dark street, from the bottom of which rather strong language would be heard, sounding in the distance like the smothered mutterings from a bottomless pit. Being accustomed to tumbling down hatchways, however, these worthy descendants of the old Norse gods probably soon got over their falls." (Kidd, 1979)
Hurley sold his business on the 8th of January 1857 to a wealthy local man, Mr Joseph Augustus Burnett. However in 1864 he bought it back. The same year Hurley's brother Henry arrived in Wanganui, and Kidd suggests there was a connection between these two events. He also suggests that Henry started the firm Hurley Brothers, bakers and bootmakers, at this time. It has been suggested that because Hurley's tokens bore the name "J. Hurley & Co." his brother and father also had interests in the business.
In 1867 Hurley advertised in the Wanganui Evening Herald, stating that two pound loaves cost 4 pennies for cash, or 5 pennies for credit, he also offered hot dinners in addition to his bakery goods.
An almanac advertisement from 1878 showed how John Hurley's business had expanded. As well as bread, biscuits and confectionery, he also listed wholesale and retail grocery and emphasised his ability to create wedding cakes. Hurley later built a much more substantial bakery, a two storey, double fronted wooden building with glass across the front, to display 'confectionery goods and wedding ornaments to the left and shipping and grocery provisions to the right.' (Kidd, 1979, p. 34)
Hurley was one of the leading citizens of Wanganui. He was a founding elder of the Presbyterian Church, a member of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Benevolent Society. Hurley advertised in the Wanganui Evening Herald until May 1881, when he retired to Manaia and farmed on the Waimate Plains until his death at the age of 71, on 12 September 1901.
Hurley issued both penny and half penny tokens. The Museum Victoria catalogue gives the approximate dates of issue for his tokens as c.1875 and c.1870 respectively. Although Kidd does not specify a year of issue, he suggests that the late 1860s is the most likely period. Hurley's tokens bear the maker's details "Todman, London". These issues are the only pieces known to bear that name.
Kidd, A.A. (1979). "J. Hurley & Co., Wanganui Baker and Token Issuer." The New Zealand Numismatic Journal, June, pp.32-35.