London to Blayney N.S.W.

London to Blayney, NSW, 1894

by Eunice Shanahan


This is the only item in our collection that came to Australia. It is a pre-printed advertising postcard from a Drug company, Leo & Co, 8 Creechurch Lane, London E.C. (Fig. 1)

Blayney letter

The card has a printed brown Victorian halfpenny stamp, and an adhesive ½d orange Jubilee type, making 1d in all. This was the correct charge at that time, because the Australian colonies had joined the universal postal union on 1st Oct 1891, and at this time the rate for postcards from the UK to Australia was reduced to 1d. (It had been 2d from 1st January, 1891)

Postmarks: on the front

a) Cancellation known as a barred upright oval has the number 105 in the centre of a diamond which touches the circular datestamp was introduced on 19th March 1878 it has LONDON at the top, code letters X Z AP 4 and 94 at the bottom of the circle — there are two of these, one on each stamp effectively 'killing' the stamp. — H. C. Westley's book 'Postal Cancellations of London 1840-1890' states that 'no. 105 was issued on 19th March 1878 for use in the Inland Branch'.

I am surprised that there was no Foreign Branch stamp as it was addressed to New South Wales.

b) Sydney MY 12 1 pm 94 — time elapsed for the journey April 4th to May 12th. The arrival time was a bit of a mystery, as I could find no record of ships arriving in Sydney between 'Arcadia' on 28th April, 1894 and 'Valetta' arriving on 14th May, 1894.

It is interesting to note here that the first mail contract involving all the Australian colonies was made in 1888, when P & O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) and the Orient Line obtained a seven-year agreement to provide a fortnightly service each, with a subsidy of £85,000 per annum for each company, or a total £170,000 of which the colonies paid £163;75,000. (This means that there should have been four ships a month to Australia on the mail contract runs, one a week? or two every two weeks?)

The contracts placed great emphasis on reliability and speed, there being a penalty of £100 for every twenty-four hours the service was late. The overall times were greatly reduced over the years, from 48 days London to Melbourne in 1873 to 31½ days in 1901. Subsidies for mail contracts had been attacked frequently during the 1850's as a new form of the unjust Navigation Laws, but their future was secured in 1860 with the passage of an Act that returned to the Post Office, from the Admiralty, the power to contract for seagoing mail services. The contracts were renewed in 1898 for seven years at the same rate but the Australian share was reduced to £72,000 annually. (Ref: A Maritime History of Australia — by John Bach)

On the other side of the postcard (which carries the message "Leo" Compressed Drugs, "Maintain their high reputation against all comers for general excellence of quality and finish.") there is a faint circular postmark showing the date clearly MY 14 1894, — -AYN-- which seems to be the stamp for BLAYNEY.

Hans Karman, Postal Historian of ACT, has advised me that the journey Sydney to Blayney would have taken the 2 days, from 12 May to 14 May, particularly if the arrival in Sydney was late in the day and in Blayney early via the train through Bathirst, Perthville, Georges Plains, Wimbledon and Newbridge. The railway to Dubbo was open by 1881, and Blayney is on that mainline. It was always a major centre being between Bathurst and Orange, about a day's travel away from both.

In the New South Wales Post Office commercial directory of 1894, (held by our State Library) it shows that Blayney was 172 miles west by rail from Sydney, and the town was established in 1843.there were two newspapers, two banks, a post office/telegraph office/money order office, and the Postmaster was J Clinch . There was also the entry for James D Matthews, Chemist.

The message on the card, printed in blue is "In ordering specify Leo & Co. The minimum quantities supplied are those quoted for. Terms. Cash with order" (Fig.2) and a list of drugs available with strengths and net cash prices. For instance Ipecac and Opium 5gr 15/6 per lb. Of course, this takes us back to pre-decimal currency and Imperial weights. For any readers too young to remember, 16 ozs made one lb (pound) and there are 2.2 lbs in a kilogram. The currency was 12 pence to one shilling, 20 shillings to 1 pound.

The card has been stuck against something at some time, so not all of the items are legible but it is alphabetical. The drugs listed would surely give an idea of the medical side of life in the Colony in 1894.

Ipecac & Opium 5gr 15/6 per lb
Pepsine B.P 5gr 13/6 per lb
Phenacetin 5gr 1/3 per oz
Potass. Bicarb 5gr 2/3 per lb
Potass. Brom. )5gr 1/- 1lbtin
Potass. Chlor )5gr -/11 per lb
and Borax )parcel 7lbs13/6 per lb
Gold Metal Boxes 2/- per doz
Potass.Chlor.) Counter showcases
flasks vinaigrette containing 1 doz oval
3/3 per case
Potass Iodide 5gr 14/- per lb
Quinine 2gr 1/6 per oz
Quinine 5gr 1/6 per oz
Salol 5gr 17/6 per lb
Salicin 5gr -/6 per oz
Soda Bicarb. 5gr 1/- per lb
Soda Bicarb. parcel 7lbs -/11 per lb
Soda Mint 5gr 1/- per lb
Soda Mint parcel 7lbs-/11 per lb
Soda Salicylate3gr 7/6 per lb
Soda Salicylate5gr 7/6 per lb
Sulphonal 5gr 1/- per oz
Sulphur Compound6gr 1/- per lb
Sulphur Compoundparcel 7lbs-/11 per lb
Urethane 5gr 1/- per oz
Voice (Potass.Chlor.Borax

& Cocaine

5gr 2/- per lb
I would imagine that a present-day chemist would have no trouble in ordering most of them — but how about the last item? On reading the list, I was surprised — would these drugs only have been available from Europe? This is more than 100 years after the settlement of the Colony, and local development seems to have been quite rapid, in some things.

A postal history item like this really shows how much things have changed, and how much we take it all for granted. If Mr Matthews had ordered his drugs from those advertised on the card, it would take another 5 weeks back to London, then allowing time for Mr Leo to make up the order and despatch it by sea again, at least another 5 or 6 weeks — you would not want to be in a hurry for your drugs! Even so, this steamship transport was a huge improvement on the first sailing ships, which took about a year for the round trip.

A bit different from the present day

"Order by Fax, — Air Despatch"


This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.

Copyright 1998 By EARS Leisurewrite

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