Australia Post Office History Essay

Nostalgic fruit labels

Release date: 7 June 2016

The 2016 Nostalgic Fruit Labels stamp issue, released on 7 June 2016, conjures up a bygone era of advertising, design and marketing. The paper labels pasted on to the ends of wooden fruit boxes, between the 1920s and 1970s, are a widely collected form of ephemera and provide a window into the fruit production and export industries of the time.

Christopher Cowles and David Walker were consultants to Jane Levin, the researcher on the stamp issue.

As well as providing invaluable and encyclopaedic advice, the two are authors of an award-winning book on Australian apple labels, which provided vital information on the background of the apple labels featured, as well on labels more generally.

The art of apple branding

The Art of Apple Branding: Australian apple case labels and the industry since 1788 (Apples from Oz) not only delves into the history of the apple-growing industry in Australia, but also explores the role apple labels played in the advertising and marketing.

The book also discusses how the labels were designed and printed. At the end of the book is a full index of every known apple label, complete with historical details around the grower, designer, brand and more. It truly is a treasure-trove of information – the result of over a decade of research, which included interviews with growers and designers of the era.

What began with the intention of producing a book about Tasmanian apple labels, based in part on a final year group essay by David and three fellow Fine Art and Design students studying at the Tasmanian School of Art, grew to encompass all of Australia and became a nationally significant publication.

As David explains:

In 1986 the collector Ray Harrison contacted the Tasmanian School of Art as a result of his receiving a letter from a collector friend in the United States of America (telling him about a student essay on Southern Tasmanian apple labels) …

As a result Ray contacted the Art School and spoke with Chris about his collection of Tasmanian fruit labels. This was the catalyst for Chris to contact each of the four now ex-students to gauge their interest in picking up the project and potentially taking it further to a more thorough study and producing a publication. David was the only one to agree.

Over the next fifteen years we researched, on a part time basis, public and private collections nationally and internationally. It involved much letter writing-before the use of emails, oral history interviews and when we could afford it some trips interstate to interview artists, growers and view collections. We attended two Ephemera Society of Australia conferences, which enabled us to enter the world of the collector and make some worthwhile connections with collectors and academics studying this area.

Although Ray’s collection was listed in the National Library of Australia’s Australian Historic Records Register of 1988, through our research we contributed another 44% of rare and unique labels to his collection.

In 2006, the book won a National Print Award Silver Medal for Chris’ book design and for the print overseer, Rod Poole. In 2007 it was shortlisted for both The Tasmania Book Prize and The University of Tasmania Prize for a Book Published in Tasmania. It won the latter award.

Australia Post – our past

Our post – what's it all about?

 

Australia Post 1800 to 1849


1809
1820
1828
1831
1835
1838
1841

1809

Australia's postal service was officially born on 25 April 1809, when a former convict named Isaac Nichols was appointed to take charge of all mail arriving in what was then called the Colony of New South Wales.


Isaac Nichols quickly opened Australia's first post office at his home in George Street in Sydney. He began advertising in the "Sydney Gazette" (the equivalent of a newspaper in those days) the names of all those who were fortunate enough to receive mail. The people listed could collect their letters from Nichols' home by paying the fixed price of a shilling per letter, with parcels costing more depending on how heavy they were. High-ranking (very important) members of the community received personal deliveries from Nichols.


Early letters were written on a piece of paper which was then folded and secured with a wax seal. Some people had "signet rings" that they used to press their very own "coat of arms", or other special design, into the seal. Envelopes are a more recent invention!


1820s

Australia's earliest overland mail routes were operating by the late 1820s, with regular packhorse and coach deliveries travelling from Sydney to nearby townships such as Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and Windsor in New South Wales.


1828

Extra mail routes out of Sydney to more townships were quickly established and additional postmasters were appointed. In 1828, Australia's first postmen, then known as "letter carriers" began delivering letters around towns.


1831

The first posting boxes for letters appeared. These were small wooden boxes attached to walls. Stamps were not required in those days, as it was the person who received the mail, not the person who had sent the mail, who paid for the letter.


1835

Sarah Lyttleton became Western Australia's first postmistress when she was appointed to take charge of the Albany post office.


1838

Pre-paid "stamped" letter sheets were introduced in Sydney. This system of pre-payment for postage was the first in the world.


The overland mail service between the Port Phillip District (Melbourne) and Sydney began operating in 1838. In those early days, mailman John Conway Bourke would ride on horseback through rugged wilderness from Melbourne to Yass in New South Wales, where he would exchange mail with the mail coach that had travelled down from Sydney.


Bourke earned an honoured place in Australian postal history when he stripped to cross the flooded Murray River and, on reaching the other side, was forced to climb a tree (with his mailbag) to escape a pack of wild dogs. When he was eventually found, he yelled: "Don't fire! My name's Bourke. I am Her Majesty's mail!"


1841

Distance did little to stop the growth of the postal service in Australia. Mail contractors in Western Australia began a monthly mail delivery from Albany to Perth by horse and spring cart. Mail routes also began to expand from Adelaide to the newly developing South Australian settlements at Port Adelaide, Port Lincoln, Willunga and Encounter Bay.

 

Australia Post 1850 to 1899


1850
1854
1855
1865
1867
1870
1872
1874
1875
1883

1850s

Prepaid adhesive stamps were introduced in Victoria and New South Wales.


Paying for mail at the time when it was posted became compulsory in the Australian colonies during the 1850s, with Victoria the first colony to make pre-paid stamps compulsory in 1852.


The arrival of tens of thousands of fortune hunters from around the world created an avalanche of mail in the Australian colonies during the Gold Rush of the 1850s. The first post office built in a town was often a temporary shed made from tin or wood. However, these buildings were soon replaced by much grander structures, as towns in Victoria and New South Wales grew wealthy from the profits of gold.


1854

The first Australian telegraph message was sent along a 10 kilometre line between Melbourne and Williamstown.


1855

The mail was carried for the first time by train on the regular rail service that operated between Sydney and Parramatta in NSW.


1865

Travelling Post Offices (TPOs), attached to trains, were introduced in Victoria. The TPOs meant postal workers could sort the mail, in a specially designed train carriage, while the train was in transit.


1867

Melbourne's General Post Office (GPO) opened to the general public in 1867. In the early days, customers never went inside the building. Instead, they made their purchases from stamp windows along the footpath while being entertained by the different tunes played by the GPO's bells every quarter of an hour.


1870

Amazingly, about 6,000 horses were travelling up to 45,000 kilometres a week, delivering the mail over vast areas of the Australian countryside.


1872

On 22 August 1872, the final link was made in the OverlandTelegraph between Adelaide in South Australia and Darwin in the Northern Territory. Several months earlier, the OverlandTelegraph had been connected to submarine cables that linked Australia to Java and Britain, so news from overseas could now reach the colonies within hours. Constructing the 3,200 kilometre telegraph line took two years. It was an amazing achievement that involved working in some of the driest, most inhospitable and isolated locations on Earth.


South Australia's Postmaster General, Charles Todd, oversaw this massive project. The Todd River in the Northern Territory is named after him. The OverlandTelegraph also gave birth to a string of great Australian towns, such as Alice Springs (named after Todd's wife), Tennant Creek and Daly Waters.


1874

Mary Ellen Kuper was promoted to become the first Indigenouspostmistress in the Australian public service.


1875

The first Australian postcards went on sale at the Sydney GPO in New South Wales.


1883

Melbourne and Sydney were finally linked by rail and people began receiving their letters within a day or two of posting them.

 

Australia Post 1900 to 1949


1901
1911
1912
1913
1914
1919
1921
1922
1924
1930
1934
1936
1940

1901

The Federation of the Australian colonies into one new nation, on 1 January 1901, created a few issues for the nation's postal service. The six separate colonial post and telegraph departments had to be combined to create one national postal service called the "Postmaster General's Department" (PMG).


1911

On 1 May 1911, it was announced that people only needed to pay one penny to post a letter from anywhere in Australia to anywhere else in Australia. The public had been saving up their letters in anticipation of the announcement, and the number of letters posted jumped significantly, particularly in NSW, where postage had previously cost two pence to areas outside a town or city.


In 1911, the PMG launched a national design competition for the nation's first stamp. The Postmaster General at the time, Charles Frazer, personally hoped for a stamp projecting a bold, modern image, and preferably featuring an outline map of Australia. His wish was that every letter leaving Australia's shores should have an "advertisement of the country on its stamp".


After months of planning and revision, it was decided that the first Commonwealth stamps would feature a simple design depicting an image of a kangaroo inside a map of Australia. The kangaroo image chosen had actually won equal second prize in the competition and was designed by Edwin Arnold from England.


1912

The "Kangaroo and Map" stamp went on public display in April 1912, and was immediately controversial. Monarchists were offended that a cartoon kangaroo had replaced the King's head. Others complained that the stamp lacked a sense of design. One newspaper cartoon pointed out that the stamp made Australia look like a wasteland overrun by kangaroos.


1913

The first Commonwealth stamps, featuring the famous "kangaroo and map" design, were put into circulation in Australia to replace the state-based stamp series.


1914

In July 1914, French stunt pilot Maurice Guillaux carried Australia's first commercial Air Mail from Melbourne to Sydney in a Bleriot XImonoplane made from wire, wood and canvas. The epic flight took nine and a half hours flying time over two days and involved seven refuelling stops along the way. Before the days of air traffic control, bonfires guided pilots to their landing points.


1919

Australia's first international "Air Mail" was delivered on 10 December 1919, when brothers Ross and Keith Smith and their crew touched down in Darwin after a 28-day flight across Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. This event won the brothers the Australian Government's "Air Race".


1921

Our first regular domestic (Australian) Air Mail service was the Geraldton-Derby run in Western Australia. It began with three aircraft in 1921, but the service got off to a shaky start due to a fatal plane crash.


1922

The delivery of mail by air on the Geraldton-Derby run began again in February, but this time it all ran smoothly.


1924

Mail trucks replaced Cobb & Co horse-drawn mail coaches.


1930

Australia's first mechanised mail-sorting equipment was installed at Sydney's GPO.


Motorbikes were introduced to the Postmaster General's Department (PMG) to assist with the quick delivery of telegrams and to enable telephone coin boxes to be emptied.


1934

The Smith brother's pioneering flight in 1919, in which they carried the first aerial mail from Europe to Australia, was the forerunner for a new internationalAir Mail service which commenced on 10 December 1934. This service proved to be so popular that there was barely room for passengers at peak mail times. In the early days, Qantas flew the mail to Singapore, and Imperial Airlines continued on to London. Sending mail from Australia to London now took 13 days instead of 32 days by sea.


1936

Of all the drivers along the dusty, corrugated roads of outback Australia, Tom Kruse was perhaps the most famous. Kruse started working as a mail contractor in 1936, and was responsible for the challenging mail run from Maree in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland. He often drove without boots and completed the 1,040 kilometre return trip in two weeks.


1940

The Postmaster General's Department (PMG) began the large-scale hiring of women because male employees had been released to fight in World War II.

 

Australia Post 1950 to 1999


1956
1957
1967
1975
1979
1980
1985
1991
1997
1999

1956

Australia's first ever multi-coloured stamps were issued to commemorate the Melbourne Olympics.


The PMG was responsible for all postal, telecommunications and broadcasting services at the Melbourne Olympics (a huge job!)


1957

Christmas stamps were released for the first time, making Australia the first country in the world to issue Christmas stamps every year.


1967

Four-number postcodes were given to every suburb in Australia to assist with the sorting of letters by machines.


1975

The PMG was split into two organisations, separating the responsibility for Australia's postal and telecommunications services. The two new organisations were called Australia Post and Telecom Australia (which has since been renamed Telstra).


From July 1975, Australia Post updated its image with the highly distinctive "P" symbol / logo that is so familiar to Australians today.


1979

The first mini-computers were installed at Australia Post headquarters and its state offices.


1980s

Posties stopped blowing whistles to announce to people that they had put mail in their letterboxes.


1985

Australia Post introduced its own trucks to carry larger letters and parcels between capital cities and regional centres in Australia, bringing to an end the "mail by rail" era.


1991

Australia Post introduced an Express Post service. This guaranteed delivery of an item for the next business day if mailed from one capital city to another.


1997

Since 1997, Australia Post has been celebrating living role models on its stamps, with the release each Australia Day of a new Australian Legends stamp. Cricketing hero Sir Donald Bradman was the first Legend to be honoured. Others have included Arthur Boyd, Slim Dusty, Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Dame Joan Sutherland and Barry Humphries.


1999

Australia Post introduced its barcode sorters – machines that can "read" barcoded addresses on small letters and then automatically sort them. This was followed by the installation of large-letter sorting machines in the five mainland capital cities.


Another innovation was the worldwide launch of personalised stamps. Posting a letter with your face on the stamp had not been possible until Australia Post introduced personalised stamps for the first time at Melbourne's World Stamp Expo in March 1999. More than 10,000 sheets of personalised stamps were printed at the exhibition, as thousands queued to have their photo imprinted on a basic postage stamp.

 

Australia Post in 2000 and into the future

2000

Since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Australia Post has issued commemorative stamps featuring all of Australia's Gold Medal winners. The Sydney Gold Medal Stamps are among the most popular stamps ever issued by Australia Post, with 24 million stamps sold at Australia Post outlets.


2004

New parcel sorting machinery was installed at Australia Post's facilities in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.


2008

More letters were sent in Australia in 2007/08 than at any other time in our nation's history.


Australia Post's retailnetwork is the country's largest, with around one million customers served every business day.


The tradition of providing on-site postal services at the Olympics continued in 2008, with thousands of people visiting the Australia Post retail outlet at the Beijing Olympics.


2009 and beyond

Australia Post celebrates 200 years of postal services in Australia.


You can get important things done at your local Australia Post retail outlet, such as paying bills, depositing money into your bank account, applying for a passport or purchasing a gift card.


The role of Australia Post's traditional letters and parcels services and the Australia Post retailnetwork has always been to connect Australians to one another. Our postal service will continue to change in the future (as it has always done) but Australia Post is committed to its primary role of connecting Australians to one another.

 

Images top to bottom:   1) NAA: C4078, N12078;   3) NAA: C4076, HN409;   4) NAA: B5919, 2031;   6) NAA: C4078, N1634B;   7) NAA: J2879, QTH490/A;   8) NAA: C4076, HN16;   15) State Library of South Australia PRG 280/1/8/299;   16) NAA: A1200, L8457;   21) NAA: J2879, QTH244/1;   23) NAA: C4078, N10035.

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