The Colony of Queensland was originally a part of New South Wales until Queen Victoria signed Letters Patent on June 6, 1859, separating the two colonies. Queensland was one of the six colonies which became the founding states of Australia with federation on January 1, 1901. Today, it is the second-largest and third-most-populous state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Situated in the north-east of the country, Queensland borders the Torres Strait to the north, with Boigu Island off the coast of New Guinea representing the absolute northern extreme of its territory. The triangular Cape York Peninsula, which points toward New Guinea, is the northernmost part of the state’s mainland. West of the peninsula’s tip, northern Queensland is bordered by the Gulf of Carpentaria, while the Coral Sea, an arm of the Pacific Ocean, borders Queensland to the east. To the west, Queensland is bordered by the Northern Territory, at the 138°E longitude, and to the southwest by the northeastern corner of South Australia. New South Wales lies to the south where three sections that constitute its border: the watershed from Point Danger to the Dumaresq River; the river section involving the Dumaresq, the Macintyre and the Barwon; and 29°S latitude (including some minor historical encroachments below the 29th parallel) over to the South Australian border.
The state capital is Brisbane, located on the coast 60 miles (100 kilometers) by road north of the New South Wales border. Queensland has a population of 4,750,500, concentrated along the coast and particularly in the state’s southeastern portion. The state is the world’s sixth largest sub-national entity, with an area of 715,309 square miles (1,852,642 km²). Often referred to as the “Sunshine State”, Queensland is home to 10 of Australia’s 30 largest cities and is the nation’s third largest economy. Tourism in the state, fueled largely by its warm tropical climate, is a major industry.
Queensland was first inhabited by Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. The first European to land in Queensland (and Australia) was Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606, who explored the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula near present-day Weipa. In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook claimed the east coast of Australia for the Kingdom of Great Britain. The colony of New South Wales was founded in 1788 by Governor Arthur Phillip at Sydney; New South Wales at that time included all of what is now Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. Queensland was explored in subsequent decades until the establishment of a penal colony at Brisbane in 1824 by John Oxley. Penal transportation ceased in 1839 and free settlement was allowed from 1842. The colony was separated from New South Wales in 1859 and named in honor of Queen Victoria,
Fifty thousand to 60,000 years ago, Aboriginal people arrived in Australia by boat or by land bridge. The most likely route was from Southeast Asia across the Torres Strait. During the next ten thousand years, the Aboriginal people traveled over most of the continent. Around 25,000 years ago, an ice age began with a rapid drop in the temperature of the earth of eight degrees. The climate changes lasted over 10,000 years. The land bridges from Southeast Asia and to Tasmania became inhospitable. Food was difficult to find and this led to the origin of seed-grinding technology.
About 15,000 years ago, global temperatures warmed and rainfall increased along the eastern coast of Australia. The inland of Queensland, also receiving rainfall, again became habitable. Coastal lands decreased due to rising sea levels and tropical rain forests spread. The Kalkadoon people of the inland central gulf region, dug wells 10 meters deep to maintain their supply of freshwater.
From 10,000 years until European arrival, the favorable warmer climate allowed the development of semi-permanent villages in the northern rainforests, the far western regions and around Moreton Bay. Along the Barron River, and on the islands of Moreton Bay, large huts (djimurru), capable of housing thirty to forty people were built. However, due to recurrent droughts and floods, the dominant hunter-gatherer lifestyle persisted in most areas of Queensland.
The peak Aboriginal population in Queensland prior to European arrival is uncertain. The number may have been between 200,000 and 500,000 people. Numbers may have decreased at times of epidemics like smallpox. Rough calculations of the population can be made from the knowledge that Queensland supported 34.2 percent of the total number of tribes in Australia and from the knowledge that 35 to 39 percent of Australian aboriginal people lived in Queensland. Queensland was the most densely populated region of the continent with two of the six to seven hundred Aboriginal nations and at least ninety language groups.
In 1606, the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon landed near the site of the modern-day town of Weipa on the western shore of Cape York. His arrival was the first recorded encounter between European and Australian Aboriginal people. In 1614, Luis Váez de Torres, a Spanish explorer may have sighted the Queensland coast at the tip of Cape York. In that year, he had sailed the Torres Strait, the body of water now named after him.
In 1768, the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville sailed west from the New Hebrides islands, getting to within a hundred miles of the Queensland coast. He did not reach the coast because he did not find a passage through the coral reefs, and turned back.
Lieutenant James Cook claimed the east coast under instruction from King George III of England on August 22, 1770, at Possession Island, naming eastern Australia “New South Wales”. This included the present Queensland. Cook charted the Australian east coast in his ship HM Barque Endeavour, naming Stradbroke and Morton (now Moreton Island) islands, the Glass House Mountains, Double Island Point, Wide Bay, Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Cape, now called Fraser Island. His second landfall in Australia was at Round Hill Head, 500 km north of Brisbane. The Endeavour was grounded on a coral reef near Cape Tribulation, on June 11, 1770, where he was delayed for almost seven weeks while they repaired the ship. This occurred where Cooktown now lies, on the Endeavour River, both places named after the incident. On August 22, the Endeavour reached the northern tip of Queensland, which Cook named the Cape York Peninsula after the Duke of York.
In 1799, in the Norfolk, Matthew Flinders spent six weeks exploring the Queensland coast as far north as Hervey Bay. In 1802 he explored the coast again. On a later trip to England, his ship the HMS Porpoise and the accompanying Cato ran aground on a coral reef off the Queensland coast. Flinders set off for Sydney in an open cutter, at a distance of 750 miles (1,210 km), where the Governor sent ships back to rescue the crew from Wreck Reef.
In 1823, John Oxley sailed north from Sydney to inspect Port Curtis (now Gladstone) and Moreton Bay as possible sites for a penal colony. At Moreton Bay, he found the Brisbane River whose existence Cook had predicted, and proceeded to explore the lower part of it. In September 1824, he returned with soldiers and established a temporary settlement at Redcliffe. On December 2, the settlement was transferred to where the Central Business District of Brisbane now stands. The settlement was initially called Edenglassie, a portmanteau of the Scottish towns Edinburgh and Glasgow. Major Edmund Lockyer discovered outcrops of coal along the banks of the upper Brisbane River in 1825.
In 1839, transportation of convicts ceased, culminating in the closure of the Brisbane penal settlement. In 1842, free settlement was permitted. In the same year Andrew Petrie reported favorable grazing conditions and decent forests to the north of Brisbane, which led shortly to the arrival of settlers to Fraser Island and the Cooloola coast region. In 1847, the Port of Maryborough was opened as a wool port. The first immigrant ship to arrive in Moreton Bay was the Artemisia in 1848. In 1857, Queensland’s first lighthouse was built at Cape Moreton.
Fighting between Aborigines and settlers in colonial Queensland was more bloody than in any other colonial state in Australia, perhaps partly due to Queensland having a larger pre-contact indigenous population than any other colony in Australia, accounting for over one third, and in some estimates close to forty percent, of the entire pre-contact population of the continent. The latest and hitherto most comprehensive survey estimates that some 1,500 European settlers — and their Chinese, Aboriginal and Melanesian allies — died in frontier skirmishes with Aboriginals in Queensland during the nineteenth century. The same study indicates that the casualties Aboriginal people suffered in these battles with settlers and native police (frequently described by contemporary political leaders and newspapers as “warfare”, “a kind of warfare”, “guerrilla-like warfare”, and at times as a “war of extermination”) is highly likely to have exceeded 30,000. The “Native Police Force” (sometimes “Native Mounted Police Force”), recruited and deployed by the Queensland government, was a key instrument in the oppression, dispossession and murder of indigenous people during this period.
The three largest massacres of whites by Aborigines in Australian colonial history all took place in Queensland. On October 27, 1857, Martha Fraser’s Hornet Bank station on the Dawson River, in central Queensland took the lives of 11 Europeans. The tent camp of the embryo station of Cullin-La-Ringo near Springsure was attacked by Aborigines on October 17, 1861, killing 19 people including the grazier Horatio Wills. Following the wreck of the brig Maria at Bramble Reef near the Whitsunday Islands, on February 26, a total of 14 European survivors were massacred by local Aborigines. The Battle of One Tree Hill and Darkey Flat Massacre also took place in the 1840s.
In the early 1840s, agitation had commenced for the creation of a separate northern colony which could look after local interests, with the clamor being no less apparent in the fledgling township of Brisbane. In the vanguard of those seeking representative government was the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, representative for Moreton Bay in the New South Wales Legislative Council. Lang’s call for the creation of a northern colony in 1844 was defeated in the Council by 26 votes to seven, and matters were held in abeyance until 1850 when the British Parliament passed the Australian Colonies Government Act, which enabled the creation of new Australian colonies with a similar form of government to New South Wales. In other words, they would have a bicameral parliament watched over by a vice-regal representative. Importantly, specifically mentioned Port Phillip and Moreton Bay as districts which were likely to become colonies in the foreseeable future.
The Act inspired Lang to renewed efforts, and between 1851 and 1854 he held nine meetings to gain further support for separation. He was, in fact, preaching to the converted as the inhabitants of the northern district had been increasingly neglected by the government in Sydney. While they could reach consensus on the need for separation, whether a new colony would be free or unfree became a divisive issue. Lang and the majority of townspeople supporters favored free immigration. The powerful squatting fraternity who were heavily reliant on cheap labor advocated a renewal of convict transportation. While urban growth in Brisbane and Ipswich finally dictated for the former, there was still disagreement over where a new capital should be located. Brisbane, Cleveland, Gayndah, Gladstone, Ipswich, and Rockhampton were all potential candidates favored by parochial interests. Brisbane eventually emerged victorious, and the reality of a new colony moved a step closer in 1856 when the British Government agreed that the time was ripe to create a new northern colony.
Among other things, there was uncertainty over the location of a southern border. Lang was among many others who believed that the Northern Rivers should become part of a northern colony; the New South Wales Government disagreed, and when Queen Victoria finally signed the Letters Patent to create Queensland on June 6, 1859, at Osborne House, the border was fixed at 28 degrees south. The following month, unofficial news was received that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, had appointed Sir George Bowen to be the colony’s first Governor of Queensland. Bowen had recently served as Britain’s Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands near Greece, and was to have a distinguished career in the Colonial Office. While both the Letters Patent and the Order-in-Council appointing Bowen as Governor were duly published by the New South Wales Government, separation could not be accomplished until the Letters Patent had also been published in Queensland. As Governor Bowen was due to arrive on December 6, 1859, with the Letters Patent formally proclaiming the new colony, a reception committee was organised as early as September to arrange the celebrations.
Inclement weather intervened meaning Governor Bowen did not arrive until the evening of December 9, 1859. The following day, Governor and Lady Bowen were welcomed by an estimated crowd of 4,000 exultant colonists when they stepped ashore at the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane. They were then conveyed by carriage to the temporary Government House, a building which now serves as the deanery of St John’s Cathedral. After ascending to the balcony, the resident Supreme Court Judge, Justice Alfred Lutwyche administered Governor Bowen’s oath, after which the Queen’s Commission was read to the assembled throng by the newly appointed Colonial Secretary, Robert Herbert. The formalities concluded with the proclamation of the Letters Patent being read by Governor Bowen’s acting private secretary, Abram Moriarty, who was to become the new colony’s first civil servant after being appointed Under Colonial Secretary on December 15, 1859.
The Letters Patent were published in the inaugural issue of the Queensland Government Gazette on December 10, 1859, and this has given rise to confusion over whether that date should be remembered as Separation Day or Proclamation Day. The former may be preferred, for it was only with the publication of the Letters Patent in Queensland that separation became a legal reality, though it can be equally accepted that this was also an official proclamation of their content.
On December 10, Bowen also appointed an Executive Council to operate as a provisional government until a parliament had been elected. Under the terms of separation, however, it was left for Sir William Denison, Governor of New South Wales, to appoint 11 members to the first Queensland Legislative Council in May 1860 for a term of five years. Bowen was to appoint their successors for life, and from the outset the nominee character of the Upper House proved highly unpopular. Attempts to amend the Constitution to make the Upper House elected were to continue until the Legislative Council was finally abolished in 1922.
Not so the Queensland Legislative Assembly, where the 26 elected members sat for the first time on May 22, 1860. In Queensland’s first parliament there was little evidence of the party politics which would only begin to emerge when the second elections were held in 1863. Instead, they acted with a considerable degree of unanimity to pass legislation which set Queensland on its future course. The agenda largely revolved around land and immigration, primary and secondary education, extension of voting rights, state aid to religion, the census, transport, primary industry and the provision of labor,
The first post offices in the area had opened at Brisbane in 1834 and White in 1842 (closed soon after). Handstruck markings similar to New South Wales types were issued and stamps of that colony were issued to Queensland post offices as they opened starting in 1851 until 1860. By that time, there were 15 post offices in the colony. Each was allocated a numeral canceler in the New South Wales series, which they retained. Brisbane was still using the 95 numeral in 1895. As new post offices were opened, numerals were allocated and these remained in use until 1915, when they were withdrawn by federal directive.
The first stamps of Queensland were issued on November 1, 1860. Before that, Queensland had used the stamps of New South Wales since 1851. All of Queensland’s postage stamps portrayed Queen Victoria. Queensland’s first stamps were engraved and printed Perkins, Bacon & Co. Ltd. of London and were based on the 1838 painting of Queen Victoria by A. C. Chalon. These were printed in rose, blue and green the corresponding values being 1 penny, 2 pence and 6 pence (Scott #1-3).
Between January 1, 1880 and July 1, 1892, revenue stamps of 1866-1892 were authorized for postal use. Stamps of Queensland were used in British New Guinea from 1884 until 1891. Queensland provided the main trading link with Southeast Asia and in 1882 signed a postal treaty with Hong Kong. Stamps of both countries can be found with each other’s postmarks when letters were posted on board ship. The colony joined the Universal Postal Union in 1891, and continued to issue its own stamps until 1909. The first Australian stamps were released in 1913.
Although smaller than the gold rushes of Victoria and New South Wales, Queensland had its own series of gold rushes in the later half of the nineteenth century. In 1858, gold was discovered at Canoona. In 1867, gold was discovered in Gympie. Richard Daintree’s explorations in North Queensland lead to several goldfields being developed in the late 1860s. In 1872, William Hann discovered gold on the Palmer River, southwest of Cooktown. Chinese settlers began to arrive in the goldfields and by 1877 there were 17,000 Chinese on Queensland goldfields and soon restrictions on Chinese immigration were passed.
In 1862, Queensland’s western boundary was changed from longitude 141° E to 138°E. In 1863, the first Chief Justice, Sir James Cockle was appointed. In March 1864, major flooding of the Brisbane River inundated the center of town, while in April, fires devastated the west side of Queen Street, which was the main shopping district. In December of that same year, another fire, which was Brisbane’s worst ever, wiped out the rest of Queen Street and adjoining streets.
In 1865, the first steam trains in Queensland, began travelling (from Ipswich to Bigge’s Camp, which is now known as Grandchester). Townsville gazetted as a town in the same year. In 1867, the Queensland Constitution was consolidated from existing legislation under the Constitution Act 1867. Sugar production was by then becoming a major industry. In 1867, six mills produced 168 tons of cane-sugar; by 1870, there were 28 mills with a production of 2,854 tons. The production of sugar started around Brisbane, but spread to Mackay and Cairns, and by 1888 the annual output of sugar was 60,000 tons. In 1871, George Phipps, 2nd Marquess of Normanby, became the Governor of Queensland. The first record of a rugby match played in Queensland occurred in 1876. In 1877, Arthur Edward Kennedy became the Governor of Queensland. The first meat processed in the state occurred at Queensport along the Brisbane River in 1881.
In 1883, Queensland Premier Sir Thomas McIlwraith annexed Papua (later repudiated by the British government). On June 2, the decision to form a rugby union association was made at the Exchange hotel in Brisbane. The same year, Queensland’s population passed the 250,000 mark. In 1887, the Brisbane-Wallangarra railway line was opened, and in 1888 there was a 483-mile (777 km) line opened between Brisbane and Charleville. There were other lines that were nearly complete from Rockhampton to Longreach, and others being constructed around Maryborough, Mackay and Townsville. By 1888, there were more than 5 million cattle in the colony.
During the 1890s, many workers known as the Kanakas were brought to Queensland from neighboring Pacific island nations to work in the sugar cane fields, some of whom had been kidnapped under a process known as Blackbirding. When Australia was federated in 1901, the White Australia policy came into effect, whereby all foreign workers in Australia were deported under the Pacific Island Labourers Act of 1901. At this time, there were between 7,000 and 10,000 Pacific Islanders living in Queensland. Most of them had been deported by 1908, by which time there were only 1500-2500 remaining.
In 1899, the world’s first Labor Party Government, with Premier Anderson Dawson as the leader, was elected into power only to last one week. In July 1899, Queensland offered to send a force of 250 mounted infantry to help Britain in the Second Boer War (Second Anglo-Boer War). Also in that year, gold production at Charters Towers peaked. The first natural gas find in Queensland and Australia was at Roma in 1900 as a team was drilling a water well. The Mahina Cyclone of 1899 struck Cape York Peninsula, destroying a pearling fleet in Princess Charlotte Bay. The cyclone claimed the lives of around 400 people, making it Queensland’s worst maritime disaster.
On January 1, 1901, Australia was federated following a proclamation by Queen Victoria. During this time, Queensland had a population of half a million people.
Scott #67 was released on August 1, 1882, 2 pence gray blue typographed and perforated 12. Twelve minor varieties exist for this stamp. In 1887, a redrawn version of this stamp was released (Scott #86). In the redrawn stamps, the lines of shading on the neck are not completed at the left, leaving an irregular white line along that side. On Scott #67, the lines of shading extend completely from left to right. It is a rather ratty-looking copy of the stamp but I was interested in the “sunburst” QL canceler, the better impression of the two I currently have in my collection. The “sunburst” postmarks also enclosed the numbered cancelers of the various post offices in the colony.