New South Wales #98 (1897)

New South Wales #98 (1897)
New South Wales #98 (1897)

The British Crown Colony of New South Wales was established as a penal colony in 1788 and existed until it became a state in the federal Commonwealth of Australia on January 1, 1901. At its greatest extent, the colony of New South Wales included the present-day Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia, as well as New Zealand. It originally comprised more than half of the Australian mainland with its western boundary set at 129th meridian east in 1825. The colony also included the island territories of New Zealand, Van Diemen’s Land, Lord Howe Island, and Norfolk Island. During the 19th century, most of the colony’s area was detached to form separate British colonies that eventually became New Zealand and the various states and territories of Australia. The first “responsible” self-government of New South Wales was formed on June 6, 1856, with Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson appointed by Governor Sir William Denison as its first Colonial Secretary which in those days accounted also as the Premier.

The present-day State of New South Wales borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales’ state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia’s most populous city. In March 2014, the estimated population of New South Wales was 7.5 million, making it Australia’s most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state’s population, 4.67 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen. Lord Howe Island remains part of New South Wales, while Norfolk Island has become a federal territory, as have the areas now known as the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory.

New South Wales Map 1916
New South Wales Map 1916
Evolution of Australian colonial and state boundaries
Evolution of Australian colonial and state boundaries

The prior inhabitants of New South Wales were the Aboriginal tribes who arrived in Australia about 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Before European settlement there were an estimated 250,000 Aboriginal people in the region. The Wodi Wodi people are the original custodians of the Illawarra region of South Sydney. Speaking a variant of the Dharawal language, the Wodi Wodi people lived across a large stretch of land which was roughly surrounded by what is now known as Campbelltown, Shoalhaven River and Moss Vale. The Bundjalung people are the original custodians of parts of the northern coastal areas.

In 1770, Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook, in command of the HMS Endeavour, sailed along the east coast of Australia, becoming the first known Europeans to do so. On April 19, 1770, the crew of the Endeavour sighted the east coast of Australia and ten days later landed at a bay in what is now southern Sydney. The ship’s naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, was so impressed by the volume of flora and fauna hitherto unknown to European science, that Cook named the inlet Botany Bay. Cook charted the East coast to its northern extent and, on August 22, at Possession Island in the Torres Strait, Cook wrote in his journal: “I now once more hoisted English Coulers [sic] and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third, took possession of the whole Eastern Coast from the above Latitude 38°S down to this place by the name of New South Wales.”

The name New South Wales was already applied to the south west coast of Hudson Bay, Canada, which had been named after his native land, by the Welshman Thomas James on August 20, 1631, during a voyage of discovery in search of a Northwest Passage into the South Sea. It was 139 years later that James Cook gave the same name, without explanation, to the east coast of New Holland. In his original journal(s) covering the survey, in triplicate to satisfy Admiralty Orders, Cook first named the land “New Wales”, named after Wales. However, in the copy held by the Admiralty, he “revised the wording” to “New South Wales”. Cook and Banks then reported favorably to London on the possibility of establishing a British colony at Botany Bay.

The Kingdom of Great Britain thereby became the first European power to officially claim any area on the Australian mainland. “New South Wales”, as defined by Cook’s proclamation, covered most of eastern Australia, from 38°S 145°E (near the later site of Mordialloc, Victoria), to the tip of Cape York, with an unspecified western boundary. By implication, the proclamation excluded: Van Diemen’s Land (later Tasmania), which had been claimed for the Netherlands by Abel Tasman in 1642; a small part of the mainland south of 38° (later southern Victoria) and; the west coast of the continent (later Western Australia), which Jean Mengaud, an officer of Louis de Saint Aloüarn officially claimed for France in 1772 — even though it had been mapped previously by Dutch mariners.

A General Chart of New Holland including New South Wales & Botany Bay with The Adjacent Countries and New Discovered Lands, published in An Historical Narrative of the Discovery of New Holland and New South Wales, London, Fielding and Stockdale, November 1786.
A General Chart of New Holland including New South Wales & Botany Bay with The Adjacent Countries and New Discovered Lands, published in An Historical Narrative of the Discovery of New Holland and New South Wales, London, Fielding and Stockdale, November 1786.

The British claim remained theoretical until January 1788, when Arthur Phillip arrived with the First Fleet to found a convict settlement at what is now Sydney. Phillip, as Governor of New South Wales, exercised nominal authority over all of Australia east of the 135th meridian east between the latitudes of 10°37’S and 43°39’S, which included most of New Zealand except for the southern part of South Island.

The First Fleet of 11 vessels carried over a thousand settlers, including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men). A few days after arrival at Botany Bay the fleet moved to the more suitable Port Jackson where Phillip established a settlement at the place he named Sydney Cove (in honor of the Secretary of State, Lord Sydney) on January 26, 1788. This date later became Australia’s national day, Australia Day. The colony was formally proclaimed by Governor Phillip on February 7, 1788, at Sydney. Sydney Cove offered a fresh water supply and a safe harbor, which Phillip famously described as:

“…being with out exception the finest Harbour in the World … Here a Thousand Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security.

Governor Phillip was vested with complete authority over the inhabitants of the colony. Enlightened for his Age, Phillip’s personal intent was to establish harmonious relations with local Aboriginal people and try to reform as well as discipline the convicts of the colony. Phillip and several of his officers — most notably Watkin Tench — left behind journals and accounts of which tell of immense hardships during the first years of settlement. Often Phillip’s officers despaired for the future of New South Wales. Early efforts at agriculture were fraught and supplies from overseas were scarce.

Between 1788 and 1792 about 3546 male and 766 female convicts were landed at Sydney — many “professional criminals” with few of the skills required for the establishment of a colony. Many new arrivals were also sick or unfit for work and the conditions of healthy convicts only deteriorated with hard labour and poor sustenance in the settlement. The food situation reached crisis point in 1790 and the Second Fleet which finally arrived in June 1790 had lost a quarter of its ‘passengers’ through sickness, while the condition of the convicts of the Third Fleet appalled Phillip. From 1791 however, the more regular arrival of ships and the beginnings of trade lessened the feeling of isolation and improved supplies.

Phillip sent exploratory missions in search of better soils and fixed on the Parramatta region as a promising area for expansion and moved many of the convicts from late 1788 to establish a small township, which became the main center of the colony’s economic life, leaving Sydney Cove as an important port and focus of social life. Poor equipment and unfamiliar soils and climate continued to hamper the expansion of farming from Farm Cove to Parramatta and Toongabbie, but a building program, assisted by convict labor, advanced steadily. Between 1788 and 1792, convicts and their jailers made up the majority of the population — but after this, a population of emancipated convicts began to grow who could be granted land and these people pioneered a non-government private sector economy and were later joined by soldiers whose military service had expired — and finally, free settlers who began arriving from Britain. Governor Phillip departed the colony for England on December 11, 1792, with the new settlement having survived near starvation and immense isolation for four years.

For the next 40 years the history of New South Wales was identical with the History of Australia, since it was not until 1803 that any settlements were made outside the current boundaries of New South Wales, and these, at Hobart and Launceston in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), were at first dependencies of New South Wales. It was not until 1825 that Van Diemen’s Land became a separate colony. Also that year, on July 16, the border of New South Wales was set further west at the 129th meridian to encompass the short lived settlement on Melville Island. In 1829, this border became the border with Western Australia, which was proclaimed a colony.

The indigenous Australians or Aboriginal people had lived in what is now New South Wales for at least 50,000 years, making their living through hunting, gathering and fishing. The impact of European settlement on these people was immediate and devastating. They had no natural resistance to European diseases, and epidemics of measles and smallpox spread far ahead of the frontier of settlement, radically reducing population and fatally disrupting indigenous society. Although there was some resistance to European occupation, in general the indigenous people were evicted from their lands without difficulty. Dispossession, disease, violence and alcohol reduced them to a remnant within a generation in most areas.

Accounts of early encounters between Sydney’s Aboriginal people and the British are provided by the author Watkin Tench, who was an officer on the First Fleet and the writer of one of the first works of literature about New South Wales. The colony struggled in its early days for economic self-sufficiency, since supplies from Britain were few and inadequate. The whaling industry provided some early revenue, but it was the development of the wool industry by John MacArthur and his wife Elizabeth Macarthur and other enterprising settlers that created the colony’s first major export industry.

For the first half of the 19th century, New South Wales was essentially a sheep run, supported by the port of Sydney and a few subsidiary towns such as Newcastle (where a permanent settlement was established in 1804) and Bathurst (1815). Newcastle, north of Sydney, named after the English coal port city, was initially established as a severe punishment camp for troublesome convicts following the Castle Hill Rebellion but would grow to be a major industrial center and the State’s second largest city. The State’s third city, Wollongong, south of Sydney, was founded in 1829 as an outpost for a contingent of soldiers sent in response to conflict between local Aborigines and the unruly timber-getters who had established themselves in the area. Agriculture soon established itself, dairy and coal mining had begun by the 1840s, and the city grew to become a major industrial center. The Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars (1795–1816) were fought between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Indigenous clans of the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers.

Constitutionally, New South Wales was founded as an autocracy run by the Governor, although he nearly always exercised his powers within the restraints of British law. In practice the early Governors ruled by consent, with the advice of military officers, officials and leading settlers. The New South Wales Corps was formed in England in 1789 as a permanent regiment to relieve the marines who had accompanied the First Fleet. Officers of the Corps soon became involved in the corrupt and lucrative rum trade in the colony. In the Rum Rebellion of 1808, the Corps, working closely with the newly established wool trader John Macarthur, staged the only successful armed takeover of government in Australian history, deposing Governor William Bligh and instigating a brief period of military rule in the colony prior to the arrival from Britain of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810.

Macquarie served as the last autocratic Governor of New South Wales, from 1810 to 1821 and had a leading role in the social and economic development of New South Wales which saw it transition from a penal colony to a budding free society. He established public works, a bank, churches, and charitable institutions and sought good relations with the Aborigines. In 1813, he sent Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson on an expedition across the Blue Mountains, where they found the great plains of the interior. Central to Macquarie’s policy was his treatment of the emancipists, whom he decreed should be treated as social equals to free-settlers in the colony. Against opposition, he appointed emancipists to key government positions including Francis Greenway as colonial architect and William Redfern as a magistrate. London judged his public works to be too expensive and society was scandalized by his treatment of emancipists. His legacy lives on with Macquarie Street, Sydney bearing his name as the well as the New South Wales Parliament and various buildings designed during his tenure including the UNESCO listed Hyde Park Barracks.

In 1821, there were still only 36,000 Europeans in the country. Although the number of free settlers began to increase rapidly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, convicts were still 40% of the population in 1820, and it was not until the 1820s that free settlers began to occupy most of what is now rural New South Wales. An inland settlement was established at Bathurst, west of the Blue Mountains, on the banks of the Macquarie River. It was proclaimed a town in 1815 and properties across the plains began to support cattle and grow wheat, vegetables and fruit and produce fine wool for export to the knitting mills of industrial Britain. The period from 1820 to 1850 is regarded as the golden age of the squatters.

1825 saw the establishment of the New South Wales Legislative Council, Australia’s oldest legislative body, as an appointed body to advise the Governor. In the same year trial by jury was introduced, ending the military’s judicial power. In 1842, the Council was made partly elective, through the agitation of democrats like William Wentworth. This development was made possible by the abolition of transportation of convicts to New South Wales in 1840, by which time 150,000 convicts had been sent to Australia. After 1840, the settlers saw themselves as a free people and demanded the same rights they would have had in Britain. New Zealand, originally part of the colony of New South Wales, became a separate Colony of New Zealand on July 1, 1841.

New South Wales Map 1832
New South Wales Map 1832

Charles Darwin visited Australia in January 1836 and in The Voyage of the Beagle records his hesitations about and fascination with New South Wales, including his speculations about the geological origin and formation of the great valleys, the aboriginal population, the situation of the convicts, and the future prospects of the country.

New South Wales was the first part of Australia to operate a postal service, which in 1803 was carrying letters between Sydney and Parramatta for a 2 pence charge. In 1809, a collecting office in Sydney was established to receive mail from passing ships, and in 1825 the postal service was expanded. Mail coach service began in 1830, and in 1835 a new Postage Act superseded the 1825 statute and set rates based on weight and distance traveled.

The postmaster of the time, James Raymond, was in communication with Rowland Hill in England and worked to encourage the prepayment of letters in New South Wales. In 1838, Raymond introduced envelopes embossed with the seal of the colony, and available for local mail for 1¼ pence each instead of the 2 pence charged letters paid for in cash. They are thus regarded as precursors of the Penny Black. However, the envelopes were not popular, and in 1841 Raymond was unable to develop official interest in postage stamps for the colony.

In 1842, regular mail service was carried by steamer between Melbourne and Sydney, and the first mail packet from Britain arrived in 1844. An act of 1848 reformed the postal system and authorized the use of stamps; the first stamps appeared on January 1, 1850 (Scott #1-5F). They were locally produced, and depicted a scene of Sydney and its harbor, thus becoming known as the “Sydney Views”. The 1 penny, 2 pence, and 3 pence stamps were separately engraved, and then re-engraved and retouched over the next year, yielding dozens of varieties (Scott #6-9).

In 1851, the colony switched to a more conventional stamp design, a profile of Queen Victoria wearing a laurel wreath, first in a somewhat crude rendition (Scott #10-14 and 16-20), then a better one in 1853 (Scott #15). The colony also took the unusual step of using paper watermarked with the denomination, a practice that resulted in a number of mismatches between watermark and printed denomination that are rare and highly prized today.

In 1854, the colony issued 6 pence and 1 shilling stamps printed locally, from plates engraved by Perkins Bacon in England. These were large square stamps with the standard profile of Victoria wearing a diadem, framed with a hexagon and octagon respectively. The designs were reused for 5 pence and 8 pence denominations in 1855 (Scott #26-31).

In 1856, a Perkins Bacon design was also adopted for the lower values as well (Scott #32-34). The inking of all these was highly variable, and there are dozens of distinct color varieties. The use of perforation began in 1860 (Scott #35-42). Unfortunately for collectors, the stamps were very closely spaced, the perforating process not well controlled, and it is unusual to find stamps from before 1899 where the perforation does not touch or cut into the design on one or more sides.

The first 5-shilling stamp was issued in 1861, and it was notable for being a round design resembling a medallion (Scott #44). In 1861, new designs were created by De La Rue and printed both in London and the colony. In 1871, a watermark reading NSW surmounted by a crown began to replace the numerals (Scott #52-60), and in 1885 a need for high-values prompted the overprinting of 5 shilling, 10 shilling, and one-pound revenue stamps with POSTAGE (Scott #72-76).

New South Wales celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1888 with an issue of what is widely considered to be the first commemorative stamps. The set of eight, each with a different design, were all inscribed ONE HUNDRED YEARS (Scott #77-84). Among the designs were a view of Sydney, an emu, Captain Cook, a lyrebird, and a kangaroo. The 20-shilling value included portraits of both Arthur Phillip the first governor, and the then-governor Lord Carrington.

A 2½-pence stamp depicting an allegorical figure of Australia appeared in 1890 (Scott #89), while ½-penny, 7½-pence and 12½-pence values were produced in 1891 as surcharges on existing stamps (Scott #92-94).

In June 1897, two early semi-postal stamps were issued (Scott #B1-B2), considered to have been the earliest charity stamps issued anywhere in the world. These were intended to raise funds for the Queen Victoria Homes for Consumptives (better known as tuberculosis). Under the patronage of the wife of the colony’s governor (Viscountess Hamden), a committee of influential people requested that the Postmaster General of New South Wales Mr. Brinker) issue postage stamps surcharged to raise funds, the request being made in late May 1897. After some debate, it was agreed to issue a stamp with a postage value of 1 penny, with an additional charge of 1 shilling, and a 2½-penny denomination with an additional 2 shillings 6 pence, both charity charges being considerable in 1897. The stamps were issued in sheets of 40 and the sales period was set as two months. The quantities issued were as follows: 1 penny 40,000 and 2½ pence 10,000. The initial sales were slow and were never popular with the general public.

However, the organizing committee from the Queen Victorian Home for Consumptives acted as a broker to stimulate sales to business firms of Sydney and the sales were eventually a major fund raiser for the Fund with a profit of £2,928/16/6d. The profit realized is consistent with all the stamps being sold. No additional charity stamps were produced in either New South Wales or Victoria after these 1897 issues.

Also in 1897, a set of three stamps marked Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (Scott #98-100).

By the 1890s, several new factors were drawing the Australian colonies towards political union. The great land boom in Victoria in the 1880s was followed by a prolonged depression, which allowed New South Wales to recover the economic and demographic superiority it had lost in the 1850s. There was a steady rise in imperial sentiment in the 1880s and 1890s, which made the creation of united Australian dominion seem an important imperial project. The intrusion of other colonial powers such as France and Germany into the south-west Pacific area made colonial defense an urgent question, which became more urgent with the rise of Japan as an expansionist power. Finally, the issue of Chinese and other non-European immigration made federation of the colonies an important issue, with advocates of a White Australia policy arguing the necessity of a national immigration policy.

As a result the movement for federation was initiated by Parkes with his Tenterfield Oration of 1889 (earning him the title “Father of Federation”), and carried forward after Parkes’ death by another New South Wales politician, Edmund Barton. Opinion in New South Wales about federation remained divided through the 1890s. The northern and southern border regions, which were most inconvenienced by the colonial borders and the system of intercolonial tariffs, were strongly in favor, while many in the Sydney commercial community were skeptical, fearing that a national Parliament would impose a national tariff (which was indeed what happened). The first attempt at federation in 1891 failed, mainly as a result of the economic crisis of the early 1890s. It was the federalists of the border regions who revived the federal movement in the later 1890s, leading up to the Constitutional Convention of 1897-98 which adopted a draft Australian Constitution.

When the draft was put to referendum in New South Wales in 1899, Reid (Free Trade Premier from 1894 to 1899), adopted an equivocal position, earning him the nickname “Yes-No Reid.” The draft was rejected, mainly because New South Wales voters thought it gave the proposed Senate, which would be dominated by the smaller states, too much power. Reid was able to bargain with the other Premiers to modify the draft so that it suited New South Wales interests, and the draft was then approved.

On January 1, 1901, following a proclamation by Queen Victoria, New South Wales ceased to be a self-governing colony and became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia. Although the new Governor-General and Prime Minister were sworn in in Sydney, Melbourne was to be the temporary seat of government until the permanent seat of government was established. This was to be in New South Wales, but at least 100 miles (160 km) from Sydney. The first Prime Minister (Barton) the first Opposition Leader (Reid) and the first Labor leader (Chris Watson) were all from New South Wales. Eventually, the area that now forms the Australian Capital Territory was ceded by New South Wales when Canberra was selected.

The formation of the Commonwealth had no immediate effect on the New South Wales postal system. Although the new constitution granted the commonwealth power to run a national postal service, unification was not immediate. The systems gradually merged during the 1900s. In 1903, a 9-pence stamp in two colors (brown and blue) was inscribed COMMONWEALTH and mentioned the initials of each member along with its year of founding (Scott #108). In 1905, the stamps began to be printed on paper watermarked with a crown and the letter “A“, with reprintings of existing designs occurring into 1910 (Scott #109-131).

In 1913 the stamps of New South Wales were superseded by those of Australia.

Scott #98, a one-penny rose red stamp issued in October 1897, to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 60th anniversary as monarch, features the New South Wales colonial seal. It was engraved by W. Amor and perforated 12. There were two distinct dies used for this stamp, this being Die II (Die I stamps had been issued on June 22, 1897). In the Die I varieties, the first pearl on the crown on the left side is merged into the arch, the shading under the fleur-de-lis is indistinct, and the “S” of WALES is open. On the Die II stamps, the first pearl on the crown is circular, the vertical shading under the fleur-de-lis is clear, and the “S” of WALES is not so open. There are also a number of perforation varieties, resulting in seven sub-numbers in the Scott catalogue for #98. The Stanley Gibbons catalogue assigns four major numbers, each with at least one sub-number for the 1-penny Seal of Colony stamp with listed color shades including carmine, scarlet, rose-carmine, and salmon red.

New South Wales Flag 1876-1900
New South Wales Flag 1876-1900
New South Wales Coat of Arms 1906-date
New South Wales Coat of Arms 1906-date

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