Monday, 10 December 2007

Stamping the past

Many people forget that the country that we know as Australia only came into existence in 1901. Prior to this, six colonies had been established. Sometimes this was done by establishing new colonies and sometimes by carving up larger colonies. This is why the Jaeckels migrated to the colony of Queensland and not to Australia. Each of the colonies competed for migrants and many colonies had their own agents in Germany.

The rough timeline for establishment of colonies is as follows:

New South Wales, 1788
Van Dieman’s Land, 1825 (becomes Tasmania in 1855)
Western Australia, 1829
South Australia, 1836
Port Phillip separated from NSW and renamed Victoria, 1850
Queensland separates from NSW, 1855.

I always find it confusing because every colonial act has several dates: British parliamentary creation of the colony, letters of patent establishing the colony, proclamation of government (all this happening in Britain) and then things actually happening in the colonies. For a great site with digital versions of many historical documents visit Documenting a Democracy.

On the weekend I saw some Queensland stamps and was curious as to when they would have been used. According to Australia Post, the first stamps in the continent of Australia were issued by New South Wales on 1 January 1850 although embossed letter sheets had been used since 1838. The earliest Queensland stamps are dated around 1860. I assumed the stamps I saw would pre-date the Federation in 1901 but have found that this is not necessarily the case. After Federation, states continued to use colonial stamps until about 1913. It wasn’t until 1911 that postal rates across Australia became uniform. On 2 January 1913 a red one penny stamp bearing a kangaroo and map became the first stamp to bear the name Australia. I was fascinated to read too that the last definitive stamp bearing the monarch’s head appeared in 1971. Since then, there has been a stamp issued each year to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, but stamps have carried a wide range of other images.

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