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L. SUSMAN (1832-1903), GERMAN JEW, MERCHANT & FREEMASON, HOBART

This 'entire' gave few clues as to the identity of Mr. Susman, Murry (sic) Street, Hobartown who received an unusual triangular-folded single sheet, postmarked RICHMOND/ MR 21/ 77/ TASMANIA, with the green two pence Tasmanian stamp cancelled by the barred numeral '76' of Richmond. The day-date has been added in manuscript, as shown by the italicized '21' (Figure 1).

 

 

The reverse of the entire has a reception postmark of the same day at HOBART TOWN/ H/ MR 21/ 77/ TASMANIA, and there are remains of red sealing wax (Figure 2).

 

 

When fully unfolded the entire gives clues as to the identity of the sender, the occupation of the receiver, and it validates that the item is a single sheet, folded in such a way that when posted, it was in the form of a near-perfect isosceles triangle. Although the shape of the posted item is unusual, I doubt that it should have commanded a starting price of USD 72.00. The letter is totally legible, and the contents read as follows (Figure 3):

 

 

"Richmond
March 21st 1877
Dear Sir

Would you be kind enough to send me word what is the price of a German accordion with 10 keys & with 2 slides inside with or without a Bell. I don't want a grand looking one but a durable one in the notes as I have heard that you have sold some very good ones

By sending me price you will oblige
 

Henry Robinson
Richmond"

 

Henry Robinson has not been found living in Richmond (F.B. Manning's Tasmanian Directory 1881-82), although Henry Robinson seems to be a fairly common name in Tasmania.. Richmond is less than 40k north-east of Hobart, with the Derwent River between them, so that same day delivery seemed reasonable in 1877.

Although the State Library of Tasmania search did not find 'Susman' nor 'Leo Susman', the State Library of Tasmania Images site, identified him by the surname alone, and provided 3 excellent photos with limited text. The first of importance was the identification of his store as L. Susman & Co., 78 Murray Street, Hobart; and, another Murray Street Hobart photo showed that the street had businesses, as early as 1857. The firm's building clearly shows the name of the company on its front, and I subsequently learnt that Leo Susman was the senior partner in the firm of general merchants (Figure 4).

 

 

Two photos revealed Leo as a portly, affluent looking man, bearded with a moustache, and one showed him in full Freemason regalia of the Worshipful Master of the Tasmanian Union Lodge No. 536 English Constitution, Hobart Town, 1865-67 (Figure 5).

 

 

Leo was Jewish, born at Altona, near Hamburg, Germany in 1832, where he had been employed from an early age in the Hamburg counting house of an uncle , J.W. Israel (the latter was another Tasmanian of Jewish extraction who became Australia's first Federal Auditor-General)1. Leo left Hamburg in 1853 and arrived in Sydney in January 1854. It was an association with the Australian branch of Israel's firm that took Susman to Hobart where he built up his own large wholesale drapery firm. He was an office bearer of the Hobart Synagogue but was equally if not more involved in Freemasonry.

Leo was one of the many Australian Jews appointed as a justice of the peace and he was self-taught with catholic reading tastes, and with a host of friends from Hobart's artistic and literary circles. He married Mary Ann Lazarus in Hobart Town on 21 March 1855 and their daughter Octavia Susman (?1865-1926), a women's rights activist, was a noted elocutionist, greatly in demand to give literary recitals. Leo Susman died in Hobart on 1 September 1903.

Part of the text was supplied by Margaret Harman, Librarian at the State Library of Tasmania's Heritage Collections, Murray Street, Hobart Tasmania. Figures 4-6 are from the State Library of Tasmania, Images website. For even a greater amount of text, I am indebted to Harry Lewis , Bondi, derived from The Jews in Australia by Terry Rubinstein in Volume 1.

1 J.W. Israel was the first Auditor-General for Australia from 1901-1926, and prior to that he was Auditor-General for Tasmania from 1895-1901.

Addendum (October 2009):   The reverse of a 1906 Tasmanian cover showed additional information concerning the L. Susman & Co. Wholesale Agents, with the following advert:  Taddy's "Premier Navy" C(igarettes) and "Myrtle Grove" Cigarettes.  Obtainable from All Tobacconists & Storekeepers.  It was postmarked OATLANDS/ JY 12/ 06.

 
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