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DERWENT BANK, HOBART TOWN: LETTER to JOSEPH DIXON, CASHIER, 1842

This ‘entire’, which predates the issue of stamps in Van Diemen’s Land, has a black ms. rating of ‘4' and it is addressed to Joseph Dixon Esq, Derwent Bank, Hobart Town (Figure 1).

The reverse has red sealing wax and a rare boxed un-named handstamp dated 11 JA 11/ 1842, the date being in 2 lines, bordered by a single-lined oblong 25 x 16 mm. struck in black. This is the earliest known date and the latest known date was 10 May 1847 (Figure 2).

Un-named Tasmanian date-stamps are of two distinct varieties that have the date only, and they appear to have been used only at Hobart: There are 2 varieties of a single-lined circle of 28 mm., and 2 varieties of the above boxed variety as seen here. The boxed variety as described in Campbell, Purves and Viney’s Tasmania: The Postal History and Postal Markings, 1962, pp. 14-15, shown in Fig. 21 on p. 13, has rounded ends to the four sides of the oblong, which are not seen in Figure 3.

The old letter is difficult to transcribe, but at top right there is an address which does not exist as a village or town in any state, but most likely is the name of a residence or property. The date of writing was January 9th of the year 1842 confirms the boxed date stamp reception on the reverse. In the body of the letter there is a request to “cancel Mr. Colman’s acceptance to me for £45" and the letter is signed “Arch. McIntyre”. At lower left, the addressee on the front is confirmed to be ‘Joseph Dixon, Derwent Bank’ (Figure 4).

Joseph Dixon has proven a difficult man to research, other than he has been identified as being the cashier at the Derwent Bank, Hobart Town from at least April 1834 until at least October 1849. In addition he was mentioned in 3 separate law cases at Hobart Town related to monetary matters, where there were legal arguments about the disposition of cheques at the Derwent Bank by other individuals. Dixon’s only finding of a personal nature was a report of the marriage in May 1834 of Joseph Dixon, Derwent Bank, at the New Church in Campbell Street, Hobart to Alice, daughter of Mr. Russell, Hobart Town.

The Derwent Bank was established as a partnership by a group of Hobart citizens, including several officials, and it opened for business in January 1828. At first it had seven directors, but they were reduced to three, and the managing director was William Hamilton, who went to London as the bank’s representative. He was succeeded by Charles Swanston who bought the shares, and assumed direct control of the bank. An early drawing of the Derwent Bank is seen in Figure 5.

Under Swanston’s management the Derwent Bank prospered, attracting large amounts of overseas money. He was responsible for the introduction of the overdraft system into Australian banking; in 1834 the bank became the Derwent Savings Bank. In October 1841 Swanston converted the bank into a mortgage bank, and as the depression of the 1840's deepened, the flow of overseas money decreased. Swanston managed to keep the bank going for another 5 years, but the bank went into liquidation in 1849. The bank issued its own cheques, and an example of an ornate £5 cheque of the 1820s is seen in Figure 6.

A cheque for £20 dated December 1838 may have passed through Joseph Dixon’s hands for he was the Derwent bank cashier at that time! (Figure 7).

 
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