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AUSTRALIA: THE EARLY SWEDISH CONNECTION & THE ‘OAT’ CACHET

I was surprised to learn of the Swedish connection with Australia when I came across an interesting censored airmail cover on Ebay. It had a printed BY AIR MAIL VIGNETTE and the sender was identified as the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Sydney. There was a typed ‘LONDON-SWEDEN’, overstruck by a boxed SYDNEY/ 4.45 PM/ 1 14 DEC 1/ 1943/ N.S.W. AUST postmark as part of a wavy roller cancellation of the brown-purple 1d QE and 6d kookaburra stamps. The cover was addressed to a firm in Stockholm, Sweden. There were 2 censor labels, a red ‘OPENED BY CENSOR’ applied in Sydney and a black ‘3495 / P.C. 90' printed label (originated in Sweden?). The most dominant feature of this cover was the large oval with O.A.T. handstamp. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

 

The second airmail cover had a manuscript ‘Australia-Greece-Sweden’ and it had a brown 2 shilling ‘Roo on map of Australia’ and a red 2d KGV Head stamp both canceled by 3-AIR MAIL-3/ 5.15P 22 JA 37/ SYDNEY N.S.W. It was addressed to a Swedish company, and the sender’s name was printed as ‘Royal Swedish Consulate General, Sydney’. The reverse was not seen (Figure 2).

I am indebted to the paper of Michael Barden in the Australian Journal of Philately, No. 107 March 2009, pp. 5-8, which shows two letters with OAT cachets to Vichy, France. He states: "OAT cachets were applied to the top letter of a bundle of 60 letters to signify ‘Onward Air Transmission’ (or Travel) beyond London whether paid for or not. This was to simplify mail handling during wartime .... OAT covers are ‘sleepers’ and relatively rare, some 4000 only having been catalogued worldwide by 2006 for all the mail handled during this period. OAT markings occurred from 1940 to 1973 with their greatest use being between 1940 and 1946. Mostly they were applied at London during the war and were oval framed. In 1945 the London cachets were smaller and rectangular.....Tied and marked bundles travelled in open bags. Had there been enough mail to warrant a closed bag from London to its destination, markings would only occur on the bag’s label, not on the letters themselves."

The Swedish Chamber’s website stated that the first known Swede to visit Australia was Daniel Solander, a botanist who sailed into Botany Bay with Captain Cook on April 29, 1770, and that the Chamber in 1914 erected a monument at Kurnell, Sydney to the memory of Solander. Further examples of the Swedish importance for Australia were cited as follows: By the end of the 1800's Swedish trade with Australia already was well established, for the Ericsson telephone handsets were in use, Gustav de Laval’s cream separator had been introduced to the dairy industry, and the Transatlantic Shipping Company had begun regular shipping service between Sweden and Australia.

Solander’s name, but not his nationality was known to me and I wanted to know more. Daniel Carlsson Solander (February 19, 1733- May 16, 1782) was born in Pitea, Sweden and was the son of a Lutheran rector. He studied under Linnaeus at Uppsala University and traveled to England in 1760 to promote Linnaeus’ new system of botanical classification. He was an assistant librarian at the British Museum from 1763, and was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in the following year. Afterwards he held the position of Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum.

In 1768, Solander and his Finnish fellow scientist Dr. Herman Sporing were employed by Joseph Banks, to join him on James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific Ocean on board the Endeavour. They were the botanists who inspired the name Botanist Bay (which later became Botany Bay), Cook's expedition's first landing place in Australia. Solander helped make and describe an important collection of Australian plants while the Endeavour was beached at the site of present-day Cooktown for nearly 7 weeks, after being damaged on the Great Barrier Reef.

On their return in 1771 he became Banks’ secretary and librarian and lived in his house at Soho Square, London. Between 1773 and 1782 he was Keeper of the Natural History Department of the British Museum. Solander invented the ‘box-form box’, the Solander box which continues to be used in libraries and archives, as the most suitable way of storing prints and drawings, herbarium materials and some manuscripts.

He died at Banks' home in Soho Square of an illness, aged 49. Solander Gardens in the east end of London is named after him, as is Solander Island off the South Island of New Zealand. Many plants were named in his honour including the Nothofagus solandri (a fast growing, to 25 metres, black beech suitable for slope stabilisation).

 

The Swedish Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1911 in Sydney. Today, the Chamber is a modern, membership funded, networking organisation with around 180 members, both large and small. The Chamber provides a platform for the social interaction between Swedish and Australian business in Australia. A close relationship exists between the Chamber, the Swedish Consulates, the Swedish Embassy and also the Swedish Trade Council in Sydney, where the administration office is located.

To my surprise Sweden is but one of at least 11 overseas countries that maintain in Sydney a Chamber of Commerce: United States, Singapore, Netherlands, Brazil, Fiji, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, and Sweden (the latter at 44 Market Street, Sydney 2000 N.S.W.).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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