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FELDHEIM, GOTTHELF & CO., HARDWARE MERCHANTS/IMPORTERS, SYDNEY

I often find that the printed insignias and addresses on the flap of covers, particularly the ‘Belt & Buckle’ diagrams, can give an entree into interesting personages, and this cover is no exception. This cover was sent ‘Per Moana’ to Messrs Barclay & Co., 44 Stone Street, New York, U.S.A. and it had 2 stamps of N.S.W., the green ½d QV and the blue 2d QV, cancelled with the duplex SYDNEY/ AU 4/ 1-PM/ 98/ 36. The vendor states that the blue 2d stamp had a private perfin of FG & CO which tied in with name on the reverse (Figure 1).

The reverse had 2 reception postmarks, a circular P/ 8-( ) 98/ 2 P/ N.Y. and a circular P.O.N.Y./
( )/ ( ). PAID ALL. The flap had a ‘Belt & Buckle’ FELDHEIM GOTTHEIM & CO/ SYDNEY (Figure 2).

At the outset I have to admit that I could not obtain any information on one of the partners, Feldheim, nor on the addressee. Stone Street is at the foot of Manhattan, and it is said to be the first paved street in Manhattan. Barclays Bank was situated close to the address, it was never listed as being at 44 Stone Street, nor could I find Messrs Barclay & Co. at that address.

The name of Feldheim, Gotthelf & Co. has been linked at several Powerhouse Museum sites, as follows: “ ...in the decades that followed Australia’s Federation in 1901, a number of ceramics decorated with Australian motifs were produced in Britain. Wedgwood, Doulton and Worcester in particular designed and made series of wares mostly destined for the Australian market. These tablewares were sold by local retailers, for example Sydney’s Flavelle Bros, Feldheim Gotthelf and Co. and Anthony Hordern”, so the firm was in very good company. In addition to tableware they sold an earthenware chamber pot with a ‘Wattle’ pattern, produced by Doulton & Co. and a 1905 Bismark ‘Rosette’ embossed opal glass lamp produced in Germany for the company. The finding of a 1902 cover addressed to Noumea, New Caledonia in a Spink philatelic auctions, proved that the company also catered for clients outside Australia.

Barrack Street between York and Clarence Streets, Sydney was predominantly warehousing of grand classical styles. The importing firm of Feldheim, Gotthelf & Co. occupied a site on the corner of Barrack and Clarence Streets, Sydney formerly occupied by a Family Hotel in 1880. An illuminated address was presented to Moritz Gotthelf by the employees of Messrs. Feldheim, Gotthelf Ltd. on 29 December 1911 on the eve of his departure from Sydney “to express their appreciation of your many acts of generosity and kindness, and beg your acceptance of this slight token of acknowledgment of your sterling qualities, sympathetic and genial manner, and tactful administration, which command the admiration and esteem of all whom you have been brought in contact with, both in your business career and private life”. This illuminated Address also shows a picture of the Company building (Figure 3).

There was a separate sheet which read in part as follows: “We sincerely trust your journey may prove the means of restoring you to perfect health, and that you may thoroughly enjoy the change and relaxation so necessary to you. Wishing you and Mrs. Gotthelf and Family every happiness and prosperity, a pleasant Voyage and speedy return. We are Dear Sir, Yours sincerely ... signed by 27 names”.
In advertisements the firm listed itself as General British, Continental and American Merchants, and the company name also appears in a listing of gun suppliers, with an address at 143-145 York Street, Sydney. A short biographical note was found for Moritz Gotthelf as follows: Moritz Gotthelf born ca. 1841 - died 1926. Business man arrived at Sydney in 1860. In 1911 he was a director of the firm Messrs. Feldheim, Gotthelf, Ltd. He was a prominent member of the Sydney Jewish Community.

In spite of the fact that he was slandered in a play in Sydney at the time, as Gotthief, he must have been highly esteemed to be elected in 1906 as one of 13 members on the Board of Directors of the prestigious Sydney hospital, The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, in the company of 5 knighted individuals (of which one was the Chancellor of the University of Sydney), another 2 were doctors and an additional one was a Senator. In 1910, Moritz and his wife Sarah lived in the historic Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney when his son-in-law George Michaelis bought the property on the death of the former owner, Lady Macleay. A photo of Moritz and Sarah in the 1860s is seen in Figure 4.

Information about the other principal of the firm, Feldheim, still eludes me, even to any certainty about his first name.

 
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