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CHARLES COWLES of COWLES & DUNN, GUNSMITH & FIREARMS DEALER

This advertising cover was sent from Cowles & Dunn, Gunmakers and Importers of Ammunition, 72 King Street, Sydney to John M. Evans, Dinner Hill, Peelwood (N.S.W.). The red 1d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamp was cancelled with a roller cancel of SYNEY/ JE 12/ 6-15P N.S.W./ 1913. There was no cancellation on the reverse (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Click to enlarge.

There was an enclosed letter dated 11 June 1913, and the advertisement gave further information about the company: established 1864; practical gun & rifle manufacturers; by appointment to His Excellency the Governor; and medals awarded Sydney 1870-1879 & Melbourne 1881. The firm was agents for F.C, Scott’s celebrated pigeon and field guns & Winchester Arms Co. The letter was dated Sydney11th June 1913, addressed to John M. Evans, and it read: We have the pleasure to acknowledge receipt of yours of the 9 th inst and to thank you for your order for a 32 inch barrel Gruner Gun which we have forwarded by parcels post this day and we enclose receipted a/c herewith also stamps for balance. Trusting that this will give entire satisfaction, Yours faithfully, Cowles & Dunn. PS We made the pulls as light as safety permitted. There was also an illustrated receipt, purple stamped ‘PAID’ for £18 14 0. (Figures 2 - 4).

Figure 2: Click to enlarge.
Figure 3: Click to enlarge.
Figure 4: Click to enlarge.

Charles Cowles, gunsmith and firearms dealer, was born on 8 March 1837 at Topcroft, Norfolk, England, son of James Cowles, publican, and his wife Honour, née Seago. On 28 February 1864 at Walworth, Surrey, Cowles married Cecilia Emma Dunn; with his employer, William Green, they migrated to Queensland. After moving to Sydney in 1865 Green became ill, decided to return to England and left the gunsmithing business he had established at 96 Market Street, Sydney, to Cowles. In 1867 he moved to 205 Pitt Street, and in December 1875 to Cannon House, 411 George Street. In 1885 he formed the partnership of Cowles, Dunn & Co. with his brother-in-law Arthur Dunn. About 1892 the name of the business changed to Cowles & Dunn, by which it was known until after World War II.

Cowles was an accomplished shot; he had been a member of the Metropolitan Pigeon Club and in the late 1880s was a member of the North Sydney Gun Club. In 1884 he moved his home from Hadleigh in North Sydney to Myahgah, Belmont Road, Mosman, and from June 1893 to January 1898 was a member of the first Mosman Council, serving as alderman and later as second mayor. He returned several times to England, the last in 1904, and visited America.

The gunsmithing business of which Cowles was principal was undoubtedly the largest in Australia during the second half of the nineteenth century. Cowles was agent for the English gunmaking firm of W. & C. Scott & Son. Numerous firearms, quite possibly made in England, bear the names of C. Cowles; Cowles, Dunn & Co.; and Cowles & Dunn.

He died at Mosman on 24 December 1923, predeceased by his wife by a few months, but survived by four sons and four daughters of their ten children. He was buried in the Congregational section of the Gore Hill cemetery. His home Myahgah became Mena Hospital. Cowles Road and Myahgah Road, both in Mosman, perpetuate the memory of Charles Cowles, gunsmith.

Three advertisements give a little more information concerning C. Cowles Gunmaker, the first derived from the Town and Country Journal 1875, the second from the Illustrated Sydney News 1876 and the third from the Country & Post Office Gazette of N.S.W. 1878-9. The name of the firm during this period was C. Cowles (Figures 5-7).

Figure 5: Click to enlarge.
Figure 6: Click to enlarge.
Figure 7: Click to enlarge.

I acknowledge that the entire text concerning Charles Cowles was taken from the on-line version of his biography in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum (August 2009): Mr. John M. Evans of the first cover in 1913 was a repeat customer in 1924 and he still resided at the same address of 'Dinner Hill' , Peelwood (N.S.W.) . The front of the cover had the Cowles & Dunn advert "Gunmakers and Importers of Ammunition" of 72 King St Sydney (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Click to enlarge.

The reverse had no postarks but there was an interesting stick-on label of ammunition advertising 'Nobel's Unrivalled Ammunition in Stock' (at the gold end) as well as 'Ballistite (Dense) Empire (Bulk)' at the red end (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Click to enlarge.

There were 2 inserts in the cover, the first describing the repair of the bolt of a gun, instead of replacing a new bolt which would have cost 40 shillings. They explain that "we have repaired a great many bolts in the same way and they alwaus stand" (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Click to enlarge.

The second insert is the bill for the gun bolt at a considerably less cost of only 15 shillings, 4 pence (Figure 11).

Figure 11: Click to enlarge.

 

 

Addendum (April 2010):  John Cowles Snr. a grandson of Charles has provided me with information on his grandfather.  Charles was elected as an alderman on the first Mosman Municipal Council in Sydney in 1893.  He became the second Mayor in 1894-95 and remained on Council until 1898 as an alderman (Figure 12).

Myahgah, Belmont Road was built by Charles in 1880;  after a period as Menah Private Hospital, it was acquired by the Mosman Public School, Sydney 1n 1966, and was demolished to make way for the Infants' School buiding (Figure 13).

 
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