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WM. COOPER (VETERINARIAN) & NEPHEWS to MISS EDWARDS, BIBBENLUKE

The cover has a pair of the blue ‘TWO PENCE FOUR CORNERS’ Queensland stamps with the unframed ARAMAC/ AP 4/ 98/ QUEENSLAND and the stamps are obliterated with Aramac’s barred numeral ‘198'. It is addressed to Miss Edwards, "Bibenluke", via Cooma, N.S.Wales (Figure 1).

The reverse has a printed WILLM COOPER & NEPHEWS/ 63 PITT STREET/ SYDNEY in a double oval printed on the flap. There are 4 postmarks on the reverse and the cover left Aramac, Queensland on April 4, 1898 travelled south for ca. 80 km to Barcaldine, QLD, then due west across central-east Queensland to coastal Rockhampton (postmark date not legible), by ship to Sydney arriving noon April 11 and by land south to Cooma (green arrow) and onward to NIMMITYVILLE/ AP12/ 1898/ N.S.W (now known as Nimmitabel (blue arrow), then a short distance south to Bibbenluke (red arrow, the name of the property and the village), most likely the same day. The cover’s reverse and the local map from Cooma to Bibbenluke are shown, respectively in Figures 2 & 3.

I can’t answer why a William Cooper & Nephews of Sydney envelope was used in Aramac Queensland. The Edward’s name was common in the area and Henry S. Edwards, was Superintendent at Bibbenluke Station and many in the area were involved in the sheep industry in the late 1800s. Bibbenluke is just north of the Victoria border and the staightline distance between Aramac Queensland is 1586.3 km, and at least 50% could be added on as a result of the circuitous routing.

 

William Cooper was born in 1813 and in 1833 he became a farrier like his father and grandfather. He practised as a horse doctor, a castrator and general practitioner in animal ailments. He was in fact the forerunner of the veterinary surgeon of to-day. He arrived in Birkhamsted, England in the early 1840s, seeking to start a new business as a veterinary surgeon. It is said that he arrived from London by cart with a black bag containing a few belongings and tools of his trade, such as a pestle and mortar. By 1851 he lived in a small house in the High Street, where he worked on experiments which led to the formulation of his famous sheep dip. Scab, the scourge of sheep, had previously been treated by smears containing tar and goose-grease, tobacco stalks and brimstone. None was very successful.

From 1843 to 1852 William carried out meticulous experiments using a combination of arsenic and sulphur. He finally produced a sheep dip preparation which could be standardised in composition and quality as well as easily stored, packaged and transported. He erected his first mill for manufacture of powder dip at Ravens Lane in 1852. The factory was extended five times during the second half of the 19th century. There were horse powered mills for grinding, kilns used for boiling the liquor, as well as areas for where the sulphur could be ‘dressed’. A picture of Cooper’d Dip Manufactory is shown in Figure 4.

New steam-powered machinery was introduced in the 1860s and carpenters were employed to make boxes to carry the dip. William also developed his own printing works and the lithographic process was used to produce labels which could not be easily imitated. The firm also printed a company document which described the diseases of sheep, their prevention and treatment which also served as an advertisement for the company, shown in Figure 5.

Initially William managed all parts of the business himself, but it soon became to much for him. He had no children, but in 1868 he was joined by his nephew, William Farmer Cooper, born in 1845 to William’s youngest brother, Henry Cooper. William Farmer Cooper initiated the overseas trade in the early 1880s by starting a factory in Chicago, USA and an overseas network of dealers. Unfortunately William Farmer Cooper died at age of 37 in 1882. Two other nephews joined the firm, Richard Powell Cooper, born 1848, and Herbert Henry Cooper, born1850 and also died young in 1891.. William Cooper who began the firm died in 20 May 1885, much mourned by his employees. Although stern and hot-tempered, he treated his workers fairly and many of them stayed with the company all their working lives. It was Richard Powell Cooper who became the sole owner of the company when his uncle died. In the next 22 years, under his direction, the company went from strength to strength. A picture of William Cooper is seen in Figure 6.

It was Richard’s eldest son in 1898 who became a partner in the firm. One of his first acts was to encourage the instillation of a revolutionary machine for the wrapping and weighing of packets of dip. He took over the management of the firm after the death of his father in 1913.

In 1892 the Australian branch of Wm Cooper & Nephews was set up in Sydney by Harry Harrowell. In 1895 they became the agents for Wolseley shearing machinery. In 1919-20 Wm Cooper & Nephews built their Sydney factory and laboratories at Cabarita on the Parramatta River and started local production of sheep dip. In 1920 they purchased a tin mine at Ottery, near Tenterfield N.S.W., which produced arsenic used in the preparation of their sheep dip, but this was sold in 1934. The Mortlake, Sydney factory was in operation until the 1960s or ‘70s. An advert for the company’s treatment of worms in sheep is seen in The Canberra Times, 8 October 1937, is shown in Figure7.

 
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