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G. & W. SHIERLAW, MERCER, TAILOR/OUTFITTER: S.A. "FRONTS ONLY"

Is there a stamp collector of South Australian and Northern Territory covers, that has not seen "fronts only" applied to covers addressed to Shierlaw & Co., sometimes with ‘Tailor’ in the address, at Hindley Street, Adelaide? The use of South Australia colonial stamps spread into the time period of the use of the red 1d KGV stamp, and this ‘Squared Circle’ postmark of CHARRA/ SE 8/ 15/ S.A is such an example (Figure 1).

Charra is 33 km west of Ceduna and 766 km north-west of Adelaide. The squared circle postmark was in use at least from 1892 until 1918, and the diameter of the circle was 24½ mm, there being no time markings The post office at Charra opened in 1865, closed in 1867 and reopened in 1891, and closed permanently the last day of 1966. Its earliest ‘Numeral in a Circle’ was ‘218', and that number was later reallocated to Glenburnie.

Another fine Messrs Sherlaw (sic) front was addressed to the company as Tailors, 16 & 18 Hindly Street, Adelaide, and the red 1d 'Roo on Map of Australia' stamp was cancelled with STIRLING WEST/ 4.45P-2 AP 14/ STH AUST (Figure 2). 

For several years I could find no access to philatelic information about Shierlaw & Co., and became disenchanted about my failures, and I destroyed the scans of many fronts sent to the company. Then quite by chance I found information on pages 319-320 in my copy of The Postal History of the Northern Territory, 1824-1988 by Edward A. Williams, published in 1992 by the Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria, Melbourne.

The following section is extracted in full from this book: "Messrs. Shierlaw & Co. An Adelaide clothing and dry goods mail order house, which at one time must have filed orders and enclosing covers, removing backs of the covers to conserve storage space. About 1971-1972 a large quantity of fronts and a very small number of complete covers came onto the market in Adelaide - from the late squared circle period through the early Commonwealth period, mostly from South Australian post offices, but including covers from a wide range of Northern Territory Offices. Fronts with the larger Hermannsburg squared circle, and squared circles from Arltunga, Winnecke, Powell Creek, Daly Waters, and of course Alice Springs were among the Territorial niceties. There was also a good range of post offices in the early 1d red King George V period cancelled with the Type 4 datestamps.

When the Shierlaw fronts wereoriginally being hawked around Adelaide, no one was interested . The State stamp fronts were sold for 10c each to anyone thought silly enough to buy them. The lot was finally purchased solely for the George V covers for possible varieties on the stamp itself. Eventually Peter Fazackerley circulated memo sheets listing State and Commonwealth covers, with prices ranging from less than one dollar to twenty dollars and higher.

The Shierlaw covers are a major source of knowledge of datestamp knowledge usage from the turn of the century through World War I. Most Northern Territory postal history collections display at least one Shierlaw front. Many rarities of the period may be known only (as) one (of) these cover/fronts." I quote this in full as it may be little known, except to collectors of Northern Territory of Australia fronts and covers.

What follows is totally non-philatelic and largely was found at the National Library of Australia’s beta newspaper site. The firm’s first advertisement seen was seen in The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide) on the 25 and 26 September 1860 where it was described as New Tailoring and Outfitting Establishment, 31, Hindley-Street. G, & W. Shierlaw have much pleasure in announcing that they have OPENED the above establishment with a large and varied assortment of first-rate READY-MADE CLOTHING, and CLOTHS, &c., and as they are determined to sell only for cash, a visit to their establishment is necessary to convince all that their prices for Ordered and Ready-Mad Goods are suited to the present depressed state of the times. The Tailoring Department is conducted under the supervision of G. Shierlaw, and he feels confident that from the long experience he has had as cutter he will not fail to give entire satisfaction to those who may favor them with their orders. N.B. – Third door east from Bank-street. (Figure 3).

This advertisement was followed by an undated advertisement in a Western Australia Directory describing the Shierlaw & Co. as The Leading Goldfields Tailoring Establishment in Perth, with All kinds of Men’s Mercery, Hats &c., at 108, Barrack Street, Perth (Figure 4).

On 17 April 1861, by Rev. S. Keen, George C, Shierlaw, draper Hindley-street was married to Mary Jane, eldest surviving daughter of the late Mr.William Wilson, formerly of Doncaster, Yorkshire. In August, 1861 there was a short para stating that the Shierlaw company was given permission to provide the fatigue dress for the West Adelaide Rifles. In October 1861 Brother Shierlaw was inducted in the Ancient Order of Foresters. In 1874, the firm was advertising in The Northern Territory Times, which probably accounted for the reception of orders from the Territory.

George Crooks Shierlaw died before May 1, 1891 for his will was probated for £16,280 on that date. William Shierlaw, draper, brother of George Crooks Shierlaw was born c. 1839 and died in 1920, and his name was mentioned in relation to subdivision of land of a suburb of Adelaide originally known as Chicago. The same reference to Chicago also mentions a Joseph L. Shierlaw and a Samuel B. Shierlaw in 1911. A previously unmentioned John E. Shierlaw, a tailor, died in October 1904. George’s wife Mary Jane died at her residence at Burnside, Riverside Road, Hawthorn, Victoria on February 7, 1915, and her death notice was inserted by their daughter. This meagre information is the sum total that I have on the Shierlaw family history to date. As reported in The Argus (Melbourne) 24 October 1891, Mary Anne Shierlaw had given the Trustees of Way College £1,000 to provide a scholarship for young men entering the Bible Christian ministry.

George Shierlaw had been involved in a case involving THE REAL PROPERTY ACT which involved his unnamed father and the proceedings were reported in The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide), 3 November 1860. George’s petition was unique, at that time, for he was asking the Registrar-General to grant him a certificate of title to two sections of land as heir-at-law of his father, who was deceased intestate. The resolution of the case was not found.

There is a Shierlaw Street in Richmond, South Australia. The surname Shierlaw originated in England, but has long been found in Scotland.

I have found nothing to suggest that any of the Shierlaw family were stamp collectors!

Addendum (May 2010):  Five more fronts were found addressed to the Shierlaw company at Ebay, and the 5 were different from the fronts that I had seen over the past 8 years, for all were registered covers.  One had a squared circle of Alice Springs/AP10/ 06 and the S.A. stamps totaled five pence.  The next  had a squared circle of Angaston/1/ OC/ 2/ 14 and the 'Roo' stamps totaled four pence.  The third had squared circles Talia (date uncertain) with four red 1d KGV Heads, and the next 2 had squared circles of Angaston/ OC 2/ 14, with 3 black brown 1.5d KGV Heads cancelled with a faint Mount Wedge squared circle.  The last had the same 3 stamps and were canceled with  Hanson squared circles.  These are shown in Figures 5-9. 

 
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