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CARL LAUBMAN / HAROLD PANK, CERTIFIED OPTICIANS to TUTUILA, SAMOA

The advertising cover for Laubman & Pank shows an array of 8 Gold Medals won in Exhibitions, dated 1920-25. The company is shown as Certified Opticians, 75 Rundle St. Adelaide, and the cover was addressed to Mr. Leon Hertado, Naval Radio Station, Tutuila, Samoa. The three red 1½d KGV Head stamps are cancelled ADELAIDE/ 3/ 5-A 23 AP 25/ STH AUSTRALIA. The reverse had no postal markings (Figure 1).

Carl Wilhelm Laubmann, optician, inventor and cofounder of the firm was born on 11 May 1878 at Stepney, an inner suburb of Adelaide. He was the eldest of 7 children of John Laubman, carpenter and joiner, and Sophie Caroline Matte, both of German origin. His younger brother died at infancy and he was raised with 5 sisters, educated at Norwood Primary school. He left school at 14 and was trained as an optician by the noted Adelaide ophthalmologist, Dr. T.K. Hamilton. At the age of 21 his father died and the family’s financial situation worsened. He set up optician services in Broken Hill and travelled to outback places of White Cliffs and Wilcannia. He married a Broken Hill girl, Maude May Sullivan.

In 1907, a 25 year old Adelaide optometrist, Harold George Pank whose parents were of English origin (1882-1935), paid Laubmann a courtesy call whilst visiting Broken Hill, and they became firm friends. They discussed a business partnership, no firm commitment was made, but in 1908 Pank again suggested a partnership which was accepted. The Laubmann family moved to Adelaide, and they commenced business as opticians in 1908 in Victoria Square, Adelaide, moving to Rundle Street for greater exposure to patients. In 1913 Laubmann was a foundation member of the South Australian Optical Association, and he was immediately elected to its council, which he held for many years. With the outbreak of WWI in 1914, Carl anglicised his name to Charles William Laubman, and the firm became Laubman & Pank. They diversified into all manner of optical instruments, lenses and processes, for which patents were granted in Australia and overseas. In 1927 the prosperous partners visited optical makers in Britain, Europe and the United States.

In 1926 and 1934 the firm weas joined by younger family members, and with Harold Pank’s death in 1935, Lauman became the sole proprietor until a company was formed in 1937, in which he became governing director. Shortly before WWII the company diversified further into hearing aids and photography with more branch offices being added. Carl relinquished his control of the business to his 2 protegees, Don Schultz and David Pank, who bought a controlling interest in the firm, which became the largest optometric firm in Australia. Carl retired in 1956 and died at Henley Beach, at the age of 80 on 8 July 1958.

The addressee, Leon Hertado has not been identified, but the first radio station at the naval station was first operated from a hill outside of the naval station. In 1917 WWI was still raging and the radio station was dismantled, the equipment was installed in a new building. This building now serves as Territorial Registrar’s Office in U.S. Samoa. A picture of the Naval Station Tutuila Radio Station, constructed in 1918, is seen in Figure 2.

 

American Samoa, is a group of five volcanic islands and two coral atolls located some 2,600 mi south of Hawaii in the South Pacific, is an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the U.S. It includes the eastern Samoan islands of Tutuila, Aunu'u, and Rose; three islands (Ta'u, Olosega, and Ofu) of the Manu'a group; and Swains Island. Around 1000 B.C. Proto-polynesians established themselves in the islands, and their descendants are one of the few remaining Polynesian societies. The Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen sighted the Manu'a Islands in 1722. American Samoa has been a territory of the United States since April 17, 1900, when the High Chiefs of Tutuila signed the first of two Deeds of Cession for the islands to the U.S. (Congress ratified the Deeds in 1929.) Swains Island, which is privately owned, came under U.S. administration in 1925. The largest island of Tutuila is shown in the red box, as Figure 3.

 
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