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This registered cover has a single blue ‘ONE SHILLING Laureate’ stamp of Victoria and a pair of the brown-vermillion ‘Emblem’ stamps of Victoria which are cancelled with the barred numeral ‘16' of Ballan, Victoria. It is addressed to John Porter Esq., Manager, Provident Institute Victoria, Queen St, Melbourne. There is a black manuscript ‘Registered 8th January, 1861' as well as a small red unframed circular handstamp REGISTERED/ JA 8/ 61/ MELBOURNE. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The second cover was addressed to the Managing Director, of the, Provident Institute of Victoria, 35 Queen Street, Melbourne and there is a single grey-violet ‘TWO PENCE Emblem’ rouletted stamp of Victoria as well as a bright blue ‘SIX PENCE Queen on Throne’ stamp of Victoria cancelled with the barred numeral ‘2' of Geelong. The reverse was not seen but the date of despatch was May 2, 1861 and it arrived in Melbourne the next day (Figure 2).


Both envelopes were sent to the managing director of the Provident Institute of Victoria, a Mr. John Porter, who is featured in an advertisement in The Argus (Melbourne) on Monday 30 July, 1860 on page 8, as follows: It is headed ‘PROVIDENT INSTITUTE of VICTORIA. DEPOSIT, ESTATE and AGENCY BANK. CAPITAL £55,000, with Power to Increase to ONE MILLION STERLING’.

"Deposits are received daily, and interests of 8 per cent, per annum guaranteed on all sums of £1 and upwards, commencing from the first day of every month, provided that the money is not drawn out before the time of the half yearly balance next ensuing – viz. June 30 for December 31. Money so drawn out receives no interest; with this exception, that if it exceeds £100, and has been in the Institute three months from the date of the previous balance, three months’ interest at the rate of 5 per cent per annum will be allowed. LOANS made on freehold properties and other securities, to be paid off at the option of the borrower at any time, and on which the law costs and survey fees are moderate. Prospectuses and all information given on application, personally or by letter.   Bank hours, 10-3; Saturday 10-12 o’clock. JOHN PORTER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, 35 Queen Street, Melbourne. July 2 1860."

‘The penny dropped’ less than 3 years after I saw this initial advertisement when a 14 page article was seen in The Argus (Melbourne) on Thursday, 8 October 1863, which had the following heading ‘TRIAL OF THE PROVIDENT INSTITUTE DIRECTORS. SUPREME COURT. Special Criminal Sittings, (Before Mr. Justice Williams). There was a complex legal and financial findings covered in this case. The first para on page 5 is given in full: Theodore Hancock, Henry Pownall Sawell, John Greenlaw Foxton and Arthur Anderson, directors of the Provident Institute of Victoria, were indicted for conspiracy to defraud. At the outset I should state that John Porter was not indicted, but his name was mentioned about fifty times during the hearings. Four counsel were engaged in the case for the prosecution, and Hancock, Sawell and Anderson each had 2 lawyers, whereas Foxton had 3 lawyers. The majority of the blame for the failure of the company was against the managing director who saw to the company’s progress on a daily basis, whereas the other 4 directors met only weekly. The demise of the company occurred on 11 September 1862, when its remaining funds were between £1,500 and £2,000 in cash. Porter had been declared insolvent some time before the trial. There was no resolution in the case in this 14-page description, and I have no further information as of December 2010. The hunt for more information is ongoing!

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