This somewhat battered and stained ‘cover’ adds to the information on the multifaceted Alfred Howitt. It was sent by him to Cyrus E. Doyle Esq, Werrinia, Kunopia, Moree, N.S.W. and it has the green 1d Bell designed Victorian stamp postmarked with BAIRNSDALE/ AU 31/ 77/ VICTORIA duplex with barred numeral ‘174' (the first duplex, which is not rated by Freeman & White, 1997). Along the top of the cover there is a black ink manuscript ‘Ethnological circular only from/ A W Howitt Bairnsdale’, and there is a portion of red sealing wax at the lower edge (Figure 1).
The second ‘cover’ with the blue 2d N.S.W. stamp postmarked with an indistinct numeral of ‘364' rays of Kunopia is addressed to A.W. Howitt Esq, Police Magistrate, Bairnsdale, Victoria and there is a black ink manuscript along the top ‘Circular only’ (Figure 2).
The vendor provides another image of the items for the above two ‘covers’ are part of a single entire which he describes it as a ‘folded circular’ and there are ‘various transits including Melbourne and Sydney indicating carried by coastal steamer’ and the item ‘illustrates differing postal rates for inter-state circulars that applied in Victoria and NSW respectively’. Thus this entire traveled a round-trip between Kunopia and Bairnsdale (Figure 3).
There is in addition an indistinct Type 1A unbordered handstamp with double arcs on both sides of N.S.W. for Kunopia, and fortuitously there is an example of this in Volume 2 of Hopson & Tobin’s postmarks of NSW. The original post office for Kunopia was open from 1862 until 1912, and Type 1A is only recorded from 1863-81, and is uncommon (Figure 4).
Kunopia (red arrow) is south of the Queensland border, north of Boomi (green arrow) and about 100 km north of Moree (blue arrow), so that the inclusion of this town in the address is somewhat surprising, for the routing (Figure 5).
There is a significant population of Aborigines even to-day in the area around Boomi (dark brackish water) and Moree (variously ‘a long spring’; ‘water hole’; and, ‘a stone’). Alex Wightman was appointed the first postmaster at Kunopia, his salary in the first year being £12, and one of his sureties against default was Sydney Burdekin, a very rich grazier of Kunopia whose family owned large tracts of land in Queensland and northern NSW, and who became mayor of Sydney 1890-91, a member of NSW Legislative Assembly, as well as a member of the Aborigines’ Protection Board.
In the 1872 Post Office Directory of Kunopia, 28 names, all males, are listed with their occupations, six of them had the surname Doyle and all were squatters. Two of the six men, Cyrus E. and William J. Doyle are listed as residing at the property, Wirrina, Kunopia. In Australia, “squatter” refers to early farmers who occupied huge tracts of largely undeveloped land on which they ran large numbers of sheep and cattle. Initially, often having no legal rights to the land, they gained its usage by being the first (and often the only) Europeans in the area).
There is strong evidence at the Australian Institute of Aborigine and Torres Strait Islander (AIATSIS) Library site that Howitt and Cyrus E. Doyle were in frequent Aboriginal-related correspondence from 1877 until 1882, but the actual content of their correspondence has not been found to date, with one exception. Howitt wrote: “I give the Kamilaroi classes and totems in their complete form, which have been carefully worked out for me by Mr. C.E. Doyle, of Kunopia , near Moree.” The Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay language belongs to the Kamilaroi people and to Kamilaroi country, northern N.S.W. (Figure 6).