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Two N.S.W. covers, both sent per the same ship, appeared on eBay addressed to Messrs Newell, Melbourne, Victoria dated 1860 and 1861 respectively, but only the latter one caught my fancy, for I did not recall seeing the duplex cancel previously. I was not surprised that the specific cancel was not found in my modest collection of early Sydney cancels, but I was at a loss to find it was not listed in the duplex cancels of the authoritative monograph, The Standard Circular Datestamps and Related Markings, The Postal History of Sydney, Volume 6, by R. Tobin and A.E. Orchard, 1995.

On reading the foreword to this book, the reason for the duplex not being listed was found, as it was not eligible to be listed. The foreword stated: “In this volume we examine the mainline circular datestamps in use at the GPO Sydney from 1813 to 1995. Essentially, these are the datestamps applied by hand (my bolding) on the counters at the GPO, or in the two main mail handling sections, the Inland Mail Room and the Ship Letter Room.”

These 2 small covers were sent via the Rangatura (this spelling most clearly seen on the 1860 cover, which is not the cover reviewed). I wish to dispense with the ship’s name first, for no information has been found about it as here-spelled, or by several other spelling variations, for this time period, 1860-61. The closest ship’s name found was Rangatiki in 1863, and 2 other unlikely partial sound-alikes were Rangatira 1908 and Rangitoto in 1949.

The cover bears a near unique duplex cancel on the mauve N.S.W 6d Laureate perf 12 (issued 1860-63) and the date-stamp portion of the duplex is different from all other date-stamps recorded by Tobin & Orchard. It consists of a single circle, and from top to bottom it reads “D (which is off centre to the right)/ SYDNEY/ SP 24/ 61" (Figure 1).

The obliterator of the duplex is faint on the dark stamp and in my ignorance I thought that it was an oval of bars enclosing “N.S.W.” A close-up examination of the obliterator gives a hint of a large figure “2", but even with the ‘eye of the faithful’ there is no hint that it is enclosed in a diamond border (Figure 2).

This puzzle is solved on p. 63 where two different Sydney duplex machine date-stamps are shown in The Postal History of New South Wales 1788-1901 edited by John White (1988). What follows is an abbreviated version of the text on p. 62. In the late 1850s Charles Rideout developed a machine in England which applied a duplex impression at a rate faster than hand-stamping. It was suggested by an employee of the Sydney GPO that the machines should be tried out in NSW.

Two rejected Rideout machines were sent to Sydney, and the first of these, M 1 showed a numeral ‘2' and the other M 2 showed a numeral’3', in a vertical diamond centred in the horizontal bars, of the obliterator. The date-stamp portion which showed ‘SYDNEY’ had 3 lines of removable plugs. An additional difference between the 2 types was that M 1 had only one time code letter in the top line, whereas M 2 had two. The machines were also used for back-stamping covers, with the obliterator removed.. The machines met with little favour in Sydney and were returned to England. The dates of usage of both types of cancel are shown in Figure 3.

Little information has been gleaned about the Melbourne company of Messrs Newell but its origins are interesting. It was founded in Melbourne and Sydney in 1853 when Andrew Newell and others in Boston, decided to set up as commission agents in both cities, importing general merchandise, and exporting wool. The firm was carried on by A. Newell II, then A. Newell III, then Frank Newell. The business dealt in imported items large (prefabricated timber house) and small (sold laxatives). The Sydney Branch was split off, eventually to become R. Towns & Co. (founded by Robert Towns, NSW parliamentarian and W.C. Wentworth’s brother-in-law). The Cuddihy family became involved with the firm, and Jack Cuddihy closed down the firm probably in 1955.

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