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KWONG, SING & CO. LTD, GLEN INNES N.S.W. A FAMILY DYNASTY

This cover has been described as very rare by the vendor on account of use of regular postage as postage due. It is addressed to Messrs. Kwong, Sing & Co. Ltd, Grey Street, Glen Innes and the red 2d Kingsford Smith stamp is cancelled with T.P.O 2 NORTH/ UP 21MY31/N.S.W. It has a fine double ring LATE FEE/ 1D/ TO PAY, as well as a green 1d KGV Head stamp cancelled with a purple manuscript between horizontal bars of ‘Postage Due’ (Figure 1).

 The history of the addressed store is told by Harvey Young, a grandson of Percy Puck Sing Young (Kwan Hong Kee)who was first of the Kwan clan to migrate to Australia. He was an adventurous young man with entrepreneurial skills, he borrowed money from his brother and left China in 1876. He worked as a cook on the 126 foot, 395 ton sailing ship called the ‘Brisbane’. On arrival, he found work as a cook, hawker and salesman in various Chinese establishments in Sydney, Newcastle and Narrandera. Initially, he worked for board and lodgings only and at night, after work, he studied to learn the English language. A picture of Percy Young (Kwan Hong Kee) is seen in Figure 2.  

In 1883 he became a naturalized Australian citizen. In 1894 he joined the staff of the Kwong Sing War general store in Glen Innes. By 1911 he had purchased the store and, with the assistance of his large family, developed and expanded its operations. The Kwong Sing store had been established by Mr Wong Chee in 1886. The store initially traded with the numerous Chinese miners and rural workers in the district and subsequently with the broader community. The store was an essential hub of the community for its customers. It supplied all their basic needs: groceries, patent medicines, clothing, soft goods, furniture and bedding manufacturing, farm tools, firearms, explosives, fuel. A Kwong Sing War advertisement in the Glen Innes Guardian is seen in Figure 3. 

 

Patent medicines were sold including Clements Tonic, Doans Backache Pills, Indian Root Pills, Warns Wonder Wool, and Carters Little Liver Pills, and Hardy’s Tintara wine was bought in bulk and bottled on the premises for sale. The grocery department sold and packed bulk flour, salt, sugar, rice, dates and other dried fruits in individual packets.

The family was enlarged by the sponsoring of six of his nephews to come from China to Glen Innes where he provided for food, lodging, business training and language skills, and then with financial assistance to set up businesses of their own. From the turn of the century until WW2 there was a remarkable spread of family businesses particularly in northern N.S.W. There were family stores in Glen Innes, Emmaville, Stanthorpe and Texas (Queensland), Casino, Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Kyogle, Werris Creek, Inverell and Bundarra.. The Kwong Sing store in Glen Innes was still owned and managed by the third and fourth generation descendants of Percy Young in 1997 (Figure 4). 

 

I am indebted to a remarkable paper written by Harvey Young for the text and Figures 2, 3 & 4.

Addendum (March 2010):  An additional cover was found 3 years after the original paper was written, and it has a printed re-address to Kwong Sing War, Glen Innes.

This cover is of particular interest as it is addressed to the Rev. James Fong Yee, the Chinese Presbyterian Missionary, who is the subject of another paper at this website, in the category Missionaries & Religion (Figure 5).

 

 

 
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