Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover front gives no hint of the reverse, it is postmarked with two strikes of LAUNCESTON/ A/ NO 1/ 95/ P-R Tasmania duplex on a pair of the pink 1d and a single ½d orange side-face stamps. It was addressed to The Buffalo Spring & Gear Co., Buffalo N.Y., US America. There is a purple marking RECEIVED/ DEC 19 1895/ B.S. & C. Co., placed at the left (Figure 1).

The reverse has 3 postmarks, SAN FRANCISCO CAL/ DEC 14/ 1895/ PAID ALL , a poorly struck NEW YORK, NY STA. B. and a BUFFALO N.Y./ DEC 19/ 10 45AM/ 1895. These partially interfere with the graphic red advertising matter that occupies the reverse. It reads: CHAFFCUTTER,/ HARRISON & McGREGOR’S HORSE WORKS,/ HORSEWORKS/ J.C. FERGUSON & CO., LAUNCESTON. The centre illustration shows four pieces of machinery linked by cables (Figure 2).

I have to admit to the fact that I am not sure as to what the pulley wheels and cables do. Unfortunately, there is very limited information available on the internet concerning the addressed Buffalo Company, other than several sites on eBay have had the 1891 Buffalo Spring & Gear Co. catalogue for sale. The company was still listed at Buffalo in 1901.

John C. Ferguson & Co., at 67 Brisbane St., Launceston, Wholesale & Retail Ironmongers, were importers of English and American Hardware, and their advertisement in the Post Office Directory of 1896-7 shows a long list of items: Guns, Dynamite, Gelignite, Fuse and all Miners’ requisites, Fishing, Blacksmiths’, Builders’ and Furnishing ironmongers. They were agents for Forsyth’s Binder Twine, Belfast Celebrated Seaming and Roping Twine, Guns, Greener’s Guns, James Stewart’s Scotch Saddlery, Harrison & McGregor’s Reapers & Mowers, Hall’s Fishing Tackle, Alcock’s Fishing Tackle. The store, located on the corner of Brisbane and George Streets, shows that it was a large concern (Figure 3).

John Charles Ferguson was born in Launceston in 1842, the son of John and Ann (née Kirk) Ferguson, and was one of 13 children; he married Beatrice Hamilton in Launceston in 1869, and they had 4 children all born in Launceston. In addition to his being the principal of his business, he was a public minded citizen deeply involved in his city. He was vice- and acting chairman of the Launceston Hospital Board, a prominent member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourist Association, and a member of the Tasmanian Agricultural and Pastoral Society. He was asked to stand for the Launceston City Council, but declined. He was an elected lay representative for St. Paul’s Church and was appointed by the Bishop as a member of the first Diocesan Council of the Church of England. He was always considered by Synod to be an authority on finance!

In his youth he was a volunteer member of the Launceston Artillery Corps and a rifleman of distinction. He had a long terminal illness and had been confined to his bed for five years as a result of a stroke. His obituary was in the Launceston Courier of 10.9.14 and he left his widow, 3 daughters and one son, who was an accountant. The oldest daughter Beatrice was a popular soprano singer. A picture of James Ferguson taken in 1891-2 is shown in Figure 4.

I wish to acknowledge the help of Sue McClarron and Nic Haygarth at the Launceston Library.

Addendum (June 2010):  I have received an email concerning J.C. Ferguson’s store in Launceston:  “The building was replaced I believe in the 50s and presently is the ANZ Bank;  I was most interested in the back of the envelope with the four machines, take away the machine in the center of the page,  replace it with a steam driven traction engine and the cables become belts ranging from 4 to 6 inches wide running on the pulleys from the traction engine to the “chaff cutter etc” used to power all these type of farm machines before the invention of electric motors, in factories there would have been a central driving machine as shown on the envelope running stationary “chaff cutters etc” powered from a boiler by steam turning a turbine, the traction engine was used in the field as a source of power to run many of these machines in that period. There are still some of the traction engines running on display here in Tasmania along with many of the machines. I believe the family is still in business in Launceston using the Ferguson name but they are solely in electrical goods.” 

As I have never worked on a farm, I am not sure I totally understand this explanation, but I thank the sender, John Green of Launceston, Tasmania

Categories: Advertising Covers