Royal Reels: Gambling


This difficult to date early stampless cover (stated to be 1862 by vendor) was sent from Melbourne to a company in Tarnac near Cognac, France with a manuscript ‘via Marseille’.  It had a black ‘18′ and a red possibly ‘4′ ratings with two additional postmarks, one a boxed red GB ‘diamond’ and the other a red Marseille double circle transit postmark.  The sender was identified by a blue J.W. PLOOS VAN AMSTEL & CO handstamp.  The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The second cover was also sent from the Van Amstel Co. with the same blue two-line company handstamp from Melbourne in 1878 with the scarce rose ‘Bell’ ½d emergency printing on pink paper (SG 195) and the deep blue on blue paper 1/- stamp to Boisson Freres, St. Georges du Bois pres Surgeres, France, with a manuscript ‘via Brindisi’.  The reverse was not seen.  (Figure 2).

The Ploos van Amstel name is well represented in Australia even to-day and they are probably descended from three sons of the distinguished 12th generation Dutch forbear, James Baldwin Ploos van Amstel, a merchant commissioner who was born in Amsterdam, September 5, 1801.  He married Johanna Jacoba Lange of Amsterdam in 1823;   he died in 1863, and she in 1872.  There were 9 children of this marriage, and three of their sons are of particular interest because of their definite Australian association.  Details of the Ploos family date back to the late 1400s.

The name on the company covers was Jan Willem Ploos van Amstel who was born in Amsterdam on October 3, 1827 and was the merchant owner of the company in Melbourne as well as the “Consul-General of the Netherlands to Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania” from 1823.”   He died in Amsterdam on December 27, 1878.  A brother, Daniel Ploos van Amstel was born in Amsterdam September 10, 1832 and is described as a ‘merchant medevennoot” of the firm in Melbourne.  He took over as Consul-General of the Netherlands in Melbourne when his brother died in 1878.  Daniel died in Amsterdam January 14, 1890.  Another brother Eduard Ploos van Amstel was born in Amsterdam December 26, 1835 and was vice-consul for the Netherlands in Melbourne (1879-1889), and he died in Geneva, Switzerland March 30, 1913.

Jan Willem who lived in St. Kilda Melbourne, was known as a watercolour painter and photographer, and he is noted for a watercolour painting of a settler’s camp (dated 1855), watercolour landscapes and photographs of Aboriginal groups (dated 1860) and several watercolours of Sweers Island, Gulf of Carpentaria, North Queensland in 1871.  For the latter paintings he was on board the steamship Curacoa sailing along the east and north coast of Australia in July-October 1871.  However, there is ndoubt now that the paintings are actually of Sweers Island (Figure 3).

Jan Willem was the author of a book which was divided into four parts: 1.  The history of New South Wales, “who thanks her name to James Cook who compared the shores of New South Wales with the shores of South Wales”;   2.  The most important harbours of N.S.W., such as the Sydney Harbour and Port Jackson that Ploos compared to the harbour of Rio de Janeiro, because of its beauty and safety;   3.  The rural industry, their products and prices;   and 4.  The mining industry and their products with the trade of the locals and the Dutch, and the whole NSW economy.   A picture of Jan Willem Ploos van Amstel is seen in Figure 4. 

Categories: Arts and Artists, Business