This advertising cover for Goldsborough Mort and Company Limited with its illustrated nine sheep gives information concerning this fabled Australian company of wool brokers, stock & station agency, Sydney branch. It has an air mail sticker, the grey 1 shilling six pence Mercury air mail stamp with a roller cancel: LIFE/ IS PRECIOUS/ HELP/ TO PREVENT/ ACCIDENTS and a boxed Sydney December 1949 cancel. It is addressed to The Editor, The American Hereford Journal, 600, Graphic Arts Building, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A. (Figure 1).

John H. Clapham wrote in 1907: “Very early in the history of Australia, small quantities of wool were sold by the growers before shipment……this business remained an insignificant one until 25 years ago. Its rapid growth of late, a growth that is registered by the increasing importance of auctions at Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney, Adelaide…now seriously threatens the (selling of wool) business in London.” This trend was largely due to the relocation of wool sales in Australia before shipping abroad, and Goldsborough Mort was in the forefront of these local sales. For all the importance of the firm, research of the company was difficult and fragmentary.

Six thousand sheep were farmed in Australia by 1800 and this grew to ca.100,000 by 1821. Sheep numbers continued to grow rapidly to reach 13 million by the mid 1800’s, with the emphasis on wool, rather than on meat production. Wool production was 19 million kilograms in 1850, 210 million by 1890, 350 million by World War One (1914-18), and 446 million in 1939. Wool dominated Australian exports and from the 1860’s to 1939 it accounted for one-third to a half of total exports.

The name of Mort & Co. was linked with Australian agriculture in 1843 when Thomas Sutcliffe Mort established an auctioneering and broking business focused on selling wool. Mort also manufactured quality Australian cheddar cheese in Bodalla N.S.W., rather than importing it from England. The company became a leading pastoral house and went on to merge with Goldsborough & Co. in 1888 and then with Elder Smith & Co. in 1962. More recently, a merger with Henry Jones IXL, now sees the company trading as Elders. Mort & Co. exists in Southern Queensland now and is largely in the beef business, inspecting the cattle and monitoring their performance in beef production.

Richard Goldsborough was born in Yorkshire in 1821, a woolstapler who came to Melbourne in 1848. He bought a weatherboard building on the corner of Williams Street and Flinders Lane, and went into the business as a wool buyer. He prospered and was able to buy a substantial bluestone warehouse and a second one in 1857 at the corner of Bourke and William Streets. Richard died in 1886 without leaving any children, and his partners took over the Sydney firm of Mort & Co. A non flattering Punch cartoon of Richard (who was described as ‘a little fleshy’ and who went ‘like a steam-engine,’) is seen in Figure 2.

The Goldsborough Mort Company had warehouses in many coastal cities in Australia so that their warehouses would be in close proximity to shipping to all points around the world. Examples of the exterior of one warehouse as well as the enormous storage area for wool are seen in Figures 3 & 4.

The reason for the cover being sent to the Editor of The American Hereford Journal in 1949 almost certainly had nothing to do with sheep and wool, but could have been because of an extension of the company’s interest in cattle. The journal was founded May 1, 1910 by Hayes Walker and it was published twice a month by Walker Publications Inc. at 600 Graphic Arts Building in Kansas City, Missouri. At the time of the posted cover in 1949, Hayes Walker Jnr. was in charge of the company. There was no specific section in the Journal devoted to sheep or the wool industry. A copy of the cover of the November 1, 1949 Journal is seen in Figure 5.

I acknowledge the assistance of Jeremy Drouin, Library Associate, Special Collections, Kansas City Library, Kansas City MO for providing information and Figure 5, concerning the American Hereford Journal.