Royal Reels: Gambling


This printed to private order (P.T.P.O.) mint letter card has the red 1½d KGV side face stamp and has Messrs. W.H. Burford & Sons, Ltd., Sturt Street, Adelaide, Box 191 G.P.O. on the front (Figure 1).

Whereas other P.T.P.O. envelopes and cards frequently have extensive advertising matter, the reverse of this one is different for it simply says ‘Forget-me-Not’ and ‘Burford’s-Quality’ (Figure 2).

William Henville BURFORD (1808-1895), a friendly cockney, migrated to Australia in 1838 on the Pestonjee Bomanjee. His first job in Adelaide, where he settled, was as a painter and glazier. He had a passion for singing and his quartet was always in popular demand. He frequently wrote letters to The South Australian Record which was published in England in the early days. Later the paper was printed in Australia and changed it’s name to “The Register” (Figure 3).

Articles appeared in this paper announcing additions to his business: “W.H. Burford has the honour to announce that in addition to his business of Painter, etc, he has commenced the manufacture of candles, and will be happy to receive a call from Retail Storekeepers of the Province. Family orders executed with care and despatch. Greaves, good cheap food for dogs. Cart and Mill Grease”. (November 9th,1839)

An advertisement of 12th August,1840 read: “W.H.Burford is happy to inform the public that this great desideratum [something wanted or needed] Refined Oil will be attained when they enjoy the advantage of unsullied light and uncorroded lamps. He also undertakes refining for the trade at an exchange of 9d. per gallon on amount clarified. The foots [dregs] to be left with clarifier”.

In 1842 he further expanded his business to soap making. On the 12th of July 1842 he announced: “W.H. Burford was first in the of field as manufacturer of tallow, soap, and candles in Adelaide and it gives us much pleasure, therefore to see that he is again first in his field in his endevour to push forward the important colonial object of producing tallow for export by boiling down sheep.” In1878 he took his sons into the business and the firm became W.H. Burford & Sons (Figure 4).

The company felt so confident of the quality of its produce that entries were sent to World Exhibitions. At the great Antwerp Exhibition of 1894 the gold medal was awarded to Burfords, and the British Australasian, in its issue of the 17th May,1894 stated: ” It speaks well for the pluck and enterprise of a colonial firm that came to Europe to compete with manufacturers of the Old World, whose businesses have been expanding since the days of tallow candles, which have been built up by slow degrees of evolution to their present pitch of perfection, and the colonial firm comes out well in the competition”.

W.H. Burford was a devout Christian and he was a founding member of the First Church of Christ in Adelaide, along with J.C.Verco and Phillip Santo. His involvement in the Sailor’s Missionary at Billingsgate was a major influence. A comparison of Burford vis à vis his church colleagues was as follows: “W.H. Burford was the deepest thinker of them all. He was a more philosophical thinker than the others, used frequently to take his texts from the Gospel of John, and had a forceful and emphatic manner. But his subject matter was rather above the capacity of the boys. He spoke much longer than the others. So they used to get fired (sic) and sleepy under his ministry.”

Burford’s soap and candle business grew mightily and he purchased a number of other soap and candle factories around South and Western Australia. By the time of the first World War the company dominated the soap and candle market in the Western region. The 3 pioneering companies, Lever Brothers, J.Kitchen & Sons and W.H. Burford & Sons merged in 1924 under the name Australian Producers Partnership Pty Ltd. In the year after his death, the Chronicle (26 September 1896) wrote “some 56 years ago (the firm was started for the) purpose of candle making and now embraces the production of tallow, soaps, candles, oils, glycerine, starch, blue, blacking, and black lead”.

A cheerful man, who shunned loneliness, money followed him after he obtained the contract in the South Australian Burra copper mines, but he was not a “money grubber”, and he found cleanliness was close to godliness.

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