Royal Reels: Gambling


This cover is interesting because of the detailed description of Mrs. Tenney’s address and the documentation of the cover’s well documented routing path. It is addressed to Smithville P.O., County Lincoln, near Hamilton, Canada West, North America. It was sent from Portland, Victoria in 1864 and it is franked with a single grey-lilac 2d ‘Emblems’ and a pair of the grey-black 6d ‘Beaded Oval’, all cancelled with the barred numeral ‘8′. The red postmark is a transit LONDON/ MY 17/ 64/ PAID and there is a large black manuscript ‘5′ (Figure 1).

The reverse in the top left hand has an point-of-origin unframed PORTLAND/ MR 22/ 64/ VICTORIA, a lower left hand red MELBOURNE/ 2 A/ MR 26/ 64 transit,a top left hand HAMILTON/ JU 3/ 1864/ U.C.(?) a lower left hand transit GRIM(SBY ONT), and a reception SMITHVILLE/ JU 4/ C.W with red sealing wax on the flap (Figure 2).

Portland is a seaport town on the west coast of Portland Bay, 225 miles (but 277 postal miles) south-west of Melbourne. It was founded by Edward and Stephen Henty on November 19, 1834, one year before the settlement of Melbourne. It is the oldest permanent European settlement in Victoria, and it was first used as a whaling station. In 1840 it was officially described as consisting of “One good house and six decent cottages, besides a few huts, and contains a population of at least 100 souls.” The town was described as “pretty, but quaint looking”. “The Portland Bay is 24 by 12 miles, capable of affording anchorage to the largest fleet in the world, and is the natural outlet for an immense tract of back country, comprehending (sic) many millions of acres of rich agricultural and pastoral land. There is ample jetty accommodation for the loading and discharge of vessels”. By 1885, the population of Portland was 2,265 and the 1881 census gave the population for the whole county as 11,636.

The route from London to Canada West was by ship across the Atlantic and down the Saint Lawrence River to Hamilton on Lake Ontario, and then by land along the lake first to Grimsby and then to Smithville, a land journey of one day, which now takes one hour by car. Mrs. S. Tenney of Smithville has been identified as Sara Tenney aged 47, born in England and the 1861 Census showed her as living in the Gainsborough Township, Lincoln County, living with Charles Tenney aged 40, born in Upper Canada. Gainsborough bordered Smithville, the nearest postal address. There were other Tenny members buried locally, and Tenney and Tenny were probably interchangeable. I visited Smithville and met with Joan Martin and her active assistants at the West Lincoln Historical Society and Archives, in Smithville.

Frank Page in his The Story of Smithville (1921) does not mention the Tenneys. Chapter XIX: Smithville in 1876 is relevant to the period when the cover was sent in 1864, when the 1876 population was about seven hundred people. There were 5 churches, 2 Public Halls, a Mechanics’ Institute, 1 wholesale and retail store, 4 merchants and general traders, 3 groceries, 3 hotels, 2 druggists and stationers, 1 gents’ furnishing shop of boots, shoes and clothing, 2 boot and shoe shops, 1 grist mill, 1 carding mill, 1 saw mill and shingle factory, 2 pump factories, 2 iron foundries, 3 plow makers, 2 carriage makers, 2 coopers, 1 gunsmith, 4 blacksmiths, 2 tailors, 2 doctors of medicine, 1 dentist, 2 artists, 2 tinsmiths, 2 cabinet makers, 1 watchmaker, 2 harness makers, 1 baker and confectioner, and 2 builders. Obviously there were significant numbers of people in the surrounding communities. The book’s frontispiece is seen in Figure 3.

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