Royal Reels: Gambling


With a modest stretch of imagination the label could be classed as postal ephemera, and it did appear several times on eBay Australian philatelic auctions. It was a label to be affixed to boxes posted with breakable Pottery Ware (Figure 1).

I acknowledge that this short paper is taken directly from the John Campbell & Sons Pottery history site at .

“In 1902 Campbell’s pottery became the first industry in Tasmania to use electricity, changing the business name from ‘Victorian and Tasmanian Pottery and Pipe Works’ to the undeniably zippier ‘Campbell’s Electric Pottery’. Embracing new technology, however, seems not to have become compulsory at Campbell’s, for we read that as late as 1956 Colin Campbell (who took over management after his father’s death in 1928) was still making all the pipe and pottery deliveries in a horse and cart.” John Campbell, born in 1857, was taken from New Zealand to Victoria as child, and there apprenticed to George Guthrie at Bendigo pottery. He showed exceptional talent at the potter’s wheel as a youth, winning juvenile exhibition medals for such challenging objects as hand-thrown whiskey stills” (Figure 2).

“He moved to Tasmania sometime around 1880, and in 1881, bought Alfred Cornwell’s Launceston pottery works, in the Sandhill area near the McHugh pottery. By the early 1890s, Campbell’s was exhibiting a range of pots and urns, vases, teapots, cheese dishes with covers, jars, bottles and Toby jugs. Like McHugh’s, Campbell’s employed workers with experience in potteries on the mainland, such as Bendigo, Bennett’s, and Cornwell’s. Master craftsman like Denny Beckett were associated with both McHugh’s and Campbell’s.”

“There is also some evidence of John Campbell having regularly obtained specimens of the high-quality wares being produced at Bendigo Pottery in the mid 1880s from a contact employed there, in order to make molds from them. Although competition among Australian potteries was always very keen, and there are plenty of examples of price-cutting and ‘industrial espionage’ to be found in the record-books, Campbell’s and McHugh’s often worked together cooperatively to share the available work, equipment, and skilled workers to mutual advantage.
A descendant of John McHugh relates that when McHugh was found dead in his pottery works, John Campbell came over and helped keep the business running until the McHugh family could make other arrangements.”

“Although heavy clay products like pipe and bricks were the mainstay of the business, it was hand-thrown decorative pottery that fascinated John Campbell, who even in his old age spent late nights in his workshop experimenting with shapes and glazes. After his death in 1929, the business was run by his son Colin, who would have overseen production of the 1930s art wares in this collection, and then by other family members. Officially, Campbell’s artware department closed in 1947, although there is a classic thirties-style vase in this collection signed and dated 1949. The factory doors closed for the last time in 1976.” A picture of Campbell’s Pottery is seen in Figure 3.

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