Royal Reels: Gambling


Examples of the present postcard appeared on 2 Australian auction sites. The company has an interesting history which may never be fully told, as the records were lost in the bombing of the London, England company during World War 2. To add further interest, the son of one of the partners had a significant impact on subsequent Australian history.

The front states that it is a Private Post Card, issued by the authority of the Postmaster General. Paterson, Laing & Bruce Ltd, Wynyard Street Sydney, and it has an imprint of the red 1d KGV head with the addition of the green ½d kangaroo on map of Australia stamp, postmarked twice: SYDNEY/ -6 JA 15/ -50- , and SHIP ROOM/ -6 JAN/ 1915/ SYDNEY N.S.W . There is also a black ‘Passed by Censor’ rubber stamping, described at one auction site as “New Zealand type, used at Melbourne in 1915”. It is addressed to Messrs Larsen & Co. “Merchants”, Apia, Samoa and there is a purple rubber stamping ’15 JAN REC’ (Figure 1).

The reverse shows a shield with PLB LTD, it is dated Sydney 4-1-1915, and there is a message, partly as printing and partly as manuscript: ‘Our Mr. J.A.G. d’Alpuget will have the pleasure of waiting upon you on or about the 2nd week in February when we trust you will favour him with your esteemed orders. Yours faithfully, Paterson, Laing & Bruce Ltd.’ (Figure 2).

The origins of the company date back to 1850 when J.C..Young opened a small warehouse in Geelong. In 1852 after gold discovery in Victoria, a branch in Ballarat was opened with John Paterson as the manager. The business was moved to Melbourne and John Paterson was admitted to partnership, the firm then being known as J. C. Young & Co. The firm went through a number of changes in the partnerships: in 1860 first being called Paterson, Palmer & Co, then, after the amalgamation with Ray Glaister & Co, as Paterson, Ray Palmer & Co. Other changes of the name and partnerships occurred later: Paterson Laing & Co. (1876); and Paterson, Laing & Bruce.

Early in 1898 Paterson, Laing & Bruce Ltd was registered in London. It was taken over by a newly registered Paterson, Laing & Bruce (1901) Ltd in July 1901, with the “1901” being taken out of the name again in 1903. In 1909, Paterson, Laing and Bruce was one of the leading retailers in Australia and they brought in the latest innovation for Australian women, Warner’s American corsets with rustproof metal stays! In Feb 1966 the company was merged with Robert Reid & Co Ltd into Paterson, Reid & Bruce Ltd.

The Bruce partner was the wealthy father of Stanley Melbourne Bruce, who was born in Melbourne in 1883, and spent part of his early life in England, where for a short time in 1907 Stanley was acting chairman of the company in London. Stanley Bruce became the 8th Prime Minister of Australia from 1923-1929, and he is the central figure in my paper “Boer War Cover to S.M. Bruce” in the Journal of the Philatelic Society of NSW, August 2005, pages 6-7 (with Russell Stern). SM Bruce became Australia’s longest-serving High Commissioner in London and his work at the League of Nations laid the foundations of enduring international agencies. The highest of the many official honours he earned was his peerage and from 1947 he was titled Lord Bruce of Melbourne. His chosen coat of arms features two Australian lyrebirds and the motto ‘We have been faithful’.
Just another interesting piece of background information to a past Australian Prime Minister.