Royal Reels: Gambling


This cover is addressed to Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1. Amen Corner, Paternoster Row, Bath, England. It has a copy of the indigo blue 2½d QV stamp of New South Wales canceled with a duplex WEST MAITLAND/ JU 15/ 4-P.M/ 01/ N.S.W with the obliterator numeral ‘64′ obscured by the dark hue of the stamp. This type of cancel is recorded by Hopson & Tobin as Type D3 (ii) (Figure 1).

The reverse has a transit SYDNEY/ JU 17/ 5 30 AM/ 01/ 35 and a reception postmark of BATH/ 1 30 PM/ JY 22/ 01/ 3 (Figure 2).


Isaac Pitman, English phonographer was born at Trowbridge, Wiltshire, on the 4th of January 1813, the third of the eleven children of Samuel Pitman and his wife, Maria, and he was educated at the local grammar school. He started in life as a clerk in a cloth factory, but in 1831 he was sent to the Normal College of the British and Foreign School Society in London. Between 1832 and 1839 he held masterships at Barton-on-Humber and Wotton-under-Edge schools, but he was dismissed by the authorities when he adopted the Swedenborgian faith, based on the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, and from 1839 to 1843 he conducted a private school of his own at Bath.

In 1829 he took up Samuel Taylor’s system of shorthand, and from that time he became an enthusiast in developing the art of phonography. In 1837 he drew up a manual of Taylor’s system and offered it to Samuel Bagster. The publisher did not accept the work, but suggested that Pitman should invent a new system of his own. The result was his Stenographic Soundhand (1837). The publication of this book is celebrated in a medal shown in Figure 3.

Bagster’s friendship and active help had been secured by Pitman’s undertaking to verify the half-million references in the Comprehensive Bible, and he published the inventor’s books at a cheap rate, thus helping to bring the system within the reach of all. Pitman devoted himself to perfecting phonography and propagating its use, and established at Bath a Phonetic Institute and a Phonetic Journal for this purpose; he printed in shorthand a number of standard works, and his book with the title Phonography (1840) went through many editions. An example of Isaac Pitman’s 114 paged Phonographic Instructor (1894)is seen in Figure 4.

He was an enthusiastic spelling reformer, and adopted a phonetic system which he tried to bring into general use. Pitman was twice married, his first wife dying in 1857, and his second, whom he married in 1861, surviving him. In 1894 he was knighted by Queen Victoria for his contributions to shorthand, and on the 22nd of January 1897 he died at Bath. Sir Isaac Pitman popularized shorthand at a time when the advance of the newspaper press and modern business methods were making it a matter of great commercial importance. His system adapted itself readily to the needs of journalism, and its use revolutionized the work of reporting. He was a nonsmoker, a vegetarian, and advocated temperance principles. A picture of Isaac Pitman is shown in Figure 5.

His brother Benjamin (Benn) migrated to the USA in 1852, settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, introduced Pitman’s system of shorthand there, and he wrote a book on Isaac’s life. Another brother, Jacob introduced the system in Australia. Isaac’s system (Izac, in his spelling) was adapted to at least 30 languages, including French, Spanish, Welsh, Afrikaans, Malay and Hindu. Whereas Pitman shorthand was the most commonly used system in the English language, it has been superseded especially in the USA by Gregg shorthand. Pitman memorabilia are seen in several formats, including postcards, and this plate celebrated 150 Years of Business Innovation 1837-1987, Pitman Examinations Institute, England (Figure 6).

Imagine the pride that a woman experienced when she was awarded this Sir Isaac Pitman, Inventor of Phonography medal which on the reverse reads: ‘For Proficiency in Pitman’s Shorthand/ Beatrice W. Solomon/ 200 Words/ a minute/ Nov. 1934 (Figures 7 & 8).

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