Royal Reels: Gambling


This yellow Australian POST CARD with the printed green 1d KGV head (Die III) did not grab me, but the reverse was something different. The Printed-To-Private-Order postcard had a roller cancel of MELBOURNE/ 7 APR 27 11 AM with the slogan ALWAYS ASK FOR/ AUSTRALIAN PRODUCTS. It was addressed to Victorian State Wool Committee, 540 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (Figure 1).

The reverse was printed ‘With Compliments’ from ‘YELLOW CABS OF AUSTRALIA Ltd’. It showed a cab in brown and described the Modern Transportation, the cleanliness, ventilation, heating and comfort of the Yellow cabs (Figure 2).

Yellow Cabs were introduced in Melbourne in 1924 and William Pearson Tewksbury was responsible for their introduction. Tewksbury was born in 1869 at Yackandandah, Victoria, the youngest of four children of John Edward Tewksbury, carpenter and goldminer, and his wife Sarah Edith, both English born. Pearson was delicate, and what education he got was ‘fugitive and patchy’, though he claimed to have spent a period at Fort Street Model School, after his family moved to Sydney. At 14 he was apprenticed to a Sydney watchmaker, but later he speculatively explored several other occupations, including that of country salesman for tea merchants Atcherley & Dawson. ‘Tewks’ returned to his trade at Muswellbrook, New South Wales, after seizing the opportunity to buy a failing watchmaker’s business with a borrowed £5. He added a bicycle agency to his storekeeping and sold so many ‘penny-farthings’ that he became a travelling representative of a cycle agency. On 5 December 1893 in Sydney he married Juanita Blunt and they were divorced in 1924.

He was interested in gold prospecting, and was attracted by the idea of alluvial dredging as then practised in New Zealand. He took up 100 acres (40 ha) at Bright, Victoria and managed to form a syndicate to begin bucket-dredging. When the syndicate ran into critical difficulties, Tewksbury bought out its liabilities and its expensive dredge, and prospected with a New Zealand crew as director of the Ovens Valley Gold Dredging Co. He then formed eight companies, known as the Tewksbury Group, employing dredges in the Bright district, and at the Shoalhaven and the Araluen Valley, New South Wales. He also cannily kept control of all smelting and was reputed to have banked gold worth £1 million. In 1910 he bought the Oriental Hotel in Collins Street where he subsequently lived.

He enthusiastically embraced the technology of the day—bicycles, cars, aeroplanes and films—and rather prided himself on ‘thinking today what other people would be thinking next week’. About 1910 he founded the City Motor Service, one of the first hire services that revolutionized motor passenger transport. In Melbourne, and later Sydney, a ‘high chugging four cylinder Fiat’ with a smartly uniformed driver could be hired for a minimum of 3s. 6d. In America, Tewksbury saw meter-operated taxi-cabs for the first time and returned to promote Yellow Cabs of Australia Ltd and Yellow Express Carriers Ltd with a capital of £1 million in 1922. One hundred of these cabs imported to Melbourne carried 200,000 passengers within three months. As a prelude to their appearance in Sydney, Tewksbury held personal negotiations with the Premier of N.S.W., J.T. Lang, to persuade him to amend local regulations. In 1926 Tewksbury founded Drive Yourself cars and in the following year he resigned as chairman of Yellow Cabs.

An outsider, Tewksbury all his life had to manufacture his own publicity. In later years, monocled, natty, vain, and coy about his age, he wandered in ‘a sober blue suit with a dark silk handkerchief flowing out of his breast pocket’. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1920. Survived by a son and daughter, he died on 12 July 1953 at the Oriental Hotel and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £119,546. A photo of Tewksbury is shown in Figure 3.

Not everything went exactly to plan after the arrival of the first shipment of 100 yellow cabs (known affectionately as ‘Mustard Pots’) when they arrived on the streets of Melbourne in 1924. The company could not cope with the initial demand for the garage and telephone facilities were inadequate. However the firm prospered and the Yellow Taxi cCabs are still in service. The ‘Mustard Pot’ is seen in Figure 4.

The text and the picture of Tewksbury are extracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Cars