Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover is simply addressed to Mr. G.A. Knobel, Maindample (Victoria) and the lilac ‘TWO PENCE’ QE stamp of Victoria is cancelled with a duplex MELBOURNE/ 2K/ FE 25/ 70 with a VICTORIA obliterator and it is a lead-in to two interesting men, both of whom were unusually difficult to research, particularly Gustav Adolph Knobel, inventor of Maindample, near Malvern, Victoria (Figure 1).

The advertisement on the reverse was much more revealing for T(homas) Gaunt was Clock Maker to the Victorian Government, and also a Goldsmith, Jeweller & Optician. His address was largely obscured and was at the corner of the Royal Arcade (off Bourke Street) with an additional ‘Post Office Place’, Melbourne, and there were a transit unframed LONGWOOD/ FE 25/ 70/ VICTORIA and a reception unframed postmark of MAINDAMPLE/ FE 25/ 70 [inverted]/ VICTORIA (Figure 2).

To my surprise, before I found Gaunt’s first name, I discovered a photo of his place of business as well as his numerous employees. The photo is marked 1869, a year before the date of the cover. The advertising surround reads (——) manufacturer, watch maker, jeweller & optician, as well as T. Gaunt Clock Maker whereas the advert on the right belongs to another firm (Figure 3).

The finding of th building was quickly followed by the finding of a watch marked T. Gaunt & Co., Melbourne and a wall clock with the same markings (Figures 4 & 5).

In addition to jewellery Gaunt was known for his production of various sporting cup awards, with a long standing production, ten successive years for one of Victoria’s horse racing trophy, the Caulfield Cup, made of more than 23 oz. of 18 carat Australian gold, valued at the award time at £130 (Figure 6).

The cover’s reverse proclaims that the firm was Clockmaker to the Victorian Government and the following item shows that it continued a relationship with the House of Representatives in Canberra for it produced a Division Glass which measured the time (two minutes),when the division bells are rung before the doors are locked for the taking of division (Figure 7).

The above examples give evidence as to the multiple functions of this company. In addition they produced the legendary ‘Gog and Magog’ which strikes the hour in time with Thomas Gaunt’s great clock, inside the southern entrance of the Royal Arcade, Melbourne. As evidence for the company being involved as Opticians, there were adverts that they were the only company in Australia that imported Brazilian ‘pebble’ glasses. All this information was obtained before I guessed that T. Gaunt was Thomas Gaunt, and I learnt that he migrated to Australia from Britain having been born in London in 1829, and in 1859 he first worked as a watchmaker in Melbourne for Mr. Henry Newman, “for some time;” in 1882 that he had been in business in Melbourne for 25 years, firstly at Post-office-place, then at the Royal Arcade, 341-43 Bourke St. corner.

He died at his home in Coburg, Melbourne after ailing for some time from a painful internal complaint. He had no interest in public service, but in addition to his very large scale business, “he was perhaps best known as the time-keeper of the Victoria Racing Club….Mr. Gaunt occupied the judge’s box at Flemington (racecourse), and his records were never questioned.” He had previously donated a very valuable chronograph to the club for the timing of the races. On his death, he left a wife and four daughters, 2 of whom were nuns. His death was recorded on Thursday in The Argus (Melbourne) Friday June 6, 1890. Another surprise was that Thomas Gaunt was declared insolvent.

As yet the unconfirmed dates for the Gaunt & Co. firm were: established in 1868 and closed in 1960.

The present findings on the recipient of the letter was Gustav Adolph Knobel who took out a patent in Victoria on 24 November 1875 are meager. He was then listed as “of Sandhurst, county of Bendigo, civil and mechanical engineer, for G.A. Knobel’s improved compound ventilator, effecting both plenum and vacuum.” The patent had been applied for earlier in the year but was disallowed, but this time it was granted. It was described for “ventilating, by an ornamental small ventilator, private residences; for extracting the vitiated (‘spoilt’) air from hospitals, manufactories, and other public buildings, without causing injurious drafts; for extracting foul air from mines…..smelting works, roasting furnaces etc.”

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