Royal Reels: Gambling


The entire was franked with a blue 4d imperforate ‘Chalon’ Van Diemen’s Land stamp and there was a framed red GENERAL POST OFFICE/ HOBART TOWN/ [Crown]/ 10 FE 10/ VDL/ 1857 postmark. There was a ms. per ‘Tasmania’ and it was addressed to Moses Moss Esq., Sydney. The reverse was not seen, but the vendor stated that there was a ‘SHIP LETTER SYDNEY FE 19 1857′ arrival backstamp. The contents of the letter related to the price of tea (Figure 1).

The General Post Office postmark was a single-lined circle of 34 mm diameter struck in red with a small ornate crown, and the letters of V.D.L. which wore badly, sometimes almost undetectable. The earliest date of use was 5 July 1855 and the latest date was 16 March 1869. It was used on outward ship letters from Hobart, only (Figure 2).

Moses Moss was the son of Jacob Moses and Clara Jonas of London, and he was born there in 1819, and he died in Sydney at his residence, 135 Macquarie Street on 20 December 1883. He was the younger brother of Samuel Jacob Moses of Hobart who was active in the Hobart Jewish community, who did well in business there and returned to London in 1859, never to return again. There were two other brothers, Lawrence and David Moss, who were founders of the Shaar Hashomayim Congregation of Montreal, Canada.

On 16 November 1842 in Sydney, Moses married Esther Nathan, a daughter of Nathan Lyon Nathan who came to Australia as 16 year old convict, returned to England, married well, and returned as a free man. Nathan’s children and extended family were involved in the development of Jewish communities in New Zealand and Australia; they were a mercantile family. The year of Moses Moss’ arrival in Australia has not been found, but after he married Esther they moved to Launceston and their daughter Clara was born there in 1844. The dates of birth of their other children which were born in Tasmania have not been found, but the family moved back to Sydney by 1853, when their daughter Kate was born, and eight more children were born until 1867.

More has been learnt of Moses Moss stay in Launceston, for he was one of 3 men who applied to the Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Franklin for land on which to build a synagogue in Launceston. In 1844 he became a trustee of that synagogue and remained so until his death, even though he spent the rest of his life in Sydney. Moses also became a trustee of Launceston’s second Jewish cemetery. He signed a document in 1880 authorising some payment to be made regarding the Launceston Burial Ground. Moses was Treasurer of the Launceston Hebrew Congregation from 1842 to 1846, then President from 1849 to 1852. The Tasmanian information was derived from Peter and Ann Elias’ edited book A Few from Afar. The Launceston Examiner in 1847 stated that Moses had taken “new and extensive premises on the corner of Charles and York Streets”, but the name of the firm was not mentioned.

Moses Moss was heavily involved in the Sydney Jewish Community for he was a stalwart of both the York Street and Macquarie Street congregations and President of York Street from 1869-1875. He was elected trustee of the Macquarie Street cemetery and was elected President of Macquarie Street in 1861, but resigned after a month. He was associated with the Great Synagogue until his death. He had been a founding member of the Sydney Jewish Sabbath School and he was involved with the Hebrew Denominational School as well. The information in this paragraph is derived from Helen Bersten’s booklet, Jewish Sydney, the First Hundred Years.

Moses Moss & Co. must have been up and running in Sydney by 1858, for the 1858 assessment books for the Brisbane Ward of the City of Sydney stated that the Moses Moss’ office and store was at Wynyard Lane, Sydney. The Noel Butlin Archive of the Australian National University in Canberra lists various holdings of the business, and it is described as General Merchant, Liquor Trade Agency, which advertised across Australia. One examples of the adverts was found in the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 22 July 1880, p. 5 referring to a Life Restoring Cordial. Abbreviated it reads as follows: The time-honoured Helvetian Tonic and restorative known as “Dew of the Alps” (Rosée des Alpes), has (been a health restorative) in Switzerland for more than 400 years. It is the natural remedy of the Swiss for debility, indigestion, and all nervous disorders. ” There is vitality in any drop of it” says an eminent physician. We congratulate Australia that this peerless preparation is now procurable in our market, having been introduced by Messrs. M. Moss & Co. Needless to say the company did not state the alcohol content of the tonic, and a diligent search of the literature did not reveal the name of the herbs in it (Figure 3).

The Moreton Bay Courier, Queensland 6 December 1859 describes a sale at Moses Moss & Co.,Wynyard Lane, Sydney listing the following items: American Hoisting Machines for Store; Patent Winnowing Machine; Hay Cutter, for hand or horse power; Douglass’ Iron pumps; Thermometer Churns; Patent Mortising machines; Meat Cutters and Stuffers; Cane and Wood Seat Chairs; 30-hours and 8-day Clocks; Platform weighing Machines; Counter Scales; Doors and Sashes. Moses Moss, the entrepreneur behind this mercantile firm, is seen as a dapper young man in Figure 4.

It is time to introduce Louis Phillips who was born in 1839 in London and died in Sydney on 6 November, 1913. His parents were Lawrence and Sarah Phillips. He married Clara Moss, daughter of Moses and Esther Moss, in Sydney in 1863. Clara died on 31 October, 1928. After Moses died in 1883, Louis became the principal of the firm of Moses Moss & Co. He had migrated at the age of 17 to Sydney in 1856, and was originally in the employment of Moses in the company. Louis was President of the Great Synagogue for ten of the forty years he served on its Board, and he had been its first Treasurer. Louis had never interested himself much in political life, but he was concerned as a director and shareholder in several city proprietary businesses. He supported many Jewish and general charitable institutions. His two sons, a grandson and a great grandson also served on the Board of the Great Synagogue. A picture of the elderly Louis Phillips is seen in Figure 5.

The Moses Moss company advertised across Australia, and one of their best sellers was Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps. It was described as having medicinal properties, so that it gave assurance to women that they could buy it without compromising their respectability. The following advertisement for Wolfe’s Aromatic Schiedam Schnapps was seen on a hoarding at Hawthorn, Victoria (Figure 6).

There were at least three insertions, two of which were long and legally convoluted, in The Argus (Melbourne) dated 25 March, 8 April and 23 April, 1915 , all captioned as ‘TRADING WITH THE ENEMY’ which involved the Moses Moss & Co. The principals of the company at that time were Lawrence Edward Moss and Lawrence David Phillips, sons of Moses and Louis’ were fortunate to receive a fine of only £50, as seen in the short insertion shown as Figure 7.

This paper could not have been completed without the remarkable help of Jeannette Tsoulos, Hon. Genealogist at the Australian Jewish Historical Society.  She supplied me with a wealth of text, more than included here, as well photos of Moses Moss and Louis Phillips.