This Post Office memo is somewhat peripheral to the majority of the items on this website, but it is of particular interest not only because of its contents, but also because of the person issuing the directive. It was sent from Charles Todd to all South Australian Postmasters, and it reads (Figure 1):

On no account must any information be given to the police or detectives respecting letters passing through the Post Office. They must not be supplied with the address of the sender or receiver, or be allowed to inspect the letters or date stamps without a special order from the Postmaster-General.

Postmaster-General and Superintendent of Telegraphs

General Post Office

Adelaide, March 24 th, 1884

Although I could not find specific case(s) that prompted this directive, Charles Todd commanded more than 3 pages in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography. Sir Charles Todd was an astronomer, meteorologist and electrical engineer who was born in London on 7 July 1826, son of a Greenwich grocer and tea merchant. He was educated locally, and in 1841 was appointed as a supernumerary computer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. He showed mathematical ability and was appointed as a junior assistant to Professor Challis at Cambridge. In 1854 he was appointed as superintendent of the galvanic apparatus at Greenwich, and he became fascinated with telecommunications. He was appointed superintendent of the electric telegraph at Adelaide, arriving at Port Adelaide in the Irene on 4 November, 1855. Todd initiated plans for the connection of Melbourne and Sydney by telegraph, to be followed by a link with England, and in March of 1856 he completed a governmental telegraph link between Adelaide and its port. Todd and his Melbourne counterpart, Samuel McGowan recommended a link between their 2 cities with an extension to N.S.W. and ultimately a link between Australia and India. He submitted a meteorological plan which depended upon a network of observational stations, reporting to an observatory, but growth was slow until 1860. As the telegraph system expanded so did the meteorological stations. In 1866 Todd was appointed S.A.’s postmaster-general and superintendent of telegraphs.

The full development of Todd’s beloved astronomy depended on the spread of the telegraphic network and acquisition of modern instruments to provide a complete observatory. By the 1880’s he had organized constant general astronomical work, time services, a standard point for geodetic surveys, and gradual improvement in the accuracy of climatic statistics. Although Todd devoted 50 years to the postal and telegraphic departments, his post office work received scant coverage by comparison with his achievements in linking Australia telegraphically. With the completion of the famed Australian Overland Telegraph line in 1872 between Adelaide and Darwin, the honour of sending the first telegram fell to Charles Todd (Figures 2 & 3).

Todd was renowned as a punster with this as an example: when asked if he would have tea, his reply was “I’d be odd without my T”. This kindly, tolerant and never pessimistic man remained in office until 1907, and he remained a highly productive public servant. He was showered with honours by scientific institutions and in June 1893 he was made a K.C.M.G. Prior to leaving England in 1855 he married Alice Gillam Bell (after whom Alice Springs was named) and when he died of gangrene at his country home of Semaphore S.A. on 29 January 1910 he was survived by one son and four daughters. Numerous photos were made of Todd during his explorations planning telegraph lines, and my personal favourite is shown in Figure 4.

Categories: People, Science