Royal Reels: Gambling


Just another example of a Tattersall’s cover to Hobart, with the partially repaired spindle hole, but how wrong on several accounts! The pair of the red 1d Tasmanian Pictorial is cancelled ULVERSTONE/ MR 2/ 09/ TASMANIA, and the reverse was not seen. It was adorned with an advertisement depicting a bulldog with Read Brothers Ltd London/ The Dogs Head Bottling plus a partially obscured statement “When Ordering B[ass Ale and] Guinness Be Sure [To ] Ask For “Dog’s H[ead”] Which Is Absolutely [The Best?]”. The cover is addressed to J.B. Curran Esq, Stock Exchange, Hobart (Figure 1).

I have not stressed how often serendipity has been involved in the research of my papers, and on this occasion it was delivered in full measure. I have had a dalliance with Tattersall covers and memorabilia in the past, but have tended to ignore them in the last 2-3 years, because they are often aesthetically displeasing and repetitive in nature. About a month ago the author of the Catalogue and Handbook of Tattersall’s Covers, totally out of the blue generously sent me a copy gratis. I read it in one evening and was impressed with the quality and quantity of its research. I admit that I also recognised the contents were an entree to several of my future papers, and here is the first. I will acknowledge my indebtedness, at the end of this paper.

The book identifies the addressee as John Bury Curran who was the first friend and associate of the owner of Tattersall’s (George Adams) to get involved with the alias address scheme. He was instrumental in setting up the early schemes involving the Hobart Stock Exchange as a substitute address, and when the Secretary of the Exchange backed out of the ‘dodgy’ scheme, Curran stepped in to have the mail addressed to him. Curran was a neighbour of the Tattersall’s Lottery Sweeps Manager David Harvey, and he rented his office at the Hobart Stock Exchange from George Adams. In addition, J.B. Curran was the Secretary of the Hobart Turf Club, and sat on the Board of the Tasmanian Racing Club with Tattersall’s executive Thomas Lyons – very cosy!

This advert cover was very intriguing in its own right, but the Read Brothers (Thomas William and John Walter Read) were surprisingly lacking with their personal data. Their Bottling Company in London had a huge trade with Australia and Malaya, as well they had 97% of the Cuban Guinness trade! They were a substantial bottler of spirits by 1888. In 1906 they were the third largest bottler of spirits with 15% of the world’s market. Their 1917 sales were split between Australia, New Zealand, France, The West Indies and South Africa.

In 1883 they acquired an acre of land at Carkers Lane, near Highgate Road, Kentish Town, London where they erected an export bottling premises of 150 feet square. It was equipped with a laboratory and could hold 2,400 butts of spirits for 18 to 24 months storage, before bottling. They produced 50,000 bottles per week. In 1906 they were the largest buyers and bottlers of Bass Ale in the world, all sold for export. By 1913 they had increased their land holding to nearly 3 acres at the original site, and they had stacking space for 10 million bottles, the largest bottling facility in London. Through their agencies in Australia they conducted a large advertising campaign in all of the Australian colonies. One of these advertisements in The Brisbane Courier, 14 June 1905, had a header ‘DOG’S HEAD ALE & STOUT’ followed by a give-away deal, aptly named ‘NIPS’ (Figure 2).

Their advertising insignia changed from ‘Read Brothers, London, The Bull-Dog Bottling’ in 1887 (at left) to ‘Read Brothers LTD London, The Dog’s Head Bottling’ in 1909 (at right), possibly due to the law case in which they were involved, in 1907. This change to ‘Dog’s Head’ is shown in other advertising matter (Figures 3, 4 & 5).

Read Brothers and Porter’s Bottlers amalgamated to form the bulk of ths sales of Export Bottlers Ltd in 1938, together with the other remaining London export bottlers. Read Brothers, prior to this amalgamation had built their trade and fame almost exclusively on exporting for sale Guinness Stout and Bass Pale Ale (Figure 6).

I wish that I was able to understand the legal niceties of a trial that was held at the Court of Appeal, Sittings at Lincoln’s Inn, London in April 1891 involving Read Brothers vs. Richardson & Co., but as the result they won the rights to change their adverts to ‘Dog’s Head’.

I acknowledge that this paper was inspired by David McNamee’s book Catalogue and Handbook of Tattersall’s Covers, 2006, a mine of information about mail posted in contravention of Section 57 Post and Telegraph act of 1901 to George Adam’s Lottery Sweeps, Hobart (Figure 7).