Royal Reels: Gambling


Three examples of this company have appeared at one Melbourne stamp auction company over several years. The messenger company was first established in New York in 1830 by John Boyd, initially as a service for tradesmen to deliver hand-bills. In 1844 it became a local post competing with Governmental postal services and it continued in this form until it was suppressed in 1883. After the service was closed by the U.S. government, Fitz A. Boyd a grandson of the founder, migrated to Australia and ca.1888 he became associated with H.S. Havling, the manager of the Express Messenger Company in Melbourne.

In 1894 Boyd became the manager of the company which went through multiple name changes over the years and Boyd was still associated with the firm until 1915, although usage of the firm’s stamps is not recorded after 1910. The exact date of issue of the first local stamp by the CITY EXPRESS MESSENGER CO. LTD. is not known, but it probably was 1894 when Boyd gained control of the firm. The American influence on the design of the stamp is obvious.

The first cover ca. 1894 shows the design of the green ‘CITY EXPRESS MESSENGER/Co. Ltd/ DESPATCH STAMP’ label (with a variety of a white line joining the ‘X’ with middle bar of the ‘E’) and is uncancelled, as is often the practice, is seen on the front. On the flap (not shown) EXPRESS MESSENGER SERVICE was embossed (Figure 1).

Another local cover to the same addressee has a fine strike of ‘EXPRESS/ BOYD’S/ MESSENGER’ cachet, and in addition a ‘SANDS & MCDOUGALL LIMITED/ [prancing horse]/ MELBOURNE’ embossed in brown at upper left. It was stated by the vendor as “a rare and exceptional local post cover” (Figure 2).

The vivid red cover is franked with the 4d bistre Victoria stamp and it has a machine postmark of Melbourne dated OCT 1907 2-30 P which has gone through the regular post. The cover advertises BOYD’S/ EXPRESS MESSENGER/ DESPATCH and shows prominently an illustration of a running man. The ‘FONE’ is shown as 201, which was in use for many years, by the company. On the reverse (not shown) there is a handstamp with the address of ‘BOYD’S DESPATCH/ 88 ELIZABETH ST’. The cover was addressed to The Editor, “Mercury”, Hobart, Tasmania, another Tattersall’s cover? (Figure 3).

There are a myriad of different hand-stampings and labels shown in Bill Hornage’s ‘Local Stamps of Australia’ 1982 1st edition, but I particularly liked this American item in Robert A. Siegel’s auction, a block of 15, Boyd’s City Express, Post 2 Cents, New York (Figure 4).

The vendor mentions that the first 2 covers “were recently discovered among family papers & have never before been offered for sale”. As luck would have it, I was able to identify the addressee R.J. Flowerdale of 97/99 Queen Street, Melbourne. Robert John Flowerdale was born in 1862 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, and was married in 1909 to Eliza Margaret Latimer who was born in 1873 at Tarnagulla goldfields, Victoria. Robert died on 15 Sep 1922 at Murrabit, Victoria and Eliza died 2 May 1958 in Melbourne. Their one son Alan Henry Flowerdale was born in 1914 and he died 20 FEB 1942 at Kerang, Victoria.

The firm Sands & McDougall have published directories of Melbourne and surrounds from at least 1852, and have extended their publishing to include Adelaide and Perth. They have been a leading office products supplier and the Sydney firm of Sands which produced the Sands Directories are in some way related, at least in their publishing.

No records survive how Boyd Express operated his service which in some respects would have been in direct contravention to the Victorian Post Office Act of 1854 which gave the post office a complete monopoly on carriage of letters, though there were loopholes in respect to packets and parcels.

Addendum (June 2011):  A fine example of a green City Express Messenger Co.Ltd Despatch Stamp is seen in Figure 5.

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