Royal Reels: Gambling


The registered cover was sent from W. Brettschneider, Melbourne, Victoria to Thomas W. Willman, William Str, Bathurst, Sydney (sic), N.S.W. It had 2 stamps of Victoria, a rosine 2½d and a purple-brown 5d, and there were 3 large ‘R’ cancellations, as well as red ‘REGISTERED’, and a circular REGISTERED/ V/ MY 11/ 93/ MELBOURNE (Figure 1).

The reverse had a transit REGISTERED/ B/ MY 12/ SYDNEY N.S.W and a reception BATHURST/ MY 13/ 3 15 PM/ 93/ N.S.W (Figure 2).

The recipient of the envelope was identified in a World War One listing of his soldier son, Archibald Harold Maclean Willman, an unmarried farmer, living at the home with his parents. He had enlisted in June 1916 in the 53rd Battalion, and he died of his wounds and was buried in France in March 1917. His parents were Thomas Wing Willman, and Emily Harriett Willman, nee Maclean, of 76 William Street, Bathurst, N.S.W. They had married in 1889 at Bathurst, and Thomas had been born in 1856 in Sydney, and he died in Bathurst in 1934.

I had seen at least another 6 covers addressed to W. Brettschneider in the past 3 years which gave no clue as to his stamp dealing, but recently I found his frequent 1890s 2-3 line advertisements in The Argus (Melbourne) that he had Australian stamps for sale, and that he paid highest prices for collections. His business address was given as 123 Russell Street, Melbourne. His occupation was listed as a decorator and painter. The only really personal information on W. Brettschneider was found in The Argus (Melbourne) on 1 December 1888 which was as follows: “Married by Rev. Dr. Torrance, W. Brettschneider at Paul’s Procathedral, Melbourne, only son of Rudolf Brettschneider, Architect, Spandau, Germany to Julia Jessie only daughter of J. W. Beeton, ‘Oxcroft’, Coppin Street, Richmond, Victoria. This was all I learnt of him, hardly enough to write a paper on him, and I still don’t know his first name.

An enquiry of Richard Breckon, Melbourne about 2 noted Victorian philatelists, William Reeve Rundell and Albert J. Derrick was rewarded with obituaries on both, and Richard included a copy of Derrick’s 90+ paged ‘The Philatelic Society of Victoria, 1892-1926, A History written at the Request of the Society, by A.J. Derrick.’ This was an intriguing bonus, and I was surprised and delighted that W. Brettschneider’s name was mentioned more than 40 times in the text. Some entries were repetitious or not informative, but many gave worthwhile information about the philatelist and the man. These vignettes will be added in dated order, but the final tabulation of his senior positions in the Society will be presented first: He was President of the Philatelic Society of Victoria in 1899-1900 and Secretary 1895-1897 and 1901-1910.

The thirty original members of the Philatelic Society of Victoria (PSV) in 1892 included W.R. Rundell, A.J. Derrick and W. Brettschneider (W.B.) as well as the important stamp designer, M. Tannenberg. Brettschneider was also a leading member of another Melbourne Society (learnt elsewhere that this referred to his position as honorary vice-treasurer of the Melbourne Deutscher Turn-Verein). At the first annual meeting of the PSV on June 17 1893 he was elected one of the five Committee members, as Secretary, Treasurer and Exchange Superintendent. This was in spite of the Society’s Rule 4: “No person who is professionally engaged in selling and buying stamps shall be eligible as a member of the Committee”, but this rule was struck out nine months later. Over a period of his several moves from his work premises, W.B. made a room available for the use of his Society colleagues, holding a key for their use, and he also made gifts to the Society library. In 1899 he was one of the presenters of Victorian stamp rarities at the Society meeting, and he was re-elected a committee member from 1896 to 1900. At the July 1904 meeting , he received special thanks and a gold sovereign case for his past services to the PSV.

In May 1911 he was one of the 3 nominated (also Derrick and Tannenberg) to advise on future Commonwealth stamp designs. WWI was looming and W.B. was the Society’s vice-president and would have been elected President in 1913. However he withdrew in favor of C.H. Edmonson. Chapter Six was headed ‘SomeWar Sidelights’ and strong feeling were engendered by the earlier years of the war, and they were manifested in the Society itself, so that a list of eleven members who had names which denoted, or might denote, enemy origin was drawn up in January 1916 and “one of the foundation members, and an officer of many years standing was interviewed, and told if he did not resign by June 30 his name would be struck off. He did not resign.” W.B.’s name was not specifically mentioned, but his name was not to be seen in the minutes after page 62 until page 88, when the following paragraph appeared in the PSV minutes:

“On April 15, 1926, after reading a section of this history, which emphasised the fine services to the society of W. Brettschneider, A. J. Derrick move, and A. S. A. Wheelen seconded the following resolution, which was carried unanimously — that in view of the fact that W. Brettschneider ceased his membership in the Society, through his subscription not being accepted at the time of the War, on the sole ground of his nationality; and in view of his great services to the Society throughout all its earlier history; and further in view of the esteem in which he is held by all of us who know him, we now resolve that, subject to his consent, his subscription be now accepted, and he be thus restored to membership in the Society. He was welcomed by the President, a few meetings later.”

I have not seen any information that W.B. was interned in Australia, nor have I found a photograph of him. An obituary evades me, as do his dates of birth and death. I have no information that Thomas Willman was a stamp collector, but the registered envelope sent to him suggests this possibility. My papers on Derrick (as well as Vindin), and Rundell, are at my website, in the Category: Philatelists.

This paper would never have been written without the PSV minutes paper provided by Richard Breckon as well as a photo of Walter with other philatelists, including  A.A. Rosenblum, who has a paper, also in this section.  I am hopeful of obtaining a cover sent toJ.R.W. Purves (Figure 3).

Addendum:  If this cover had turned up 2 years ago, I would have been directed to research the Philatelic Society of Victoria much earlier.  It was addressed to Mr. W. Brettschneider Hony Secy, The Philatelic Society of Victoria, 18 Russell St, Melbourne.  The printed 1d stamp of Victoria was cancelled MELBOURNE/ 21/ 1215P 29MR09/ VICTORIA (Figure 4).

David McNamee has kindly provided me with 2 additional covers, the first is an ‘ON PUBLIC SERVICE only’ registered cover from HOBART/ S/ MR 29/92 which partially obscures a SECRETARY GENERAL POST OFFICE/ TASMANIA/ FRANK STAMP.  It was sent from the General Post Office, Tasmania, and there is a red boxed REGISTRATION handstamp with a manuscript ‘3399’ (Figure 5).

The second was sent from MOONAH/ JU 7/ 95/ TASMANIA, there is a blue boxed ‘REGISTERED/ 1037/ HOBART handstamp and the stamp is the very uncommon on cover Fiscal stamp of Tasmania ‘Two Shillings & Six Pence’ with an illegible barred numeral (Figure 6).

Addendum (October 2010):  An obituary for Walter Brettschneider appeared in The Australian Stamp Journal on July 13, 1942, as follows:  he “passed away in Melbourne at an advanced age on 27th June last”.  It detailed his many positions in the PSV and “he also took a prominent part in the foundation of the Melbourne Philatelic Club during the war of 1914-18”.  He was described as a “decorative artist”.  “After the war he traded as a stamp dealer under the name of ‘W. Brett & Coy’.  His volatile nature and fund of high spirits made him a great favourite and ‘Bretty’ as he was familiarly called by his friends, played a great part in shaping Melbourne philately in the first decade of this century.  For some years past he had been in failing health and his death was not unexpected”.

Addiional information was found in H.L. Chisholm’s Century of Happiness. The Centennial History of the Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria 1992, Chapter 3, p. 14:  “Walter Brettschneider was a painter and decorator, etcher and engraver on glass on a substantial scale of business.  A writer in the Australian Philatelist described him as “an enthusiastic collector whose soul is completely wrapped up in philatelic matters.”

Addendum (February 2011):  Another cover sent to Brettschneider is of importance for it also identifies another philatelist, Rev. H.W. Lane, and it also confirms that Brettschneider was known as Brett by his colleagues and friends.  The Letter Card has a printed pink ‘TWO PENCE’ stamp of Victoria, with an added red 1d ‘Roo on Map of Australia, both cancelled by MELBOURNE/ 14/ 1015A 29 SE 13/ VICTORIA.  It is addressed to W. Brettschnwider, Lonsdale St., Melbourne (Figure 6).

The reverse has the address of the sender as Somerset House, Rennie St, Coburg, 29.9.15 with the message “Dear Brett,  Exchange Book with rare and curious stamps will be left for you at Downes (?) midday Monday,  Yours sincy  H.W. Lane. (Figure 7). 

The Exchange Books were identified at p. 29 in Derrick’s Minutes of the P.S.V. and information was found about the membership of Rev. H.W. Lane on p. 28, as follows:  Rev. H.W. Lane  then of Alexandra, elected 19/3/97, resigned 26/8/98).  He was still interested in stamps at the time of writing in 1915, and still had access to the Exchange Books of stamps of the Society.

A small amount of information on Rev. Henry Willis Lane was found in The Argus (Melbourne) on 6 May 1915, page 8) in an obituary of a son Lieut. C.F.W. Lane who was the Church of England Chaplain at the Melbourne Cemetery, now living in the suburb of Coburg, and married to Emily Williams (Figure 8).

Addendum (November 2011):  Another cover to Brettschneider was found addressed to him at  Hotel ‘Metropole’, Sydney N.S.W.  The printed stamp of Victoria was postmarked with a duplex MELBOURNE/ AU 29/ 92/ with the barred VICTORIA obliterator (Figure 9).

The reverse had the characteristic purple handstamp of the Brettschneider stamp company at 266 Flinders St., Melbourne as well as a reception postmark of SYDNEY (Figure 10).

Categories: Philatelists