A series of five fine mint copies, all of different design, illustrated printed to private order Australian lettercards, with the imprint of KGV heads (1, 1½ and 2d values) was found on a single Australian philatelic auction site, all emanating from Messrs Reid Bros Ltd., at different Adelaide, South Australian addresses. Two of the lettercards included in their address a description of the purpose of their business, namely ‘Timber and Iron Merchants’ or ‘Timber and Joinery Merchants’.
As the lettercards are not used, they do not strictly fall into postal history, but they give a good idea of the power of advertising during the period of at least 1915 to 1924, and the auction prices realised (from AU $750 to $3600) give testament to the interest they engendered from postal stationary enthusiasts. The value to the collector was in the rarity of the philatelic item, but the quality of the advertisements probably also contributed to their appeal.
Only 3 of the 5 lettercards will be illustrated, and only the first will be shown as both the front and the reverse, for this commanded the highest price on account of the 1d red Die 1 KGV Head showing “a large white flaw on stamp”, the illustration was superb, and the address gave an indication of the company’s business. The large white flaw is not particularly impressive and is situated between the left hand 1d value tablet and the ‘ONE’ (Figures 1 & 1A).
The reverse illustration is exquisite with high value impact showing four working elephants, two workers (who look like natives) and a pile of timber that is labeled ‘REID BROS LTD’. The printed caption is not really necessary and it states ‘Elephants, Stacking Timber For Reid Bros Ltd, Adelaide’ (Figure 2).
The illustrated reverse of the second lettercard is impressive because of the size of the logs lying on open rail trestles (compare the height of the man with the diameter of the logs), and the picture has a description of ‘Raw Timber for Reid Bros. Ltd., Timber Merchants, Adelaide’ (Figure 3).
The third illustrated reverse is not as spectacular as the other two lettercards, but it is an illustration of the expansiveness of the Reid Brothers Limited, Timber & Iron Merchants, New Dock, Port Adelaide, and it mentions that they have 5 lines for their telephone (Figure 4).
I had thought that it would be relatively easy to research this company, but my internet search did not reveal any worthwhile information. An email to the State Library of South Australia produced considerable information on the company but minimal information on the Reid brothers, even after I had identified the names of two family member.
The Register newspaper of 17 September 1910 wrote of the long and successful career of Malcolm Reid timber merchant at Adelaide and Port Adelaide, stating that confidence could also be placed in the young and progressive firm of Reid Brothers, which had been established for two years. They had commodious and convenient premises in Adelaide and had opened up a Port Adelaide branch 12 months ago. An important and costly addition had just been made to the Port Adelaide yard in the form of a machine to produce four sided moldings and a machine with rotary cutters, brought from England. The newspaper recommended the new company in every respect to perpetuate the good name held by the old firm of Malcolm Reid. This 1910 article implied that Reid Brothers was a branch of Malcolm Reid & Co. furniture makers.
The Observer of 1 August 1914 stated that 6 years ago Messrs Reid Brother’s timber business was expanding, having commenced in a small way in Flinders Street, Adelaide with a very small plant and limited stock, but by now its business had increased by leaps and bounds, so that it now had a staff running well into three figures, and a stock valued at about £35,000. In their carpentry and joining works they were capable of staircase work, shop fronts, all kinds of window frames, door frames, doors, mantelpieces and joinery work of every description, under the supervision of the foreman carpenter who had been the general foreman for Cutlan’s famous joinery works at North London. “As all business passes through the hands of Messrs. Reid Bros themselves, complete satisfaction can be relied upon at all times.” We can be certain that one of the brothers was Malcolm, another was probably Robert and there was another family member, Harold E. Reid, who was the Managing Director in 1940.
Reid Brothers Ltd appeared as an entry in the South Australian Directories up until 1983, but a separate entry appears for Malcolm Reid & Co. (furniture) in the mid 1980’s. There was no mention as to whether the business was defunct, or taken over by another firm.
I wish to acknowledge the great assistance of Sharon Bubner, Information & Research Services Librarian, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide.