The Commonwealth of Australia Letter Card (H & G #A9) was addressed to Reverend Professor Graebner at Unley via Adelaide, and the printed brown 1½d KGV head stamp was cancelled by a ROSENTHAL/ ( ) AP 17/STH AUST postmark (Figure 1).

The picture side of the card showed a poor quality Mount Gould, Tasmania photograph and the letterside was indecipherable (in German) except for the date, 15/4/17 (Figure 2).

Carl Friedrich Graebner (1862-1949), clergyman and educationist, was born on 8 October 1862 at St Charles, Missouri, United States of America, son of Pastor J. Henry Philipp Graebner and his wife Jacobine. Pastor Graebner, a Franconian missionary, had helped to establish Lutheran colonies in Michigan. Carl was educated at a private school, at North-western University, Wisconsin (B.A., 1882), and at Concordia Seminary, St Louis. He was ordained at Sedalia, Missouri, his first parish, in 1885. Next year at Washington, Missouri, he married Charlotte Stoeppelwerth. From 1889 to 1903 he served at Topeka, Kansas, and Bay City, Michigan.

In 1902 his brother Professor A.L. Graebner travelled to the local Concordia College and seminary Murtoa, Victoria to settle problems and he asked Carl to accept a professorship there. Carl arrived at Murtoa in August 1903 to find that the college had closed again. He revived the parish’s support, and Concordia reopened in April 1904. In December it moved to Unley, Adelaide, where it resumed as Concordia College and Seminary in February 1905, with Graebner as headmaster. He and his wife, matron at Concordia from 1905, were naturalized soon after arriving in Australia. A benign teacher, in the college he conducted services and taught Latin; in the seminary he taught Hebrew, Old Testament, dogmatics and minor disciplines.

Graebner was bilingual and he influenced Lutheran pastors at a time when the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Australia was changing from the predominant use of German to the exclusive use of English. This was partly a response to the hostility directed at Australian Lutherans of German descent in World War I. In 1915 the South Australian parliament debated a bill for German schools to be scrutinized and registered by government inspectors, and to limit teaching in the German language. Graebner welcomed government visitors, so that citizens might be reassured of the sincerity of the schools, but begged that any school deemed ‘inefficient’ under the Act might be dealt with by synod.

Graebner worked with the Lutheran War Relief and on the board of the Myrtle Bank Soldiers’ Home. After the war he helped to produce a Lutheran hymn-book in English and for a time he edited the first English language church newspaper, the Australian Lutheran.. In 1925 he received an honorary doctorate of divinity from his old seminary. In 1935 Graebner’s wife died. Four years later he retired from the headmastership, although he remained president of the seminary until 1941. He died at Prospect on 5 June 1949, survived by two sons, both Lutheran pastors, and four of his six daughters, and was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

This paper is a shortened version of a paper on the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum:  A printed to private order envelope with a copy of the half-penny and one penny KGV head stamps is postmarked TARRINGTON/ 17 MR 20/ VIC. is addressed to Rev. Dir. C.F. Grabner, Unley, S.A., Concordia, without any post marks on the reverse (Figure 3).

Addendum (September 2009):  An additional cover has been found with the ‘THREE HALFPENNY’ octagonal brown KGV Head printed stamp cancelled with the double circle ADELAIDE/ FE 21/ 3.30 P/ 20/ STH AUS postmark.  It was addressed to Dir. C.F. Graebner, Concordia College, Unley, S.A.  Of considerable interest the sender is identified as Rev. Wm. Janzow, of (  )27 Wakefield Street, Adelaide (Figure 4).

Rev. William Janzow was a fellow Lutheran minister whose relationship with Rev. C.F. Graebner is found in the following quotation from a Lutheran site:  

“The most objectionable part of the legislation, for the German-Australians, was Section 5 of the new act. This stated that after the expiration of six months from the passing of the act, but no later than the thirty-first day of December 1917, all the Lutheran primary schools would be closed. Section 6 stated that teaching in any of the closed schools would incur a fine of one hundred Pounds or six month’s gaol. William Janzow, Chairman of the Committee of Lutheran Presidents and C.F. Graebner, Chairman of the School Committee presented parliament with a document setting out fifteen very good reasons why the Amendment should not become law. They argued that it was a most undemocratic law and really religious persecution. When the forty-nine Lutheran schools were finally closed on 30 June 1917, only the Koonibba Mission School and the Immanuel and Concordia Colleges were allowed to remain open. The closure of the Lutheran schools brought many hardships, affecting some 1600 students and resulted in unemployment for most of its Australian born and trained teachers”.