Royal Reels: Gambling


This red 1d ‘Shield’ stamp New South Wales Post Card is postmarked with a duplex SYDNEY/ AP 26/ 6.30 PM/ 98/ 44 cancel and is addressed to Miss N.F. De Salis, Lambrigg, Queanbeyan (Figure 1).
The printed reverse reads: MEMORANDUM. Sydney, April 26th 1898 From F. Lassetter & Co., Limited. To Miss N.F. De Salis Queanbeyan Dear Madam We are in receipt of your letter dated 8th with order, which has our best attention. The goods will be despatched from Sydney per Early as possible and will advise date of despatch and trust will arrive to your entire satisfaction. There is an arrival postmark of QUEANBEYAN/ AP 27/ 1898/ N.S.W (Figure 2).

When one learns of the type of company involved and the young woman’s family association, this would appear to be an unusual communication. Frederic Lassetter was born in December 1828 at Taunton, Somerset, England, son of Matthew Lassetter, Wesleyan minister and his wife Elizabeth. The family migrated to Sydney in 1832 where Matthew became a confectioner and pastrycook. He then accepted a call to Longford, VDL, and in 1842 opened a school in Launceston. When his wife died, he left his family and went to America..

Frederic moved to Melbourne in 1845, but in 1848 he joined a firm in Sydney first as an accountant, but then with a hardware and general merchant firm and quickly revitalized the firm, consolidating his position by marrying the owner’s daughter, Charlotte Hannah née Ireland, in 1852. On 7 September 1863 the firm became F. Lassetter & Co., moved to new larger premises in George Street with a gala opening attended by the governor, premier and other notables. An outstanding innovator, Lassetter formed a limited company in 1878 and by 1890 he was head of one of the largest hardware firms in Australia, with warehouses in York and Clarence Streets.

In1894 the George Street showrooms were greatly enlarged, and Frederic transformed his firm into a general emporium. His Monthly Commercial Review, a ‘complete general catalogue’ circulated throughout Australia giving tails of the vast array of goods in stock. In 1894-1906 he published the Australian Field, ‘a journal for squatters, sportsmen, farm & fireside”. By 1910 he had one of the largest businesses in Sydney with nearly 1,000 employees who had part in a profit-sharing scheme. He died of a stroke on 5 September 1911 at Redleaf, Double Bay, Sydney survived by his wife, four sons and two daughters, and he was buried in the South Head cemetery. His estate was valued at £231,311! His son Henry Beauchamp was associated with his father’s firm from 1891 and became the managing director of the firm in 1911.

Miss Nina Fane De Salis of Lambrigg, Queanbeyan was George Fane De Salis’ sister and she had in 1882 already married William Farrer, agronomist and wheat breeder, renowned as the producer of Australia’s first rust-free wheat (celebrated on the red 2d stamp of 1948 and the original $2 bill). They were living on the property which had been originally bought by Farrer in 1886. I have no idea why she was using her maiden name at the time of the postcard in 1898.

The information on Frederic Lassetter was derived from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Business