Two relatively unpretentious covers dated 27 years apart reveal, on their reverse, how the fortunes of the Dalton Brothers changed from humble beginnings in Ireland to riches in New South Wales. The first cover, a printed to private order envelope with the embossed blue 1d ‘Emu’ stamp of N.S.W. was postmarked with the duplex SYDNEY/ FE 11/ 11-A M/ 95/ 36 and was addressed to a firm in Melbourne (Figure 1).

The flap on the reverse had a stylized ‘belt and buckle’ advert of DALTON BROTHERS/ 115 PITT STREET/ SYDNEY (Figure 2).

The second cover had an embossed red 2d KGV head, with ‘POSTAGE’ under the neck, which had a roller cancel of SYDNEY/ 5-PM/ AP 10/ 1922/ N.S.W., as well as Per ‘Ventura’ and it was addressed to a brewery in Glasgow, Scotland (Figure 3).

The flap on the reverse had a similar ‘belt and buckle’ advert for the DALTON BROTHERS/ 525-527 KENT ST/ OF SYDNEY LTD (Figure 4).

James Dalton was born in Duntryleague, Limerick, Ireland in 1834, son of James an innkeeper and his first wife Eleanor, née Ryan. Because of the potato famine, James and his father went to N.S.W. in the late 1840s. In 1853 James junior set up as a storekeeper in Orange where he married Margaret Collins in 1858, and he was joined by his older brother Thomas who also was born in Duntryleague (in 1829), and their firm was known as Dalton Bros. They built a flour mill in 1861 and the firm expanded until it became the largest wholesale distributor west of the Blue Mountains. They roasted and ground coffee on a large scale, built large wool stores in Orange where they built an impressive retail store in 1865. By 1871 they had acquired three stations, Gulgo, Milbey and Bygoloree in the Lachlan district.

Dalton Brothers continued to flourish in the 1870s and in 1876 James built Duntryleague, a mansion in magnificent grounds, reputedly at a cost of £50,000. It was named after his birthplace, which means “The Fort of the Three Pillar Stones”, referring to the burial place of King Cormack in the eleventh century. (Figure 5).

The brothers established an importing agency in Sydney, managed by Thomas, and in 1878 built Dalton House, Pitt Street, Sydney. They built stores in lower Fort Street and had a wharf and warehouses at Millers Point. James died aged 85 on 17 March 1919 at Duntryleague.

Thomas was mayor of Orange in 1869, and the Dalton family was one of the colony’s richest and most influential Catholic families. Thomas received an investiture as a Papal Knight by Pope Gregory in recognition of his services to the Catholic Church. He was both a member of the N.S.W. Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council spanning the years from 1882 until 1901, when he died 26 June 1901 at North Sydney.

This information has been derived from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Parliament of New South Wales website.