Royal Reels: Gambling


The front of this cover is rather ordinary and was sent from F.J. King, General Storekeeper, Goodooga to F. Chilton, City (Fruit) Market, Sydney. The red 2d KGV Head stamp was postmarked with the Type 2B cancel (with double side arcs) of GOODOOGA/ 12 OC 33/ N.S.W (Figure 1).

The reverse shows the characteristic illustration of a pack of Bushells BLUE LABEL Tea, with ‘More cups’ and ‘Finer flavor’ on the flap (Figure 2).

Philip Howard Bushell, tea merchant, was born on 14 September 1879 at Liverpool, England, youngest child of Alfred Thomas Bushell and his wife Agnes, sister of Arthur Brooke, who founded the tea firm Brooke Bond. On his mother’s death he was brought up by the Brooke family and educated at Burnham College, Somerset. His father migrated to Brisbane with his three older sons in 1883 and set up as a grocer and tea merchant. At age of 11, Philip joined them and attended Brisbane Grammar School in 1891-93.

Philip became a tea taster but, disagreeing with his father’s methods, he joined his brother Alfred Walter (d.1955) who had established a Sydney branch in 1895, extending to Victoria in 1899. Bushell & Co., ‘The Tea-men’, moved to George Street North in 1904 and suspended operations in Victoria. Concerned that his youth and inexperience might alienate the conservative tea-drinker, Bushell put his bearded father’s picture on his packets and the business flourished. On 13 February 1912 a public company, Bushell’s Ltd, was formed, with Philip Bushell as chairman.

In 1920 the firm was reconstructed to finance a new building in Harrington Street and extend operations to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, and to Victoria in 1922. Over-extended, it was soon in severe financial trouble, but Bushell persuaded his employees to lend cash and the firm was saved. In 1924 he promoted its products by distributing a free half-pound of tea to every home in Sydney. He restarted direct operations in Brisbane in 1929 and opened a branch in New Zealand in 1937. World War II brought problems of supply and rationing in the tea trade and from March 1942 to 1953, when controls were lifted, he was a member of the (Commonwealth) Tea Control Board. In 1957 Bushell’s Investments Ltd was formed to acquire Bushell’s Pty Ltd with a nominal capital of £3 million.

Bushell was a man of striking physical appearance and great personal charm. He had a lively mind, read a lot and loved conversation and acquiring knowledge. Energetic and enthusiastic, he travelled widely including a three-year world tour during which he visited the Soviet Union. In 1947 he represented the Institute of Industrial Management, Australia, at the eighth International Management Congress, in Stockholm.

Bushell died at his home, Carthona, Darling Point, on 29 March 1954 and he was survived by his wife, Myrtle Dolce, née Stewart, whom he had married in Sydney on 12 February 1916, and by two daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £666,695. His wife died on 8 September 1959 leaving an estate of £2,558,921. The Bushell family trust left large sums of money to medical research and education.

I acknowledge that this paper was based on the entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.