Royal Reels: Gambling


Three advertising covers for H. Prescott & Co., 336 & 338 Sussex Street, Sydney appeared on Ebay, all with different designs. I have seen others previously, but because of the difficulty in researching the Sydney Company, I had given up on producing a paper about the company. A chance finding however has provided background on the company in the rural areas of N.S.W.

The earliest cover was sent in January 1903, the motif was illustrated in a flamboyant red, and the design included a sheath of wheat. It was sent to Messrs Rainer Produce Coy, 815 Western Avenue, Seattle, USA and it had the N.S.W. red 1d ‘Shield’ stamp with a Sydney duplex dated January 1903 (Figure 1).

The reverse had a drawing of their building, as well as a roller machine reception postmark of SEATTLE/ FEB 11/ 10 30 PM, 1903 (Figure 2).

The next cover had a different design in sombre black and had the same 1d stamp cancelled with the duplex SYDNEY/ DE 31/ 4-P.M./ 04/ 10. It was addressed to Mr J.A. Campbell, 811 Western Avenue, Seattle, USA and there was a purple handstamp ‘ONE HUNDRED POSTED’ (Figure 3).

The reverse showed ‘PINEAPPLE BACON/ HAMS & C ‘ as well as a roller machine cancel for SEATTLE/ JAN 25/ ( ) PM/ 1905 (Figure 4).

The next cover also illustrated in black had yet a different design featuring sheaths of wheat as well as two different descriptions ‘Grain & Produce Merchants’ and ‘Sole Agents for “Pineapple” Bacon, Hams & C, Daisy Brand Butter, Taylor’s Calf Food incorporated in the design. The blue 2d QV stamp had a machine cancel of MR 30/ 1909. There were two handstamps, a purple ‘Due 10 Cents’ and a black boxed ‘DEF 5/ FINE 5/ 10 CENTIMES’. An U.S. 2 cents postage due was applied, cancelled with blue crayon. The cover was addressed to Messrs Hull, Hamlet & Coy, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. (Figure 5).

The reverse had a printed ‘Sole Agents/ for/ Pineapple Bacon/ Hams & C / and/ Tayner’s (?) Calf Food’. The reception postmark could not be read (Figure 6).

Although considerable information about the products and services of the H. Prescott & Co., Sussex Street, Sydney can be learnt from the three covers over the years 1903 to 1909, I have no biographical information on H. Prescott, nor the start and end dates of this company. Additional information was gained in a ‘History of Marrar, N.S.W. 1979′. Marrar is a village situated in the southwest of N.S.W. and is circled by rural towns (starting in the south and proceeding clockwise): Wagga Wagga, Narrandera, Leeton, West Wyalong and Cootamundra. Its population in a 7 km radius was ca. 210, and it is shown on the map with a blue arrow (Figure 7).

Marrar was always known as an area that produced good hay and chaff, but it lacked a local business man prepared to invest in the area. The hay and chaff trade was mainly controlled by outside interests, with local agents in charge. In 1919 the Sussex Street, Sydney Produce merchants, Prescott and Co. entered the trade in Marrar. They purchased land on the corner of Old Coolamon and Temora Roads and went into business in a big way. At times they had as much as 2,000 tons of hay in their yard. Quite a lot of their cartage was done by their own horse team and wagon, as shown in Figure 8.

For the next eight years Prescotts were the main hay buyers in the district and they provided a lot of jobs for the local residents. On 21 December, 1927 a fire broke out in one of the largest haystacks. Being summer everything was tinder dry, and several haystacks in close proximity were ablaze. The Coolamon Town Fire Brigade is seen pumping water from the Marrar Government Dam onto the fire in Prescott’s haystacks (Figure 9).

Prescotts remained in business in Marrar until the mid 1930s. By this time the motor car and truck had taken over from the horse, and the Marrar branch was closed down. Thus we know for a fact that H. Prescott & Co. was active in trade for at least three decades from the mid first decade of the 1900s to mid 1930s.

Addendum (October 2009):  Yet another colour variation for Prescott, shown as Ltd, sent from SYDNEY/ JA 21/ NOON/ 07/ 25 to Seattle, USA (Figure 10).

Yet another remarkable advertising cover for Prescott on an 1906 New South Wales cover from Sydney (Figure 11).