Complete Set of 3 nos of postage stamp on the First Australian Christmas Cards :
Issued by Australia
Issued on Sep 15, 1982 (35c) and Nov 1, 1982 (21c, 75c)
Design : The Christmas greeting card is generally considered to be an English invention, dating back to the 1840s. By the 1880s, Christmas cards had become an expression of popular art with both pictures and verse reflecting the sentiment and taste of the Victorian era. The earliest Christmas cards to be designed with Australian themes and printed in Australia were manufactured in Sydney in 1881, and it was on this original range that the Christmas stamp designs for 1982 were based.
Designer : Bruce Weatherhead [Freelance graphic designer Mr Bruce Weatherhead has been associated with Australian stamp design since 1975, and over the years has designed many stamps for Australia Post. In 1982, apart from the design of the Christmas issue, he is accredited with the typography of the ‘Roses in Australia‘ and ‘Historic Post Offices’ stamps. His work covers most fields of illustrative design, and his vast experience enables him to work in the areas of illustrator, graphic designer and consultant at his business in South Yarra, Melbourne.]
Type : Stamps, Mint Condition
Colour : Multi colour
Denomination : 21, 35 and 75 cents
Stamp sizes : 26 mm x 37.5 mm vertical; 37.5 mm x 26 mm horizontal
Perforation : 14½ x 14½
Paper : APWH stamp paper
Sheet content : 100 (issued)
Printing process : photolithography on a four–colour Roland Rekord Press
Printer : Leigh–Mardon Pty Limited, Melbourne
- In nineteenth century Australia, Christmas cards were mainly imported from Europe, and the scenes they depicted bore little or no relation to Australian conditions in December. The first attempt to produce a specifically Australian card was made by the printing firm John Sands, of Sydney. In 1881, Robert Sands, the founder’s son, announced a competition for suitable designs of Australian subjects, with prizes totalling 50 guineas. The 662 entries were displayed in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and judged by E. Combes, MLA, E. L. Montefiore, and E. du Faur.
- The aim of the competition was summarised in the Bulletin as “…that of providing cards suitable for sending home or calculated to convey to our friends an idea, not only of the beauty of our scenery and flora, but at the same time, show the advance Australia, and Sydney in particular, is making in the Fine Arts” [Bulletin 29 October 1881, p. 6 (advertisement)].
- The 38 cards produced as a result of the competition were released for sale in October 1881, available “from any Bookseller or Stationer in the colonies.” Typical of the resulting general acclaim was the reaction of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which described them as “these really artistic gems” [Sydney Daily Telegraph 29 October 1881, p. 6]. The subjects of the cards were listed in an advertisement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Monday 31 October 1881. Most incorporated Australian flora and fauna, together with a focal point of Australiana such as a well-known scenic view.
- The three cards from this original John Sands range selected for the Australia Post Christmas 1982 stamp issue are, as titled in the Sydney Daily Telegraph advertisement : ‘Bushman’s Hotel, with Cobb’s coach arriving’; ‘Spray of wattle, graphic monochrome of Sydney Harbour’; and ‘Little girl offering Christmas pudding to swagsman’ (sic).
- On the 21c stamp, several men and horses stand outside a building with the sign ‘Bushman’s Hotel‘. To the right a carriage approaches, laden with people and luggage. The background is of bush, mainly eucalypts, and the picture is surrounded by delicate lattice-work.
- The main subject of the 35c stamp is a peaceful view of a stretch of water in Sydney Harbour, with a yacht and a ferry in the distance. A spray of wattle is placed behind this picture, with the legend “Health, wealth and happiness in the coming year”.
- In the background of the 75c stamp, a well-dressed party has arrived for a bush picnic, with a large hamper. Their carriage is silhouetted to the left. In the foreground, a little girl from the picnic group holds out a plate with a slice of Christmas pudding to a dejected-looking swagman, seated against a gum tree. A fire burns with a billy to the right and the swag lies on the ground behind the child. A border of flowers features the waratah and Sturt pea, with cockatoos and parrots. The legend bears the greeting “A merry Christmas and a happy new year”. The artist was identified in the Sydney Morning Herald as C. H. Hunt, of Sydney.
- The verse in the top right corner is by Miss Lizzie Kingsbury :
“A priceless jewel from the casket of
God’s tender love
Is Christmas sent to draw our hearts
from earth to Heaven above“.
- The ‘Little girl offering Christmas pudding to swagsman‘ card was priced at the top of the range at 1s 3d, and the others sold for 1s each, “Mounted on Toned Cards, 6d each extra.” Each card carries the John Sands hourglass trade mark, with the words “prize designs, copyright”.
- The cards were not only designed but also printed in Australia, at John Sands‘ Chromo-Lithographic Works, 374 George Street, Sydney. The designs were drawn on stone by artists employed by John Sands, and printed on chromo-litho machines imported from England for this specific purpose. The company placed a special advertisement in the Bulletin stressing that the cards were manufactured locally, “There being an erroneous idea prevalent – owing to their excellence – that these cards have been produced in Europe from colonial designs…” [Bulletin 29 October 1881, p. 6 (advertisement)]
- Australia Post reproduced the three cards from the collection of Mr Ray Chapman MBE, with the permission of John Sands Greetings. The first day cover design, printed above, was reproduced from the Australasian sketcher 23 December 1876.