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Friday 29 August 2014

Camel Load of Typewriters in the Australian Desert

Englishman John Frank Batthews Bowden (1871-1951), of the United Typewriter and Supplies Co, helps an "Afghan cameleer", left, (with a boy assistant) to pack a camel load of Densmore, Yost and Caligraph typewriters headed for Coolgardie on the fringe of the Great Victoria Desert in Western Australia during the gold rush of 1898.

Two weeks ago I posted on the Union Typewriter Trust's thrust into Australia in the mid-1890s, through its international trading wing the United Typewriter and Supply Company.
At the time of researching the post, I came across this wonderful image, which I found in the National Library of Australia's Trove digital archives. However, the image had been reproduced in Perth's Western Mail newspaper from a copy of the Sydney Bulletin, where it had first appeared on September 24, 1898. The Bulletin has not yet been digitised by Trove. Not surprisingly, given the engraving processes used at the time, Trove's jpg of the Western Mail image was far from clear.
Yesterday my friend Bruce Coe took me to the National Library here in Canberra, found the microfilm of the Bulletin from 1898 and created a PDF of the image, which I have since been able to scan and upload here. I think it's much clearer than the one I used with my UTSC post.
The photograph shows a camel laden with Densmore, Yost and Caligraph No 4 typewriters on the Goldfields of what was at the time referred to as "Westralia" [Western Australia].
Herbert Hoover photographed in Perth in 1898
At the time this photo was taken, working of these Goldfields was Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964), later to become the 31st President of the United States (1929-1933). Hoover went to Western Australia in 1897 as an employee of Bewick, Moreing & Co, a London-based gold mining company. He worked at gold mines in Big Bell, Cue, Leonora, Menzies, and Coolgardie. Hoover first went to Coolgardie, then the centre of the WA goldfields. Conditions were harsh but Hoover was paid a $5000 salary (equivalent to $100,000 today). In the Coolgardie and Murchison rangelands on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert, Hoover described the region as a land of "black flies, red dust and white heat". He served as a geologist and mining engineer while searching the goldfields for investments. After being appointed as mine manager at the age of 23, he led a major program of expansion for the Sons of Gwalia gold mine at Gwalia.
In my book, BWh stands for "bloody witheringly hot". When Perth experiences a heat wave (and I've been through one), it's when winds blow straight off the desert toward the Indian Ocean.
The Australian United Typewriter and Supplies Co network was established by an Englishman Henry Gray Cambridge (1868-1922), who was sent to Australia by Milton Bartholomew (1855-1927), managing director of the trust-controlled Yost Typewriter Company on the Holborn Viaduct in London (where Cambridge had been Bartholomew's assistant). This was also the English headquarters of the United Typewriter and Supplies Co. At the time of setting up the UTSC in London, both Bartholomew and Cambridge worked for one-time London Lord Mayor Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow (1822-1906), a judge of typewriters at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.
Bartholomew also sent out typewriter expert William Thomas Harding (1870-1912) and Harding's brother-in-law, John Frank Batthews Bowden (1871-1951), who was associated with the Yost, New Century (Caligraph) and Monarch brands in England. Bowden's movements, from Western Australia to North Queensland and on to New Zealand and then Sri Lanka and India, were all directed by the trust from New York. 
It is Bowden who is in the photograph at the top of this post. He was born to fine art publisher Felix Joyce Bowden and his wife Elizabeth Emma Batthews in Finsbury Park, north London, on October 5, 1871, and died in Brighton on May 1, 1951, aged 79. He arrived in Sydney on the Oroya on September 4, 1897.  His wife Keturah and three daughters arrived in Fremantle on the Allinga the following March.
When the Coolgardie gold rush started in 1894, the "Afghan cameleers"  (so-called, although they did not originate in Afghanistan) were quick to move in. The goldfields could not have continued without the food, water and typewriters they transported. In March 1894, a caravan of six Afghans, 47 camels and 11 calves set out across the desert from Marree to the goldfield, with the camels carrying between 135 and 270 kilograms each. Another 57 camels for Coolgardie arrived by ship in Albany in September. By 1898 there were 300 members of the Muslim community in Coolgardie. Coolgardie held the main Muslim community in the colony at that time. Simple mud and tin-roofed mosques were initially constructed in the town.
From Typewriter Topics, July 1907:

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