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Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia


Postal and telegraphic services

Image 5: The last camel mail on its way from Oodnadatta in South Australia to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, 1872. Shortly after, the Overland Telegraph replaced the camel mail

Image 5: The last camel mail on its way from Oodnadatta in South Australia to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, 1872. Shortly after, the Overland Telegraph replaced the camel mail
NAA: A1200, L26071
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The establishment of postal services in South Australia can be traced back to 10 April 1837, with the appointment of Colonial Storekeeper Thomas Gilbert to the position of Postmaster. Telecommunications were formally established with the creation of the position of Superintendent of Telegraphs in February 1855. Charles Todd was appointed to the position.

In 1870 the Post Office and Telegraph departments were amalgamated and Charles Todd was appointed Postmaster-General and Superintendent of Telegraphs. The present General Post Office building was completed in 1872.

The PMG was one of the original Commonwealth departments created on 1 January 1901. The Post and Telegraph Act 1901 came into operation on 1 December 1901 and the provisions of the state Acts ceased to apply, except that certain state rates and charges remained in place for a defined period.

From 1901, the basic role of the General Post Office, Adelaide (also known as the PMG, State Administration, South Australia from 1901 to 1975) was to provide a network of facilities that enabled people and organisations to send and receive letters, printed matter, parcels and money within Australia and overseas, as well as providing telephone and telegraph services.

In 1975 PMG operations were divided into two areas: Australian Postal Commission (Australia Post), with responsibility for all national and international mailings; and Australian Telecommunications Commission (Telecom), which oversaw all national telecommunications.

Many colonial records relating to the administration of the postal function passed to the Commonwealth in 1901. These records, a selection of which are listed below, are now held by the Archives. The records cover subjects such as administration of post offices, postal rates, postal orders, mail delivery routes and contracts, and central administrative matters including staff appointments, accounts and telephone services.

Records relating to postal and telegraphic services in South Australia include correspondence files, personnel records, and a large volume of plans, photographs, registers and postal guides.

A collection of South Australian historical telecommunication records is held by the Telstra Museum in Melbourne. The Archives' Adelaide Office holds a list of items that were transferred to the museum.

SELECTED SERIES RELATING TO POSTAL AND TELEGRAPHIC SERVICES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Adelaide
Recorded by: Post and Telegraph Department, South Australia
Outwards letter books, 'A' (administration), 1876–79 D950
Sydney and Adelaide
Recorded by: General Post Office, Adelaide/Postmaster-General's Department, State Administration, South Australia
Bound volumes of Commonwealth instructions and monthly circulars received and sent, 1901–32 D3976
Certificates for presentation to masters of vessels book, 1920–75 D3369
Circular memoranda, 1901–75 D3382
Client history cards, 1915–20 D3377
Correspondence dockets, 1894–1914 D957
Correspondence file relating to the 1959 Kongorong (Mount Gambier) fire, 1959 D5467
Correspondence files, 'A' (administration), 1895–1964 D959
Correspondence files, 'B' (telegraph and telephone), 1912–64 D960
Correspondence files, 'C' (conveyancing), 1914–64 D961
Correspondence files, 'SB/S' (staffing), 1912–64 D958
Correspondence files relating to customer services, 1968–89 D3948
Correspondence files, 'PC' (policy and administration), 1964–86 D955
Correspondence files, 'RP' (registered publications), 1908–77 D954
Correspondence files, 'SA' (southern administration), 1963–79 D956
Correspondence files, 'SE' (South Australia engineering), 1936–60 D3121
Correspondence files, 'SR' (radio), 1945–88 D4074
Correspondence files, 'Z' (general policy), 1916–75 D1923
Correspondence files, 'Z' (general policy), 1933–72 D1924
Correspondence files, 'ZA' (security), 1938–68 D1483
Daily statistics of mail despatched, 1847 D4378
Hindmarsh Post Office register of memoranda, 1918–28 D5091
Index and registers titled 'Postal Alterations' – records of changes to postal services (including mail contracts), 1904–17 AP236/5
Indexes – country offices – inwards and outwards correspondence, 1881–1914 AP236/4
Indexes – letters inwards, 1878–1914 AP236/2
Mail Exchange Branch instructions, 1952–88 D5095
Ministerial correspondence and public relations press releases, 1901–75 D3378
Miscellaneous departmental papers, 1871–1979 D3383
Outwards letter book, 'I' (telegraph), 1873–74 D951
Outwards letter book, 'OT' (Overland Telegraph), 1871 D952
Outwards letter book, 1912 D5089
Papers relating to the Adelaide Mail Exchange, 1969–76 D5107
Papers relating to the Postmaster-General's Signals Corps, 1940–66 D3380
Patriotic Fund correspondence, 1939–46 D3370
Photographs of post office buildings, personnel and equipment, 1840–1990 D5440
Porterage mail service record forms, 1923–74 D5114
Post Office Regional Advisory Council meetings, 1950–65 D3384
Postal guides, 1868–1994 D5286
Registers – letters referred, 1881–1914 AP236/3
Registers – titled special subjects (correspondence relating to postal services), 1896–1912 AP236/6
Registers of staff records and correspondence series, 1872–1936 AP236/8
Statements of business transacted at post offices, South Australia and Northern Territory, 1930–50 AT2389/5
Statements on annual review of allowances for non-official post offices, 1962–77 D5149
Telegraph Department correspondence files, 1866–1900 D4450
Telephone application books, 1896–1911 AP1055/1
Melbourne
Recorded by: Postmaster-General's Department, Central Administration
Inwards correspondence registers of items received from SA, 1901–12 MP83/7
States' files – including South Australia, 1912–38 MP33/1
Sydney
Recorded by: Postmaster-General's Department, State Administration, South Australia – Murray Bridge District Office
Correspondence files, 1964–93 D3962
Sydney
Recorded by: Postmaster-General's Department, State Administration, South Australia – Postal Services Division
Correspondence files, 'PS' (postal services), 1969–75 D953
Sydney
Recorded by: Australian Telecommunications Commission, State Office, South Australia
Correspondence files, 'SA' (administration), 1979–89 D2448
Correspondence files, 'SP' (personnel), 1979– D1926
Adelaide
Recorded by: Australian Postal Corporation, State Office, South Australia
Correspondence files relating to properties and sites for post offices, 1979– D5079
SELECTED SERIES THAT CONTAIN RECORDS RELATING TO POSTAL AND TELEGRAPHIC SERVICES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Canberra and Adelaide
Recorded by: Department of Home Affairs, Central Office
Correspondence files, 'A' (general matters including South Australia), 1904–09 A100
Sydney
Recorded by: Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia)
Historical and predecessor entity records, 1939–86 C5524
Adelaide
Recorded by: Department of Housing and Construction [II], South Australia and Northern Territory Region
Information folders relating to the Adelaide GPO restoration, 1978–88 D5157
SELECTED ITEMS RELATING TO POSTAL AND TELEGRAPHIC SERVICES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Adelaide
Establishment of mail services, 1905–20 D959, IA1920/2603
Posters, 1913–17 D959, IA1917/17
Letter deliveries, 1914–23 D959, IA1916/4469
Adelaide metropolitan area – telephone exchanges change over to automatic switching system, 1927–34 D960, B1934/1065
Flying boat service, 1938 D959, IA1938/405
Photograph of Andamooka Post Office, 1940 D5440, 2269

Overland Telegraph

Perhaps the most important early communications development in South Australia was the completion of the Overland Telegraph. Sir Charles Todd, South Australian Superintendent of Telegraphs, oversaw the construction of the 3200-kilometre telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin which, on its completion in August 1872, would eventually link Australia to the rest of the world.

The Archives' collection contains some records and images relating to Sir Charles Todd and the Overland Telegraph.

SELECTED ITEMS RELATING TO SIR CHARLES TODD AND THE OVERLAND TELEGRAPH
Canberra
Plan of Overland Telegraph from Port Darwin to Port Augusta, 1883 A6128, NTR100A
Sydney
Message from Blackett to Todd, part of the Overland Telegraph and submarine cable messages also known as the 'Todd Telegrams', 1869 C5524, SE/0085#13
History of communication, Overland Telegraph route Adelaide–Darwin, 1950–54 D956, SA1968/1902
Adelaide
Photograph of Todd, Sir Charles, 1871 D5440, 8328
Overland Telegraph – eight photographs of personnel and camps, and copy of Sir Charles Todd's report, 1884–1936 D960, B1936/3838

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Chapter 3
Communications