A century of Tasmanian news
Guest blogger Ian Morrison from LINC Tasmania shares some highlights from the newly digitised Tasmanian newspapers.
The latest Tasmanian additions to Trove, funded by the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, include more than 30 titles, spanning the 1820s to the 1920s. Trove now provides access to more than 100 of the approximately 130 newspapers published in Tasmania before 1954.
Significant new titles from city to country
The most significant new addition is the suite of titles that began with the merger of the Tasmanian (Hobart, 1827-29) and Murray’s Austral-Asiatic Review (Hobart, 1828) to form the Tasmanian and Austral-Asiatic Review. It went through a dozen title changes, splits and mergers until its eventual absorption by the Colonial Times in 1845. Its principal editor, Robert Lathrop Murray (1777-1850), was a colourful controversialist who indulged in petty personal vendettas as fiercely as he engaged with broad political issues. Historian E. Morris Miller described him as ‘a master of literary finesse and insinuation’ but one who ‘frequently dissipated the points of his argument in vaporizings’ (Pressmen and Governors, pp.9-11).
Other newly added titles from this period include:
- Independent (Launceston, 1831-35)
- Bent's News and Tasmanian Three-Penny Register (Hobart, 1836-38)
- Irish Exile and Freedom’s Advocate (Hobart, 1850-51)
Also among the new additions are four short-lived titles that deepen Trove’s regional coverage of Tasmania:
- Mount Lyell Standard and Strahan Gazette (Queenstown, 1896-1902)
- Banner (Strahan, 1900-01)
- Midland News (Oatlands, 1902-04)
- Northern Standard (Ulverstone, 1921-23)
A highlight is a group of titles loosely described as ‘Tasmanian Punch’:
- Tasmanian Punch (1866)
- Hobart Town Punch (1867-68)
- Fun, or The Tasmanian Charivari (1867)
- Tasmanian Punch (1869-70, 1877-1878)
- Hobart Town Punch (1878)
Tasmanian Punch was among the earliest of many imitators of the iconic London-based satirical magazine Punch (1841-2002), characterised by its erudite wit and visually complex cartoons.
Although short-lived in comparison with Melbourne Punch (1855-1925), Tasmanian Punch and its successors were notable contributors to the political and social debates of the time.
The editors explicitly saw themselves as competing with the major newspapers: ‘We mean going it this time, my boys!’ depicts Punch beating other newspapers (including the Mercury and the Evening Mail) in a velocipede race.
The 1877 iteration claimed, tongue-in-cheek, ‘50,000 subscribers, where’er they be’, and promoted itself as ‘the best medium for advertising in the colony’, because it was unlikely to be torn up like an ‘ordinary newspaper’.
Like the London original, the Australian versions of Punch were aimed at educated middle-class readers and they reveal much about their mental landscape. Humour such as ‘The Snub Connubial’ is universal. We now call that phenomenon ‘continuous partial attention’; the only surprise, in a mainstream high-Victorian periodical, is the subtle but quite clear recognition of female sexuality. Was the cartoonist apologising for a domestic faux pas?
We hope you enjoy delving into Tasmania’s past. Please share your finds with us in the comments below.
Interested in partnering with us to put a journal or newspaper on Trove? Get in touch: (02) 6262 1005 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Clifford Craig, Mr Punch in Tasmania (Hobart: Blubber Head, 1980)
E. Morris Miller, Pressmen and Governors (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1952)