GEORGE HOWE: Two hundred and sixteen year ago, he made Australia go to press for the first time

THE FIRST COPY: GEORGE HOWE HANDS GOVERNOR PHILIP GIDLEY KING THE FIRST COPY OF THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, WITH PHILIPS’S WIFE AND SON LOOKING ON.

 

COMMORATIVE ISSUE: A COPY OF THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, WITH A FEW LIBERTIES TAKEN, GIVEN OUT TO PEOPLE WHO ATTENDED THE MUSUEM OF SYDNEY’S ‘BREAKFAST BRIEFING’ SESSION ON THE ACTUAL DAY IT WAS PUBLISHED IN 1803. Below: A FLAT-BED WOODEN PRESS SIMILAR TO ONE GEORGE HOWE USED. Below: THE GAZETTE IN THE MIDDLE 1820s, A CHANGE OF NAMEPLATE.

FRANK MORRIS

It was 16 years ago, March 5, 2003, that a special event at the site of the first Government House to mark the birth of Australia’s first “news sheet”, The Sydney Gazette and New Wales Advertiser, took place two hundred years ago to the day.

This historic celebration was only a few metres from where the convict, George Howe, printed the inaugural issue on Saturday, March 5, 1803.

More the 120 guests attended the informative Breakfast Briefing, which hosted me and the Museum of Sydney. A forum ‘briefing’ on the impact of the “www” revolution on the print media was one of the highlights of the morning.

For 40 odd years, there has been an ongoing debate over whether the internet will kill newspapers. It managed to kiss good bye to dozens of newspapers over the last four decades for various reasons, but mainly in was the internet.

But the newspaper as a whole is struggling to stay alive; some have been taken over.

In 1969, in March, the World Wide Web was “conceived as a user-friendly layer” to partner to the internet. We know how it works. We know the power it has. We know the challenges and the power and influence it has over newspapers.

REALISED IT

Meanwhile, George Howe’s publication continued to appear weekly despite adversity. The first seven years he faced “goading penury” – he felt like he’d run out of steam. Howe never realised that once you became a newspaperman you’re always a newspaperman. But he soon realised it.

The quality of the paper was poor and varied, the type was worn, the old wooden screw press was close to “decrepitude”, and he was sorely pressed to find sufficient paper for each edition.

But he battled on.  He had the courage of his undertaking.

As Government Printer he took it upon himself to suggest to Governor Philip Gidley King the production of a weekly news sheet.

King backed the idea.  His Excellency considered that it would be a desirable addition to the colony provided a Government Officer approved its contents.

“It was out of felt need that the Australian Press was born,” says media historian, Frank S. Greenop, “Looking at the yellowish files we cannot imagine the interest the Gazette aroused”.

In his opening editorial, Howe wrote: “Innumerable as the obstacles were, we are happy to affirm that they were not insurmountable.

FREE PRESS

“The utility of a paper in the colony, as it must open a source of solid information will, we hope, be universally felt and acknowledged.

“We open no channel to political discussion or person animadversion.  Information is our only purpose.”

The Gazette had a monopoly on Sydney journalism for 21 years.  Although the paper was heavily censored, it paved the way for a free press.

A few months earlier, Howe had also published the first book.  He would go on to become the patriarch of Australia’s first publishing dynasty.

Howe died in 1821 aged 52.  The cause was from a condition called edema, or “dropsy,” which is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the cells, tissues or cavities of the body.

His estate was valued at four thousand pounds ($8000).


FOUND! Australia’s first printery where the book and newspaper saw the light of day!

FRANK MORRIS

In one of the outbuildings at the first Government House, on which site now stands the Museum of Sydney, is where George Howe made history.

It was there that Howe printed the first book, first newspaper, and a raft of other government documents that were important communication links in the new colony.

Howe operated from this location for about two years.

In the l980s, as the excavation of the site progressed, it was like opening Pandora’s Box.  Among the thousands of objects unearthed were pieces of lead type and other artefacts that were intrinsically connected to Howe’s printery.

MANY LAYERS

But the commercial development that was planned on the site threatened to eliminate every fragment of this unique culture.

“The first printery … once again depended on the government for survival,” writes historian, Sandra Blair. Premier Neville Wran later announced his government would preserve the First Government House site as a museum.
Designed by architect Denton Corker, the Museum of Sydney opened in May 1995.

“It’s a place of many layers” says a Museum spokesperson. “The archaeological remains of Governor Phillip’s house, the modern architecture and the permanent and temporary displays created by historians, curators, artists and others, would remain.”

GRAPHIC ART

It is true that one “layer” of the Museum of Sydney does reinforce its “historic association” with early printing – the “black art.”

The masthead, above, that forms part of the heading of the early issues of the Sydney Gazette, is a masterful example of colonial graphic art.

The seated figure, at left, represents New South Wales, “surveying a prospect of agricultural and industrial endeavour”, which is symbolised by a ploughman and crossed picks and shovels, with the buildings of the rising town prominent in the distance.


SHARK ATTACK: Nina Dobrev wants to save the known man-eaters!

“I USED TO BE SCARED. BUT THEN I LEARNED THE FACTS …” SAYS NINA DOBREV ACTRESS AND OCEAN ADVOCATE.

TWO OF KIND: WHEN I LEARNED THE FACTS ABOUT SHARKS I WASN’T SCARED!, SAY NINA DOBREV. Below: A SHARK CAME OUT A NOWHERE AND ATTACHED.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

“Sharks keep the oceans healthy and aren’t really interested in us,” said Oceana, campaigning to protect the World’s oceans.

“It’s actually our interest in their fins; that’s the scary part. Millions of sharks end up in the global fin trade every year.”

Let’s go back nearly three centuries. This is what the Sydney Gazette reported in 1804. Under the headline Shark Attack, it had this to say:

Some days ago, an angling party, consisting of three men, one of whom had a young daughter, in a boat which was moored off George’s Head, about 150 yards from the shore were surprised with a visit from a shark of such enormous size as to be mistaken for the head of a sunk rock, whose summit rose nearly to the surface of the water.

PONDEROUS JAWS                        

But terror and trepidation were aroused when the voracious monster appeared close alongside the little boat, and eagerly seizing the baited hooks, plunged and darted with strength and speed … they had no other expectation than to be hurled out to the mercy of the furious assailant.

The formidable creature at length seized the … rope within its ponderous jaws, and forced the bow down even with, if not below the water’s edge, but happily the line snapped, the boat recoiled, and for several seconds continued to vibrate, as if conscious of threatened danger.

The little girl clung to her father for protection … the poignant sensation that he endured must with difficulty come within the reach of conception.

One of the survivors gladly attributes his life to having the shark swallow an iron 561 pound weight … which the aquatic spoiler required time to digest.

<< Sydney Gazette, February 26, l804. Full version published in Australian Pathways, Spring 1998, vol 1, no. 1; visit oceana.org/savesharks to see more from Nina and learn how you can help protect these vital ocean animals.

COMING: Shark Attack – A small recreational launch called NBC was run over and sunk by a ship entering Moreton Bay in 1977 with two of her three crew being taken by sharks. Three parts. Starting soon.


LAUREL & HARDY: Laurel: “Look at what you’ve got us into now!”

STAN AND OLLIE’S NEW MOVIE HAS BEEN GETTING SOME RAVE REVIEWS – DAVID STRATTON SAID “I LAUGHED AND I CRIED” AND THE TIMES, “STUNNING PERFORMANCES, A DAZZLING DOUBLE ACT.” SANDRA HALL DESCRIBES THEM AS “DUO DYNAMICS.” COME AND ENJOY IT. YOU’LL SEE JOHN C. REILLY AS OLIVER HARDY AND STEVE COOGAN AS STAN LAUREL. NICOLA MORRIS, GRAND YEARS, SAID “THE PAIR OF THEM HAVE BEEN PREFECTLY CAST.” THIS IS A PURE 100 MINUTES OF RESURRECTION.

FRANK MORRIS

THE FIRST MISTAKE: MAE BUSCH, IN 1932, WITH STAN LAUREL AND OLIVER HARDY IN, WHAT A NEWSPAPER CALLED, “A HILARIOUS CAPER”.

STUNNING DUO: OLLIE AND STAN, JOHN C. REILLY AND STEVE COOGAN, TAKE TIME OUT.

Mae Busch made several movies with the famed comedy team, Laurel and Hardy. It was like she was listed in their telephone books.

Many people hadn’t seen her appear seven or eight times with the same leading men. Never.
Aussie first screen star Mae Busch, the lady with smouldering dark eyes and attraction honey-blonde look, could her hold own with the best of the Hollywood gang.

Mae was just five when she and her parents departed Melbourne and settled in America. She was, by nature, “rebellious and lacking in discipline.”

MAJOR SUCCESSES

When she was 15, Mae was signed up by the Keystone Studio in Hollywood. Her outstanding looks and mobile face were ideally suited to the silent movies. She appeared in some of the major box office successes of the 1920s.

The advent of sound found her now in 1930s. Although her timing at delivering snappy punch-lines was impeccable, Mae was invariably cast “as a cynical, acid-tongue bitch”. She was still in demand for supporting roles on stage and in films.

Mae Busch died in 1946.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 01 March 19

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