The first postage stamps to be produced by the Commonwealth of Australia were the “Kangaroo and Map” stamps (also known as the “Kangaroo” stamps, “Roo and Map” stamps, or “Roo” stamps).
Although it was intended that the Commonwealth should have its own postage stamps, it took twelve years for the first national stamps to be made.
The “Kangaroo and Map” stamps were released on the 2nd of January 1913, although there were some problems to be overcome before they made their debut. There were issues of design, quality of art, and accusations of disloyalty to the British Empire. What should have been an easy implementation of a new postage stamp instead became a drama of much angst, criticism, and political wrangling.
The need for a national postage stamp
Even though the Commonwealth of Australia was established on the 1st of January 1901 (the first day of the 20th Century), and all of the post offices of the federated states came under federal jurisdiction, postage stamps continued to be issued on a state by state basis. In 1910, it was decided to allow all state-generated stamps to be used throughout Australia, no matter their state of origin; but the long-awaited national stamps had still not made their appearance.
There were tensions in the federal sphere over the design of the stamps to be used for the new nation. Many political conservatives and royalists wanted to issue stamps which featured the image of the ruling British sovereign, in line with postal tradition; however, republicans, nativists, and Australianists wanted to dispense with the royal image, as did those who desired variation in stamp design.
In previous years, when the colony of Tasmania produced stamps with images of local landscapes, there had been similar angst over those postage stamps being issued without the bust or head of the monarch of the British Empire (an empire which included all of the Australian colonies).
A stamp competition and a new design
It was under the Labor government of Andrew Fisher that the situation changed for Australian postage stamps; it was during Fisher’s second term as Prime Minister (29 April 1910 to 24 June 1913) that concrete moves were made towards getting some nationwide stamps. In January 1911, a stamp design competition was announced by the Postmaster-General, Josiah Thomas, offering a first prize of £100 and a second prize of £50, with the winners to be decided by an appointed committee. However, after the competition finished in June 1911, Thomas had his doubts about the suitability of the winning designs, and he decided that he was not satisfied with them.
On 14 October 1911 Charlie Frazer replaced Josiah Thomas as Postmaster-General. Like Thomas, he wasn’t enraptured with the winning designs. However, Frazer liked elements of two designs submitted to the competition, one with a kangaroo, and one with a map of Australia. He contacted the Victorian Artists’ Society for assistance, and they recommended Blamire Young (an English-born artist who lived in Australia for much of his life). Young subsequently created a design based upon the Postmaster-General’s specifications. Frazer wanted “a picturesque stamp … in which an outline of Australia is a feature”. The result was a design which featured a kangaroo situated in the middle of an outline of Australia, with a two-pronged tuft of kangaroo grass just to the left of the animal.
Young’s design was approved by the federal Cabinet and made available for public viewing on 2 April 1912. However, the design was mocked in the media, with the two-pronged tuft of grass being derided as looking as though it was the head of a rabbit, ears erect, emerging from a rabbit hole (others suggested that it might be a turnip or an inkpot). The overall design was denigrated as too simplistic or “childish”, and lacking in artistry.
Frazer explained his reasoning behind the stamp’s design:
“I had in view the getting of something distinctive. … We found that after consideration for a good number of years it did not seem likely that we were going to get any particular designs accepted. Personally, I was very strong on having the outline of a white Australia on the stamp. Then the question arose ‘What are you going to put into the white Australia’, and as a kangaroo is the only animal common to all the States and peculiar to Australia, we decided to get the kangaroo on the white space. … There is no special reason why we should not take advantage of the stamp to advertise this country, and I believe the new stamp will do it.”
The government of the United Kingdom made “emphatic protests”, via Lord Denman (Governor-General of Australia), to the Australian government, against the Kangaroo being used as the main symbol on the nation’s stamps, instead of using the Monarch’s head.
Regarding the absence of the British king’s image, Frazer said
“it would be a sorry day when it was held to be necessary to put the King’s head on a stamp to prove one’s loyalty.”
A pro-Labor newspaper, The Daily Herald (Adelaide), gave its view of the federal competition and the “Kangaroo and Map” stamp:
“Some time ago the Federal authorities conducted a competition for the purpose of deciding upon a design for an Australian postage stamp. There were many competitors, and the exhibits displayed a variety of talent, a lot of careful work in detail, and in some instances, according to the reproductions published, a certain amount of taste. There was in the whole display, however, a lack of originality and an absence of any significance that would have made the proposed Australian postage stamp stand out … The awards were given, but there was a widespread feeling that none of the prizewinners were as good as might have been expected, and as the result of suggestions made by the Postmaster-General, not necessarily original, but gained possibly from an examination of the others, a design was accepted which is at once distinctive and appropriate. It gives prominence to the kangaroo, Australia’s marsupial, and shows a White Australia, the most praiseworthy record in our history.”
In another article, in the same issue, the newspaper repeated its favourable opinion of the new postage stamp design:
“Our view of it is that the Federal Postmaster-General has nothing to be ashamed of in his design, so thoroughly typical of the ideal Australia is it. The ’roo is shown rampant upon a purely “White” Australia, and, in the interview here following, our sentiments are endorsed by one who is recognised as an authority on philately.”
The Daily Herald then followed up with an interview with Reuben Sharples, the vice-president of the South Australian Philatelists’ Association, who said:
“I should say that the adopted design will make a really fine stamp, one that will prove a pictorial credit, a splendid advertisement for Australia, and at once a joy to philatelists. … The idea of featuring our own noble marsupial, the ’roo, in front of a map of our island continent, strikes me as being truly apt”.
Grass or rabbit?
However, the general attitude to the new stamp in the media was not favourable. Frazer’s concept, or Young’s design, or both combined, depending on how the stamp is to be considered, was attacked by many commentators, for various reasons. The main criticisms were over its design, although the attacks often seemed to be based upon political motivations rather than purely upon considerations of art.
Regarding the proposed stamp, The Argus (Melbourne) wrote that it was
“very annoying to find that our country is to be represented in the eyes of the world by a grotesque and ridiculous symbol, and that she will be a laughing-stock even to childish stamp-collectors of every nation. Mr. Frazer has no good reason for departing from Imperial usage in this matter. Australia should do as the rest of the Dominions do; we should all alike have the King’s head printed on our stamps, because it is the most obvious and unmistakable symbol of the constitutional bond between the various members of our far-scattered empire. But even if Mr. Frazer entertains republican sentiments, and thinks it his duty to express them by means of the national stamp, he might surely have found some heraldic device more noble and dignified than that absurd kangaroo and that humorous rabbit.”
Punch (Melbourne) was extremely critical:
“a Commonwealth stamp has evolved … it is as dull, flat, ugly and brainless as the dullest bourgeois could desire. … whatever fine qualities Mr. Frazer may have he knows no more than a child about design and decoration. … an educated taste might ask for something with a brighter fancy and a higher significance.”
The Bookfellow (which was edited by A. G. Stephens, well-known for his work with The Bulletin) criticised it on the grounds that it gave a wrong impression of Australia, as a wilderness where wild kangaroos abound, which would therefore not present the country in a good light to possible immigrants. The sparse art of the design was also condemned.
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA) described the proposed design as
“a banal atrocity, hardly likely to survive the ridicule poured upon it.”
Charlie Frazer defended the stamp’s design against the naysayers, saying:
“Could you wish for anything better? Neat, simple, and artistic. … The design is not half as had as it is made out to be, and when the people get used to it they’ll love it. What else could you get to represent our continent more thoroughly than a kangaroo?”
Nonetheless, it seemed inevitable that the offending clump of grass was to be removed from the final design. This change was foreshadowed by the Postmaster-General later on in the same month as the preliminary design was released.
On 3 September 1913, The Argus (Melbourne) reported that
“the design of the stamp is an outline of Australia containing a kangaroo standing near a bunch of herbage, which was supposed to be kangaroo grass. It was complained that the bunch of grass might be mistaken for a rabbit, a turnip or an inkpot, and Mr. Frazer gave instructions that the grass should be excised.”
The poor inoffensive clump of grass was deleted from the stamp’s design, much to the pleasure of its critics.
The Kangaroo and Map stamp is finalised
The final version of the “Kangaroo and Map” stamp was slightly different to the original design, being without the controversial clump of grass, and with some elements repositioned. It was released on 2 January 1913 in Sydney, New South Wales, and then in the other Australian states over the following few days. The stamp was sold in 15 denominations: ½d (halfpenny), 1d (1 penny), 2d, 2½d, 3d, 4d, 5d, 6d, 9d, 1s (1 shilling), 2s, 5s, 10s, £1 (1 pound), and £2. It was fortunate that Charlie Frazer saw his kangaroo stamp come to fruition, as he was to die from pneumonia eleven months later, on 25 November 1913.
For Frazer, the kangaroo was an iconic representation of Australia, and the white map of the country was emblematic of the White Australia Policy, of which he was an enthusiastic supporter (at the time, both sides of the political divide supported that policy, including the democratic socialist Labor Party and the conservative Fusion Party). Frazer’s views on the stamp were reported by the media:
“The kangaroo stamp had these unique distinctions:— It showed the outline of a White Australia, which was essential of the country’s policy, and it showed an animal which was peculiar to Australia and common to every State of Australia. They were spending £25,000 per year on advertising Australia, and the kangaroo stamp served as a distinctive advertisement for the country on every letter that was sent abroad.”
Everyone’s a critic
Despite the changes made to the new federal stamp, the attacks continued. It seemed that, for some, the Postmaster-General could do nothing right. Table Talk (Melbourne) poked fun at him for removing the tuft of kangaroo grass from the stamp. To use a colloquial phrase, Frazer was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. A journalist from Table Talk wrote:
“The unhappy kangaroo on the new Australian postage is to be deprived of his last scrap of sustenance. The lonely turnip-top which raised a mournful head beneath the beast’s nose has been uprooted by Mr. Frazer, and now the kangaroo squats all across the blank waste of a White Australia, whereon no herb grows and no other living thing has its being. It is understood that this design forms an allegory which is of a great import only known to Mr. Frazer and Mr. Blamire Young.”
The Age (Melbourne) weighed in with its negative opinion on the stamp:
“The kangaroo which obtrudes his egregious bulk across the Lilliputian map of Australia is a decidedly dismal and melancholy figure. Our national spirit may not be exactly hilarious, but we seldom fall into such a state of mental dejection as is indicated by that drooping and lack-lustre marsupial — surely a libel on his sprightly and spring-footed species.”
The Register (Adelaide, SA) really ripped into the new stamp, especially on the basis of it being a “disloyal” production, as one disrespecting or undermining Australia’s ties to the British Monarchy and the British Empire:
“The new postage stamp issued by the Commonwealth authorities is not only a reflection upon Australian taste and sense of the fitness of things, but it is likely to lead people outside this continent to question our loyalty … Those responsible for it cannot be complimented either upon the design or the choice of subject. A miserable-looking kangaroo, which spreads itself over “White Australia” can hardly be accepted as typical of this Dominion, although the outside world may conclude from the inartistic design that the marsupial practically monopolizes the land. Hitherto Australians have been satisfied to have the head of the Sovereign of the British Empire portrayed on all our stamps, and why this presentment should give place to the representation of a member of the animal kingdom — not at any time a particularly gainly and graceful creature — is inexplicable. The monarch’s head, which should be the distinguishing feature of the penny stamp, as it is of the penny coin, is symbolical of loyalty and Imperial unity, and to remove it amounts to an outrage on our national sentiment. … The new stamp is a most paltry device, from the standpoint of art, or as expressive of Australian sentiment. It is one of the worst of Commonwealth advertisements, particularly at a time when the High Commissioner and others are doing their best to fill our vacant spaces with people from the motherland. The issue should be promptly withdrawn, and a new stamp substituted”.
A letter to the editor published in The Brisbane Courier opined:
“I have just seen our Commonwealth stamp, and am not enamoured with it. It was inevitable, I suppose, that we should have the “white Australia,” but that kangaroo is a “puir, spiritless looking beastie”! It appears to have come across some rabbit poison, and to be suffering from the after effects — internal discomfort.”
The magazine of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, the Journal of Proceedings, was also unimpressed with the stamp, and condemned it in no uncertain manner:
“The kangaroo is of a new type to naturalists, being spotted like the leopard, whilst the grass upon which it browses is represented by a few horizontal lines. The design of the stamp is beneath contempt, whilst the engraving is far below that of the “old” stamp. We shudder at the verdict which will be given by the world upon this poor achievement in the realm of design.”
The Mercury (Hobart) joined in the crescendo of criticism, having a dig at the stamp:
“The choice of the design for an Australian stamp has been altogether an unhappy one. The substitution of the kangaroo for the King was only to be expected from a Labour Ministry. But the beast as figured on the stamp is not at all a happy specimen. The original design had a clump of grass which the kangaroo was supposed to be nibbling, but, thank goodness, someone with a remnant of good sense had sufficient influence to get it blotted out. Now that the stamps are printed, it has been discovered that by turning one of them a little to the side, the kangaroo turns into an excellent specimen of a barnyard rooster.”
Then there were those who wanted to change things around (in art, “everyone’s a critic”). For example, one letter published in a Western Australian newspaper said
“The design is essentially Australian, and its symbolical effect will appeal to many Australians, but personally I would like to see the emu as well as the kangaroo in the design, both being indigenous to the whole of Australia”.
Supporters of the kangaroo stamp were few and far between in the country’s newspapers, but what the attitude of the general public was we may never know. It is possible that, generally speaking, attitudes were largely split down party lines, with political conservatives opposed to it and labourites supporting it; but, considering the widespread support for the monarchy on both sides at that time, it would not necessarily be accurate to make any assumptions regarding the stamp based on party or any other affiliation. However, those who were fair-minded and patriotic would no doubt have liked the stamp, seeing it as a culturally Australian design, and one to be proud of.
The coming of the King George V stamp
Andrew Fisher’s Labor government lost office on 24 June 1913, and was replaced by the Fusion government of Joseph Cook. The change of administration meant a change in postal policy. The Cook government made the decision to replace the kangaroo design with a more traditional design, with King George V’s head on the national stamp. Agar Wynne became the new Postmaster-General, and was tasked with changing the country’s stamps.
The Worker (Brisbane) gave a half-hearted defence of the “Roo” stamp, and attacked its king’s-head replacement, saying that
“The present kangaroo design may not be the final word in stamps, but its emblematic nature, clearness and simplicity show into pleasing contrast with the overloaded and freakish abnormality which the troglodyte Cook Government is about to inflict on us.”
The Bulletin (Sydney) also mounted a lukewarm defence of the Kangaroo stamp:
“The stamp introduced by the Fisher Administration had its drawbacks, certainly. It was not so artistic as it might have been. But at least it was Australian. The simple, plain old kangaroo was its leading feature, and Australia owns the kangaroo. That quaint and cheerful beast is this country’s monopoly and advertisement.”
Charlie Frazer gave his views on the intended replacement of his stamp:
“I am frankly disappointed. Disappointed at the attitude that Mr. Agar Wynne has taken up, at the instigation, it appears to me, of sycophants and title-hunters. The so-called kangaroo stamp has been severely criticised, but no one can deny that it is truly symbolical of a White Australia. As for the kangaroo, that animal is peculiar to the Commonwealth and yet common to all the States, and I maintain that the whole design is much more typical of and appropriate to Australia than the banal thing proposed to be substituted by the present Postmaster-General.”
The Postmaster-General, Agar Wynne, made the decision that the new stamps, featuring the King, were to be released in all states of Australia simultaneously; it was intended that they would be sold as from 6 December 1913, although their public debut was briefly delayed due to a hold-up in the arrival of the stamps in Perth (WA). The George V postage stamps became available for sale on 9 December 1913, and reportedly sold “like hot cakes”, with collectors snapping them up to add the new stamp to their collections.
Supporters of the monarchy were very pleased with the change over to the King George V stamps. Apparently this view was also held by the king himself, who was quoted as saying
“My view (apart from myself or predilections as King) is that all coins of the realm, and all postage stamps of the British Empire, should have on them the portrait of the Sovereign. It is the best possible emblem of a united empire.”
A somewhat haughty article published in the The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), written by “J.S.”, expressed delight at the demise of “the crude monstrosity imposed on the public by the Postmaster-General of the late Administration”. The author stated that “It is not intended here to criticise the condemned kangaroo stamp”, but then went on to criticise it, saying:
“it is beneath criticism from the standard of artistic merit, while whatever geographical significance it may possess is hopelessly ruined by the utter lack of the sense of proportion both in the draughtsmanship and in the symbolism. … the appalling bareness of the overgrown kangaroo squatting on White Australia, a design that compares unfavorably in artistic merit with the aboriginal rock-carvings of the Kuring-gai Chase … the hideous failure made by Mr. Fisher’s Government stands out as a glaring example of how not to do it … it is a mistake to take the King’s head off the Commonwealth’s postage stamp … let one mere unauthoritative individual, speaking for himself alone, cordially endorse Mr. Agar Wynne’s selection for the Commonwealth stamp, and consign to limbo the horrible travesty that has for too long already advertised the people of the Commonwealth as the most inartistic community on earth.”
Defending the Kangaroo and Map stamp
However, there were some who were willing to defend the “Kangaroo and Map” stamps.
The Casino & Kyogle Courier and North Coast Advertiser (Casino, NSW) described the Kangaroo stamp as “thoroughly Australian”, and derided the waste of time being spent on bringing in a replacement:
“The Cook Government have began their uncertain reign with a piece of fiddle-faddle. Mr. Agar Wynne, the Postmaster General, was hardly in his chair before he issued a mandate that the Fisher postage stamp (a kangaroo on a white outline map of Australia), should be abolished, and, another, with the King’s effigy thereon, substituted … Mr. Wynne “has come to the conclusion that the present stamp is ridiculous, and that it has made Australia the laughing-stock of civilised countries.” This may also be doubted, and can be put down as political hot air. Anyway, the present design is neat and thoroughly Australian — which is perhaps why Cook and Co have a set on it. It is a pity they do not direct their attention to more important measures than this nonsense.”
Robert Thomson, in The Sun (Sydney), wrote in favour of the Kangaroo stamp, versus the King’s-head stamp:
“I will only say, with reference to the kangaroo stamp, that it was the very best means of teaching patriotism and Australian unity, and a striking advertisement of our existence to foreigners, and that the existence of the King is already advertised in a thousand ways.”
The editor of Norden (Melbourne), an Australian publication for those of Scandinavian background, said:
“The stamp is plain, certainly, inasmuch as there is little or no filigree work about it, but inartistic — No. That it is thoroughly Australian in conception, few will deny. We hold that the hue and cry against the stamp has it’s root in snobbishness.”
The Western Champion (Parkes, NSW) thought that the Kangaroo stamp had been dropped for political reasons, and talked about
“the poor old Kangaroo stamp, which had been condemned because it was too suggestive of the country of its origin. Of course there were other objections urged — the adoption of a design so distinctly Australian was regarded by the Jingos as prima facie evidence of rampant disloyalty, though the counterfeit presentment of the reigning Sovereign had been banished from the stamps of several Australian States for about a quarter of a century without raising even a whimper of protest from the ultra-loyalists. It strikes me very forcibly that a good deal of the rumpus about the stamp issue was influenced by the consideration, to adopt an old adage, that any stick is good enough to beat a (political) dog with. It was a passing frenzy, but it served its purpose, though some of those that joined in the cry have since been constrained to admit that they regret the passing of the Kangaroo stamp.”
William Sampson, a Labor candidate in the 1914 elections, was also of the opinion that politics was behind the demise of the Kangaroo stamp. He said:
“Had the kangaroo stamp been designed by an angel from heaven it would have been turned down by the Liberal Party, because the Labor Party had introduced it. The stamp had been changed for pure petty spite.”
James Page, a Labor parliamentarian, was another who thought that the removal of the Kangaroo stamp was politically-motivated, even though he wasn’t entirely satisfied with the design himself. His comments in the federal parliament were reported as follows:
“He had never been enamored of “the kangaroo stamp.” The kangaroo seemed to him to be drunk. (Laughter.) He had seen many kangaroos, but never saw one like that on the stamp. It was now proposed to put a representation of the King’s head on the stamp. He did not think it would make the people of Australia any more disloyal to lick the back of a kangaroo than the back of the King. (Laughter.) The Ministerial policy was simply anti-Labor, no more and no less.”
The Daily Herald (Adelaide) gave its opinion on the matter:
“nobody cares what is on the postage stamp. So long as it is accepted on a letter little more is required, and the rest is all sentiment. An Australian will prefer the kangaroo because it typifies his country. Others like the head of the sovereign because it carries the idea of Empire, but at best the matter is of little moment. Still less important is the allegation that the kangaroo stamp is inartistic. There is no matter upon which it is more impossible to obtain unanimity than on questions of art. The greatest authorities differ on the merits of individual productions. To one a particular picture is the last word in beauty and soul, but to another the same work is “tripe.” Fifty years ago the impressionists were a byword and a jest. To-day early examples are priceless.”
The Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic.) published an even-handed view on the issue:
“from what I can hear in the streets the general thought is that the kangaroo stamp was not an artistic effort of which Australia could be proud. At the same time, this is one of those matters that makes much more noise than its real importance warrants. Not many of our stamps go abroad, and if this particular design were seen elsewhere it would probably be regarded as merely an expression of Australian patriotism.”
The same article also noted that some past Australian stamps, produced by colonial administrations, featured images which were not the monarch’s head. Although the article did not give any examples, Tasmania’s landscape stamps (from 1899) and Western Australia’s swan stamps (from 1854) spring to mind. Although, in Tasmania’s case, there was political angst over the stamps not including the monarch’s head.
Certainly, the “Kangaroo and Map” design was a lot simpler than many other stamps, but would that explain all of the drama? Could it be that the main reason for the hatred being expressed towards the “Kangaroo and Map” stamps was based in politics, rather than because of its artistic merits, or lack thereof? Of course, as the Kangaroo stamp was the first universal Australian postage stamp, people might have been more sensitive to its political ramifications. Whatever the reason, there was undoubtedly much newspaper criticism of the design; but one doubts that the issue would have been of high concern to most Australians.
The survival of the Kangaroo stamp, and its symbolism
Nonetheless, despite all of the dramas, the “Kangaroo and Map” stamps survived, alongside the King George V stamps, with the Post Office selling both. Agar Wynne had decided that existing supplies of the Kangaroo stamps should be used up, rather than getting rid of them. Then Wynne decided to print the King George V stamps on the machines which were used by the government to print paper money, so as to ensure a higher quality stamp, but there was an expected delay of several months before the machines would be available; therefore Wynne decided to continue the Kangaroo stamps, to have a limited number of the King stamps printed, and to later on move ahead with the final changeover when everything was ready. It may be that there was some effective lobbying on behalf of the old design, because in March 1914 it was reported that Wynne intended to continue to use the Kangaroo design for the half-penny stamps. However, on 17 September 1914, a new Labor government took office, with Andrew Fisher serving his third term as Prime Minister. With a new Ministry in place, Wynne was replaced as Postmaster-General by W. G. Spence. Therefore, with Laborites in power, any phasing out of Charlie Frazer’s stamps was halted, and the Post Office therefore continued to supply stamps of both the Kangaroo and King designs. Following the end of Andrew Fisher’s reign, Billy Hughes was Prime Minister for three continuous terms of office (27 October 1915 to 9 February 1923), as leader of the Labor Party, National Labor Party, and Nationalist Party (the latter two parties were formed following a split in the Labor Party over the issue of conscription for the First World War), so those who hated the Kangaroo stamp had little opportunity to get rid of it. As it turned out, the “Kangaroo and Map” design remained part of the Post Office’s inventory for many years. The last surviving Kangaroo denomination, the Two Penny stamp, was not withdrawn from sale until 1948.
The design of the “Kangaroo and Map” stamp, initiated by Labor Party stalwart Charlie Frazer, undoubtedly included political symbolism. Indeed, the symbolism matched the aims of the then Labor Party. The kangaroo represented national sentiment (Labor Party policy: “The cultivation of an Australian sentiment”); the white map of Australia represented the White Australia Policy (Labor Party policy: Maintenance of a white Australia); and, as the red-coloured One Penny stamp was the most common denomination (being the standard domestic postage denomination used for letters and postcards), it may well be that this was intended to be symbolic of the colour of socialism. Whilst the symbolism of the kangaroo and the map have been confirmed in the historical record, the suggested symbolism of the colour red on the stamp is purely speculative; however, all three fit in with the aims of the democratic socialist Labor Party of the early 20th Century. The political ramifications of the stamp were clear to many; indeed, one newspaper said that “The postage stamp as a party badge is interesting.”
In addition to the political symbolism included in the elements of the stamp, there was also a political symbolism in what was not included on the stamp. The non-inclusion of any artistic representation of the British monarch, symbols of British royalty, or emblems of the British empire, demonstrated a deep-seated desire for Australian cultural and political independence.
The significance of the Kangaroo and Map stamps
In modern times, the angst and bickering over the first Commonwealth stamp has been forgotten by most people. Instead, the “Kangaroo and Map” stamps are regarded by many with affection, as a nostalgic bit of early Australiana.
The “Kangaroo and Map” stamps are historically significant as the first stamps to be released nationwide by the federal government of Australia. They are also politically and symbolically significant. However, they are especially culturally significant, as one of the earliest iconic expressions of Australian national sentiment.
The “Kangaroo and Map” stamps are not just a subject for historical interest and nostalgia, but are also a reminder of the early 20th Century search for an Australian national iconography, as well as the desire for Australian cultural independence.
See also: “Kangaroo and Map stamps” for a list of articles about the stamps, as well as links to scans of several postcards with the “Kangaroo and Map” stamps.
 “Universal Commonwealth stamps: Competition for designs”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 16 January 1911, p. 7 (Second Edition)
“Universal stamps: Competition for designs”, The Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA), 16 January 1911, p. 4
 “The Tasmanian Pictorial Stamps”, Tazi Tiger [see the section “Controversial stamp designs”]
For an example of the controversy, see: [untitled news items], The Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.), 2 January 1900, p. 2 (see untitled news item beginning “The new stamps”)
 “Uniform postage stamps”, Kalgoorlie Miner (Kalgoorlie, WA), 16 January 1911, p. 3
“Designs for Commonwealth postage stamp”, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (Melbourne, Vic.), 21 January 1911, p. 60 (10th page of that issue)
“Commonwealth stamp: Competition for design: Won by Melbourne man”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 24 June 1911, p. 18
“The Commonwealth stamp: Design competition won by an Australian”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 24 June 1911, p. 13 (Second Edition)
“Commonwealth stamp: The new design”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 4 April 1912, p. 6 [Thomas and Frazer did not care for the winning competition entries]
“Our postage stamp: The design decided upon: A local philatelist’s views”, The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), 6 April 1912, p. 9 [details of the winning competition entries]
Bruce Pennay, “Thomas, Josiah (1863–1933)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
See also: “Josiah Thomas (politician)”, Wikipedia
Andrew Fisher served three terms as Prime Minister: 13 November 1908 to 2 June 1909, 29 April 1910 to 24 June 1913, and 17 September 1914 to 27 October 1915.
D. J. Murphy, “Fisher, Andrew (1862–1928)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
“Andrew Fisher”, Wikipedia
 “Postage stamp designs”, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 11 January 1912, p. 8 (Second Edition) [“picturesque stamp”]
“Commonwealth stamp: The new design”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 4 April 1912, p. 6 [elements of two designs; Victorian Artists’ Society]
The Australian Stamp Catalogue, Dubbo (NSW): Review Publications Pty. Limited, 1964 (fifth edition, third printing), p. 4
Richard Breckon, “The Kangaroo and Map Stamp Design”, The Philatelic Database, 23 August 2008 [Frazer’s instructions re the stamp’s design]
Tom Lawrie, “On this day in history: Australia’s first stamp released”, Australian Geographic, 7 November 2013
Ross McMullin, “Frazer, Charles Edward (1880–1913)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
Elly Fink, “Young, William Blamire (1862–1935)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
See also: “Charlie Frazer”, Wikipedia
“Blamire Young”, Wikipedia
 “New federal stamp: Uniform design: Cabinet’s final decision”, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 2 April 1912, p. 8
“First Australian stamp: The design selected”, The Daily Post (Hobart, Tas.), 3 April 1912, p. 5
“New postage stamp: Design approved: After 12 years’ spasmodic activity”, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 3 April 1912, p. 20
[untitled article], The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 4 April 1912, p. 6, column 3 [rabbit, childish]
“Australian stamp: Amended design”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 3 September 1912, p. 4 [rabbit, turnip, inkpot]
 “Postal affairs”, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.), 13 April 1912, p. 2 (Second Edition)
 “Our postage stamp: The kangaroo to go: Sir Henniker Heaton highly delighted: Empire’s emblem of unity”, Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 2 July 1913, p. 8 (Final Edition)
 “Visit of the Postmaster-General”, The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld.), 15 April 1912, p. 6
 “Out to win”, The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), 6 April 1912, p. 8
 “Our postage stamp: The design decided upon: A local philatelist’s views”, The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), 6 April 1912, p. 9
 “Our postage stamp: The design decided upon: A local philatelist’s views”, The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), 6 April 1912, p. 9
 [untitled article], The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 4 April 1912, p. 6, column 3
 “Key-notes”, Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 April 1912, p. 547 (5th page of that issue), column 3 (see section: Mr. Frazer’s bad stamp)
“Trade reports”, The Bookfellow (Sydney, NSW), 1 May 1912, p. 133, columns 2-3 (Trade Edition Supplement)
 “Notes and comments”, The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 19 May 1912, p. 8
 “The Commonwealth stamp: Enthusiastic Mr. Frazer: “When the people get used to it””, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 11 April 1912, p. 10 (Second Edition)
See also: “The new postage stamp: Mr. Frazer commends it”, The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 April 1912, p. 9
“Australian stamp: Kangaroo design”, The Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.), 11 April 1912, p. 4
 “Mr. Frazer’s peregrinations”, Kalgoorlie Miner (Kalgoorlie, WA), 24 April 1912, p. 6
“[untitled news section]”, Portland Guardian (Portland, Vic.), 1 May 1912, p. 2 (Evening Edition) (see news item entitled: The kangaroo stamp)
 “Australian stamp: Amended design”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 3 September 1912, p. 4
 The Australian Stamp Catalogue, Dubbo (NSW): Review Publications Pty. Limited, 1964 (5th edition, third printing), p. 4
Special Bicentennial 18th Edition Pocket Australian Stamp Catalogue, Dubbo (NSW): Seven Sea Stamps Pty. Limited,  (18th edition), p. 3
Ross McMullin, “Frazer, Charles Edward (1880–1913)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
 “Federal warning: Mr. Frazer’s out of session speech: Preference to unionists and kangaroo stamp”, The Evening Star (Boulder City, WA), 2 August 1913, p. 1 [Frazer quote]
“Federal politics: Address by Mr. C. E. Frazer: The maternity bonus: Attitude of the opposition”, The Kalgoorlie Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA), 5 August 1913, p. 12
“The Federal stamp”, Clarence & Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW), 13 March 1913, p. 4
“Kangaroo stamp: Change annoys Mr. Frazer”, The Northern Star (Lismore, NSW), 23 July 1913, p. 5
Franklin Burchett, “Con-men who slipped on a stamp”, The ABC Weekly (Sydney, NSW), 14 April 1945, p. 28
 “The Week”, Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 July 1912, p. 4, column 1
 [untitled article], The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 15 January 1913, p. 8, column 4
 “Wanted a stamp”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), 17 January 1913, p. 6
 “That stamp”, The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld.), 31 January 1913, p. 6
 “Along the bye-paths”, Journal of Proceedings (published by the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in alliance with the Royal Institute of British Architects) (Melbourne, Vic.), January 1913, pp. 237-240 (see p. 240)
 Jacques, “Passing notes on things in general”, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), 22 February 1913, p. 6
 “Correspondence”, The Pilbarra Goldfield News (Port Hedland, WA), 15 July 1913, p. 3
 “King’s-head stamp: To replace the kangaroo”, Darling Downs Gazette (Toowoomba, Qld.), 4 July 1913, p. 5
“Kangaroo stamp abolished”, The North-West Post (Devonport, Tas.), 3 July 1913, p. 2
Darryl Bennet, “Wynne, Agar (1850–1934)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
F. K. Crowley, “Cook, Sir Joseph (1860–1947)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
See also: “Agar Wynne”, Wikipedia
“Joseph Cook”, Wikipedia
 “Men and matters”, The Worker (Brisbane, Qld.), 10 July 1913, p. 10
 “Concerning a stamp”, The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 17 July 1913, p. 8, column 4
 “Federal politics — the new stamp — and the automatic telephone”, The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 20 July 1913, p. 22 (Second Section)
 “New stamp issue”, The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), 29 November 1913, p. 4 [6 Dec. 1913 planned release]
“King’s head stamps”, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 8 December 1913, p. 10 (Final Edition)
“New stamps: Ready to-day: Six for each purchaser”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 9 December 1913, p. 8
“Rush for new stamps”, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 9 December 1913, p. 10
“Sydney’s water shortage”, The Broadford Courier and Reedy Creek Times (Broadford, Vic.), 12 December 1913, p. 3 [stamp collectors]
 “Our postage stamp: The kangaroo to go: Sir Henniker Heaton highly delighted: Empire’s emblem of unity”, Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 2 July 1913, p. 8 (Final Edition)
See also: “Postage stamps: Design to be altered: Back to the king’s head”, The Northern Star and Richmond and Tweed Rivers Advocate (Lismore, NSW), 3 July 1913, p. 8
 J.S., “About that stamp”, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 5 July 1913, p. 12 (Second Edition)
 “Down with the Kangaroo”, Casino & Kyogle Courier and North Coast Advertiser (Casino, NSW), 9 July 1913, p. 5
 Robert Thomson, “War on Australia”, The Sun (Sydney, NSW), 30 October 1913, p. 4 (Final Extra Edition)
 “Korrespondance”, Norden (Melbourne, Vic.), 7 March 1914, p. 9
 Phil Harum, “Pencil points”, The Western Champion (Parkes, NSW), 16 July 1914, p. 3
 “The Federal elections”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 2 September 1914, p. 13
“Candidates of the 1914 Australian federal election”, Wikipedia
 “Federal Parliament”, The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 5 September 1913, p. 11
 “The Federal fight: A do-nothing party: Conservative make-believe: Unnecessary adjournment”, The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), 26 July 1913, p. 5
 “Our Melbourne letter”, The Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic.), 12 July 1913, p. 1 [see section “The Commonwealth stamp”]
 “Western Australia – Black Swan”, Smithsonian National Postal Museum (USA)
“Postage stamps”, Western Australia Study Group
“The Tasmanian Pictorial Stamps”, Tazi Tiger
“Tasmania (page 3/4)”, StampWorld [see the stamps from 1899 onwards]
See also: “Postage stamps and postal history of Western Australia”, Wikipedia
“Postage stamps and postal history of Tasmania”, Wikipedia
 “The kangaroo stamp: To be abolished”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 2 July 1913, p. 17 [existing supplies of Kangaroo stamps to be used]
“Current topics”, The Examiner (Launceston, Tas.), 29 September 1913, p. 4 (Daily Edition) [see section “The Kangaroo Stamp”; delay in printing]
“Varied stamp designs: Kangaroo not abolished”, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 10 March 1914, p. 7 [“Mr Wynne intends to retain the kangaroo for the half-penny stamp”]
“Stamps after Federation”, Australia Post, 9 December 2015 [“the 2s Kangaroo and Map stamp … remained until 1948”]
Tom Lawrie, “On this day in history: Australia’s first stamp released”, Australian Geographic, 7 November 2013 [“eventual withdrawal in 1948”]
“Minister for Communications (Australia)”, Wikipedia
“Third Fisher ministry”, Wikipedia
Coral Lansbury and Bede Nairn, “Spence, William Guthrie (1846–1926)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
“William Spence”, Wikipedia
L. F. Fitzhardinge, “Hughes, William Morris (Billy) (1862–1952)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
“Billy Hughes”, Wikipedia
 “Interstate Labor Conference: An official report: The complete platform”, Kalgoorlie Miner (Kalgoorlie, WA), 14 July 1905, p. 2
“Labor platform”, The Clipper (Hobart, Tas.), 5 August 1905, p. 4
“Federal Labor Party: Fighting platform and general platform as adopted at Conference, Brisbane, July, 1908”, The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), 7 April 1910, p. 6
“Australian Labor Party: Federal platform”, The Daily Post (Hobart, Tas.), 29 August 1912, p. 8
“The Federal arena”, The Cairns Post (Cairns, Qld.), 17 July 1913, p. 7 [“postage stamp as a party badge”]
Robert Thomson, “War on Australia”, The Sun (Sydney, NSW), 30 October 1913, p. 4 (Final Extra Edition) [“the penny stamp, practically the only one used by the masses””]
See also: “Postage stamps and postal history of Australia”, Wikipedia [“One penny became the uniform domestic postage rate”]
“Kangaroo and Map stamps: An Australian classic”, Stanley Gibbons, March 2020
“Not So Humble 1d Kangaroo Stamp!”, Glen Stephens, July 2020
James Cockington, “Red-hot ’roo stamps”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 January 2013
Janet Klug, “How to collect Australia’s Kangaroo and Map issues”, Linn’s Stamp News, 4 May 2021
“Postage stamps and postal history of Australia”, Wikipedia
“Australia Postage Stamps and Australia Postal History”, Stamp Domain
“Forged Stamps of Australia”, Stamp forgeries of the world
“Kangaroo & Map – Shade Summary”, History of The Australian Commonwealth Specialists’ Catalogue, updated 26 May 2021