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Mercury and South Australian sporting chronicle
Title : Mercury and South Australian sporting chronicle Mercury and South Australian sporting chronicle
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Source : Mercury and South Australian sporting chronicle, 22 February 1851, p. 1
Date of creation : 1851
Format : Newspaper
Catalogue record
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Description :


Aboriginal depiction




Champion of the working classes



Original copies

The Mercury and South Australian Sporting Chronicle was produced by William Hammond. The newspaper contained short items of Adelaide news, reports of court cases, horse racing notes and other items, including some biting satire about local people and events. It appears to have initially been published twice-weekly. It was the first South Australian newspaper to make widespread use of woodcut illustrations in articles, cartoons and advertisements. Some notable early artists were employed by the newspaper, including the artist S.T. Gill.

 Illustrations On 25 May 1850, a portrait of the murderer 'James Johnson alias William Cooper alias James Williams' appeared in the Mercury, drawn exclusively for the newspaper by the artist S.T. Gill. Cooper was charged with murdering his mate on the Darling River, and after passing through Adelaide was recognised and captured by Adelaide police 70 miles from Wellington. He was tried firstly in Adelaide, before being sent to Goulburn for a further trial. The case caused a great deal of interest in Adelaide, where Cooper had bought horses and other articles. From March 1851 the Mercury printed many very fine drawings of city buildings both in its 'Views in Adelaide' series, as well as in a range of advertisements for city businesses including Barrow's Chop house, the Marine Hotel Semaphore and the Port Adelaide 'Comet' wagon. (16 August 1851, p. 997) These illustrations were the work of such artists as Charles Winston, O. Wild and Tilman W. Gloystein. Winston was the main artist behind the Adelaide views series, although Gloystein is named as the artist of the German and British Hospital illustration. (26 July 1851, p. 977) Also in this last year of the newspaper many caricatures and cartoons appeared, often relating to prominent South Australians. Early Adelaide engraver Samuel Calvert also did engarving work for the Mercury such as the illustration of the supposed murderer Cooper, and some of the architectural drawings. An advertisement for the Mercury's commercial printing stated, 'copper-plate and wood-engraving by a first-rate artist.' (16 March 1850 p. 408)

 Aboriginal depiction One of the earliest depictions of Aborigines in a South Australian publication appears in the issue of 12 April 1851 (p. 855). Winston's drawing accompanying the satire 'Whites and blacks at the Murray: a new and pathetic ballad,' shows an Aboriginal woman and child standing on the beach behind prosperous white farmers.

 Libel The Mercury included a 'Punch bowl' column sending up local people and incidents, sometimes in verse and cartoon. In 1851 Hammond ran a scurrilous campaign against William Giles, manager of the South Australian Company. This came to a head in early October, when Giles took the editor to court for libel. Completely undeterred, Hammond printed a two-page supplement to the 4 October 1851 issue, reprinting all the offending articles and cartoons. The following week Hammond also published a cartoon and poem celebrating Giles' failure in the Legislative Council elections. A cartoon depicting a previous incident when Hammond was in  trouble with the law depicts him with two police troopers, all as dogs, in James Allen's Monthly almanac. (February 1850, p. 14)

 Sport The Mercury gave much space to early sport in the form of horse racing, although other sports, including wrestling, were also reported.

 Theatre Advertisements for many early theatrical productions, including those produced by George Coppin and Samuel Lazar's companies appear in the Mercury. as well as reports of shows. There are many references to George Selth Coppin, the actor and theatre owner. A large front page advertisement for a benefit show by Coppin includes a crude drawing of the rough-looking characters from his play. (9 August 1851, p. [1])

 Champion of the working classes The newspaper was not as devotedly middle class as most other newspapers of the time, but gave more coverage and sympathy to the working classes and their activities, while being less ready to give unqualified respect to those higher up the social scale.

 Ownership William Edward Hammond was the owner and editor of the Mercury, with Thomas Strode as printer. Both moved to Victoria during the gold rush period.

 Closure The newspaper ceased at the end of 1851 when the Victorian goldfields lured a large proportion of the male population of South Australia away, drastically affecting the local economy. Hammond himself  went to Geelong, and in 1852 began a newspaper there, also named the Mercury. The final issues of the Adelaide newspaper contain many references to the goldrush. Only one issue of Hammond's Geelong newspaper is known to exist and he seems to have been in trouble with the Victorian police, spending some time in jail.

 Original copies The issues of this very rare newspaper held by the State Library of South Australia were donated by Mr. E.D.A. Bagot in 1966. Many pages have been annotated by the Bagot family, noting family connections in the articles.

Related names :

Coppin, George Selth

Giles, William, 1791-1862

Gill, S.T. (Samuel Thomas), 1818-1880

Gloystein, T.W.

Hammond, William Edward

Johnson, James

Lazar, Samuel

Strode, Thomas

Wild, O.

Winston, C.B.

Geelong mercury (Geelong, S. Aust.)

South Australia. Legislative Council

Coverage year : 1851
Place : Adelaide (S. Aust.)
Further reading :

Manuel, Deane. 'Roads not taken: some minor concerns of Adelaide's newspapers at the mid-nineteenth century,' Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, no. 8 (1980), pp. 84-91

Marquis, Len. South Australian newspapers: a selection of material from the extensive research notes gathered for a proposed history of the press in South Australia by Leonard Stanley Marquis/ prepared by Ronald Parsons, Lobethal, S. Aust.: Ronald Parsons, 1998

'Mr Hammond, late editor of the Mercury,' Adelaide observer, 2 April 1870, p. 7



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