The Register, originally the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, and later South Australian Register, was South Australia's first newspaper. It was first published in London in June 1836, moved to Adelaide in 1837, and folded into The Advertiser almost a century later in February 1931.
The newspaper was the sole primary source for almost all information about the settlement and early history of South Australia. It documented shipping schedules, legal history and court records at a time when official records were not kept. According to the National Library of Australia, its pages contain "one hundred years of births, deaths, marriages, crime, building history, the establishment of towns and businesses, political and social comment".
Issues published between 22 June 1839 (vol. 2, no. 74) and 31 December 1900 (vol. 65, no. 16889) are freely available online, via Trove.
Front page of Vol 1, No 2 (3 June 1837) of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register.
The Register was conceived by Robert Thomas, a law stationer, who had purchased for his family 134 acres (54 ha) of land in the proposed South Australian province after being impressed by the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. The first issue (printed by William Clowes & Sons, Duke-street, Stamford-street, Lambeth, London), appeared in London on 18 June 1836 with his friend and partner, George Stevenson, as editor. Thomas embarked for South Australia aboard the Africaine later that year, arriving on 10 November 1836 with his family and equipment to set up a printing plant. It was six months before the first colonial edition of The Register was printed on 3 June 1837 in a small mud hut on an acre in Hindley Street, near what is now named Register Place. (The colloquialism "mud hut" would seem to be an understatement for a substantial pisé building in which was operated a demy Stanhope press, an ancient wooden press, and racks holding "half a ton of bourgeois and brevier type, a good fount of small pica for printing official documents, and a quantity of general jobbing type" with all the other requirements for editing, setting up, printing and distributing an admittedly small circulation newspaper.)
From the start, the paper asserted a strongly independent stance. Stevenson's style was vigorous and provocative, making himself and The Register several enemies. His opposition to Colonel William Light's choice of site for the new capital and J.H. Fisher as Resident Commissioner, led them and others to found the Southern Australian in direct competition with The Register. The paper's antagonism of Governor Gawler led to The Register losing government business notably the South Australian Government Gazette. The printers Thomas & Co. had disengaged themselves from editorial content in June 1839 in a vain attempt to protect their monopoly and lost about £1,650 a year. His protest that he was authorised by the British Government to do its printing failed and, insolvent, he sold the paper for £600 to James Allen (previously editor of the South Australian Magazine) in 1842, as Stevenson withdrew from journalism.
The paper, having been printed sporadically previously, became weekly in June 1838 and later twice-weekly from February 1843. By 1840, The Register employed a staff of 21 and had reached a circulation of 900. On 1 January 1850, it became a daily publication, and three years later the paper was bought back by Thomas's son William Kyffin Thomas as part of South Australia's first media syndicate with Anthony Forster, Edward William Andrews and Joseph Fisher. They also purchased its weekly sister publication, The Adelaide Observer, and established the Evening Journal (January 1869 – September 1912) which morphed into The Journal (October 1912 – July 1923), which then became The News.
The Register outlasted many competitors throughout its long history, holding a monopoly on the market at various stages, but it ultimately met its match in The Advertiser. The Advertiser, founded in 1858, first emerged as a serious challenger to the paper in the 1870s. The defining move which swung Adelaide readership from the conservative Register to the more egalitarian Advertiser was the latter's dramatic price reduction from 2d. to 1d., and hiring an army of canvassers, on commission, to peddle the paper. The Register was slow to respond, the Advertiser started putting its circulation figures on the masthead. By the time the Register cut its price the die was cast. The Advertiser bought out The Register and closed it down in February 1931 after the Great Depression had severely reduced its fortunes, forcing it to become largely pictorial.
Details are from an article marking the 50th anniversary of its first publication in South Australia and from 1886 the article "Sketch of the History of the Register" except where noted.
1836 Vol. 1 No. 1 printed in London by Clowes and Sons for Robert Thomas and George Stevenson on 18 June
Proclamation of South Australian printed for government on 30 December; the first printing job in the new colony.
1837 The press was moved to Acre 46, 37 Hindley Street just west of Morphett Street on 1 June.
The South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register Vol 1, issue 2 appears, dated 3 June 1837. Although subscribers were promised weekly publication, subsequent issues were published on 8 July, 29 July, 12 August, 16 September, 4 October, 19 October, 11 November. Price at this time was 6d. per issue.
1838? Robert's son William Kyffin Thomas, aged 16, began work for the paper.
1839 Government retracted Thomas's right to publish Government Gazette on 15 June. The paper was henceforth titled South Australian Register. Price was raised to 1s. (12d.)
1840 Thomas and Stevenson purchased The Adelaide Chronicle copyright and equipment from W. C. Cox; the newly incorporated Chronicle (edited by J. F. Bennett) being published on Wednesdays and the Register on Saturday.
Early in year enlarged from 6 demy pages to 8, then on 29 August turned to broadsheet format.
1842 Purchased by James Allen
1843 Premises moved to corner of Rundle and King William Streets – the "Beehive Corner".
Publication moved to twice-weekly.
1845 Register purchased in June by John Stephens, who had acted as editor for some months several years previously. Stephens' own paper The Adelaide Observer, a weekly newspaper directed at regional South Australia, first published 29 June 1843 and printed by George Dehane, was published concurrently. R. D. Hanson was his hard-working lawyer and occasional contributor.
Moved to larger premises in Hindley Street
1848 Anthony Forster became part owner, but after a few months took no part in its running.
1850 Daily publication began in January. Around this time price was reduced to 4d.
Stephens died 28 November. Publication taken over by W. Kyffin Thomas.
1851 Charles Day employed as junior.
1853 The paper was taken over by a syndicate of seven, which soon reduced to four: Forster, Joseph Fisher, E. W. Andrews and W. Kyffin Thomas.
1854 Move from Hindley Street to Grenfell Street and steam-powered press installed
This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.