South Australia - Colonial: 1856 - 1900.
Instructional marking - COLLECT.

The COLLECT facility was available to users of the telegraph system to send a telegram and charge the cost to the recipient of the telegram. This facility was referred to as COLLECT TELEGRAMS.

Such a use was not unusual and the practice was adopted in all Australian Colonies as well as being continued well into the Australian era - and of course with more watchfulness and more forms.

In Colonial days, all the Colonies provided the COLLECT facility by simply requiring a sender to annotate the transmission form with the word COLLECT. The Operator would calculate the cost and add that to the message on the transmission form after the added word. The recipient of such a telegram would then be notified that a telegram had arrived for them or a messenger would bring it to the address shown and the recipient would pay the required amount before being able to access their telegram. If the potential recipient of a Collect Telegram refused to pay the cost, the sender had to pay together with any other costs.

There are always those in the community who wish to rort any system for their own greedy interests. The Collect system was sometimes used to advertises goods and services to people who paid the fee necessary before realising what the message was.


1. South Australia regulations:

The interpretation of regulations in country areas is sometimes quite different to the interpretation made by city folk. As many Government bureaucrats are citified, decision making becomes limited in its scope of application. A classic case of this myopia occurred with respect to payment of Collect Telegrams in South Australia:

"In South Australia there is a rule in the Post and Telegraph Department, that none but marked cheques guaranteed by the bank shall be accepted as payment. Hitherto, Palmerston being a small town where everybody is known, this rule has not been adhered to here, the cheques of known business firms being considered perfectly safe.

Without any reason, or any explanation, Mr. Little has suddenly decided to adhere to the strict letter of the law, utterly regardless of the inconvenience thereby caused to the business community. Our climate being tropical, all the banks only open from half-past nine in the morning till noon. Consequently, if a firm has any necessity to telegraph or receive a Collect Telegram between noon one day and next morning, they cannot get their cheque cashed or marked and must hunt round the town for change. It frequently happens that the principal of a firm is absent from his office when an important "Collect" telegram arrives the messenger, of course, takes the message back unless a marked cheque is ready waiting for him.

This week our Press telegram arrived at night. Only a servant was in the office who could not tender a marked cheque and so the telegraph messenger refused to deliver the telegram which was then taken back and detained in the Telegraph Office until the next morning.

This action of the Department cannot be construed into anything else but a direct insult to the business firms who have been established in the country for the past ten or twelve years We trust they will unite to take the matter up and represent the case fully to the Government. The Telegraph Department is for the convenience of the public who "pay the piper", and the action now taken not only causes inconvenience, but is utterly uncalled for.

It is either the outcome of some childish personal feeling or what Mark Twain terms "pure cussedness"
(Northern Territory Times 5 February 1887).

The information below relates to:

2. COLLECT in the South Australian Colonial period:

3. COLLECT in the South Australian Interim period.


2. Colonial period to 1901:

The South Australian Register of 11 November 1897 described the differences between the COLLECT telegrams sent in Siuth Australia and those sent in Western Australia - and the inherent difficulties - as follows:

Prepaid and 'Collect' Telegrams. Businessmen who have been accustomed to the manners of the South Australian Telegraph Department have shown some annoyance at the fact that telegrams dispatched to Western Australia, even when the receiver is well known to be a 'good mark,' are invariably required to be prepaid. The reason is that Western Australian telegraph offices do not receive 'collect' telegrams. Of course telegrams in answer to messages originating in Western Australia for which the reply has been paid are accepted without demur, and Press telegrams do not need to be prepaid. The Telegraph Department in the western colony not only applies the rule referred to to persons outside the province, but it holds good among the residents of the colony.

The fact is that the South Australian Telegraph Department bears a name for liberality to its customers that does not attach to any other telegraph department, perhaps in the world. Throughout Great Britain, as also in the eastern colonies of Australia, telegraph messages must be accompanied by the necessary fee for transmission, the departments taking no risk. In Victoria the fee is paid in the form of stamps, which the sender attaches to the message. Cases sometimes arise in South Australia of a person dispatching a 'collect' telegram which is refused. This, of course, entails worry and at times loss to the department.


SC-TO-3B: Used for a message sent from Morgan to Adelaide 8 February 1894.
The nine words cost 1/- for the transmission and the Bank of Adelaide requested the Commercial Bank of Australia to pay that amount on receipt.

Note that the form also has the MSSMSS = manuscript
(ie hand written).
annotation "PLEASE FORWARD EARLY" which is a pseudo-URGENT message annotation.


3. Interim period - 1901 to 1918.

SI-DO-4: Delivery form for a 16 word message about a fertiliser problem sent from Brentwood to Wallaroo on 15 April 1918 (both places on the Yorke Peninsula).

In the top line, there is the manuscript annotation "1/3 COLLECT".