South Australia: 1856-1900.
Telegraph Money Orders.

Telegraph Money Orders were a form of transmitting money using telegraphic communication rather than the postal system. It involved sending a notification to a designated Telegraph Office and, at the same time, sending a telegram to the named recipient notifying them of the transfer.

First suggestions in South Australia:

Postal money orders had been generally available for some years in one form or another. In February and March 1858, Charles Todd prepared two reports which discussed the concept and application ofa Telegraphic Money Order System to South Australia.

Then, towards the end of 1858, Todd wrote to the Commissioner of Public Works to outline his thoughts on a Telegraph Money Order system in South Australia:


in connection with the TELEGRAPH ESTABLISHMENT.

Observatory and Telegraph Department, Adelaide,
October 22, 1858.

Sir — In reply to your letter of the 18th inst., requesting me to furnish you with a final report on a money system in connection with the telegraph, I have the honour to state:

  1. That, from the numerous applications made at the several stations to transmit orders through the medium of the telegraph, I have reason to believe that it is not only expedient, but would be profitable to employ the telegraph in that service.
  2. The telegraph is largely availed of in America, and more recently in England, for the transmission of money orders. In Victoria, the Money Order Department is conjoined with the Post Office; the telegraph or the post being the medium of communication at the option of the remitter. The former is, I believe, extensively used, and would doubtless be so here with a similar arrangement. It would, however, in my opinion, greatly extend its utility in this respect if the money order office were attached to the telegraph office.
  3. There are some advantages which the telegraph appears to me to possess over the Post Office, and I allude to them, not so much with a view of having the money order system incorporated with this department, but simply, that in drawing attention to them, I may be able to suggest a plan in connection with the two departments, which I think might in some instances be adopted with advantage to both services.
    The first is, that the communication being instantaneous, the risk of error or fraud is on that account is diminished; and secondly, the officers employed on the telegraph are of necessity well educated and, being wholly employed by the Government, there would be more immediate control over them than is possessed over country postmasters.
  4. This latter circumstance induces me to throw out a suggestion which may, perhaps, be deserving of attention, viz., that in some cases it might possibly be attended with advantage if the duties of Telegraph Station Clerk and Postmaster were combined. Both require constant attention, and in the cases I refer to, neither fully occupies the time. I would mention, as places where this arrangement might be adopted, be following: — Gawler Town, Kapunda, Kooringa, Clare, Mount Barker, Willunga, Goolwa, Guichen Bay, Mount Gambier.
  5. In the event of the system being adopted, I would recommend —
    (i) That money orders should be limited to £5.
    (ii)That no person shall obtain more than two orders together not exceeding £10 on one day, in favour of the same payee.
    (iii) That the charge or premium be sixpence (6d.) for any sum not exceeding two pounds (£2), and one shilling (ls) above (£2) and not exceeding five pounds (£5).
    (iv)That a charge of 6d., 1s., 2s., and 3s., according to distance, be made for transmitting advice message of each order issued.
    (v) That money orders be issued from and drawn on the following stations:— Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Gawler Town, Kapunda, Kooringa, Mount Barker, Willunga, Goolwa, Guichen Bay, Mount Gambier.
  6. An objection may perhaps be made against the introduction of the money order system on account of the responsibility involved in the remitting of specie to the out-stations. I do not apprehend any great difficulty. The great bulk of the orders will be drawn on Adelaide, but should we find any inconvenience from the number and amount of orders on out-stations, telegraph orders might be introduced which would be cashed by the storekeepers and others in the neighbourhood, and thus afford them an easy means of making their larger remittances to Adelaide.
  7. To illustrate the manner in which I would propose working the system if entrusted to me, I enclose forms which I have drawn up for your information. They are simple, and would entail but a small amount of clerical labour, and at the same time afford a complete check.
  8. The only addition to the establishment would be, I think, one third-class clerk at the town office.
  9. In conclusion, I would beg to draw your attention to the expediency of communicating with the Governments of the adjoining colonies with the view to establishing an intercolonial money order system. The charge need, I think, be very little increased to enable the Governments to conduct it with profit, whilst to the people it would be a great boon.

I have, &c,
Observer and Superintendent of Telegraphs South Australia.

The Hon. the Commissioner of Public Works.

The system was introduced into South Australia from 1 January 1859. The Government Gazette of 14 January 1859 noted that: (SEE ALSO)

4. Advices for Money Orders may be forwarded by electric telegraph. Persons may have advices of money orders forwarded by electric telegraph to any place where money orders are payable, and to which communication by electric telegraph has been opened, upon making special application, on the form provided for that purpose, and paying the charges for the transmission of messages by electric telegraph, in addition to the commission on the money orders obtained.

5. Cost of transmission to be paid by sender. Persons obtaining money orders will be required to forward them to the persons to whom they are made payable, and to pay all costs and charges for their transmission.


No Telegraphic Money Order forms are recorded for South Australia. An early receipt for an order is known.