South Australia - Colonial period: 1856 - 1900.
Telegram rates.


The rate information on this page covers:

Until 1902, South Australians did not use postage stamps to pay telegram costs - see details of stamp use elsewhere.

1857 telegraph rates:

On 13 April 1857, following the opening of the North Line of Magnetic Telegraph to Salisbury and Gawler Town, Charles Todd announced the following scale of charges:

From To Basic charge for up to 20 words Costs for additional words:
Lefevre's Peninsula
or Port Adelaide.
Gawler Town 2/- 8d. for every 10 words.
Lefevre's Peninsula
or Port Adelaide.
Salisbury 1/6 6d. for every 10 words
Adelaide. Gawler Town 1/- 6d for every 10 words
Salisbury. Adelaide or Gawler Town 1/- 4d. for every 10 words.

No charge was made for delivery where the distance did not exceed half a mile.

Adelaide, April 13, 1857.


Telegraph rates along the Adelaide-Mount Gambier No. 1 line.

Stations Geelong Ballarat Raglan Warnambool Belfast Portland Mount
Goolwa Port Elliott Adelaide
Melbourne 2/- 3/- 3/- 4/- 4/- 4/- 5/- 5/- 6/- 6/- 6/-
Geelong   2/- 2/- 3/- 3/- 3/- 5/- 5/- 6/- 6/- 6/-
Ballarat     2/- 3/- 3/- 3/- 4/- 4/- 6/- 6/- 6/-
Raglan       2/- 2/- 2/- 4/- 6/- 6/- 6/- 6/-
Warnambool         2/- 2/- 3/- 3/- 5/- 5/- 5/-
Belfast           2/- 3/- 3/- 5/- 5/- 5/-
Portland             3/- 3/- 5/- 5/- 4/-
Mt Gambier               2/- 3/- 3/- 3/-
Guichen Bay                 3/- 3/- 3/-
Goolwa                   1/- 2/-
Port Elliott                     2/-

All charges were for 10 words or less. They were formulated jointly by Todd and McGowan.

Press rates were 1d per word for transmission of up to 300 miles. Transmission over longer distances were charged at 2d per word.

Government messages were free.

1862 telegraph rates.

Hours of opening: All the stations are open daily from 9 am to 8 pm and at the Chief Office and Sea-coast Station, Lefevre's Peninsula, from 10 pm till 6 am, except the railway stations, which close on arrival of the last trains, 7 p.m. On Saturdays all offices close at 6 pm.

Name of line Stations Charges (names and addresses free)
Adelaide, Port and Sea-Coast lines. Chief Office, Green's Exchange, King William Street, Adelaide; Railway Terminus, North-terrace; Bowden, Alberton, Railway Terminus and Central Station. Commercial-road. Port Adelaide, and the Beach. LeFevre's Peninsula.
  • between Adelaide and the Port and the Port and Lefevre's Peninsula: messages not exceeding 20 words, including delivery within half a mile, 6d and 3d. for each 10 words or fraction of 10 words additional;
  • between Adelaide and Lefevre's Peninsula: 1s. for every 20 words and 6d. for each 10 words or fraction of 10 words additional.

Boat-hire will be charged for delivery of messages on board vessels lying in the stream or off the Lightship. For all distances on land exceeding half a mile and not exceeding one mile, a charge of 1s. will be made for delivery; for distances exceeding one mile, horse or cab hire in addition to the charge of 6d per mile for messenger according to time and distance.

Northern Line— Adelaide to Kooringa. Dry Creek, Salisbury, Smithfield, Gawler Town, Freeling, Roseworthy, Kapunda, Clare and Kooringa.
  • between Adelaide and Gawler Town or Smithfield, 20 words 1s. 6d and 6d for every addtional 10 words;
  • Adelaide to Dry Creek or Salisbury, 20 words 1s and 6d for every additional 10 words;
  • Adelaide to Kapunda, Roseworthy or Freeling, 10 words 1s 6d, and 6d every additional 5 words;
  • >Adelaide to Clare or Kooringa, 10 words 2s and 6d every additional 5 words.
South Eastern Line - Adelaide to Penola Glenelg, Mount Barker. Woodside, Nairne, Strathalbyn, Willunga, Port Elliot, Goolwa, Guichen Bay, Mount Gambler, and Penola.
  • Adelaide to Glenelg, Mount Barker, Woodside or Nairne, 10 words 1s and 6d every additional 5 words;
  • Adelaide to Strathalbyn, 10 words 1s. 6d and 6d for every additional
    5 words;
  • Adelaide to Willunga, 10 words 1s and 9d every additional 5 words:
  • Adelaide to Port Elliot and Goolwa 10 words 2s and 6d. every additional 5 words;
  • Adelaide to Guichen Bay, 10 words 2s 6d and 9d every additional 5 words;
  • Adelaide to Penola or Mount Gambier, 10 words 3s and 1s every additional 5 words.
Intercolonial line Connecting the South Australian lines with those of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Beyond the colony the charges are as follows for messages of 10 words from Adelaide:

  • to Portland, 3s;
  • Belfast and Warrnambool 4s.;
  • Hexham, Streatham, Fiery Creek and Ballarat, 5s;
  • Geelong, Queenscliffe, Williamstown. Sandridge and Melbourne 6s;
  • Gisborne, Kyneton, Kilmore, and Longwood, 7s;
  • Castlemaine, Sandhurst, Benalla, Wangaratta, Beechworth, and Belvoir 8s;
  • Albury 9s;
  • Sydney and all stations in New South Wales, 10 words 9s;
    and 6d. every additional word.

Source: South Australian Register, 11 November 1861 and repeated subsequently.

The effect of the 1862 reduction in rates to increase the traffic handles over the lines can be inferred in part for th following table:

Month No. of messages in 1867 No. of messages in 1868 No. of messages in 1869
June 8,881 7,871 10,457
July 9,647 8,579 9,703
August 9,265 7,785 9,913
September 8,731 8,671 10,582


1870 telegram rates:

A uniform telegraph charge throughout the Colony of 1s. for ten words was established - one exception being between City and Port Adelaide of 6d for the first 10 words.

Special rates to Port Adelaide - 1871.

"At a Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, May 3, it was decided that the rates for telegraphic messages to Port Adelaide should be reduced to 6d. for ten words, as was the case up to the adoption of the uniform tariff in July last. This decision has been arrived at in compliance with the request of the Chamber of Commerce and it is intended to apply to the Port line only and not to other short distances".

From the 1st of September 1877, the rate for messages between Adelaide and Glenelg was also reduced to 6d. for the first 10 words and 1d. for every additional word.

Border towns rate problem was becoming an issue by the 1880s:

South Australian Weekly Chronicle.
23 Feb 1884:

"A deputation to the Postmaster-General with respect to several matters, the first of which was a request that the rate of telegrams between Lillimur North and Border Town should be reduced from 2s to 1s. for ten words. The deputation asked that arrangements should be entered into with the South Australian Government of a similar nature to those already existing with the New South Wales Government as regards Albury and Wodonga by which telegrams were sent at one half the intercolonial rate. It was pointed out that the residents of Border Town were agitating in favor of the same concession, as were also these of Apsley with reference to communication with Narracoorte and also that the reduced rate was in force between Swan Hill and Balranald, a distance of twenty miles. Mr. Berry stated in reply that there would be no objection as far as the Victorian Government were concerned, but a line would have to be drawn somewhere or otherwise places at a considerable distance from the borders might ask for the same concession. He also pointed out that the distance between Albury acd Wodonga was only three miles whilst that between Lillimur North and Border Town was fourteen miles (twenty two miles is the correct distance) and therefore the cases were not analogous. Mr. Berry promised to communicate with the South Australian Government on the subject, and expressed a hope that a general reduction might be made in the charges on messages between border towns ... Mr. Berry also promised that the telegraph line to Natimuk should be proceeded with as soon as possible".

And another example:

South Australian Register
16 August 1887.

The public will sympathize with the Minister in his complaint that the cost of providing postal facilities in a colony where the population is so scattered as it is here (in S.A.) must need be heavy, but they will not regard this as a reason for refusing the concession asked for. Rather should the Hon. gentleman set his wits to work to judiciously curtail these facilities by placing the telegraph more within the reach of the general public.

And this brings us to the second part of the request urged by the deputation. We believe the speakers were well within the mark when they predicted that the decrease in telegraphic rates advocated by them would so increase the amount of business done as to protect the department against any diminution in revenue. The adoption of some such tariff for inland messages as 6d. for six words would inevitably lead to a much more free use of the wires.

But unquestionably the greatest anomaly in the existing tariff is the imposition of a charge of 2s. for ten-word messages between towns near the Border, such as Silverton, and stations in South Australia. This matter was pressed upon the attention of the Minister, and it is disappointing to find that he seems inclined to give up the attempt to bring about the required change owing to the failure of previous efforts in that direction. As a matter of fact, past rebuffs should only make him more urgent in his representations. Even if there were no precedent for the adoption of a lower rate between a station across the Border and South Australian stations, the peculiar relations which this colony holds towards the Barrier townships affords abundant justification for an exception being made in their case. When, however, it is known that not only between Silverton and Victoria, but between all the telegraphic stations in New South Wales and Victoria, the shilling for ten words obtains, it behoves the Minister to take no denial, but to follow up application with application, and remonstrance with remonstrance until he succeeds in securing for South Australia the most - favoured - nation treatment which is accorded to Victoria.

Going a step further, the maintenance of the 3s. rate to Brisbane is altogether irreconcilable with the existence of a 2s. rate between Melbourne and Queensland. It is not the case that messages from Adelaide to Brisbane have to pass through Victoria. The only intermediate colony is New South Wales, and the rate should not be heavier for Adelaide than for Melbourne. It is absurd that such heavy intercolonial charges should be kept up. They were defensible enough ten years ago, but the increase of population and of traffic have rendered them an anachronism. It is desirable in the interests of both Queensland and South Australia that a direct telegraphic line between the two colonies via Innamincka should be constructed. Especially so is it in the interests of South Australia, for the business relations between this province and the western and south-western portions of Queensland are becoming more and more intimate and extensive, and are well worth cultivating. All the same, however, the Minister is to be commended for seeking in anticipation of the erection of that line to secure the adoption of lower rates for telegrams interchanged between the two colonies".

The route discussed via Innaminka was never constructed although a Radio Telegraph post was established there in 1977.


Delivery costs.

The South Australian Chronicle of 4 January 1890 carried a message from a subscriber in Terowie reminding readers that:

"1. A Station Master is not required to send a message out until the horse hire due on it is paid. This is mentioned in the Postal Guide.

2. Horse hire or porterage is payable for delivery at any distance over one mile".


Inter-colonial rates:

There was always a desire to ensure rates were equitable from one Colony to another. An example of this desire is the story carried by The Advertiser on 1 October 1891 - the date on which Australia (representing the respective Colonies) joined the Universal Postal Union:

"A reply has been received from the Minister of Education (Hon. J. G. Jenkins) by the deputation of brokers which waited upon him on August 24, applying for a reduction in the intercolonial telegraph rate. The brokers, who are very good customers of the department, have on a number of occasions requested that the rate between Adelaide and Melbourne should be reduced from 2s. to 1s. for the first ten words as it is between Melbourne and Sydney, but each time they have received the same answer — that the matter would be submitted to a Postal Conference to be held next year. It has been pointed out that the present system is absurd because if a broker wires from Melbourne to Broken Hill he pays 1s. for the first ten words; whereas if it be telegraphed to Adelaide - about half the distance - he pays 2s.

The communication from the Education Department, which was received by Mr. G. S. Aldridge on Wednesday - was as follows:

"I am directed by the Hon. the Minister to inform you that in accordance with the promise he gave the deputation introduced by you on the 24th ultimo, he submitted to the Cabinet the request that the telegraph rates between Adelaide and Melbourne should be reduced. It is found that if the alteration desired were made, it would involve a considerable loss to South Australia, at least for the first year, and as the Estimates for 1891-92 have been prepared and laid before Parliament, the Cabinet have decided that no induction in the rates can be made at present. The question shall, however, be submitted for the consideration of the Post and Telegraph Conference to be held early next year. You will, of course, be aware that no reduction can be made in the intercolonial telegraph rates without the concurrence of the colonies. --I have &c., James Bath, Secretary".

This letter was read at the afternoon meeting of the Stock Exchange of Adelaide, and provoked derisive cheers, one member suggesting that the Government wanted to make up, by this means, the loss sustained by cheap overseas postage".

The Advertiser 11 Feb 1887:

"A telephone-office has been opened at Glen Osmond for the convenience of residents having business relations with the city. The fee charged is 6d. for every five minutes. The ordinary telegram rate is:

  • between Glen Osmond, Parkside, North and South Adelaide. 10 words, 6d.;
  • between Glen Osmond and all other South Australian stations, 1s. for every 10 words;
  • 1d. for each additional word.

Telegrams from the other colonies will be subject to the same rates as those from Adelaide. Telegrams will not be delivered, but will be kept at tbe Glen Osmond post-office until called for".


Special SA rates within the Commonwealth rates.

The 6d rate will apply between Laura and Wirrabara, Appila Yarrowie. Caltowie, Gladstone and Georgetown. Double rates charged after office hours and on Sundays