Samuel W. McGowan: 1829 - 1887 - Victoria.
Built Australia's first telegraph line

Details about McGowan are provided as follows:

  1. Early life and his move to Australia;
  2. Activity in telegraphs;
  3. Covers addressed to McGowan;
  4. Notice of his death in 1887.
1a: Early life:
  • was born on 4 January 1829 in Londonderry, Ireland;
  • attended school in Canada and subsequently completed a law degree in Toronto;
  • turned his attention to telegraphy in 1847 after his father died. He completed several experiments under the supervision of his Professor - Samuel Morse.

1b: Move to Australia:

  • decided to emigrate to Australia after reading accounts of the discovery of gold;
  • arrived in Melbourne in the Glance in March 1853 bringing with him from Canada (via New York), at his own cost, a supply of Morse's telegraph instruments, batteries and other materials. His aim was to form a telegraph company and construct lines from Melbourne to the gold fields as well as to the adjoining colonies.
  • had discussions with private companies with a view to establishing a telegraph line linking Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide as well as the goldfields;

Activity in telegraphs.

Mr. McGowan was well qualified to conduct such ambitious projects as he had envisaged. As a telegraph engineer and electrician, he had had several years practical experience in connection with telegraph companies in Canada and in the United States.

While in the U.S., McGowan had become thoroughly acquainted with the new system introduced by Professor S. F. B. Morse, which was then rapidly supplanting all others. The Morse code system was also soon adopted throughout Great Britain, India and the continent of Europe.

Mr. McGowan had taken the necessary steps for obtaining legislative sanction for carrying his plans into effect when statesmanship stepped in, causing the course of events to flow in an entirely different direction from that he had planned - see the history of the first line in Victoria.


Letters addressed to McGowan.

McGowan half L
S. W. McGowan Esq.
Superintendent of Electric Telegraphs.

Large part of an outer with C&F 1d and 3d half-lengths tied by BN 3 of Castlemaine (oval b/s).

Provenance: Pack, Hugh Freeman.

Prestige Philately September 2011 Lot 802.

1858 laureates
Mr. McGowan
General Superintendent of Electric Telegraph.

Cover franked with 1d Emblems strip of 4 cancelled with BN 9 of Beechworth.
Backstamps of Beechworth MY 26 1858 and Melbourne the same day.
Also has a very rare manuscript endorsement on reverse "Nine Mile/26.5.58".
(Nine Mile Creek opened 1 October 1857 and renamed Stanley 1/6/1858).

Provenance: Max Watson, Hugh Freeman.

Prestige Philately September 2011 Lot 803.

McGowan 1859
Sam'l McGowan Esq
Supt. Electric Telegraphs

Cover franked with 2d Emblem on local cover.
Has backstamp of Nov. 10 1858.
Solo Emblems are scarce on cover.

Phoenix Auctions October 2014 Lot 4503.

Mc Gowan died suddenly on 18 April 1887. The Victorian Annual Report to both Houses of Parliament for that year contained the following: