Chief Telegraph Office - Brisbane.

Details reviewed on this page are:

      1. Overview of the General Post Office;
      2. Overview of the Chief Telegraph Office;
      3. The combined Post and Telegraph Offices;
      4. Colonial/Interim period date stamps:
        Telegraph Office;
        Electric Telegraph Office;
        Post and Telegraph Department;
        Telegraph Branch/GPO;
        Brisbane E.T.O/Counter;
      5. Australian period date stamps:
        Telegraph Branch (4 formats);
        C.T.O. Brisbane/Qld. Aust (1 format);
        Chief Telegraph Office (4 formats);
        CTO Brisbane straight line format.

General Post Office, Brisbane.

A Post Office was originally established as Moreton Bay by New South Wales in the Moreton Bay District. It was classified as one of the 26 Official Post & Telegraph offices before 1892.

From 1 January, 1850, NSW postage stamps were issued by the Brisbane Post Office and the NSW numeral obliterator 95 was used to cancel stamps. The status of the Post Office was changed to that of a General Post Office in April 1860 as part of the administrative changes required leading to Queensland becoming a Colony independent of New South Wales.

A Female Convict Factory (i.e. a prison) was built in Brisbane in 1828. At some stage, the road on which the prison stood was named Queen Street. An early drawing of the Factory is shown at right. St. Stephen's Church is also shown.

In 1837, the Factory was moved to Eagle Farm and the Brisbane gaol was moved to the Queen Street site. Later, the Police Court was located on the Edward Street side.

Female home

In 1872, the use of the site in Queen Street was changed again - a new building was constructed for the General Post Office.

Then, in 1876, it was decided to demolish the court house and build a new wing to house the telegraph office. That could be regarded as a first step leading to the merging of the administration of the postal and telegraph services in 1879.

The first stage of the building consisted of the central tower and the sections on either side but not including the sections with the lintels at the top. The Telegraph Wing, central archway and clock tower were completed by John Petrie in August 1879 at a cost of £19,000. A report on the new Telegraph Office was given in the Brisbane Courier of 16 August 1879.

Bne first wingBrisbane GPO - first stage completed.
National Archives: J2879-QTH81
GPO Brisbane
Queen St
The finished building with wings added on both sides. The Chief Telegraph Branch was on the right. The environs of the new GPO building in Queen Street. The clock overhanging the footpath had not at this stage been installed. The building was built in stages so presumably this view was an early one (circa 1872-75).

Central Telegraph Office.

The first Chief Telegraph Office - then referred to as the Electric Telegraph Office - was established in 1861 in William Street, Brisbane. The building was referred to as Dr. Lang's Evangelical Church - shown on the left in the picture below-left (the other building is the Government Printing Office). It housed all telegraph staff except for the mechanician and the battery-man who were located a few doors away. Stables were located at the rear for the ponies used to deliver the telegrams. This building was not actually occupied by the telegraph staff until about 21 May because of being refurbished. Until then, a temporary office was set up in the upper story of the old Commissariat Store.

Dr. John Dunmore Lang had been born in Scotland. He is regarded as the father of Australian immigration as well as being a leader in the movement for the creation of Queensland as a separate Colony. His Church was in William Street on the site of what is now the Executive Building. The church was sold to the Queensland Government for £2,000 in December 1860 and it was then refurbished.

Dr Langs
First Queensland Telegraph Office.
Source: Australian National Archives - J2879 QTH161.
CTO  room
Inside the Queensland Chief Telegraph Office about 1890s.
Source: Australian National Archives - J2879, QTH83.

 The staff of the Electric Telegraph Office at that time consisted of Mr. J. J. Austin (Superintendent), R. O. Bourne (accountant), Walter Baskill (station master) and operators George Hamilton, James Hobbs, J. Cotts J. Bourne, Welaby and O'Connor. There were only four instruments in the head office at the time. Mr. J. J. Austin was appointed to the position of General Superintendent of Telegraphs but he died in April 1862. "He had been in a delicate state of health for some time and, within a few days of his death, exhibited symptoms of general decline and a breaking-up of his system". Mr. W. J. Cracknell, who had been appointed as the Station Master at Ipswich, was appointed Superintendent after Mr. Austin.

From May 1861, the Electric Telegraph Offices were open for public business, daily (Sundays excepted) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Thursday evening in each week, the offices in Brisbane and Ipswich would re-open from 8 to 8.30 p.m.

As telegraphic communication became more popular, the church building became more difficult to use as it had been built for a very different purpose. In his 1876 Report to both Houses of Parliament, Mr. W. J. Cracknell noted as follows:

"The intended new Central Station in Queen Street is in every way urgently required. As stated on former occasions, the present office accommodation is utterly inadequate, whilst an additional motive to promptitude may be found in the fact that much sickness prevailed amongst the staff, which is largely attributable to the unsuitable character, as well as the insufficiency of the building for the number of employees" (p.3).


A combined Post and Telegraph Office.

It became clear in the 1870s that a combined Post and Telegraph Office would facilitate the work of both aspects of the Department. As the new Post Office had been constructed in Queen Street, it was deemed appropriate to move the Telegraph Office to that site.

A tender was let to John Petrie in December 1876 for the erection of a new Electric Telegraph Office on the site adjoining the GPO. Eventually, in November 1879, the Telegraph Branch moved from the Church to the Queen Street GPO building.

Again at the rear were 12 stables for the ponies. As telegraphic traffic grew, the Chief Telegraph Office occupied even more space. Further details of a more specific nature are to be found in Gribble (1981, pp.100-107) and Rea (1971).

It was not long however before even this new building was inadequate to meet the demands on the Post and Telegraph Department. Developments for a new building with frontages to Queen Street and Elizabeth Streets were described in the 1900 Report by the Postmaster-General (p. 1-2).

A Report from the Brisbane Courier describing the interior of the new Telegraph Office is accessible elsewhere.

The previous building in Queen Street - together with two other historical buildings for the Chief Secretary and the 1828 Commissariat Officers quarters and a special weeping fig tree - were demolished in August 1899 to enable construction of a new building for the Lands Department.


Date stamps used at the Brisbane Telegraph Office - various names.


The first hand stamp made for the Brisbane Telegraph Office.

A remarkable survivor - only three recorded examples but only one on a form.

Brisbane ETO
Used on a delivery form
on 19 September 1866 (QC-DO-2).
Diameter: 30 mm.

Provenance: Dave Elsmore.

Electric Telegraph Office/

1 December 1879.
Used in violet.

RO1 - ETO.

Size: 24 × 31 mm (e = 0.63).

20 May 1880.
Used in violet.

RO6 - ETO.

Size: 25 × 40 mm (e = 0.78).

May 20  
Used in 1881.
Used in violet.

RO7 - ETO with Crown under inside scalloped border.

Size: 35 × 47 mm (e = 0.67).

Type 1 These two date stamps have numbers which would appeal to any mathematician!!
Used in 1888.
Used in black.

RO3 - ETO with crown on top.

Size: 22 × 35 mm (e = 0.78).


Provenance: Elsmore, Johnstone.
(for all four ETO date stamps).

Type 1A  
Post and Telegraph Department Queensland.

Used in blue: 23 April (May?) 1891 and 4 April 1895.

Size: 23 × 34 mm.

Rated: RRRR.

Number recorded in Census: 2.

PTD 1891
23 May 1891 - although cover shows the date should be 23 April 1891.

Used on an ordinary envelope from Brisbane to Caloundra via Landsborough with Brisbane unframed date stamp of 23 April 1891 with mss Received 5 May.

P&TD 1895
5 April 1895.
Mossgreen February 2016 Lot 951
Detail 1895
Brisbane to Long Island, USA.
5 April 1895.

The later of the two recorded examples of this date stamp.

Telegraph Branch/
One line date stamp, 2 digit year.

Used: 11 September 1891 to
9 May 1911.

Diameter: 26 mm.

Rated: RR.

TB 1882
8 April 1892.

Used on QC-DO-7A.

TB 1891
11 September 1891.

Used on QC-DO-7A (ii).

TB 1900
15 October 1900.

9 July 1906.
Corinphila Besaçon Collection, May 2018, Lot 3197.

CTO Telegraph Branch date stamp of 9 July 1906 on a rare horizontal strip of 5 of £1 Queen Chalon in deep green printed on paper with a sideways Crown over Q watermark, perf 12.

The second stamp in the strip (shown at the right) has a major re-entry under the lower right "1" value tablet. The details of the Telegraph Branch date stamp can also be more easily seen.

Stip stamp 2
9 July 1906.
  TB GPO Jan 1911
27 January 1911.

Used on QI-DO-1B
and QI-DU-1A.


Telegraph Branch/

The TB/C date stamp was an alternative version of the TC (Telegraph Counter) date stamp.

Counter £1
7 September 1902.
TBC on 2s
9 January ??
Telegraph Branch/ Queensland.
Two letter month. Four digit year.

Used: 15 May 1914 and
12 November 1935.

Diameter: 25 mm.

TB 1915
19 March 1915.
Used on QI-DO-1C.
Telegraph Branch/
Two letter month. Two digit year.

Used: 9 October 1915 to 12 November 1935.

Diameter: 26 mm.
Two 2 mm diameter dots for text separation.

Rated: RR.

TB Bris
9 October 1915.
Used on QI-DO-1C.
Kooka 1932
12 November 1935.
Telegraph Branch G.P.O./ Queensland.

Has dots on either side of Queensland.

Not described elsewhere.

13 December 1912.
Earliest recorded date.

Has uneven dots around Queensland on the outside and no stop after the O of G.P.O.

Diameter: 25 mm.

Used between 13 December 1912 (QI-DO-1C) and 2 June 1914.
Another example was sighted on an Urgent delivery form (AE-DU-1) with date 29 November 1917.
Provenance: Dave Elsmore.

Qld base 1932
3 January 1933.
Latest recorded date.

Has even dots around Queensland centered on the letters and a full stop after the O of G.P.O.

Diameter: 29 mm.

Used between 18 August 1929 and 3 January 1933.

Telegraph Branch/
Bris - Aust
Long date line.

Used: 31 December 1959 and
17 January 1961.

Diameter: 31 mm.

Tel Branch Tiger Cat 1961
17 January 1961 (LRD).

Archival date stamp.

Telegraph Branch C.T.O./ Qld - Aust.

Used with LDL between 1 September 1940 and 12 September 1972 (Dell type 5).

Used with SDL between 13 December 1973 to 17 December 1973 (Dell type 5s).

Diameter: 31 mm.


Long date line.

Tel Branch CTO 17 Dec 1973
17 December 1973.
Short date line.

Archival date stamp.


Two early date stamps for use on telegrams are known for Brisbane. Both have the letters T.C. (Telegraph Counter) at the base. They appear to have been used between 1895 and 1914 (at least).

See Scudder (2013) and Campbell (1990).

Type 1: Two line date with time between the lines.

Used: 1895 to September 1905.

  • earliest uses are on an 1895 1d with a "95" date and on the 1895 Reprints;
  • on some of the C.T.O. 1900 Boer War Patriotic Fund charity stamps;
  • on the 1903 high value stamps - with dates of FE 03 or DE 03.

Diameter: 24 mm.

Rated: RR.

TC 04
24 May 1904.

Copied from Campbell p. 153.

1d charity
10 September 1902.
Used on the 1900 Patrotic Fund 1d CTO block.
Type 2: One line date with time included and the letters of BRISBANE are close together.

Used: 28 August 1911 - 27 April 1914.

Diameter: 25 mm.

Rated: RR.

TC 12
17 December 1912.

Copied from Campbell p. 153.


TC 1911
28 August 1911.
Brisbane E.T.O/Counter.
Format with 3 letter month.

Used: 18 January 1909 to
17 February 1910 (during the early part of the Interim period).

Diameter: 25 mm.

Rated: Scarce.


3 letter month.

Rated: R.


Formats with 3 letter month.

Used: 10 August 1916 to
8 March 1921 (from the early part of the Australian period).

Diameter: 25 mm.


Rated: Scarce.

1916 ETO
10 August 1916.
ETO 1919
6 July 1917.
2 letter month.
Counter 2 dig
31 January 1921.
2 letter month.

Chief Telegraph/

OFFICE moved from the right side to under the top two words -
mainly under TELEGRAPH.
Two lines for top heading.

Used: 2 September 1938 to 26 October 1943.

Diameter: 31 mm.
3 mm side arcs.

Rated: RR.

CTO/BNE 1942
7 May 1942.

Used on AB-DO-7B.




Chief Telegraph Office/

Diameter: 30 mm.

Long date.

CTO 1934
13 December 1934.

Letters are more rounded.
No space around side arcs.

Know used from 19 June 1933 to
7 December 1949.

CTO BNE 13 Jn 55
13 June 1955.

1 mm square dots.

Known used from 9 March 1949 to 14 April 1960.

CTO 1960
14 April 1960.

1 mm square dots.

Known used from 9 March 1949 to 14 April 1960.

Type 3:
BRISBANE- QLD at base.
Type 4:
QLD (.) at base.
Type 5:
QLD - AUST at base.

Diameter: 31 mm.


C.T.O. Brisbane.

Diameter: 31 mm.

Large date line.

CTO BNE 10 Jan 1950 5(iii)
10 January 1940.

Thin lettering.
Letters of CTO are evenly spaced.
Type 5 (iii).

Archival date stamp.
Known used from 17 May 1944
to 28 April 1947.

5 November 1945.

Thicker letters.
O and B are close together.
Type 5 (i).

Used on AW-DO-10 (43).
Known used from 31 August 1944 to 30 August 1957.

CTO Bne 12 Mar 1952
12 March 1952.

Letters of CTO are unevenly spaced - the gap between C & T is wider than the gap between T & O.
Type 5 (i).

Archival date stamp

Small date line.


CTO BNE 12 Feb 53 5(iv)
QLD AUST at base.
12 February 1953.
Archival date stamp
(smaller date - type 5 (iv).
CTO 1956
QLD - AUST at base.
17 August 1956.

Longer arcs in front and between words at base.

Used on AA-DO-13A.
Provenance: Dave Elsmore.


Unframed straight lines with date and time at the base.

Made from rubber.

Unframed 1964
28 April 1964 at 2:55 pm.
Height: 25 mm;
Width of date/time line: 34 mm.

Used 28 April 1964 to 26 March 1974.
Provenance: Dave Elsmore.

CTO unframed 1974
28 March 1974 at 12:07 pm.
Larger and proportionally taller letters.

Height: 20 mm;
Width of date/time line (from '): 39 mm.
Provenance: Dave Elsmore.


The types reference the Cowan and Dell classification of postal date stamps.