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Australian Direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company seal

Date: 1853
Overall: 7 x 84 mm, 71 g
Medium: Ebonised wood, paper, shellac
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Company seal
Object No: 00046490

User Terms

    This company seal made of shellac is embossed 'The Australian Direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company 1853', along with the arms of the company - a lion and a kangaroo supporting a globe showing the company's steam route from England to Australia. The arms are surmounted by the image of a three-masted auxiliary steamer under a royal crown. The seal is housed in a round ebonised wooden case, of which the manufacturer's details are on the base.
    SignificanceThe gold rushes were one of the major driving forces behind the economic expansion of the Australian colonies in the 19th century. Although The Australian Direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company was not successful the company seal is a perfect symbol of the hope, optimism and entrepreneurial spirit that was associated with all things to do with Australia in the 1850s.
    HistoryThe discovery of gold in eastern Australia in the early 1850s resulted in an unprecedented acceleration in the flow of immigrants to the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, and later South Australia. From 1850 to 1860 the population of the Australian colonies grew from 405,000 to over 1,145,000 as hundreds of thousands of diggers and their families flocked to Australia in an attempt to improve their luck and strike it rich.

    The gold rushes were a period of great social and economic growth in Australia. Spurred on by the Australian gold rushes and corresponding increase in population, there was a rapid increase in demand for goods and services which could only be met by expansion within agriculture, industry and commerce. The gold rushes and the associated demand for passenger ships and faster services persuaded a number of merchants, bankers, lawyers and sailors to invest in and provide additional, faster and or more efficient methods of getting to the gold colonies of New South Wales and Victoria.

    The speculative formation of The Australian Direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company in 1853 was a direct result of the Australian gold rushes. The company prospectus published in The Melbourne Argus 11 May 1853 states:

    'The object of this Company is to meet with urgent requirements for accommodation caused by the increasing tide of emigration to Australia, the transmission of specie, and the growing importance of the Australian colonies, by the establishment of a direct and more expeditious line than any that at present exist, via the Isthmus of Panama, where the Railroad now in the course of construction will, it is confidently expected, be completed next September'.

    The prospectus goes on to examine the hazards that may be encountered on the existing routes to Australia, while praising the fine weather of the Pacific. The prospectus then lists other major advantages to the Panama route - including a shorter passage of 50 rather than 62 days, cheaper fares, and a restful break crossing the Panama.

    The Company was provisionally registered in London in February 1853 and announced in the Melbourne Argus, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Shipping Gazette and Sydney Trade List in early May 1853. The Company continued to advertise heavily its colonial share float of £300,000 and its English share float of £700,000 until late September 1853.

    Unfortunately for The Australian Direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company, a number of established American and British shipping companies had already seen the advantages in having a steam route across the Pacific. On 19 May 1853, the Australasian Steamship Company (Panama to Sydney) announced that its newly built steamer GOLDEN AGE of 2,864 tons had been launched in March 1853 and was commencing service in the next few days. The Company also announced the construction of a further five steamers to service the Australia and California route via Panama.

    Following this announcement a San Francisco Company called AG Sloo and Associates publicised the formation of a steam/railroad route across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico which would take advantage of the Goatzocoalcon River and an already established plank road between the head of the river and the Pacific.

    These factors along with the delays in the construction of the US-financed Panama Railroad - it was opened in 1855, and marked improvements in direct steam communication between Britain and Australia - saw the demise of The Australian Direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company even before the company could be successfully floated.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Australian Direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company seal

    Assigned title: Australian direct via Panama Steam Navigation Company seal in a round ebonised wood case.

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