Printing in Australia before WW I

A time line of significant events in the history of printing in Australia compiled by Benjamin Thorn


A small hand press is brought out on the first fleet. Unfortunately, no-one knows how to use it. 


Convict George Hughes teaches himself to use the press and print orders and regulations for Governor Hunter.


George Howe replaced Hughes in the Government Printing Office. He is allowed to do non-governmental work for his own profit. His press can produce about 50 sheets per hour.


Howe produces the first book in the colony The NSW Standing Orders.


Howe starts weekly newspaper The Sydney Gazette. It is required to print government announcements and is subject to heavy censorship by the authorities. In the years until1850, some 38 different newspapers and journals are produced

(some times fleetingly) in Sydney.


First (short-lived) Tasmanian news journal the Derwent Star.


Two lithographic presses are set up at Parramatta Observatory. One is subsequently transferred to Surveyor Generals Department and used for printing maps.


The Sydney Gazette ( now produced by Howe’s son Robert) becomes daily.

It continues until1842.


First printing industry strike by a small number of typographers employed by

The Australian.


Engraver W Moffit opens a business in King Street. He printed labels for pills, potions and liquor and advertising cards etc. David Jones is

one of his early customers.


The Sydney Herald is first time produced as a weekly newspaper,

from premises in Redman's Court, off Lwr George St - price 7d (pence).

In1841 it is bought by John Fairfax and becomes The Sydney Morning Herald.

In Western Australia, the first printed newspaper the Fremantle Observer, Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal start.

It uses the press that once printed the Derwent Star in Tasmania.


South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register printed in South Australia

(the first edition had in fact been published a year before in London before the colonists set out for South Australia).


Melbourne Advertiser is the first newspaper in what would become Victoria.


Moreton Bay Courier first newspaper in Queensland.


The Sydney Morning Herald imports a double-cylinder ''Cowper press" and becomes the first newspaper in Australia printed by steam, 

capable of printing 3000 copies a day.


The first printing union, Sydney Typographical Association, is formed. It continues for 25 years but achieves little.


The Sydney Morning Herald installs a ''Hoe'' 6-cylinder letterpress revolving press


First printing ink manufactured in Australia by Fred T. Wimble and the future F. T. Wimble & Co. is started.


Edwards and Dunlop establish a business as paper merchants and distributors of stationary and printing machinery.


First lithographic machine imported to Melbourne.


The Sydney Mail is the first daily newspaper to use illustrations. These are printed from woodcuts. The first picture is a prize bull.


First printing equipment manufactured in Australia.


The Sydney Morning Herald installs a rotary-letterpress stereotype

web-perfecting press

The 1880s

Wood engraving begins to be used instead of woodcuts for newspaper illustration.


Reformed union, NSW Typographical Association, starts collective bargaining with individual employers on wages and conditions.


First employers’ group, Melbourne Master Printers Association, founded in Victoria.


Master Printers Association of Sydney founded.


A huge fire broke out (the biggest in Sydney's history) in the printing establishment, Gibbs, Shallard & Co, situated near Martin Place, in downtown Sydney.

The fire raged for several days and destroyed much of the surrounding area,

including 20 buildings.

Many printing businesses assisted by printing jobs on their behalf. 


Major industrial action organised by the Typographical Association in Sydney. A month-long strike is a failure as the newly invigorated Master Printers Association imports labour from outside of Sydney and threatens to blacklist striking workers.


Daily Telegraph imports first Linotype machines.

Sydney Morning Herald starts using Hattersley typesetting machines a year later and Linotype in1903.


Printing classes begin at Sydney Technical College.


First industrial provisions for women workers in the industry are made.


De Deep

Our Purpose

The purpose of the Penrith Museum of Printing is to collect, conserve, operate and showcase letterpress printing machinery and equipment so as to keep alive the history,knowledge and skills of letterpress printing for present and future generations.

The Penrith Museum of Printing is a 'Not For Profit' Incorporated Association

Standards Program Participant
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Site updated: 2 April 2021
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