After a series of seminal texts persuaded the British government to back ventures into the untapped southern hemisphere, Captain James Cook and the crew of the HMS Endeavour claimed the frilled shores of south-eastern Australia in 1770 and New South Wales was born. In the coming years, a foundation for British sea power in the eastern seas rose with six interconnected colonies: Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales.

The Kangaroo and Map

The stamps and postal history of Australia can be divided into two periods: before 1913 with ‘Australian States’ stamps issued by the Australian colonies of Great Britain and after 1913 when the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia introduced stamps inscribed ‘Australia’.

To showcase this new level of independence, a kangaroo was incorporated into the design of the first Australian postage stamps, within the outline of Australia.

In 1911, the Australian government launched a Commonwealth Stamp Design Competition which attracted more than a thousand entries. Three designs were selected to receive cash prizes, however, the Design Competition was considered a failure. Hence, the Postmaster General of Australia - C.E. Frazer - commissioned the artist Blamire Young to produce a new series of designs. They were submitted in January 1912; sadly no records survive of them. It is difficult to say how much the Kangaroo and Map was his creation and how much an amalgamation of different earlier designs. The stamp is never attributed to one single person in scholarship, although Blamire Young comes up as the most prominent.

The design went through a series of changes, most notably from horizontal to vertical format. On the 2nd of January 1913, Kangaroo and Map stamps in 15 different denominations and colours were issued.  It is worth noting that the stamps were not produced by any of the major overseas printers: they were designed, printed and perforated in Australia.

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