• Museum of Fire Heritage Team

From our Archive: the Museum's Postage Stamps & Post Office, 1983

In preparation for World Post Day this Friday, we explored the Museum’s photograph and document archives to uncover a range of material with post-related stories! One photograph that particularly stood out to us showed the Museum’s temporary post office at its former location in Walsh Bay (back when it was known as the NSW Fire Service Museum).

Temporary Post Office in the Museum, 1983

From 12-18 January in 1983 a temporary post office was established at the Museum to mark the release of the Historic Fire Engines stamp series. These stamps were issued by Australia Post and paid tribute to the dedicated efforts of Australia’s firefighting personnel.

As the Museum assisted Australia Post and the artist, Alan Puckett, in the production of this series, the Historic Fire Engine Issue stamps form an important part of the Museum’s story too. They are preserved in the Museum’s paper-based archive, along with souvenir stamp packs, first day covers and associated material which encapsulate this history.

The issue comprised a set of four stamps which depicted historic fire engines built in the mid nineteenth to early twentieth century for use in Australia. The appliances chosen for inclusion were the 1891 Shand Mason Steam Fire Engine (27c), the 1914 Hotchkiss Fire Engine (40c), the 1929 Ahrens-Fox PS2 Fire Engine (65c), and the 1851 Merryweather Manual Fire Engine (75c).

The 1891 Shand Mason Steam Fire Engine and the 1929 Ahrens-Fox PS2 Fire Engine formed part of the NSW Fire Service Museum’s displays at the time and today these two ‘engines’ are still proudly displayed at the Museum of Fire. The other two appliances featured were both based in Victoria, where they served the brigades down there in Melbourne and regional Victoria. These appliances were the 1914 Hotchkiss Fire Engine and the 1851 Merryweather Manual Fire Engine.

The Four Postage Stamps. The two on the left depict Museum appliances.

Within the souvenir packs, the histories of the fire appliances were highlighted. An excerpt from this pack is included below.

The 1891 Shand Mason Fire Engine was built to the specifications of the Sydney Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Originally horse-drawn, this fire engine was later converted for towing behind a truck and remained in service until the 1930s.

French Hotchkiss touring cars were converted into fire engines by the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The 1914 Hotchkiss Fire Engines were at first used only as hose carts, but later a rotary pump and ladder were added.

The 1929 Ahrens-Fox PS2 Fire Engine was built in the United States and brought to Australia for the New South Wales Fire Brigade. The heavy and cumbersome vehicle was distinctive for its large spherical air vessel set above the pump.

The 1851 Merryweather Manual Fire Engine was a horse-drawn vehicle with a hand-operated pump. The unit illustrated was purchased for the central Victorian gold-rush town of Scandinavian Crescent (later renamed Talbot) by Sir William and Lady Don, touring theatrical performers.

Featuring two of the Museum’s appliances, the Historic Fire Engine stamp series is an important part of our story. Due to this tangible link, material associated with the story is preserved for the future in our archive.

The archival collection on the Historic Fire Engine stamp series include newspaper and journal articles (an example is pictured here), photographs and the physical stamps themselves.

As World Post Day draws closer, we encourage everyone to write an ‘old-fashioned’ letter. We welcome all correspondence and love hearing about your experiences, whether in the Brigade or at the Museum!

-Museum of Fire Heritage Team

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1 Museum Drive, Penrith, NSW 

Tel (02) 4731 3000