South Australian Register

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Front Page of Vol 1, No 2 (3 June 1837) of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register.

The Register, originally the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, was the first South Australian newspaper. It was first published in London in June 1836 and folded almost a century later in February 1931.

The newspaper is the sole primary source for almost all information about the settlement and early history of South Australia. It documented shipping schedules, legal history and court records at a time when official records were not kept.[1] According to the National Library of Australia, its pages contain "one hundred years of births, deaths, marriages, crime, building history, the establishment of towns and businesses, political and social comment".[1]


The Register was conceived by Robert Thomas, a law stationer, who had purchased for his family 134 acres of land in the proposed South Australian province after being impressed by the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.[2] He printed the first issue in London on 18 June 1836 with his friend and partner, George Stevenson, as editor. Thomas embarked for South Australia aboard the Africaine later that year, arriving on 10 November 1836 with his family and equipment to set up a printing plant.[3] It was six months until the first colonial edition of The Register was printed on 3 June 1837 in a small mud hut on Hindley Street, Adelaide, near what is now named Register Place.

From the start, the paper asserted a strongly independent stance.[2] Stevenson's style was vigorous and provocative, making himself and The Register several enemies.[4] His opposition to Colonel William Light's choice of site for the new capital and James Hurtle Fisher as Resident Commissioner, led them and others to found the Southern Australian in direct competition with The Register.[4] The paper's antagonism of Governor George Gawler led to The Register losing government business; the South Australian Government Gazette was separated from it, and Thomas's printing business lost about £1,650 a year.[2] His protest that he was authorised by the British Government to do its printing failed and, insolvent, he sold the paper for £600 to James Allen in 1842, as Stevenson withdrew from journalism.

The paper, having been printed sporadically previously, became weekly in June 1838 and later twice-weekly from February 1843. By 1840, The Register employed a staff of 21 and had reached a circulation of 900. On 1 January 1850, it became a daily publication, and three years later the paper was bought back by Thomas's son William Kyffin Thomas as part of South Australia's first media syndicate with Anthony Forster, Edward William Andrews and Joseph Fisher (1834-1907).[2] They also purchased its weekly sister publication, the Adelaide Observer, and established in 1869 the Evening Journal, which later became The News.

The Register outlasted many competitors throughout its long history, holding a monopoly on the market at various stages, but it ultimately met its match in The Advertiser. The Advertiser, founded in 1858, first emerged as a serious challenger to the paper in the 1870s, and eventually bought out and closed down The Register in February 1931 after the Great Depression had severely reduced its fortunes, forcing it to become largely pictorial.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Australia's most significant 'at risk' newspapers". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 2006-11-18. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Thomas, William Kyffin (1821 - 1878)". Australian Dictionary of Biography (Vol 6). Melbourne University Press. 1976. pp. 263–264. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  |coauthors= requires |author= (help)
  3. "South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register". State Library of South Australia. Retrieved 2006-11-18. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Stevenson, George (1799 - 1856)". Australian Dictionary of Biography (Vol 2). Melbourne University Press. 1967. pp. 481–482. Retrieved 2006-11-18.