In S.A.

The Rush Hut



The First Printing Press in South Australia

Stanhope Invenit No. 200

Arrival in South Australia

Robert Thomas brought the printing plant from England on the barque Africaine, which arrived at Holdfast Bay on the 8th November 1836. Robert and Mary Thomas, with their children, disembarked on the 10th November setting up their tent camp near the north bend of the Patawalonga Creek. The press and heavy luggage were offloaded on to the beach just south of the Patawalonga mouth.

The Rush Hut Printing Office

About December 20th, 1836, we built a rush hut a short distance from our tents for the better accommodation of part of our family,...and in this place (about 12 feet square) the first printing in South Australia was produced.
(Mary Thomas's diary)

December 30. This day Mr. Thomas received orders to prepare his printing press for the proclamation, which would be required immediately, and in consequence were obliged to hire a truck to bring up one of the presses and the type, which with some other packages still remained on the beach, where we had intended they should remain till our final settlement, as we did not expect to commence printing until then.

Dec 31. This morning we received intimation that the Governor had ordered 10 men from the Buffalo to assist in getting our luggage from the shore. They came accordingly, and with their help harnessed to the truck all the heavy cases of goods and printing materials were brought up, and the latter arranged in a rush hut, from whence the proclamation and other orders from the Governor were soon after issued.

(Mary Thomas's diary)

The First Printing

The first 3 Acts of the new Executive Council of Government were printed on the 14th January, followed by 150 sheets:- "Proclamation Establishment of Government in SA" on the 16th January 1837.

The First Newspaper

Robert Thomas was one of the owners of the printing plant in partnership with George Stevenson, Governor Hindmarsh's private secretary. They had been appointed Government Printers publishing the first edition of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register in England on June 18 1836.

The Government Printing Office remained at Glenelg until June 1st, 1837, when it was moved to lot 53 Hindley Street. The second edition of the Gazette and Colonial Register was printed at this location on the 3rd June 1837.

Technical Details

The Stanhope is a demy press invented by Earl Stanhope at the start of the 19th century and superseded the wooden presses in use at that time. With two competent operators it could produce 250 page impressions per hour.


The main Primary Source used in compiling this page is:-

The Diary of Mary Thomas

Her evidence as to the location of the Government Printing Office being near the north bend of the Patawalonga Creek, is verified by a painting done by her son in law and fellow passenger on the Africaine, J.M. Skipper. His painting of the historic landing spot early in 1837, is reproduced in Glenelg Illustrated Lee 1896 and also in Loyou's Notable South Australians.

The printing press was not at any time at the 'Old Gum Tree'.
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Site added 30th October 1999


This printing press was on display in The State Library until 2001.

(Printing Press prints as 2 pages)