A Postal Puzzle

Sent from the suburb of Windsor in Victoria in 1898, the Perth General Post Office officials found themselves face to face with a postal pictorial puzzle. Instead of writing the address on the envelope in the traditional manner, the sender decided to draw it.

The first initial of the receiver was illustrated with a picture of a ‘J’ nib while a drawing of a sundered (broken) comb provided a clue as to the surname.

J. Sundercombe

A picture of a merchant’s ‘bill’ and a roughly drawn street indicated that the address was William Street.

William Street

Perth was described using the words “City of the” written backwards after a picture of a swan. If that wasn’t enough of a clue, a map of Australia was drawn with a black dot marking the position of the city.

Finally, the sender did write something on the envelope however it was a description deemed “uncomplimentary” by the Western Mail.

The land of sin, sorrow, sadness, sand, sore eyes, Satan and Sir John Forrest.

Despite the difficulties, the officials managed to decipher the postal puzzle and delivered the letter to John Sundercombe and Company on the corner of William and Murray Street in Perth at 10 am on 17 May 1898. The delivery was one day behind time and was considered “interesting as a test of the capacity of the Postal Department…

Sundercombe & Co on the corner of William Street and Murray Street circa 1898. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (013026D).

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