Shining the light
...to throw the resplendent light of Publicity upon all the affairs of this New Colony' was the proud boast of The Melbourne Advertiser when it was first published on 1 January 1838...
What it did not say was that the light would shine just as brightly on John Pascoe Fawkner, its publisher.
Portrait of W. P. Fawkner Esq. by William Strutt, 1853.
Source: State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Picture Collection
Fawkner played a key role in the establishment of Melbourne and Victoria as a separate state.
The story of the first newspaper in Melbourne well illustrates Fawkner’s way of operating.
He had ordered a printing press from Tasmania, but he did not wait for its arrival to publish the first Melbourne newspaper. He wanted to beat the competition so The Advertiser's first nine weekly editions were handwritten.
The Fawkner Press
Photographer: Jon Augier, Source: Museum Victoria
The first printed edition appeared on 5 March 1838. The Press itself was nothing special; its chief characteristic was that it was the first one Fawkner could get hold of.
The newspaper was closed down on 23 April 1838 because Fawkner had not obtained a newspaper licence from Sydney!
He republished with a new title - The Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser - on 6 February 1839 after he had obtained a licence. The paper was first published daily on the15 May 1845.
First in everything
Why did Fawkner not wait for the printing press?
He could make money from subscriptions and advertising businesses including his own. He knew others wanted to be the first to publish a newspaper so he wanted to beat his competitors and gain a place in history.
Fawkner and Melbourne
Fawkner had been to Melbourne in 1803 as an eleven year old, living with his convict father in a colony established near present day Sorrento. When the colony was abandoned in 1804 due to lack of wood and fresh water, the Fawkners moved to Hobart in Tasmania.
Fawkner worked in his father’s bakery, timber business and brewery. In 1819, they moved to Launceston, where they set up a hotel, bakery, timber business, bookshop, nursery, orchard and a newspaper The Launceston Advertiser in 1829.
Fawkner’s second coming
In April 1835, Fawkner bought a ship, Enterprize, with the aim of returning to the mainland and establishing a settlement in the Port Phillip District.
In August 1835, the Enterprize, without Fawkner, tied up near William Street on the Yarra River. Land was cleared for growing crops and a store was built.
Fawkner came later in October 1835 and set himself up as a businessman, opening Melbourne’s first hotel on the corner of William Street and Flinders Lane and publishing the first newspaper.
Fawkner's first Printing Office, 1870
Photographer: Unknown, Source: Royal Historical Society of Victoria
He was elected to the first Legislative Council of the Port Phillip District in 1851, and was elected in 1856 to the first Parliament of the colony of Victoria, as MLC for Central Province.
Fawkner had worked tirelessly for the separation of Victoria from New South Wales; this was achieved in 1851.
Fawkner’s impact on the early life Melbourne was great - 15,000 people watched his funeral procession, which consisted of over 200 carriages.
Fawkner was born in 1792 and died in 1869.
The Fawkner Press and other objects are on display in the Melbourne Story Exhibition.