John Sands

John Sands 1842

Sun Herald – 12 March 1842

John Sands was a young man when he arrived in the colony with a level of ambition that matched the volume of stationery he brought with him to set up an engraving and stationery business.  Here’s a chronology of the business and how it developed and changed from the 1830s to now.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography provides details of his life and refers to the production of the first Australian themed Christmas cards by the company.

In 1881 the Sydney firm, known as John Sands Ltd, offered one of the first groups of Christmas and New Year cards in Australia: the first card, at a price of 1s. 3d., was listed as ‘Little girl offering a Christmas pudding to Swagsman’.

The Canberra Times ran a lengthy feature article on the history of Christmas cards in December 1975.  Some of the lithographs produced by John Sands are in the Pictures collection of the National Library of Australia.

Screenshot 19:03:13 2:32 PMThe man, John Sands, who died in 1873 did not live to see the creation of either the greeting card or the games segments of his business.

The Mercury – 26 August 1873

John Sands obit

John Sands games


board games

The National Archives of Australia holds objects in its collection as well as records.  Pop over here for the story of Games We Played, an exhibition curated last decade.

In 1986, Manly Art Gallery and Museum curated Race to the finish: an exhibition of Australian children’s board games from colonial times to the present day.  The book of the exhibition by Robert Holden is available in various reference libraries.

Launceston Examiner – 13 August 1915

In 1915, the National Games Company was advertising for agents to sell a ‘great indoor war game’ called Bound for Berlin. War games were particularly popular with another, Dugouts and Trenches, referenced in the article below.

ROUND GAMES FOR WINTER EVENINGS. (The Advertiser – 11 April 1918)

Games that make dull hours pass away. Lots of fun and laughter. Marshall’s have an unusually large variety of Fascinating Games that promise heaps of enjoyment to both old and young. * From this extensive selection we quote:

Football, Golf, Aeroplane, Time, Flags of the World, Courtship and Marriage, Tiddley Winks, Ludo, Cricket, Draughts, Lotto, Word-Making, Peter CoddleHalma, Ludo, Bicycle, Yacht Race, Motor Ride, Snakes and Ladders, Coiner, Australian Navy, Boy Scouts, Dominoes, Sportsman and Rabbit, Dug-outs and Trenches, Steeplechase, Fairyland, &c.

** HT to boardgamegeek.com for links to Peter Coddle and Halma.

The Advertiser – 11 April 1918

In 2007, Monash University Library purchased a commercial traveller’s sample book of games produced by the National Games Company.  The image (found here) gives a great feel for the style and colours in the product set.

Christopher George King was the designer and manufacturer of the games made by the National Games Company.  There are few references to him in the newspapers of the time or elsewhere. He is listed in electoral rolls as a manufacturer living in Melbourne in the early part of last century. He was born in England, and died at the age of 63 in 1928.

Image: Monash University Library