SOUTH AUSTRALIAN GAZETTE AND COLONIAL REGISTER
The first issue of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register was printed in London on 18 June 1836; the second appeared one year later, from a rush hut in Adelaide. Robert Thomas and George Stevenson (1799–1856) launched the newspaper into the experimental colony of South Australia. Surviving the bankruptcy of its founders in 1845, in 1929 it was purchased by a syndicate led by (Sir) Keith Murdoch and the Herald and Weekly Times. When Murdoch purchased the Advertiser in 1931, the Register was subsumed into its old rival.
First editor Stevenson was outspoken and fearless. His additional role as private secretary to Governor (Sir) John Hindmarsh led to accusations of biased reporting and the establishment of the competing Southern Australian (1838–44), renamed the South Australian (1844–51). After the paper criticised Governor George Gawler’s handling of the Maria massacre in 1840, the lucrative government printing contract was withdrawn. Combined with the 1841 economic crash, this resulted in Thomas and Stevenson declaring bankruptcy; the newspaper was bought by James Allen.
Passing to outspoken radical John Stephens, in 1850 the Register became a daily. After Stephens’ death, it was bought by a syndicate that included William Kyffin Thomas, son of the original owner—now editor. The Register became increasingly conservative.
The country-focused weekly Adelaide Observer (est. 1843) was owned by the Register from 1845. In 1869, the company established the tabloid Evening Journal. William Sowden (1858–1943), the Register’s editor from 1897 to 1922, was conspicuous in a range of causes, and was knighted in 1918.
Following Sowden’s retirement and the Murdoch takeover, the Register was transformed into the Register News-Pictorial with an emphasis on photographs and sensationalism. For another 50 years, the memory of South Australia’s first newspaper remained only in the Advertiser’s title adjunct ‘and Register’.
REFs: G.H. Pitt, The Press in South Australia 1836–1850 (1946); Sir William Sowden Papers (SLSA).