SUNDAY MAIL (ADELAIDE)
The Sunday Mail was originally titled the Mail because at the time of its launch it was unlawful in South Australia to publish a newspaper on the Sabbath. For its first 60 years, the newspaper carried a Saturday dateline, even after it changed its name to the S.A. Sunday Mail in 1954 and then to the Sunday Mail in 1955.
The Mail Newspapers Ltd was established in 1911 to publish three weekly titles in South Australia: the Sporting Mail (1912–14), which was published on Thursdays primarily to provide betting information for Saturday’s races; the Saturday Mail (1912–17), published to preview weekend sporting events; and the Mail, which carried extensive sporting results. The Mail’s first edition was available by 7 p.m. on Saturdays and its final edition, labelled ‘Midnight’, was distributed before Sunday began.
In its first edition on 4 May 1912, an article attributed to the manager and probably written by foundation proprietor Clarence Moody, a journalist and champion lawn bowler, addressed ‘the Sabbath aspect’: ‘to print a paper which a large section of the community may read with profit and without harm on the first day of the week … we are publishing a Sunday paper; but it is being done in Adelaide with limitations which do not apply in other states … The object … is to go to press sufficiently early on Saturday night to enable the runners to deliver the paper to householders by midnight.’
The Mail’s early years were a struggle. The sporting and Saturday editions had been discontinued by the end of World War I, and ownership changed several times before the title was purchased by the fledgling News Limited in 1923. Over the next 30 years, the Mail built a strong readership based on sporting results and family reading. Under the editorship of George Brickhill, the Mail focused on football and horse racing, with prominent sportsmen contributing often-controversial articles. To balance its concentration on sport, the Mail also gave considerable space to its women’s pages and, with future readers in mind, established a children’s section in 1921, which became known to generations as ‘Possum’s Pages’. Originally titled ‘Mate’s Own Corner’, it featured items for ‘clubmates’ written by ‘Possum’. In 1924, May Gibbs’ gumnut babies, Bib and Bub, were featured in the first comics pages in the Mail, followed in 1932 by Jimmy Bancks’ ‘Ginger Meggs’.
In 1954, the Sunday Mail was at the centre of a bitter battle between News Limited and its morning rival publisher, Advertiser Newspapers Ltd. Melbourne’s Herald and Weekly Times, under Sir Keith Murdoch, had taken a stake in the Adelaide Advertiser in 1931, and when Sir Keith died in 1952, he also owned a controlling interest in News Limited that passed to his son, Rupert. In an effort to gain control of the lucrative Sunday market, including large revenue streams from real estate advertising, the Advertiser launched a Sunday edition in 1953. In response, Rupert Murdoch made an audacious bid to buy Advertiser Newspapers for £14 million. After two years, the Sunday Advertiser closed its Sunday edition in return for half-ownership of the Sunday Mail—a situation that continued until Rupert Murdoch took over the HWT in 1987, thereby achieving full ownership of the title.
By 1972, public acceptance of Sunday as a day of leisure rather than strict religious observance led to the Sunday Mail’s dateline being changed from Saturday to Sunday, even though the first edition still comes off the presses before 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Mail’s circulation in 1912 was 15,000. By the early 1960s, it had passed 200,000, and it reached a peak of more than 320,000 in the 1990s. In 2013, not long after celebrating the Mail’s centenary, the Sunday Mail’s circulation was 246,007.