History of The Mercury

Chronology

John Davies, founder

of The Mercury

 In 1853 John Davies, a newcomer to Hobart Town, acquired from John Moore a newspaper called The Guardian which had been in circulation for about eight years, published from 11 Macquarie Street. Davies leased these premises from John Ingle, redesigned the newspaper and renamed it the Hobarton Mercury.

1854 5 July. The first edition of the Hobarton Mercury ( incorporating the Hobarton Guardian), appeared. It was published on Wednesdays and Saturdays and was four pages with seven columns to a page. The press John Davies used was an American Columbian lever-action machine capable of printing only 80 to 100 four-page newspapers an hour.

1854 13 September. After two minor alterations (July 22 and August 30), reference to the Guardian was removed from the masthead. The newspaper was still a bi-weekly; with seven columns to a page.

1854 18 November. The Hobart Town coat of arms replaced the royal arms on this day, coinciding with a change to a six-column page.

1855 1 January. The Hobarton Mercury became a tri-weekly, published Monday, Wednesday and Friday; six columns to a page.

1855 21 December. Introduction of the new Double Cylinder Register Perfecting Machine capable of printing 1400 copies per hour. This could print four pages in the one operation and was state-of-the-art technology for the day.

1856 22 December. Enlarged to seven columns to a page, with columns one and seven extending to the earspace, surrounding the masthead.

1857 2 February. Masthead changes to The Hobart Town Mercury, extending over the full width of the front page.

1857 24 August. The Hobart Town Mercury incorporates The Colonial Times and the Tasmanian, which professed to be "the oldest journal in the colony".

1858 1 January. The Mercury became a daily newspaper, with format enlarged to eight columns to a page, under the title The Hobart Town Daily Mercury. Numbering of the issue reverted to Vol I, No I.

1858 13 January. First summary for Europe printed as a feature.

1858, 24 March. “Publishing” (Editorial) offices moved to the former Colonial Times office in Collins St. Printing department remains in Macquarie St.

1858 1 June. Tasmanian Daily News incorporated with The Hobart Town Daily Mercury.

1859 1 June. Daily Courier incorporated with the The Hobart Town Mercury. The Tasmanian News and the Advertiser followed in the next few years.

 

The oldest known sketch of the

Mercury's original building (far right)

A similar view of the Mercury

building in the late 1850s

 

1860 January 13. The newspaper reports that the "Submarine Cable" (electric telegraph) across Bass Strait is now in working order

1860 June 30. The Hobart Town Daily Mercury final edition.

1860 July 2. Name changed to The Mercury, published as Volume 1 Number 1.

1862 June 23. Size of paper reduced to six columns but enlarged to eight pages. As the newspaper became larger in size and the circulation increased a larger and faster Wharfedale press was installed. It was powered by hand at first but later by steam power. This speeded production sufficiently for the first copies of the newspaper to be printed in time to catch Page's 5am Royal Mail Coach to Launceston.

1863 1 January. Reduced to four pages of increased size, seven columns to a page.

1871 2 October. John Davies hands control of the company to his sons John George Davies and Charles Ellis Davies.

1872 11 June. The founder John Davies dies.

1870s The newspaper was usually four pages but on occasion was increased to eight or even 10 or 12 pages.

1877 7 July. The Tasmanian Mail, Davies Brothers' new weekly, was issued for the first time, edited by James Paterson. The 24-page journal was sold-out by 10am in Hobart and Launceston, requiring a further 1000 copies to be printed and ready for distribution that night.

1888 7 July. The Tasmanian Mail increases in size and introduces its first illustrations - two fashion plate engravings.

1900 25 January. The first consignment of linotype machines for The Mercury arrived at the Hobart wharves. They were installed in the old buildings and the paper began to be brought out partly by linotype and partly by hand composition. Before the introduction of linotypes it took 25 hand compositors to set the type for a four-page broadsheet issue. The Mercury changed from four pages of nine columns to six pages of seven columns.

1901 1 January. Supplement to The Mercury "Commonwealth of Australia Day of Inauguration"

1902 April. New offices were completed and occupied. The builders were J. & R. Duff and the architect was R. Flack Richards.

1902 June. An American-made Goss rotary press "of great speed and capacity" was installed. This was larger and faster than the old Wharfedale press and improved the style, quality and diversity of news of the paper. The Goss press, made in Chicago, arrived in Hobart in 29 packing cases. It weighed nearly 25 tons. It could produce a 6-10 page newspaper at the rate of 20,000 copies an hour. Sterotyping advances were made during this period.

 

  click to enlarge
The 1902 Mercury building at the time of its opening
The Goss rotary press installed in the new building in 1902
     

 

1913 17 November. Death of Sir (John) George Davies, son of the founder.

1919, 15 August. Spanish influenza epidemic hits Tasmania and causes a reduction in the size of the Mercury over three weeks starting August 16.

1919 27 October. The first newspapers transported by air were flown to Launceston by bi-plane in what was Tasmania's first trial commercial air flight demonstrating the possibilities of commercial aviation. The pilot of the aircraft was Lieut. A. I.  (Arthur) Long and he was accompanied by a member of The Mercury staff, Mr D. Mackenzie, who distributed copies by aerial drop to Pontville, Bagdad, Kempton, Oatlands, Ross, Campbell Town, Launceston, Longford, Westbury and Deloraine.

1921 1 February. The Honourable C.E. Davies, son of the founder, dies suddenly while driving to Launceston.

1921 7 April. The name of The Tasmanian Mail was altered to The Illustrated Tasmanian Mail. The size of the pages became smaller but greater in number (64) and were well illustrated with photographs and cartoons.

1922 December. A larger and faster American-made Hoe sextuplet double-decker rotary printing machine was installed, with improved linotype machines and stereotyping plant. The new press had a capacity for printing in one operation a newspaper of two to eight pages at the rate of 48,000 copies an hour, eight to sixteen pages at 24,000 copies an hour or 16 to 32 pages at 12,000 copies an hour. The plant was assembled by W.J. Forsythe, the chief engineer of Davies Brothers Limited.

1923 21 February. The first printing on the new Hoe machine took place. The official starting of the new press by the Administrator, Sir Herbert Nicholls, took place on 27 April. Sir Herbert was the son of the former editor H. R. Nicholls. The commemorative issue printed on the press comprised 20 pages of eight columns with illustrations.

1923 April 28 Special four-page supplement "The Last Word in Newspaper Printing Machines" contained in the first 2o-page issue of the Mercury.

1924 25 May . The book-binding department was destroyed by fire, the damage exceeding £15,000. There was considerable damage also to the newspaper plant, particularly the linotype machines. This did not disrupt business and new machines soon replaced those destroyed.

1924 5 July. The Seventieth Anniversary of the publication of the Mercury was celebrated in a special illustrated edition of 72 pages.

      
 
The Composing room in the 1920s

The Mercury staff setting off

on a company picnic in 1924

The photographic processing

room in the 1920s

December 1924: Tasmanian Broadcasting Station established at the Mercury office.

1928 15 March. The first of regular daily early road deliveries to Launceston started. The only time this service failed to keep to schedule was on 5 April 1929 when the blue-stone bridge over the South Esk at Perth was washed away in the floods.

 

 
The original Mercury building, circa 1930s
 

The same building being demolished

in 1938

     
  click to enlarge
The landmark art deco Mercury newspaper building in Macquarie St, Hobart, just after completion in 1940
 
The Mercury's office building in Launceston was a miniature replica of the Hobart building

 

 

1935 27 June. Final issue of The Illustrated Tasmanian Mail.

1939 3 August. Page one of The Mercury became the headline news page instead of being reserved for advertisments.

1941 Australian Newsprint Mills commence operating a paper mill at Boyer on the Derwent River. Newsprint paper was produced for the first time in Tasmania and the nation, from local hardwoods.

1942 1 October. The Mercury's format was reduced to tabloid size due to wartime paper shortages.

1946 May. A much larger Scott rotary press replaced the Goss rotary press which had been capable of producing 40 pages. The Scott press arrived from Sydney on the Hobart wharves in 168 cases each weighing about 2 tons. It was installed under the supervision of W.J. Forsythe, the Company's mechanical superintendent, who installed the Hoe press in 1922. Powered by 14 electric motors of up to 80 h.p., the press could print a newspaper of up to 64 pages in normal running. It could print, fold and count up to 30,000 newspapers an hour.

1950 December 15. Fire in an adjoining building severely damages the St John Street, Launceston, office of the Mercury.

1952 Reorganisation of company: Davies Brothers Limited became the parent company to three subsidiaries - The Mercury Newspaper Pty. Ltd., Mercury Press Pty. Ltd. and Mercury Board Containers Pty Ltd.

1953 A new office building opened in St John Street, Launceston, replacing earlier offices which were destroyed by fire.

1954 7 January. Death of managing editor & chairman of directors C.E. Davies Jnr (grandson of the founder).

1954, 20 February. Two evening editions of the Mercury issued to commemorate arrival of Queen Elizabeth II in Tasmania.

1954 3 July. The first edition of the Saturday Evening Mercury (SEM) was published to coincide with the centenary celebrations of The Mercury.

1954 5 July. The Mercury celebrated its centenary with a 160-page supplement printed on the Scott press.

1958 3 February. The Scott press was replaced by a London-made Hoe rotary letterpress acquired from the defunct Melbourne paper The Argus, which ceased publication in 1957. The newspaper returned to a broadsheet size for the first time since its 1942 "austerity" change to tabloid.

 

Front Cover of 1954

Centenary Edition

Mercury journalists planning coverage of the tour by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954

 

Making up The Mercury

pages in 1952

1963 23 November. Two editions of the Saturday Evening Mercury produced to cover the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.

1964 4 July. Change in typeface to Corona coincides with the Mercury's 110th anniversary.

1966 Suburban newspapers - Davies Brothers Limited purchases the Glenorchy Independent News on September 28, 1966. Northside News introduced on October 18, 1966. Eastside News introduced on July 28, 1967, followed by Southside News on November 23, 1967.

1971 20 July. For the first time in its history the Mercury missed a publication day due to a strike.

1976 22 April. Introduction of the first Laserfax picture transmission and receiving system, replacing the "wire service" operated at the Hobart GPO.

1977 25 June (Saturday). The last editions of The Mercury and Saturday Evening Mercury using the "hot metal" technology were published.

1977 27 June (Monday). The first computer phototypeset edition of the Mercury was produced. This new technique saw the end of the "hot metal" process used in the linotype machines . The new "cold metal" process involved the production of pages using computer generated type from photo typesetters. Photo-composition procedures marked the start of a technological revolution which is still continuing today.

1977 10 November. First edition of the combined Northside-Southside News, later to become the Suburban.

1979 18 January. First edition of The Westerner, incorporating the West Coast Miner.

1979 5 July. 125th anniversary of the Mercury commemorated in an eight-page supplement.

1981 Davies Brothers Limited acquires the Derwent Valley Gazette and Derwent Printery (New Norfolk). This newspaper had been established by Peter and Betty Howell in March 1953.

1983 1 July. First edition of Tasmanian Country after its purchase by Davies Brothers Limited. This newspaper had been established by Ron Limb on February 15, 1980.

1984 28 July. The final edition of the Saturday Evening Mercury was published.

1984 6 August. The Sunday Tasmanian was launched to replace the Saturday Evening Mercury.

1985 25 August. First issue of The Islander magazine, inserted into first birthday issue of the Sunday Tasmanian.

1985 4 September. Typeface changes from Times to New Century Schoolbook.

1985 24 October. Final edition of the Suburban.

1985 29 October. The first edition of the Community Express was published.

1987 29 May. Davies Brothers buys tourism newspaper Treasure Islander.

1987 22 December. Final issue of The Tasmanian Mail (joint-venture newspaper published by the Mercury and the Examiner since 1978)

1988 January. A computer based on-line retrieval system was introduced. This database research facility is now is networked to many places in the world. Stories printed in the newspaper are held in computer memory instead of being filed as cuttings in a space-consuming storage system. At this stage computer technology was also beginning to be used extensively in the editorial art section to produce special effects, maps, graphs and the day bill (poster) for newsagents and shops.

1988 28 March. Davies Brothers Limited became a wholly owned subsidiary of News Limited, the largest publisher of English-language newspapers in the world, founded in Australia by Rupert Murdoch.

    
  click to enlarge  

The Mercury's first

computer

 


 

Checking a prototype

of the Sunday

Tasmanian in 1984.


 

 

1993 13 February. The last Mercury to be printed on the Hoe rotary press using the letterpress process. Inserted in it was a 24-page supplement printed on the new offset press.

1993 15 Febuary. The first of the current small format tabloid copies of the Mercury came off a refurbished American-built Goss Urbanite web four-colour offset press installed in the press hall. The press had previously used by News Limited's Leader Press division for the printing of suburban newspapers in eastern Melbourne. The Goss was only a fraction of the size of the Hoe press it replaced; 30 metres long by 3 metres wide and a little more than half the weight. The Sunday Tasmanian also became tabloid size. Full colour photographs became a daily feature.

1994 28 January. News Ltd chairman and chief executive Ken Cowley names Rex Gardner to replace Julian Swinstead as Davies Brothers managing director.

1994 16 March. Community Express relaunched as a free newspaper delivered to 60,000 homes in Hobart and suburbs every Wednesday.

1995 15 June. Final issue of The Westerner.

1996 15 March. Launch of www.newsclassifieds.com.au sees every classified advertisement published in News Limited's metropolitan newspapers put on the internet, free of charge, including those from The Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian.

1998 1 July. The final edition of the Community Express published as a stand-alone publication

1998 8 July. Community Express incorporated in the normal Tuesday edition of The Mercury, in reduced size but similar format.

1999 3 February. Final issue of the Community Express.

1999 30 November. Official opening of the Mercury Print Museum in Ingle Hall, 89 Macquarie St, Hobart.

 

2000 1July. Introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) increases newspaper cover prices. The Saturday Mercury (July 1) and The Sunday Tasmanian (July 2) were first to change, both increasing from $1.10 to $1.20, followed by the Monday to Friday issues of The Mercury (July 3 onward) rising from 80c to 88c.

2000 2 August. Derwent Valley Gazette renamed The Gazette.

 

2000 September/October edition sees Treasure Islander renamed Treasure Island.

 

2001 16 May. The Mercury announces newstext.com.au, an online database of articles from 130, available to any internet-enabled computer in the world.

 

2001 June 9/10: A burst water pipe causes flooding of the vaulted area of The Mercury building’s basement causes damage to archived photographic negatives and newspapers.

 

2001 August 31: Launceston office relocated from 70 St John Street to a shopfront at 27 Paterson St. Official opening performed on August 24.

2002 1 July. Cover price of Monday to Thursday issues of The Mercury rises to $1.

 

2003 26 March. Fiftieth anniversary of The Gazette celebrated with special edition and a 24-page supplement.

2003 8 June. Redesign for the Sunday Tasmanian, including new magazine sections and removal of the word "The" from the masthead.

 

2003 4 July. Cover price of Friday issues of The Mercury rises 10c to $1.10.

 

2003 5 July. Cover price of The Saturday Mercury rises 10c to $1.40.

 

2003 6 July. Cover price of The Sunday Tasmanian rises 10c to $1.40.

 

2004 20 February. Bicentenary of the founding of Hobart commemorated with a 64-page supplement Hobart’s Bicentenary 1804-2004.

2004 23 February. First issue of Tasmania 200, a series of 12 booklets published daily in The Mercury until March 6.

 

2004 5 July. 150th anniversary of The Mercury celebrated with a 40-page colour supplement Share the Journey and a series of 15 History in Headlines booklets published daily in The Mercury until July 23.

2005 11 February. Davies Brothers Limited (DBL) becomes Davies Brothers Proprietary Limited (DBPL).

2005 14 July. Launch date for debut (August) issue of Alpha – a sports magazine published by News Magazines Pty Ltd and available only to purchasers of News Ltd metropolitan newspapers including the Mercury.

 

2005 October: Official opening of refurbished office at 31 Burnett St, New Norfolk.

 

2006 20/21 February. Two issues of the Mercury printed at The Examiner in Launceston while repair work was done on the folder unit of the Mercury press.

2006, 24 March. Printing of Tasmanian Country moves to Launceston to be printed in colour on every page.

2006, 12 June. Redesign for The Mercury. Masthead changes to Mercury and body type changes from New Century Schoolbook to Nimrod.

 

2006 17 June. The Saturday Mercury renamed Mercury on Saturday and body type changes from New Century Schoolbook to Nimrod in accordance with new design principles.

 

The Mercury masthead introduced in 2006

 

2006 14 July. Tasmanian Country  body type changes from New Century Schoolbook to Nimrod in accordance with new design principles.

2006 30 October. This issue of the Mercury printed at The Examiner in Launceston following a breakdown on the Mercury press.

2006 12 November. First issue of the Kingborough Times published as a monthly insert in the Sunday Tasmanian.

 

2007 21 January 21. News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan names Tony Yianni to replace Rex Gardner as Davies Brothers managing director.

2007 16 March. Tasmanian Real Estate Guide renamed realestate.com.au

2007 24 June. First issue of the Northern Times published as a monthly insert in the Sunday Tasmanian.

2007 16 June. Agfa Polaris “computer to plate” equipment installed in production department.

 

2007 27 June. The Gazette published using new computer-to-plate system.

 

2007 28 June. The Mercury published using new computer-to-plate system.

2007 6 July. Cover price of Friday issues of the Mercury rises 10c to $1.30.

 

2007 25 July. News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan announces $31 million print centre for the Mercury to be built at the Technopark, Dowsing Point.

2008 August 10: Kingborough Times monthly insert renamed Kingborough and Huon Times.

 

2008 20 October. New version of the Mercury website www.themercury.com.au unveiled online.

2008 24 October. Digital edition of the Mercury’s real estate publication realestate.com.au published online at www.themercury.com.au for the first time.

2009 6 May. News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan names Rex Gardner to replace Tony Yianni as Davies Brothers managing director.

2009 May 17: The final running of the Goss Urbanite press, producing the Sunday Tasmanian issue dated May 17, 2009.

 

 
The Mercury Print Centre at Dowsing Point, Glenorchy, opened in 2009
 
KBA Comet press installed at the Mercury Print Centre

 

 

2009 May 18: First issue of the Mercury to be produced on newly commissioned KBA (Koenig & Bauer) Comet printing press at the new Print Centre at Technopark in the northern suburbs.

2009 May 20: First issue of The Gazette to be printed on KBA Comet press.

 

2009 May 29: First issue of Tasmanian Country to be printed on KBA Comet press and first Hobart printing of this title since March 2006 (previously printed by The Examiner, Launceston).

2009 June 12: First issue of realestate.com.au to be printed on KBA Comet press and first Hobart printing of this title (previously printed by PMP, Melbourne).

2009 June 21: First issue of Sunday Tasmanian TV Guide to be printed on KBA Comet press and first Hobart printing of this title (previously printed by The Examiner, Launceston, and Harris Print, Burnie).

2009 August 17: First Tasmanian edition of The Australian printed in Hobart on KBA Comet press.

2009 August 20: Publication day for Mercury realtor realestate.com.au shifts from Friday to Thursday. Cover price of Thursday issue of the Mercury rises to $1.30 and Friday issue reduces to $1.10.

 

2009 August 23: First issue of the Hobart Times published as a monthly insert in the Sunday Tasmanian.

2009 November 23: First issue of the Mercury wholly set up using new editorial production system CyberPage.

2009 November 25: First issue of the Gazette wholly set up using new editorial production system CyberPage.

2010 May 20: realestate.com.au magazine renamed Property.

2010 June 26:  First issue of new Saturday Magazine inserted in the Mercury on Saturday.

 

2010 July: Mercury installs an electronic “news ticker” above Centrepoint in Murray St, Hobart.

 

2010 July 15: Cover price of Thursday issues of the Mercury reduced 20c to $1.10, bringing it into line with other weekday issues.

 

2010 July 17: Cover price of the Mercury on Saturday rises 20c to $1.70.

2010 July 19: Burnie staff relocate to new offices upstairs at 13 Wilson St after more than 16 years at 25 Ladbrooke St.

 

2010 July 23:  First issue of new compact-size Tasmanian Country (cover price $1).

 

2010 July 30: Digital edition of Tasmanian Country published online at www.themercury.com.au for the first time.

 

2010 July 26: Printing of Australian Financial Review commences on KBA Comet press.

2010 August 6: Davies Brothers wins gold PICA Awards for printing of a world map and printing of the Herald Sun, and silver PICA Awards for printing of the Australian Financial Review and the AFR Life and Leisure magazine (all produced on the KBA Comet press).

2010December 22: New Norfolk office closes. The Gazette journalist and advertising representative relocate to Hobart office.

2011 July 16: Launch of digital editions of the Mercury and associated publications, suitable for desktop, laptop and tablet computers and smart phones.

2011 December 24: Mercury on Saturday issued as Mercury Christmas Edition, including the Saturday Magazine dated December 24 and the eGuide dated December 25.

2011 December 25: Sunday Tasmanian not published (see above).

 
An artist's impression of the new Mercury office at Salamanca Square, Hobart
 
Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited the new Mercury office in October 2012
     

 

 

2012 February 1: Mercury buildings in Macquarie and Argyle Sts including Ingle Hall offered for sale by expression of interest.

2012 July 2: Cover price of the weekday Mercury reduced from $1.10 to $1 (Cover prices of Saturday Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian increase to $2)

2012 July 30: First day of business at the new Mercury office at 2 Salamanca Square.

2012 October 11: Property magazine renamed Realestate.

2012 October 17: Tasmanian Heritage Council approves provisional entry of the Mercury buildings at 91-93 Macquarie St to the Tasmanian Heritage Register.

2012 December 25: Mercury not published.

2013 January: Mercury charters boats, a helicopter and a seaplane to carry newspapers to areas cut off by major bushfires.

2013 January 26: Sky News opens Hobart bureau in the Mercury’s Salamanca Square offices.

2013 May 13: Sale announced of the former Mercury site on Macquarie and Argyle Sts, including Ingle Hall.

 

By Peter Mercer, Curator of History, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Additional material by The Mercury's Education Services Manager, Damian Bester, and Rod Boucher.


Getting the News
 
The Mercury's Editors
 
John Davies - Founder of The Mercury