Adelaide General Post Office opens in 1872 and receives Australia's first telegraph from overseas

The Victoria clock bell tower of Adelaide General Post Office, the grandest of the city's buildings at that time, was built to postmaster general Charles Todd's specifications.

Adelaide General Post Office opened in 1872 and became, on October 22 of that year, the place that received the first Morse-code telegraph message to Australia from overseas.

This message arrived in Australia via an undersea cable from Indonesia that came ashore at Port Darwin and then down the 3178km line that had been completed in less than two years and joined on August 22, 1872.

The Adelaide-Darwin line project had been directed by Charles Todd who, as South Australian postmaster general, had major input into the new General Port Office, with its grand postal hall, on the corner of King William and Franklin streets, the colony’s most expensive structure so far at £55,000. Todd specified the shape of the GPO’s Victoria tower with bells, copied from Westminster Abbey, chiming on the quarter hour.

The telegraph line from Darwin made Adelaide news central for Australia for the next 30 years.

News gathering in Adelaide had become highly competitive by the mid 19th Century, with two daily morning titles competing for readers. Reporters were sent to Port Adelaide to travel out with the pilots to board ships newly arrived from London and obtain the latest overseas news.

In 1858, the telegraph line completed between Melbourne and Adelaide – via Willunga, Goolwa, Robe and Mount Gambier – enabled Adelaide reporters to send news direct to Melbourne, as well as receive interstate news. An evening newspaper, the Telegraph, was founded to commemorate this development. The Adelaide-Darwin line, linking with London, made Adelaide the place where overseas news arrived first, giving an Australian monopoly on its reporting for the next 30 years.

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