Robert Jolley
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Robert Jolley was a Melbourne importer and publisher who created many series of postcards from 1899, possibly 1898, up to about 1906.  His series mainly covered NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, with a preponderance of Victoria, but a few included representatives of all states.  Tasmanian cards were a small proportion of his output, intermixed among other states in several of his series. 


Jolley was born in Hobart on 18 January, 1855, eldest child of William and Maria Jolley.  His father was a cooper, owning a house and workshop at the New Wharf (Salamanca Place). He left Hobart for Melbourne in 1876, aged 21, and lived the rest of his life in Melbourne [1].


In 1883 Robert Jolley was a partner in the firm Scouller and Jolley, who advertised as Accountants and Trade Assigners [2].  Their business, in addition to accountancy and bookkeeping, dealt with management of insolvent estates, arrangement of partnerships, and the sale and purchase of businesses.  Jolley was aged 28 at this time and had probably studied in accountancy since arriving in Melbourne at age 21. His business partner John Scouller had been in business by himself for a long period.

 Scouller & Jolley occasionally advertised businesses and stock for sale. In August 1883 they called tenders for the stock of a business described as “one of the finest and most carefully selected stocks in the trade”, consisting of fine art stock, Fine Art Society publications, printed books, fancy goods and stationery, worth £7616.[3]  It appears that Jolley bought the business and set up on his own. By September of that year the new firm Robert Jolley and Co. appeared, advertising for a junior to work in the fancy goods business. At the same time Jolley advertised for a business partner to operate in Sydney, who could provide capital of £4000. Eventually, in 1886, the partnership between Scouller and Jolley was dissolved with a newspaper notice: “Mr. Scouller continues the accountancy business on his own account, and Mr. Jolley continues the importers business on his own account” [4].

By 1885, Robert Jolley & Co were advertising widely [5], with advertisements in newspapers and in Post Office Directories in Sydney but not in Melbourne. The advertisement shown here is from Sands Sydney Directory of 1885.

Jolley was not a printer or photographer, but an importer, merchant and publisher. One of his main lines was the attractive chromolithographed greetings cards of the American publisher L. Prang & Co., which he continued to advertise over the next decades. He was also strong in “Fancy Goods”, which he itemized in his advertisement:


"Photograph albums, scrap albums, purses, jewel cases, ladies’ companions and bags, photo celebrities, photo frames brackets, novelties, etc, etc."

In addition to importing, Robert Jolley was a significant publisher of books, photographic cabinet cards, and postcards. His books concentrated on scenic souvenir editions, such as “A photographic souvenir of Tasmania containing 35 selected views of  the beauty spots of the island” , with b&w views in full page or half page. There were similar books for Adelaide,  Melbourne and Bendigo and quite a few with state-wide or Australia-wide coverage. (The State Library of Victoria has placed some of these on line).  Among other books, he published Mollie’s Bunyip by the children’s author Annie R. Rentoul in 1904 and a beautiful coloured production of  Wild Flowers of Australia, by Camilla Hammond in the same year.

Jolley was an effective businessman, advertising widely and distributing samples of his goods to newspapers and presumably other outlets.  His packages to newspapers were effective in producing free publicity for his goods, often with detailed laudatory descriptions of his goods in the ladies’ column [6].

The advertisement from Sand’s Sydney Directory in 1885 indicated he was operating from Melbourne and Sydney.  There is no information about who managed the Sydney branch, and for how long it persisted; it was still operating in 1909, with the address of Camden Buildings at 416-420 George Street.  In Melbourne he was operating from 43 Elizabeth St in 1883, 18A Little Collins St. in 1884, then 285 Little Collins St, and settled down at 287a Little Collins St. in 1889 where he remained until closure of his business in 1919.  He did not expand into other Australian states, although advertisements for his goods appeared in regional newspapers and in Adelaide. Personally, Jolley lived in Melbourne, but in newspaper mentions in the social colums he and his wife  were sometimes cited as “of Melbourne and Sydney”, so he may have retained a residence in Sydney. Shipping passenger records show frequent trips by an R. Jolley between Melbourne, Sydney and Tasmania, but our Robert Jolley may not have been responsible for all of them.

Robert Jolley & Co remained in business until 1919, when his premises at 287a Little Collins St. were taken over by P.T. Law & Co, importers of fancy goods. It seems likely that he sold his business complete with stock, repeating the process he had followed when he set up in 1883. He died at Mornington, Victoria on 27 November, 1929, survived by his wife Caroline Agnes nee Baker and a son Alan F. Jolley.


Between 1899 (possibly 1898) and 1906 Jolley published at least a dozen series of postcards.  Some series were only of Victoria, but the others included cards of  NSW, Souh Australia and Tasmania, and of a few occasions, Queensland and Western Australia. The majority of his cards were in an elegant  Victorian style with an elaborate design of flora surrounded by scrolls and decorative motifs, but his later cards were full width colour views. 

1. Death Certificate. Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages No. 15686. 1929.
2. The Argus, Melbourne, Sat 22 Sept 1883, p 15.
3. The Argus, Melbourne, Mon 6 Aug 1883, p. 3
4. The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 24 Feb 1886, p. 2
5. Sands Sydney Directory, 1885, Advertisements p. 44.
6. Daily Telegraph, Launceston Tue 30 March, 186, p. 2.