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"International Penny Postage" Mr John Henniker Heaton MP (Image plate from Vanity Fair)
, 1887

by Sir Leslie Ward

chromolithograph (sheet: 39.6 cm x 27.0 cm, image: 31.3 cm x 18.7 cm)

John Henniker Heaton (1848-1914) worked as a jackaroo upon his arrival in New South Wales in 1864, but soon turned to journalism, writing for the Cumberland Mercury, Goulburn Penny Post and the Town and Country Journal. He resettled in London in 1884 and became an MP, dubbed ‘the Member for Australia’ by the English press in sneering reference to his membership of the Colonial Party. Although he supported colonial independence, his grand plan was to ‘stick the Empire together with a penny stamp’, and he began a long campaign for cheaper postal and telegraphic charges. In 1898 imperial penny postage became the rule for all parts of the Empire, except Australia; the first penny letter from Britain to Australia was posted in 1905, and Australia reciprocated in 1911. Also a campaigner for an end to the monopolies of the major telegraph companies, it was at Heaton’s insistence that the cost of international telegrams was brought within reach of the ordinary person Heaton also found time to lecture on Australian Aboriginal people to the Royal Society of Literature, and acquire Australiana, including the Endeavour journals of Sir Joseph Banks. He declined a knighthood four times, but was made a baronet in 1912.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Ronald Walker 2002
Accession number: 2002.62