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50 Treasures: Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine

Our forty-fourth treasure, from the North Queensland Collection, is a once-influential north Queensland journal: Cummins and Campbell’s Monthly Magazine

Trisha Fielding discusses just what it is that makes this series of fragile old magazines such a treasure.

The north Queensland firm of Cummins and Campbell Ltd. was founded in 1899 as a partnership between John Cummins and Aylmer Campbell. The wine, spirits and general merchants had their head office in Flinders Street, Townsville, and by the mid-1920s the company had branch offices in Cairns, Charters Towers, Innisfail, Ingham and Bowen. Agencies were located in Ayr, Hughenden, Yungaburra and Cloncurry.

A selection of bound Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine, North Queensland Collection, JCU Library Special Collections
The company is perhaps best remembered for its Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine, which carried the motto, ‘To Educate and Amuse’ on its masthead. After a hiatus of five years, a new series of the magazine was launched in April 1925, which proved extremely popular. An annual subscription cost three shillings, or single editions could be purchased for three pence.
Founding partner, John Cummins (1857-1934), pictured in Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine, 1934 
The magazine contained a substantial amount of advertising (particularly for wine and spirits, as that was their main trade), as well as articles of interest to people in the north. Topics ranged broadly and included snippets on overseas events, historical articles about north Queensland towns, biographies of local pioneers and Australian explorers, and information about the sugar, mining, agricultural and pastoral industries in the north. There were obituaries, book reviews, poetry, quizzes, and articles about staff picnics and dances. It also contained lighter segments, such as the ‘Ladies’ Page’, which offered up stain removal remedies and tips on how to ‘acquire slim ankles’.
An advertisement from Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 5, August 1925
The magazine was so popular that, by its third edition, circulation had doubled – and by 1930, it ran to around 100 pages. Some of the more informative articles were written by regular contributors, including George Turner, of Bowen, and James Warren Collinson (1877-1966), who was a fastidious chronicler of north Queensland history. Having lived at various times in Cairns, Atherton, Port Douglas, Cooktown, Townsville, Papua New Guinea, and the Torres Strait, Collinson had 40 years’ worth of first-hand knowledge to draw on. Importantly, Collinson’s contributions to the Monthly Magazine possess a scholarly rigour that is absent from the writing of many of his contemporaries. His five books include the works Early Days of Cairns and Tropic Coasts and Tablelands, and he compiled a comprehensive index to the history of Queensland towns (known as the Collinson Index) which is now held by the State Library of Queensland.
Portrait of James Warren Collinson, in Tropic Coasts and Tablelands, 1941
It was common for articles in the Monthly Magazine to be published under pen names, such as ‘Tramp’, ‘Observer’, and ‘Viator’. These authors contributed to the magazine on a regular basis for many years. Articles were often reprinted in the mainstream media in newspapers throughout Australia, such was the magazine’s appeal.

The author behind the pen name ‘Tramp’ was Charles Alfred Jenkinson (1872-1944). Jenkinson travelled widely throughout north Queensland and Papua New Guinea while working as a commission/insurance agent. Under the name Chas. A. Jenkinson, he reported on conditions in the north’s mining outposts as a special correspondent for a number of regional newspapers. His articles for the Monthly Magazine under the name ‘Tramp’ ranged from historical chronicles of towns and pioneers, and descriptive ‘sketches’ of places he visited, to yarns based on his travel adventures.
Charles A. Jenkinson, also known as Tramp, 1927
Another regular contributor (and editor of the magazine) was William James Doherty (1867-1939). Doherty spent his early working life as a schoolteacher before turning his hand to journalism. His articles for the Monthly Magazine appeared under his own name, as well as under the pen name ‘Viator’ (meaning wayfarer, or traveller). Doherty’s attempt at producing a history of early Townsville, The Townsville Book, is not considered to be a reliable historical account, but it is certainly full of good yarns. It seems that Doherty was aware of the books shortcomings, and noted in his preface that the source documents he consulted were very often ‘meagre, contradictory and sometimes improbable’. But on balance, he thought there were ‘grains of fact in every one of them’.

Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine often featured photographic montages of views of north Queensland towns, usually in an effort to highlight ‘progress’ made in those towns. These grainy black and white images are now an important record of the early development of these places.
Bonny Babes of the Sunny North, from Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine, Vol. IV, No. 37, May 1930
Editions published in 1930 featured a full-page of photos of babies and children from throughout the north. Headings such as: ‘Bonny Babes of the Sunny North’ and ‘A Proof of Tropical Health: A Group of Sturdy North Queenslanders’, were undoubtedly aimed at reinforcing recent thinking that Europeans could indeed survive and flourish in the difficult climate of the tropics.

The magazine ran until May 1957.

Over the course of 2020, JCU Library's Special Collections will be unveiling 50 Treasures from the collections to celebrate 50 years of James Cook University.

Author Biography
Trisha Fielding is an historian and writer whose published works include the books Neither Mischievous nor Meddlesome: the remarkable lives of North Queensland’s independent midwives 1890-1940Queen City of the North: a history of Townsville, and the history blogs North Queensland History and Women of the North. She holds a Master of History degree from the University of New England and a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction from the University of Southern Queensland. Trisha also works part time in JCU Library’s Special Collections.


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