On 30 January 1854, American businessman Freeman Cobb and three associates started a passenger coach service to Castlemaine and Bendigo.
The Argus, Tuesday 31 January 1854, page 3 (column 4)
The passenger service left the Criterion Hotel, Collins Street every morning (Sundays excepted) at 6:00am. The coach stopped at Essendon, Keilor, Gap, Gisborne, Woodend, Carlshrue, Kyneton, Malmsbury and Elphinstone. Through spring to autumn they arrived in Castlemaine before sunset. Connecting services to Bendigo and Maryborough left from the Victoria Hotel Castlemaine at 6:00am the following morning.
[Cobb & Co. coach and horses outside Harcourt, Warburton, Victoria], H94.30/7
Their business proved so successful that routes were expanded across Victoria. They transported not only passengers around the state, but also prisoners, VIPs, and the mail. Their services to the goldfields were particularly popular. A fare to Castlemaine cost five pounds, to Bendigo seven pounds and to Maryborough, 124 miles away, seven pounds, ten shillings. (1)
‘Five miles this side the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in chorus through roaring camps they go—
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.’ (2)
In May 1856 Freeman Cobb sold up and returned to the United States. He eventually settled in South Africa where he established another Cobb and Co., providing transport between Port Elizabeth and the diamond mines of the Kimberley.
The Argus, 26 May 1856
In Australia Cobb and Co. was purchased by American James Rutherford. He expanded business to New South Wales and Queensland. The final Cobb and Co. coach journey took place in South West Queensland on 14 August 1924. The coach which made the run was bought by the Federal Treasury for £100 and eventually placed in the National Museum. (3)
James Rutherford [developer of Cobb and Co. coaches], H38849/3935
The Library has many Cobb and Co. resources, including books and illustrations, a cashbook, annual reports, a leather money pouch and letters from saddlers and drivers. You can also read more about Cobb and Co and the American contribution to the Australian gold rush in this article in the Victorian Historical Magazine.
Written by Andrew McConville
Librarian, Digital Access Team
1. Rutherford J.E.L, , Cobb & Co. by J.E.L. Rutherford, [Bathurst, N.S.W.], p.13
2. Roderick, C (ed) 1967-69, Collected verse / Henry Lawson, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, p.337
3. Austin, K A 1972, The lights of Cobb and Co: the story of the frontier coaches, 1854-1924, [Adelaide]: Rigby, p.200