On 30 January 1854, American businessman Freeman Cobb and three associates started a passenger coach service to Castlemaine and Bendigo.

Cobb and Co's announcement in 'The Argus' of its coach line.

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.

All aboard for the Cobb & Co. coach outside Harcourt, Warburton, Victoria.

[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)

In 1897, poet Henry Lawson described the coach-towns and experiences of the drivers in the poem The lights of Cobb and Co.:

‘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 article in 'The Argus' in 1856 notes the farewell dinner for Freeman Cobb.

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)

In Australia, Cobb and Co was purchased by Americain James Rutherford.

 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, [1971], 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




This article has 20 comments

  1. Great stuff but I’m trying to find some reference to the Cobb&Co Reenactment circa 1965 to 1968. As I witnessed it as a young child as it stopped at the corner of Ballarat road and Station road Deer Park, (there was about 20 to 30 people there I’m sure that the event was advertised in the newspaper maybe the Herald Sun. I don’t think it traveled the whole route from Ballarat, I seem to remember that it started from Bacchus Marsh and traveled to Melbourne stopping at all the Original coach stops. But I can’t find any historical reference to this event.
    Can you help me?

    • Hi Jim, Thanks for your interest in our blog. We will email you with a response to your inquiry. Regards, Sarah

  2. Great stuff

  3. Interesting article. I have been researching information re Cobb & Co’s Victorian operations in the 1850s. In particular I’m looking for information on a Thomas Mason, who a great Aunt once told me, worked for Cobb & Co in the 1850s in Benalla Vic. He may have worked directly for the Company or been an “Agent” for them. Any information, or other lines of inquiry I could check about Thomas Mason, would be appreciated.

    Thank you.

  4. Christopher Cobb

    Good article… always interested
    Christopher Cobb

  5. Where can I find any historical information (years of operation, route etc) about a Cobb & Co staging post situated in Marshall (town) just south of Geelong. I understand it was in operation around 1860s?

    • Thanks for your enquiry Ross.
      I will pass it onto our Ask A Libraian service and a staff member will get back to you.

      • I am trying to get information on Rice stagecoach line who operated in competition to Cobb and co on the Geelong to Torquay route
        Also information on a fatal accident involving rice stagecoach lines

        • Andrew McConville

          Hi John, We will see what we can find on the Rice stagecoach line and any fatal accident that involved the line

  6. Mrs Sandra J Bishop

    I am trying to locate information about Cobb and Co’s change over at “Sunnyside” Lexton Victoria in the 1800’s and wonder if you have any information relating to this?
    They also changed horses at the Pyrenees Hotel in Lexton.

  7. Hi, is there a location can be directed to that might have a map of some kind that might be able to view a lot of the routes taken ? thankyou

  8. Hi
    I am trying to find the exact location of a pub/accommodation hotel which was a Cobb and co stop that my great great grandparents owned at bulla called the holiday inn. Family information tells me that it is near calder park
    I am not quite sure what years they owned this establishment but I am estimate sometime in late 1800’s


    • Hi Pam

      Hi Wendy,
      Thanks for reading the blog. I’ve entered your enquiry on our Ask a librarian service and someone will be in touch.



    • Hi Wendy,
      There was a Cobb & Co stop behind the Diggers Rest Hotel, built about 1850 during gold rush times. My parents bought the hotel in 1956 and as children observed remnants of the blacksmith and stables . Not far from the thunderdome and the road to Bulla is immediately in front of the hotel.
      There is also a Cobb & Co stop at Faraday on the old highway. The original house is still standing with out buildings and ‘lockup’ at the rear. It is a BandB presently.
      There was a hotel at Bulla where we visited with parents. The bar was tiny
      Jill Troutbeck-Noy

  9. Hi

    Just wondering if there is any more come to light about the date of the photo. The catalogue record has it as [ca. 1895 – ca. 1917], which is quite a wide range.

    By the looks the trees are recovering from a relatively recent fire. Just googling, bushfires 1905/6 perhaps? So a couple of years later?

    Or the clothes? Or model of the Cobb and Co coach?

    My interest is that my great grandfather was there with wife and children at Harcourt house in the mid 1910s-1920.

    • Andrew McConville

      Hi Geoff We haven’t been able to definitively identify a clear date. I think you are right that the trees do look like they are recovering from bush fire. Lucky Harcourt House didn’t go up! There were several fires in the area over that time, 1905,1906, 1909, 1913. The clothing also could be from anytime over that period. I think it will be hard to get a more definitive and accurate date.

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