Tag Archives: 19th Century

John Carmichael’s works: Maps & Charts

This post will focus on the maps and charts that John Carmichael (1803, Edinburgh Scotland -1857, Sydney Australia) had created between 1825 and 1856.

    1. Chart of the Zodiac [cartographic material]: including the stars to the 4th magnitude between the parallels of 24 degree 1/2 declination north & south. T.L. Mitchell & J. Carmichael – 1831.http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-rm3892-e-cdnla.map-rm3892-e


    • Map of the Colony of New South Wales – To the Right Honorable Edward G S Stanley. T.L. Mitchell & J. Carmichael.” Showing nineteen counties from Crowdy Bay to Moruya, and from Wellington Valley to the sea. It also shows the names of counties, settlements, houses, huts, roads, tracks, trig. Stations, rivers and creeks, plains, and lakes, including the ‘route of Major Mitchell to the interior in 1831’.http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-nk6228


    • A chart of Port Philip, as surveyed by Lieut Thos. Symonds & Mr. Frederick Shortland, of H.M.S. Rattlesnake, Wm. Hobson Esqr. Captain and engraved by J. Carmichael, Sydney. 1836.http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-rm4470 


    • Map of the town of Sydney – 1837″ For Tegg’s ‘New South Wales Pocket Almanac and Remembrancer for 1837’. This map included streets of Sydney, locations with public buildings, and other houses. Streets with names, buildings – some with names, military establishments, park and burial grounds. “Circular Quay” shown as a semi circle. Area from Burial Grounds to Dawes Point, and from Millers Point to Farm Cove.http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-nk3287





  • National Library of Australia
  • State Library of NSW
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Did You Know…

That John Carmichael was the first recorded deaf person to migrate to Australia from United Kingdom as a free settler?

John came to Australia on his own in 1825, and it seems that he may have paid his own way over hoping to make his fortune down under by himself!

Interesting… what else?

John was born James, a son of James Carmichael (a poulterer of Fleshmarket Close, Edinburgh, Scotland) and Janet Black, on 27 December 1803. When John was 9, he was admitted into the recently-opened Edinburgh Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. He was apprenticed to Mr. John Horsburgh, after leaving school, trained to become an engraver. Once John have reached the ‘Journeyman’ status as an engraver, he travelled to the colony of New South Wales in 1825. From the town of Sydney, he was employed as an engraver, artist, printer and teacher by others in the Colony. He was married twice and had eight children before dying on 27 July 1857 at his residence, Prince Street, Sydney.

Okay, so he was deaf, but doesn’t that means he signed as a deaf person?

Yes, there are written records of his signed stories during his time in Edinburgh and printed comments about him being ‘deaf and dumb’ in Sydney. This indicated he was known as a deaf person who doesn’t speak, but can sign, read and write.


1. From the recollections of Alexander Atkinson, a deaf Scot written in 1865 (1):

…named James Carmichael. This youth had, however more shining personal qualities; he was a handsome looking lad, to whose company the girls of the house were more partial than he to theirs. He was a capital “fine chap” with  and for us; he had an enthusiastic fancy for cock-fights, which was constantly fed by the shop and yard of his father, who was a respectable poulterer in the city. Frequenting one of the most noted cock-pits in the city, he was in the habit of fixing our stare on him by gesticulating every incident of the last fight and assuming every air and movement of the combats in all their rounds up to the “Death” with striking fidelity to the “Life”; nay his animation went so far as if he wished himself the Champion Cock. However, he signed with as much pathos over his fallen antagonist.

Carmichael had also a mania for horse-racing, to gratify which he was most cheerfully, since he left school, the first and last of the Edinburgh people, trudging five long miles every day in the race week to and from Musselburgh Races. He then came to us, proud of being again great in our eyes, giving rapid, yet distinct gestural pictures of the different races, horses and their riders, which he had observed with minute attention. He yet omitted nothing else of these periodic gatherings, however trivial.

Carmichael had an excellent turn for drawing, in which he embodied his favourite predilections with a surprising fidelity to truth. He gave away many excellent ink and pen specimens one of which I still keep, representing several race horses with their jockeys on their backs, as they were preparing to start from a winning post, with an ease and skill which at once showed the hand of a master. He was, like Mackechnie, well encouraged in his talent. He was, on leaving school, apprenticed to an engraver in the city.

2. A report was printed in the newspaper named “The Australian“, dated Thursday 25 December 1828, about John’s first publication, making available for the public to purchase based on the series of engravings of Sydney and its surrounding scenery. Excerpt shown:

…the skill and time of the engraver, whom it will take months ere he can complete a work, which, in this country, was never yet equaled, and in few places promises to be excelled. Ingenuity and skill, such as are displayed in this undertaking are certainly well worthy of cultivation, and we would confidently solicit the warm support of the public in behalf of the engraver, who has a further claim upon the patronage of the liberal minded, in his being dumb, and we believe, deaf. Should Mr. Carmichael complete his stupendous work, it will be a credit to the Colony. The two views we have seen deservedly rank him with the best second rate landscape engraver of the day.

3. A police report printed in the “Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser“, dated Tuesday 29 May 1832:

“DARLING STREET ROBBERY – As Mr. Moss and Mr. Carmichael, of George-street, were passing along York-street, between nine and ten o’clock, on Friday evening, they were met with three villains, who knocked down Mr. M. down and robbed him of his watch and some money. The alarm raised by Mr. C., who, through unable to speak, clapped his hands most lustily, brought some constables to their assistance; they succeeded in apprehending one of the fellows who turns out to be a native named Atkins, of most infamous character.

What prompted John to migrate to the Colony of New South Wales?

It may be due to the ‘call’ for people with skills to help build the colony into a bigger and established country away from England. While there are many convicts with various professions, the government were not keen on using them, or that those may have issues with level of professionalism? Anyhow, there is a need for people with skills in engraving, drafting and printing as the country was new and there were no to limited availability of maps and such. John might have felt that he would gain better employment opportunities in the Colony, rather than in Edinburgh.

So how did he travelled?

He swam over…

Ah ok, John actually sailed on “Triton”, departing from Leith, a port in Scotland on 21 May 1825. The ship stopped at Hobart for a few days, before it went on it’s way to Sydney Cove. From the shipping indent, there is no other recognised passengers accompanied John so we would have to assumed he travelled alone. The ship brought Scottish immigrants and cargo of sundries for both Hobart and Sydney Cove. The ship arrived at Sydney Cove on 28 October 1825, after a 7-days journey from Hobart.

What did John do in the Colony of New South Wales?

Well, he posted an advertisement, declaring his ability as an Engraver, offering services of designing and printing coats of arms, bills and such. This was placed in a newspaper “Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser” (printed in December 1825 several times) stated:

JOHN CARMICHAEL, lately arrived per Triton (who served his Time with Mr. Horsburgh of Edinburgh), begs to inform the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Colony, that he engraves Coats of Arms and Initials on gold, silver, and ivory; also, Plates for Bills of Exchange, Bills of Lading, Ornamental Cards, Tickets, and Bills of Parcels, &c. on the shortest Notice, in a Style superior to any hitherto attempted to be executed in the Colony. —Orders to be left at the House of Mr. J.M. Wilson, Upper Pitt-street; or  at Mr. Parker’s, 99, George street.

From that point, he was able to obtain plenty of jobs, developed well-regarded reputation as an engraver and artist in the Colony to both the public and government of the time. There is no obvious evidence of him mixing with other deaf people in the Colony, but John may have developed his group of friends to communicate with. John have never returned to Edinburgh to see his family and friends.

Contacts from his family and friends back in Scotland?

Yes – apparently there was a notice in the newspaper informing there is a communication for Mr. John Carmichael, engraver, formerly residing at No. 39, Phillip-street, from his friends in Scotland. One can assume that John would have received letters and such from his family and friends.

The next few postings will concentrate on his works and the last one about his Australian family.


(1) “Memoirs of My Youth: An Autobiography of Alexander Atkinson – 1865”. Published by British Deaf History Society Publications: 2001. Pages 122-123.

  • “John Carmichael: Australian Deaf Pioneer”, B. Carty, 1998. Deaf Studies, Sydney, 1998: Selected papers from the ‘Australian Deaf Studies Research Symposium, Renwick College, NSW. Edited by A. Schembri, J. Napier, R. Beattie and G. Leigh. North Rocks Press, 2000. Pages 9-19.
  • State Library of NSW
  • National Library of Australia – Trove and collections
  • Ancestry.com
  • Family records
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Australian Deaf and Immigration Issues in the 18th and 19th Centuries

I came across an interesting letter in the issue of “The Silent Worker”, a Deaf magazine in USA about a deaf man from Australia wanting to work in New Zealand. Here’s the transcription of the letter:

From The Silent Worker vol. 21 no. 2, page 33 (dated November 1908): (1)

“Recently a deaf-mute, a residence in New South Wales, thought he would leave Australia and settle in New Zealand, in which country he had an offer of a situation as a slaughterman at a weekly wage of £5. But he reckoned without his host – the New Zealand Government – whose agents hold the shipping company liable for a bond of £100 if they permit anyone to land, either lunatic, idiotic, deaf, dumb, blind or infirm, and likely to become a charge upon the State.

The deaf and dumb naturally resent being classified in this manner, especially as the only difference between them and the rest of the community is that they are without the sense of hearing. “The average deaf-mute is mentally and physically sound.” A man capable of earning £5 per week could not have much amiss with him. Yet the New Zealand immigration Laws barred his further progress. No wonder a spirited stand is being made against such an anomalous proceeding, for if the fellow had lost his sense of smell, instead of his hearing, he would not have been challenged at all. The Australian Deaf and Dumb Association is sending a strongly worded memorial to the New Zealand Government. – The British Deaf Times.

Then a day later, I was sent a link to a blog – http://chloeokoli.com/deaf-history-white-australia/ – about a post titled “Why Being Deaf in White Australia Meant You Were Going Nowhere”. It was about Frederick J Rose and his protest about the Immigration Restrictions for Deaf and Dumb when travelling around Australia via ports.

So with those two examples at hand, I went on a search to see why it was so.

Immigration Policies and the Deaf in 19th Century

Apparently, the first Immigration Act was provided in 1869 to the Commonwealth countries, which included Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many other countries under England. This Act was to used as “an entry tax and for quarantine of all vessels transporting ill passengers. The entry tax went into a fund destined to the care of sick and indigent immigrants as well as the cost of their travel to their final destination. Upon arriving at a port of entry, the ship’s captain was required to provide a passenger list indicating the total number of persons, names of heads of families and unmarried and/or unaccompanied persons, their country of origin and destination. Moreover, he had to declare if there were “any mentally ill, idiots, deaf and dumb, blind, or infirm, and if they were accompanied by relatives able to care for them.” (2)

Branson & Miller (1998) explained that:(3)

“Immigration policies have in various ways prohibited the entry of deaf people into Australia. Currently, these prohibitions operate through health clauses in the immigration act, which allow health officers, using medical grounds, to declare deaf people a potential burden on the public purse…”


“The first control was directed at people who were judged unfit for work and therefore potentially dependent on the public purse. In fact, discrimination against those later to be labeled “disabled” became established well before the White Australia Policy. Deafness was judged to be a condition rendering a person unfit for work.

The Victorian passengers act, “The Passengers Act 1855,” said that the captain of any vessel must:

Report (to the immigration officer in the port of arrival) whether any of the passengers by the said ship are lunatic, idiotic, deaf, dumb, blind or infirm and if so in the opinion of the said officer are likely to become permanently a charge upon the public or any public or charitable institution.

This was reaffirmed in the Commonwealth Act of 1901 and in the 1958 immigration regulations.

There is also more than a hint of eugenics in Criterion 4006:

The applicant has been found to be free from any disease or condition that, if offspring were produced, would, in the opinion of a Commonwealth medical officer, result in the offspring being affected by a disease or condition referred to in clause 4005.

Lastly, in one of the New Zealand Official Yearbooks, the 1920 Year book had those clauses: (4)


The legislation respecting the restriction of immigration into New Zealand is contained in the Immigration Restriction Act, 1908, and its amendments, and the Undesirable Immigrants Exclusion Act, 1919.

Prohibited Immigrants.

The following persons or classes of persons are prohibited from landing in New Zealand:—

1. Persons not of British birth and parentage who are unable to write out and sign in any European language a prescribed form of application;

2. Idiots or insane persons;

3. Persons suffering from contagious diseases which are loathsome or dangerous;


When persons arrive in New Zealand who are lunatic, idiotic, deaf, dumb, blind, or infirm, and are likely to become a charge upon the public or upon any public or charitable institution, the master, owner, or charterer of the ship by which such persons come to New Zealand must enter into a bond for £100 for each such person, guaranteeing his support and maintenance for five years.”


Branson & Miller (1998) made an interesting point:

“Given these policies, it is not surprising that Australia has always had one of the lowest percentages of genetic deafness in the world.”


This would also means those deaf immigrants/settlers of 19th Century would have to travel furtively, in a pair with a hearing person, to avoid being detected as deaf and dumb, and being ‘deported’. Frederick J Rose and his brother when they came to Australia during the Gold Rush of 1850s, and would have missed the restrictions by few years. However, would have he been subjected to such restrictions then, when he did travelled back to England in 1860 to marry and bring over his English wife.

There is a need to research this topic more closely to see how other Deaf people have managed to travel around in the 18th and 19th Century. And it could also explained why there were not much of an Australian presence in the International deaf events in the 19th Century.

Your thoughts?


(1) – The Silent Worker was a popular national newspaper among the deaf population of the United States during the end of the 1890’s through the end of the first quarter of the 20th century. http://www.aladin0.wrlc.org/gsdl/collect/gasw/gasw.shtml

(2) – “Promoters, Planters, and Pioneers: The Course and Context of Belgian Settlement in Western Canada”, by Cornelius J. Jaenen. (http://dspace.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/1880/48650/10/UofCPress_PromotersPlantersPioneers_2011_Chapter02.pdf)

(3) – “Issues Unresolved: New Perspectives on Language and Deaf Education” edited by Amatzia Weisel. “Achieving Human Rights – Educating Deaf Immigrant Students from Non-English-Speaking Families in Australia” by Jan Branson and Don Miller. 1998. Pages 91-92.

(4) – http://www3.stats.govt.nz/New_Zealand_Official_Yearbooks/1920/NZOYB_1920.html

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Hands On Series 17 Programme 4

A 27 minutes long show on the Irish Deaf History – the focus is on the prisoners in the 19th Century. Very interesting and the research they’ve done is quite extensive! Hope we can do similar here in Australia one day!

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