The Register, originally the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, and later South Australian Register, was South Australia's first newspaper. It was first published in London in June 1836, moved to Adelaide in 1837, and folded into The Advertiser almost a century later in February 1931.
The newspaper was the sole primary source for almost all information about the settlement and early history of South Australia. It documented shipping schedules, legal history and court records at a time when official records were not kept. According to the National Library of Australia, its pages contain "one hundred years of births, deaths, marriages, crime, building history, the establishment of towns and businesses, political and social comment".
All issues are freely available online, via Trove.
The Register was conceived by Robert Thomas, a law stationer, who had purchased for his family 134 acres (54 ha) of land in the proposed South Australian province after being impressed by the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. The first issue (printed by William Clowes & Sons, Duke-street, Stamford-street, Lambeth, London), appeared in London on 18 June 1836 with his friend and partner, George Stevenson, as editor. Thomas embarked for South Australia aboard the Africaine later that year, arriving on 10 November 1836 with his family and equipment to set up a printing plant. It was six months before the first colonial edition of The Register was printed on 3 June 1837 in a small mud hut on Town Acre No. 56 in Hindley Street, near what is now named Register Place. (The colloquialism "mud hut" would seem to be an understatement for a substantial pisé building in which was operated a demy Stanhope press, an ancient wooden press, and racks holding "half a ton of bourgeois and brevier type, a good fount of small pica for printing official documents, and a quantity of general jobbing type" with all the other requirements for editing, setting up, printing and distributing an admittedly small circulation newspaper.)
From the start, the paper asserted a strongly independent stance. Stevenson's style was vigorous and provocative, making himself and The Register several enemies. His opposition to Colonel William Light's choice of site for the new capital and J.H. Fisher as Resident Commissioner, led them and others to found the Southern Australian in direct competition with The Register. The paper's antagonism of Governor Gawler led to The Register losing government business notably the South Australian Government Gazette. The printers Thomas & Co. had disengaged themselves from editorial content in June 1839 in a vain attempt to protect their monopoly and lost about £1,650 a year. His protest that he was authorised by the British Government to do its printing failed and, insolvent, he sold the paper for £600 to James Allen (previously editor of the South Australian Magazine) in 1842, as Stevenson withdrew from journalism.
Thomas also published the weekly Adelaide Chronicle and South Australian Literary Record (10 December 1839 - 18 May 1842).
John Stephens, who had in 1843 founded The Adelaide Observer, in 1845 purchased The Register.Anthony Forster became part owner in 1848; With the death of Stephens in 1850, his share was taken over by John Taylor. Forster's share was taken over by Joseph Fisher in 1853, then sold to John Howard Clark in 1865.
The paper, having been printed sporadically previously, became weekly in June 1838 and later twice-weekly from February 1843. By 1840, The Register employed a staff of 21 and had reached a circulation of 900. On 1 January 1850, it became a daily publication, and three years later the paper was bought back by Thomas's son William Kyffin Thomas as part of South Australia's first media syndicate with Anthony Forster, Edward William Andrews and Joseph Fisher. They also purchased its weekly sister publication, The Adelaide Observer, and established the Evening Journal (January 1869 - September 1912) which morphed into The Journal (October 1912 - July 1923), which then became The News.
The Register outlasted many competitors throughout its long history, holding a monopoly on the market at various stages, but it ultimately met its match in The Advertiser. The Advertiser, founded in 1858, first emerged as a serious challenger to the paper in the 1870s. The defining move which swung Adelaide readership from the conservative Register to the more egalitarian Advertiser was the latter's dramatic price reduction from 2d. to 1d., and hiring an army of canvassers, on commission, to peddle the paper. The Register was slow to respond, the Advertiser started putting its circulation figures on the masthead. By the time the Register cut its price the die was cast. The Advertiser bought out The Register and closed it down in February 1931 after the Great Depression had severely reduced its fortunes, forcing it to become largely pictorial.