John Penman

PENMAN, John (1817-1900) — Adelaide

Penman & Galbraith
Robert Stephenson, Map of the county of Adelaide and surrounding districts prepared from the Government plans and carefully revised after the newest surveys. Adelaide, 1850. Lithographed & published by Penman & Galbraith. © National Library of Australia.

Engraver, lithographer and copperplate printer. Working in partnership with William Galbraith as “Penman & Galbraith”, he produced Robert Stephenson, Map of the county of Adelaide and surrounding districts 1850; Plan of the city of Adelaide 1850 — “Messrs Penman and Galbraith, we perceive, have lately lithographed a plan of the city, which has been coloured and mounted by Messrs Calvert and Waddy, at their Artists’ Establishment, King William-street. The plan should be an indispensable companion to every one, and it is mounted in true London style, rendering it portable in the waistcoat-pocket without injury” (Adelaide Times, 10 Oct 1850); Richard T. Hill, Chart of Port Elliot 1850; Robert Stephenson, Hundred of Port Gawler 1854; William Gray, Plan of the township of Port Onkaparinga and vicinity 1859, etc. Also known for music, views, etc.

Born in Glasgow 28 Jul 1817, the son of Andrew Penman, a Trongate bookseller, and his wife Christian Niven. Penman is reported to have been apprenticed to the Glasgow lithographers “Allen & Fergusson”, later moving to Liverpool and then London. The collapse of the railway boom saw him out of work, so he and a colleague, William Galbraith, decided to emigrate. They decided on South Australia after reading John Stephens — probably his pamphlet “South Australia” (1839) rather than his full-length “Land of promise” of the same year. Galbraith recalled in 1911 that the deciding factor was that Stephens “mentioned that butter was so plentiful and so cheap that people were in the habit of greasing their boots with it …. Now, as butter at that time in London was looked upon as quite a luxury, we really thought that, other things being equal. South Australia must have a touch of Paradise about it” (Evening Journal, 17 Feb 1911). On 31 Jul 1848 Penman and Galbraith set sail in the Hooghly from London, reaching Adelaide on 5 December. They acquired a small press from an amateur artist and lithographer and set up in Peacock’s Buildings, initially in company with James Stirling Campbell, producing “Maps, plans, drawings of machinery, architectural and landscape drawings, circulars, bills of lading, bills of exchange, bill heads, scrip, labels, business and visiting cards, &c., lithographed in every variety of style with neatness and dispatch” (South Australian, 8 Feb 1850). The partners acquired over ninety acres of suburban land in Adelaide in December 1853. Penman married Elizabeth Vout (d.1916) of Sydney at Kent Town 21 Apr 1869 — a daughter died at the age of seventeen months in 1875, but several other children survived to adulthood. The partnership with Galbraith was formally ended in 1885 and on 2 Apr 1887 Penman auctioned off his lithographic equipment, as well as his household furniture and effects, apparently to settle his debts. He died 11 Oct 1900 and was buried 12 Oct 1900 — “a good husband and loving father. Beloved and respected by all who knew him” (Adelaide Express & Telegraph, 13 Oct 1900).

20 Clyde Terrace, Glasgow — 1834
Peacock’s Buildings, Adelaide — 1849
Grenfell Street, corner of King William Street, Adelaide — 1849-1850
Pirie Street, Adelaide — 1851
60 Rundle Street, Adelaide — 1862
Currie Street, Adelaide — 1876-1878
Charles Street, Norwood (home) — 1876
Halifax Street, Adelaide (home) — 1878-1881
Tavistock Street, Adelaide — 1887
Rundle Street, Kent Town, Adelaide — 1893-1900


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