According to numismatist Arthur Andrews (quoting Roth and Hull), Bell and Gardner of Rockhampton are thought to have issued their token as early as 1855, but Stuart McLeod presents a convincing argument for why their issue should be dated to 1863 at the earliest: 'The manufacture of the Bell & Gardner pieces I believe, were much later [than 1855], possibly seven to eight years. For in 1855, Rockhampton did not exist. The first settlers of the area were the Archer brothers who arrived about August 1855, setting up the 'Gracemere' station…A book of 1888 stated that 'Bell and Gardner opened their business in East Street in 1863.''. Although McLeod does not nominate his source for the statement about the foundation of Bell and Gardner's business, it is certainly true that Rockhampton was a frontier pastoral district in 1855, and that the first store in the district was not opened until 1857.
The earliest surviving Rockhampton newspapers date from 1865, and Bell and Gardner advertised in some of the earliest surviving editions. A small advertisement on page 3 of the Rockhampton Bulletin for 13 January 1865 locates their trade as 'Wholesale and Retail Ironmongers' with their premises on 'East Street near Denham Street, Rockhampton.'
Bell and Gardner took out a half page advertisement in Pugh's Queensland Almanac for 1866, in which they described their wares: 'Importers of Iron, Steel, Lead, Oils, Paints, Tools of every description, General and Furnishing Ironmongery, Lamps, Rope, & &. Also- China, Glass, & Earthernware.' In the directory attached to the almanac, their address was given as Queen Street, Rockhampton, suggesting that the business had moved in the year 1865 - 1866.
Hopkins' Rockhampton Almanac for 1878 does not include Bell and Gardner, but it does include an advertisement for 'Arthur Bell Co., Importers of Every Description of Ironmongery' located in East Street, Rockhampton. Further research is needed to establish whether Arthur Bell was the same man who was a partner in Bell & Gardner.
McLeod, S. (1991). 'A Bell and Gardner with a Difference', Australian Coin Review, February, Australia, pp. 22-23.
Andrews, A., (1921). Australasian Tokens and Coins, Australia, pp.10-11.
Advertisement, The Rockhampton Bulletin, 13 January 1865, p.3.
Pugh, Theophilous P. (1866). Pugh's Queensland Almanac for 1866.
Hopkins' Rockhampton Almanac for 1878, advertisements p.26.