On 30 June 1851 the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company changed its name to the Australasian Steam Navigation Company (ASN Co), when the original company's objectives - shipping between Sydney and Newcastle - were felt to be too restrictive. The company is thought to have issued its tokens between 1851 and 1855.
According to the 'Australian Science at Work' website, 'On 1 August 1839, a public meeting was held in Sydney's Royal Hotel for the purpose of forming a steam ship company. Subsequently, in July 1840, the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company was formed. The Company operated steamships between Sydney and the Hunter River. In 1850 it was felt that the Company's title and Deed of Settlement limited its scope. A reorganisation took place and the Company changed its name, becoming the Australasian Steam Navigation Company in July 1851.'
The renamed company immediately ordered two new ships from Britain. Upon their arrival in April 1852 they were engaged on services to Victoria for the booming gold fields trade, and a further six steamers were ordered from Britain by the end of the year. At the time of the name change, the company ran services between ports including Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Moreton Bay (Brisbane), Adelaide and Tasmania.
During the 1850s, the ASN Co. engaged in cut-throat competition with a range of other steamship companies in the Australian market, driving a number out of business, including the rival Sydney and Melbourne Steam Packet Company.
As with every other aspect of trade in Australia, the gold rushes had an enormous impact on shipping, with a great increase in the number of vessels moving between the various colonial capitals. Through the 1850s their key routes were between Melbourne and Sydney and Sydney and Newcastle, but Tasmanian ports, Adelaide and Moreton Bay (Brisbane) were all serviced for part of the decade. According to John Bach in his 'A Maritime History of Australia', the company's Moreton Bay to Adelaide service 'charged freight and passage rates much in excess of that charged for freight from the United Kingdom to Australia' (Bach 1976, p.80).
In the 1860s the company's schedule became more settled and a pattern that endured for over a decade emerged. At the start of the decade the ASN Co. won the mail contract from Albany in Western Australia to Adelaide, and "in 1860 three ships maintained a weekly service both ways between Melbourne and Sydney. Three vessels went north to Curtis Bay and Rockhampton, sailing on the return voyage often as far south as Melbourne. Two vessels traded to Brisbane, a New Zealand service had been tried, and several vessels were involved in local coastal services in New South Wales of which the most important was that between the Hunter River and Sydney" (Bach 1976, pp.120-121).
The company was reconstituted in 1887 when the 'The Australasian United Steam Navigation Company' took the place of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company. The Queensland Steamship Company amalgamated with AUSN the same year. The Company existed into the 1960s.
For more details about the ASN Co. and their context, see John Bach's 'A Maritime History of Australia', Chapter VI 'Coastal Shipping in the 1850s' and Chapter IX 'Interstate Shipping 1860 to 1914' .
The date of issue of the ASN Co.'s tokens of is unclear. The token must have been issued after the name change in 1851. According to Dr. M.H. Long, "There was another token [the ASN Co.'s] that was in circulation when I first arrived in the Colony (1855) whether actually issued as a laborers check or a panny token, I have not been able to ascertain, but it was accepted as currency …. Probably struck by Whitty and Brown." (Information located by John Sharples.)
Australian Science at Work website. Australasian Steam Navigation Company summary page. Http://www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/asaw/biogs/A001860b.htm (27/04/05)
'Australian Science at Work' website. Australasian United Steam Navigation Company summary page. Http://www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/asaw/biogs/A001862b.htm#related (27/04/05)
Bach, John (1976). A Maritime History of Australia, Chapters VI and IX.
Spink's Numismatic Circular September 1898.
Andrews, A. (1921). Australasian Tokens and Coins, p.30.
Some papers (1881-1897) of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company are held in the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, Sydney.