In point of commerce, the city of Newcastle is the second city of New South Wales, ranking next in importance to Sydney.
It is situated on the slope of a hill, on the southern shore of the embouchure of the Hunter River, about 70 miles north of Port Jackson.
Like its great English namesake it owes its position to 'black diamonds'.
Twenty years ago Newcastle was an insignificant village, with but a single coal mine - that of A. A. Company, who, enjoying a monopoly were content with raising 25,000 tons during the year.
At that time the harbour was, comparatively, an open road-stead, without even a single wharf to accommodate shipping; the town consisted of a few huts, and the military barracks; the inhabitants were all dependent upon one mining company, who thus ruled the destinies of the town.
This state of things was not destined to continue long.
A few enterprising individuals who foresaw what the place might become, consulted together and, in 1844, at their own expense, commenced the erection of a jetty, which was finished in October of that year, and the Julia, belonging to Captain Towns of this city, was the first vessel that discharged alongside it.
Another important work was also commenced - the construction of a connection between Nobby's and the point under Signal Hill - which has since been finished, and forms an excellent breakwater against southerly gales.
To the efforts of Major Last and his coadjutors, Newcastle owes much of its present position.
The work which they commenced has been followed up by the action of the Government and corporate companies; the latter have invested capital in developing the mineral resources of the district, and the Government has provided facilities for conducting their undertaking to a successful issue.
The Australian Agricultural, Waratah, Minmi, Walsend, Lambton and several other mines are now in full operation, each having trains running down to the wharf, where four steam cranes are continually employed in loading vessels of every description - from the humble ketch of 20 or 30 tons, bound for Sydney, to the noble clipper of the largest size, for California, China, and other ports.
The unpretending jetty of former years has given place to a fine spacious quay, alongside which vessels of 1,000 tons can discharge and load.
The quantity of coal exported during the past year is roughly estimated at 300,000 tons.
The port can be entered with safety in any weather.
Nobby's Island, now connected with the mainland by the breakwater, forms the southern head of the harbour.
The summit of the island is surmounted by a fine light house, exhibiting a fixed white light discernible eighteen miles.