library and museum blogs – finds worth the browse

Trove Australia provides access to thousands of articles, pictures, photographs, book references, maps, diaries and more.  The digitised newspaper collection was the inspiration for establishing this blog.

If you ever doubted the value of libraries (and I sincerely hope that none of this blog’s readers fall into this category), take a stroll through the internet for the wealth of material that gets shared via the blogs of libraries, museums and galleries across Australia.

A  quick browse this morning unearthed these treasure troves.

Who were the first retailers in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane?    The John Oxley Library blog.


What was the first state funeral ever held in Australia?    State Library of Victoria – Such Was Life blog.


Why a duck, Michael Leunig?    State Library of Victoria – Arts blog.


What was the meaning of embroidered floral postcards sent back from the front in World War I?   Australian War Memorial blog.

Australian War Memorial RC06231

What sort of toys did children play with in the 1940s in country Australia? – Powerhouse Museum, Sydney – Inside the Collection blog.


decimal currency in Australia

The Mint:  a place where money is coined, gets its name from O.E. mynet, representing Lat. moneta, money.

Source: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.  (O.E. – Old English)

The Canberra Times of 8 April 1963 reported the proposed date of the introduction of decimal currency to the Australian financial system.  The February 1966 date was dependent upon the completion of the new National Mint in Canberra.

The Royal Australian Mint struck its first coin on 22 February 1965, just under a year before the decimal launch.  Stuart Devlin, now a world renowned gold and silversmith, was responsible for the design of the six coins in circulation from 14 February 1966.  The one and two cent coins were withdrawn in 1992.  The 50 cent piece went from a circular coin to a twelve-sided coin in 1969.

The notes were printed by Note Printing Australia, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia.  In 1988, the $10 note went polymer.  By 1996, Australia had become the first country with a full set of circulating polymer notes.

decimal date decidedDevlin’s coins were previewed in the Australian Women’s Weekly in September 1964.

decimal currency 1964 preview


The extensive advertising campaign launched to promote the date of the introduction of the new currency is imprinted in the minds of those who were around in 1966.  Television was broadcast in black and white back then, so this colour version of one in the series is fun to see.

can you describe the criminal?

Today’s post touches on burglary, assault and descriptions of the offenders.

Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser – 3 July 1803

stolen goods

one of them had “a reddish pimple or lump on the nose”.

Last seen making their way from the house of John Larkham, at the Ponds, near Parramatta, carting:

4 yards of striped muslin, seven yards and a half of broad black lace, three yards of narrow black lace, a blue jacket, a white calico petticoat, 2 muslin handkerchiefs, a bordered shawl, an ivory small-tooth comb, a pound of coarse white-brown thread, a yard and a half of striped print, a quantity of meat in pickle, 3 pecks of wheat, a yard and a half of very fine calico and a small quantity of sugar.

pale skin, polite robberconsiderate young man with pale complexion

The Australian – 11 January 1844

“Mrs Gaden, having fainted, one of the burglars very politely helped her to a glass of wine.”

The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times – 30 September 1905

Note: This one has the ring of being apocryphal but it’s worth it for the story.

Advice from his lawyer.

“Sikes – you have no legal claim against your late partner….The only remedy I can suggest is a careful disguise and a heavy club.”

After the fact.  Sikes to his lawyer.

“I rigged myself up as a perfect copy of yourself Sir.  The police have your description!”

Lawyer B

John Sands

John Sands 1842

Sun Herald – 12 March 1842

John Sands was a young man when he arrived in the colony with a level of ambition that matched the volume of stationery he brought with him to set up an engraving and stationery business.  Here’s a chronology of the business and how it developed and changed from the 1830s to now.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography provides details of his life and refers to the production of the first Australian themed Christmas cards by the company.

In 1881 the Sydney firm, known as John Sands Ltd, offered one of the first groups of Christmas and New Year cards in Australia: the first card, at a price of 1s. 3d., was listed as ‘Little girl offering a Christmas pudding to Swagsman’.

The Canberra Times ran a lengthy feature article on the history of Christmas cards in December 1975.  Some of the lithographs produced by John Sands are in the Pictures collection of the National Library of Australia.

Screenshot 19:03:13 2:32 PMThe man, John Sands, who died in 1873 did not live to see the creation of either the greeting card or the games segments of his business.

The Mercury – 26 August 1873

John Sands obit

John Sands games

Margaret Preston

The Sydney Morning Herald – 9 April 1930 announced Margaret Preston as the first Australian women to be commissioned to paint her self-portrait for what became the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  

Margaret Preston self-portrait

Margaret Preston SMHPreston’s work and subjects changed over her long life. In 1930, she was reported as sending off some panels to London to be hung on the Orient liner Orcades.  Sydney Morning Herald – 21 December 1936

A collection of images (gleaned via a Google images search) demonstrates the prolific and varied nature of her work.


green beer on St Patrick’s Day

green beerThe year – 1946.

The response from the Antipodes to English breweries blending green beer for St Patrick’s Day?


Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) – 30 Nov 1946

enunciating Canberra – one hundred years ago

This article was published 100 years ago on the occasion of the foundation ceremony for the city of Canberra, Australia’s capital city.  It was to be another 14 years before the Parliament of Australia moved from Melbourne (where it had sat since 1901) to Canberra.

It was so from the beginning of Federation.  States against states. States against the Commonwealth. The writer seems resigned to the fact that the Constitution allowed for such a place and urges the powers that be to get on with it.

The States are making big sacrifices anyhow to equip the Commonwealth with its new toy.

The place should not be allowed to “eat its head off ” as it will do if the expenditure heats up without there being any return.

The commentary about the prospective names for the capital comes out in favour of Canberra.

It has at least a wholesome, manly burr about its enunciation.

The Brisbane Courier – 13 March 1913


we’ve come a long way baby – not

Check out the language in this 17 August 1930 Sunday Mail item.

“Ironing is quite pleasant work”.

Who wrote this?

“These labour-saving hints will be welcome to many little housewives

But we’ve come a long way haven’t we.  Fast forward 80 years or so.

The promotion included this:

“Give the wife, girlfriend or partner a rest tomorrow night, because the Carlton Draught girls will be in to do your laundry (well your ironing anyway)”.

There are no words fit to print.

quite pleasant - ironing

Carlton Beer ad

selecting a new Pope – 1939

The Worker was a Brisbane newspaper published between 1890 and 1955.  In 1939, the paper reported on the selection of  a new Pope.  For the 2013 conclave (post the retirement of Pope Benedict) an electronic shield has been created to ensure that no mobile phone messages or tweets give away anything about the process.  Seventy-four years ago it was: “telephone wires have been cut and receivers removed” as the transition from Pius XI to Pius XII took place.  One might also guess that today’s accommodation arrangements are a step up from hammocks.


on corsets

Grace your figure in a Thomson’s Crown Corset.  This advertisement appeared in The Brisbane Courier of 22 February 1902.  Would but the women tempted to purchase the white or dove colour of this garment had read or heard of the medical information shared in the 1 July 1887 issue of The Dawn.  Later still, in a 1944 report in The Argus, a corset was a place to conceal cash.  Leaves you wondering whether the unfortunate lady was escaping when she took ill.

Thomson's corset

 The corset question

corset as hiding place