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Celebrations and commemorations

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From visiting royalty to victorious sporting heroes, drawing a crowd has never been a problem in Sydney. During the past 160 years, commemorations, both joyous and solemn, have been captured through the camera's eye.


In 1918, Hugh Wright, the Mitchell Librarian specified the types of photographs to be collected by the Library: 'celebrations, pageants, festivities, great functions, etc. no matter whether they are political, civic, social or religious'.

In 1879, a photographic unit was set up within the NSW Government Printing Office. The unit was responsible for producing images for all government reports and documenting the growth of Sydney and the State. Over 250,000 copy negatives from the Government Printer, documenting over 100 years of work, are now held by the State Library of NSW. 

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Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was Queen Victoria's second son and the first of the Royal family to visit Australia. Temporary arches were erected in his honour around the city, including this one at Circular Quay. The visit has been hastily organised and was not without incident. Melbourne's free public banquet ended in rioting, three children were killed by fireworks in Bendigo and the Prince was shot in the back by an Irishman James O'Farrell in Clontarf. Prince Alfred survived and left Australia in April 1868, directly from London.
[Triumphal Arch, Circular Quay, Sydney, in honour of the visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh]
[1867-1868]
Digital ID: 
a089757
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One of the most festive occasions in the colony's history was the departure of the NSW Contingent for the Sudan War from Circular Quay on 3 March 1885. The contingent was an ill-prepared infantry battalion of 522 men, 24 officers and an artillery battery of 212 men. The official send-off was cause for great excitement, generated in part by the holiday declared to farewell the troops. Fortunately, the contingent saw little action and returned home in July.
Departure of N.S.W. Contingent for Soudan
3 Mar 1885; 7/1915 GPO
Digital ID: 
a128066
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To celebrate the inauguration of the Commonwealth on 1 January 1901, a procession of Commonwealth and Imperial troops marched through the city streets, which were decorated with temporary arches. The Wool arch was in Bridge Street and this parade of light horsemen can be seen passing the Lands Department Building.
Inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth, Sydney, 1st January 1901 / W. A. Gullick, Government Printer
1st January, 1901
New South Wales. Government Printing Office
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Digital ID: 
a186002
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After a false alarm on Friday 8 November, official news of the signing of the armistice reached Sydney on the night of Monday, 11 November 1918. Thousands of people waited near the GPO, anticipating an official ceremony. This took place the next day at noon, when the Governor announced "We have won!". Probably more people packed Martin Place and Moore Street than at any other time in Sydney's history. Over 200,000 attended a religious service in the Domain the following day.
Peace celebrations, Martin Place - Sydney, NSW
11 November 1918
Digital ID: 
bcp_01263
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Returned Light Horsemen solemnly march along King Street, during the Anzac Day ceremony. It is probably Australia's most important national occasion, marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces on 25 April 1915. By the 1920s it had become established as a national day of commemoration for the 60000 Australians who died during the war. In 1927 all States uniformly observed a public holiday on Anzac Day for the first time.
Marching along King Street
c.1931
Sam Hood & Ted Hood
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Digital ID: 
hood_02049
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Construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge took 1400 men eight years to complete. They joined 53000 tonnes of steel with six million rivets. The opening ceremony brought together the largest group of people ever seen in Sydney, estimated at 'over a million'. Although the number is questionable, the suburbs of Sydney were certainly deserted as spectators swarmed to the Bridge approaches. After the official ceremony and procession, the Bridge was open to pedestrians until midnight.
Hood Collection part II : [Social functions, miscellaneous: dinners, balls, drinks parties, picnics, meetings, Christenings, presentations, ceremonies, etc.]
ca. 1930-ca. 1950
Sam Hood
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Digital ID: 
a368018
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On 17 June 1934, a procession of unions 1.7km long, marching to the strains of four bands, drew thousands in its wake to a State Labor Rally in Moore Park. Jack Lang and a series of Union delegates addressed the crowd of 50000. As dusk fell, the temperature dropped and numbers dwindled to 2000. The hardy survivors carried a resolution condemning the Government for 'attacks on wages, hours, and conditions'.
Rail, tram and public service unions protest march against Public Service Reduction Act by Federal Arbitration Court
c.1934
Sam Hood
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Digital ID: 
hood_04133
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The 1937 Anzac Day parade, with 22000 servicemen, was one of the largest held in Sydney before World War 2. Allied ex-servicemen, including British and Dominion troops, French, Italian, Greek and Russian returned soldiers marched behind the AIF contingent. Italian ex-servicemen gave a fascist salute at the cenotaph in Martin Place. Although their gesture would be anathema today, a photograph of the salute was published in the Daily Telegraph at the time, without comment.
Hood Collection part II : [City streets and scenes: including streetscapes, labour processions, military parades and memorials, statues and Cenotaph]
ca. 1905-ca. 1955
Sam Hood
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Digital ID: 
a215032
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Three space age mannequins celebrate the modern era on the Electrical float in the "March to Nationhood" pageant along Macquarie Street on Australia Day 1938. Thelma Afford designed more than 1000 costumes worn in the parade. Jean Guthrie, on the left, wore a spectacular 'Spirit of Electricity' costume that received world-wide publicity and admirers including one from Italy, who addressed his letter "To the most beautiful young lady of Sydney". The float received a second outing two months later, when it represented Lithgow in the "Pageant of Commerce and Industry".
Item 20: Walkabout magazine : New South Wales photographs [Sydney City & Harbour, festivals, Sesquicentenary, housing]
1938-1970
Digital ID: 
a389006
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In 1988 Australia celebrated the bicentenary of the landing of the First Fleet in Australia. For the first time an Australia Day holiday was proclaimed in every state on 26 January. The NSW Bicentennial Council's logo was 'Let's Celebrate', so Sydney partied on 26 January 1988 with a First Fleet re-enactment, sail past, flypast, fireworks and concerts. Over 2.5million lined the Harbour and attended celebrations in the city.
Colour slides of Australia : Sydney, Northern Territory and Victoria / by David Moore, 1965-1988
1965-1988
David Moore
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Digital ID: 
a1627001
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Even rain doesn't stop Sydneysiders enjoying a party. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has its origin in a protest march on 24 June 1978 and grew to become a Sydney icon. Renowned for its outlandish costumes and dance music, the parade also has a political tone, with the floats often displaying satirical and witty observations.
Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Limited - collection of slides of parades and festival events 1984, 1986-1988, 1990-1991
1984, 1986-1988, 1990-1991
William Yang
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Digital ID: 
a912002

City workers

According to the 2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics census, every day around 350 000 people travel into the city for a day at work. Around 55% of these workers head for their office within a financial institution, a government department or perhaps a legal or insurance company. Around 10 % work in the hospitality industry, serving tourists or their fellow workers in a restaurant, hotel or tourist operation. Shops and retail activities account for another 20 000 workers.

The retail industry in Sydney developed in the late nineteenth century. Not surprisingly this new industry provided employment for the growing number of women looking for employment. The work was safe, clean, respectable, relatively unskilled and an attractive alternative to factory work or domestic service. A large female workforce was also attractive to the large department store owners due to the perceived compliance of female workers and the comparatively low wages.

Working conditions for shop assistants were not formalised until the NSW Factory and Shop Act of 1896. The Act prohibited women under 18 and boys under 16 being worked for more than 52 hours per week. Overtime was only allowed 52 days a year and one chair had to be provided for every three female assistants.

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This fruit seller in the Rocks was caught unawares by amateur photographer Arthur Syer, who used a concealed detective camera to record the street life of Sydney. He was a friend of cartoonist Phil May and the authenticity of May's sketches of the city and its inhabitants owe much to Syer's photographs, which were incorporated into the background of his sketches as vignettes of day-to-day life.
Sydney, ca. 1885-1890 / photographed by Arthur K. Syer
ca. 1885-1890
Arthur K. Syer
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Digital ID: 
a844020
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In 1925 there were 12 finger wharves at Walsh Bay, but loading and unloading vessels was a laborious business before containerisation. In this photograph, more than 20 wharfies are involved rolling barrels and drums off the vessel. Automation since the 1960s has reduced the numbers employed on Australian waterfronts from about 25000 to 4000 today. Nevertheless, more than a million shipping containers reach Sydney annually, mostly through the Port Botany facility.
Ship at wharf
1900-1939
Hall & Co.
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Digital ID: 
hall_35114
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In male-dominated profession, Dolly House and her sister, here in their father's shop underneath Australian Film's studio in Pitt Street, caused some comment. At the time this photograph was taken, the main source of income for barbers came from the sale of cigarettes and tobacco.
Two of the first female men's barbers, Miss Dolly House and her sister
1927 ?
Sam Hood
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Digital ID: 
hood_07486
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Frank B. Smith with an agent for the Richfield Oil Company of California, with an office in Bridge Street from 1928 to 1932. Before being involved in the oil industry, he was a former secretary to Victorian Railways Commissioner. Mr Smith's secretary was his wife Pearl (nee Earle), who he's married in 1926. The photograph on the wall of Australian gunners in action relates to Smith's younger brother, who fought at Gallipoli. Behind him is a photograph of his other brother, with the Lin Smith Jazz Band.
Frank Smith & secretary in his office, c.1929 / photographed by Hall & Co.
c.1929
Hall & Co.
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Digital ID: 
a128670
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The increase in car numbers in the city soon gave rise to off-street parking stations. This is the Exchange car park (later Grime's no. 3 parking station), on the corner of Bent and Macquarie Streets, opposite the Public Library. At two shillings a gallon, fuel was less than 5 cents a litre, although the basic wage was just over 6 Pound ($12). This photograph was originally taken for an advertisement enticing motorists to stop at the red, white and blue pumps of Union motor spirit.
Petrol bowsers
Hall & Co.
Digital ID: 
hall_34709
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Built in 1868, the Paragon is still at Circular Quay. In the 1930's, Tooths was the largest brewery in NSW, with 80% of the market, as it owned 800 hotels, including the Paragon. Probably unique among employers, Tooths ensured the loyalty of their staff with four free schooners of beer a day. Brewing is an ancient art and the wooden beer barrels on the trucks were called kilderkins and firkins. A kilderkin held 18 gallons (82 litres) and the smaller firkin half that amount.
Paragon Hotel, Loftus & Alfred Streets
Hall & Co.
Digital ID: 
hall_34780
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The Sydney Municipal Markets, built between 1909 and 1914, contained vegetables and fruit markets, a fish market, poultry market and cold storage, providing the city with all its wholesale fresh produce. The Markets were thought to be too clean when they first opened, but clearly two decades of use changed that. This view, looking south along Hay Street towards Pyrmont Power station, show the congestion of vehicles that was to force transfer of the farm produce markets to Flemington in 1975.
Hay Street
1932
Hall & Co.
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Digital ID: 
hall_35172
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Anthony Hordern's employed over 4000 staff in their stores and factories. Although their work environment may seem primitive, employees were well treated. From the 1920's, staff amenities included rest rooms, a reading room, concert hall, library, dining rooms, kitchen, shooting gallery, retiring rooms, lockers rooms, showers, medical facilities and a classroom. The company even provided a sports ground dedicated to staff use with tennis courts, cricket pitches, hockey and football grounds.
Anthony Hordern and Sons: Interiors of department store, offices, and Royal Easter Show displays, 1905-1938
ca. 1905-1938
Digital ID: 
a722002
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Until the turn of the twentieth century, major city streets were laid with wood blocks covered in tar. The development of bitumen roads closely followed the spread of pneumatic tyred automobiles. During the 1920s, the City Council began to experiment with asphalt, constructing an asphalt plant in 1929. Here workers use a new hot bitumen machine to repair a damaged road surface.
Workmen using new hot-bitumen paving process on city street
20 August 1934
Sam Hood
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Digital ID: 
hood_00382
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The 1920s saw a dramatic increase in the number of cars on city streets and police on point duty were employed to reduce congestion cause by the mass of slow moving vehicles. Although Sydney's first traffic control lights had been installed at the intersection of Kent and Market Streets in 1933, experienced traffic policeman continued to provide the regulation of traffic flow - rain, hail or shine. As late as 1962, there were 205 police controlling traffic at the busiest intersections in Sydney and Newcastle.
Traffic policemen on point duty, corner of Park and College Streets, [with new white sleeves for safety ?]
17 August 1934
Ted Hood
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Digital ID: 
hood_00350
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Anthony Hordern's store boasted the largest private PABX (Private Automatic Branch Exchange) in the Commonwealth. Open from 8.30am to 6pm, it was supplemented by an all night phone service in the delivery department. The notion that women were more suited to monotonous jobs was prevalent in the twentieth century. As late as 1974, over half the women employed in the Commonwealth Public Service were in just three occupations - telephonist (17%), typists and steno-secretaries (16%) and clerical assistants (24%).
Anthony Hordern and Sons: Interiors of department store, offices, and Royal Easter Show displays, 1905-1938
ca. 1905-1938
Digital ID: 
a722001
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By the mid 1930s, the Depression was supposedly over, but jobs were not easy to find. Here, some of the one hundred carpenters who applied for one job in Phillip Street, await to learn the outcome. There were still 85000 unemployed in the State, but only 27000 were on the dole, the other 58000 being employed as 'relief workers' by Councils. Paid more that the dole, 'relief workers' laboured under harsh conditions, building canals and roads.
Unemployed workers in Phillip Street
17/6/1935
Digital ID: 
hood_23751
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About this item: 
This engineer controlled twin transmitters for the Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation's premier wireless station. Situated in the State Shopping Block in Market Street, radio 2UW employed 70 staff in 1937. It was the only 24 hour broadcaster in Australia and programs included weather bulletins twice daily, J.M. Prentice's 'Foreign Affairs' commentary, a special women's morning session, daily poultry farming tips, gardening and homecrafts ideas and J.A. Crawcour's 'Man on the Land' session from 5am to 6am.
Hood Collection part II : [Radio stations and broadcasting, including equipment, radio studios and Amalgamated Wireless (AWA), also some motion picture equipment and use of microphones]
ca.1925-ca.1955
Sam Hood
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Digital ID: 
a343016
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Anthony Hordern & Sons' gigantic new Palace Emporium, built in 1905, was six stories high, with frontages on George, Goulburn and Pitt Streets. The Pitt Street wing was remodelled in 1932 and its bargain area, with distinctive blue coloured tables and 70 staff in blue uniforms, served over half a million customers a year. Known as universal providers, the emporium could supply 'everything from a needle to an anchor'.
Anthony Hordern and Sons: Interiors of department store, offices, and Royal Easter Show displays, 1905-1938
ca. 1905-1938
Digital ID: 
a722006
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This photograph gives some idea of the complexity of construction involved in the concrete shell superstructure of the Opera House. In 1963, instead of sending a traditional Christmas card to friends, architect Jorn Utzon created a box containing a cut-out photographic puzzle of the site, with the remark "It took several hundred men some years to put this together. I am sure you can do it in an hour."
Item 21: Jorn Utzon Sydney Opera House photonegatives, ca. 1961-1965
ca. 1961-1965
Digital ID: 
a271019
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During Sydney's building boom of the 1960s, membership of the NSW Builders Labourers' Federation rose from 4000 to 10000 in just two years. At that time, dogmen were killed in one year in the 1970s. Today, dogmen still sling loads, but they control crane movement from the ground by two-way radio.
Workmen and various occupations, 1960s / photographed by Raymond de Berquelle
1960s
De Berquelle, Raymond
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Digital ID: 
a628003
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These paperboys in Market Street earned pocket money after school, selling the Sydney afternoon newspapers Sun and Mirror to city workers on their way home. Remarkably, the law in New South Wales does not prescribe a minimum age for working. In fact, until the Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006, there were no laws in the State governing working hours or minimum pay for children.
Paperboys, Market Street [Sydney], 1969 / photographed by Raymond de Berquelle
1969
Raymond de Berquelle
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Digital ID: 
a1444026
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In 2006, the first alterations to the exterior of the Sydney Opera House were made since its 1973 completion. A colonnade was constructed as part of Jorn Utzon's original vision. Utzon was credited with involvement in the project, however architectural historians and journalists were critical of the colonnade and believed it compromised the impact of the Opera House overall. Nevertheless, the Opera House achieved World Heritage recognition in 2007.
Sydney Opera House alterations, 2006 / photographed by Jeremy Piper
2006
Jeremy Piper
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Digital ID: 
a1704033

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