Eureka! The rush for gold

The gold rushes and the diggers who worked the goldfields are etched into Australian folklore.

Gold boom

The gold rushes contributed to the development of a modern Australian society and economy. The diggers brought with them a wide range of skills and professions, which helped transform one-time rural economies into larger, diversified markets.

The Australian colonies were no longer seen as places of convict exile; they were respectable destinations for immigrants and investment. 

Railway infrastructure linked major ports to inland towns, strengthening regional centres. 

Melbourne became the main entry port to the Victorian goldfields and consequently developed into Australia’s largest city and financial centre for the next half century.

Immigrants who established businesses on the goldfields have their own stories of success. The wealth generated from many 'service industries' on the goldfields meant that these families prospered in their adopted country.

Collins Street looking west from Russell St., 1853, Collection of lithographs and sketches, 1853-1874 by Samuel Thomas Gill

The fascinating Holtermann collection of photographs of goldfield towns of NSW and Victoria documents the ordinary people who established businesses on the goldfields along with the mines and miners.

Bernard Otto Holtermann, successful gold miner and merchant, commissioned Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss from the American & Australasian Photographic Company to document gold towns in New South Wales and Victoria from 1872 to 1875. Towns such as Hill End and Gulgong were captured at the height of their settlement. Every business, church and school was photographed, with their owners, staff and customers posed outside.

It is such thorough documentary coverage that it is possible to reconstruct the main streets of Hill End and Gulgong in precise detail.