With Christmas just around the corner, and many people purchasing flowers as a hostess gift for the many people hosting Christmas parties, it seemed the perfect time to share this image of the iconic Martin Place flower sellers. The image, from a postcard dating to the first 10 years of the 20th century, is an evocative glimpse into a business which has long been linked to Martin Place (then Moore Street), and continues to thrive in the area today.
Martin Place has long been a bustling hive of activity, full of people going about their daily work. This bustling activity made it a perfect place for flower sellers to ply their trade, attracting passersby and many impulse sales. Yet most flower sellers did not start off in Martin Place at all, being forced off other, busier streets to make room for ever increasing traffic. Martin Place was the ideal place for flower sellers to congregate though, setting themselves up near the steps of the General Post Office and pouncing on people hurrying to mail their letters.
The earliest Martin Place flower sellers began to set up stalls in the 19th century, but it was during the 20th century that Sydney’s most iconic flower seller plied her trade. Rosie Shaw had once had high hopes of a career in opera, coming to Sydney from London in 1927 to seek fame and fortune in the land Dame Nellie Melba had called home. Rosie’s dreams never came to pass, but she grew to the status of a Sydney icon none the less. In 1931 she first set up shop on Martin Place, plying her customers not just with flowers, but with snatches of opera and tall tales of her history of a ballerina and singer. Rosie soon became very popular and increasingly influential, using her iconic status to act as one of the earliest defenders of gay men in Sydney. She sold flowers for 40 years, finally packing up her stall in 1971.
The image above, from a postcard dated circa 1930, captures a snapshot of a chapter in Sydney’s history which many are unaware of. Although today Rose Bay continues to be home to sea-planes, which are particularly popular for scenic flights, Rose Bay airport once had a much larger role to play in Sydney’s transport history.
Today, we think of Mascot and the Sydney airport as the home of international travel in Sydney, yet once, there was another airport at the heart of the industry. International travel by plane was, in the 1920s, almost unheard of. Yet there was a new type of plane – the flying boat – which was going to become a pioneer for international air travel. In the 1930s an airport was established at Rose Bay, at that stage on a temporary basis, to cater for these flying boats.
The Qantas Empire Airways and Imperial Airways used the Rose Bay airport – Sydney’s first international airport – as the terminus for their London to Sydney service. Of course, the planes could not make a continuous journey, and made many stops along the way, but the journey on a flying boat was luxurious and comfortable.
It was believed that in the wake of World War Two there would be a boom in international air travel. Yet while this prediction was correct, advances in the abilities of land based air craft meant that the flying boats became less popular. Plans to build further facilities at Rose Bay were put on hold as the flying boat services were gradually decreased. The last Qantas flight from Rose Bay took place in 1955, and the final commercial flight from the Rose Bay airport, an Ansett flight, took off in 1974.
The image above is a stunning glimpse into the history of a place which, for many Sydneysiders and visitors alike, is very familiar – Millers Point. Yet the image above is stunningly different to the Millers Point we are familiar with today. Today, Millers Point is an historic area of Sydney with many cultural attractions and cafes, yet once it was at the heart of Sydney’s working harbour, bustling with a different type of activity entirely.
Until the 1830s, Millers Point was a reasonably deserted part of the new colony, with very few people settling in the area, despite it being close to the centre of the settlement. In the 1820s there was a military hospital and three windmills in the area (hence Millers point – named after Jack the Miller) but only half a dozen houses in the entire area. By the 1830s though, the deep water of Millers Point and its close situation to Dawes Point, were attracting more people to the area. Soon, a thriving if smelly industry focussing on whaling and sealing began to be established. By the 1840s, there were more workers cottages scattered through Millers Point and even the occasional wharf owners grand home was built.
It was in the 1850s that the maritime trade in the area really began to take off though, and by the 1860s there were even several large warehouses built on the waterfront. Yet the wharves were crowded and unsanitary, especially after the depression of the 1890s, and they made a perfect home for rats. In 1900 the bubonic plague came to Millers Point and in the wake of the disease, the area was resumed by the government and a major redevelopment began. The first, and most important part of the redevelopment was the building of new wharves and the associated docks and warehouses which were associated with a thriving maritime industry.
This week, with so much talk about the upcoming horse racing season, and the many important races which are to take place, it seemed the ideal time to share one of the amazing photos of Randwick Racecourse in the Past Present Collection. The photo above, which was taken by an unknown photographer in circa 1936 shows
Today, the Melbourne Cup may be one of the most, if not the most famous race in Australia. Yet the Melbourne Cup is far from the only important race run in Australia, and the racecourse where it is held, Flemington Racecourse, is not the oldest. In fact, in the early years of the colony racing was a very popular pastime and several basic racecourses were established. Yet by the 1830s these oldest of racecourses had stopped operating for a variety of reasons, leaving Hyde Park the main centre of horse racing at the time. It was clear that a dedicated horse racetrack was needed though and in late 1832 a group of gentlemen petitioned Governor Bourke to set aside land near Botany Road. In 1833, after the land had been surveyed and found suitable, the petition was granted and the course, then known as ‘the sandy course’ was soon in operation. Yet by 1838, racing had stopped again.
This could have spelled the end for Randwick Racecourse, but in 1858 racing returned. The Australian Jockey Club, which was established in 1842, wanted a place to establish a permanent racecourse with good facilities and petitioned the Government to grant them the old Sandy Course. The grant was allowed, the facilities and track were improved and the first race, held in May 1860, was attended by a crowd of over 6000 spectators. With the extension of the tram service to the course in 1880 the future of the course was assured. By 1900 the tram was so popular that a dedicated loop station was built simply to service the racecourse, and at its peak the trams carried 117,480 passengers in a single day in 1834!
Sydney Harbour Bridge from Farm Cove – Botanic Gardens (Photographer Unknown)
The image above is an iconic view of Sydney, familiar not just to Sydneysiders and visitors to Sydney, but worldwide. Indeed, The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an icon of Sydney, representing the harbour city around the world and showcasing the beautiful harbour to millions of people. Yet the bridge is not just a stunning structure, it has an amazing history.
Although today many think of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as simply an icon of Sydney, at the time that the bridge opened in 1932 it was icon of a whole different sort – an engineering marvel in itself. Yet the history of the bridge dates back well over a century before and the original bridge envisaged was a very different structure. In the early days of the colony, the famous convict architect Francis Greenway spoke with Governor Macquarie, suggesting a bridge be built in roughly the same place where the Sydney Harbour Bridge stands today. Of course, Greenways lofty dream didn’t come to pass, but by 1901, when Federation of the Australian States and Territories occurred, the need for a bridge across the harbour was well recognised. The year before, in 1900, the government called for people to submit designs for just such a bridge but all the designs were unsatisfactory, so the plans were again put aside.
In the wake of World War One though a real quest for a bridge spanning the harbour began. In 1923 Dr J.J.C Bradfield oversaw tenders for either an arch or cantilever bridge. Eventually, Bradfield would go on to oversee the entire design and building process of the now iconic bridge. The tender itself was won by a company from England, Dorman Long and Co. Ltd. They submitted a design by Sir Ralph Freeman for an arch bridge, and construction on the bridge began in 1924. Hundreds of families were displaced during the construction as entire streets of homes and businesses were resumed and demolished, without compensation, to make way for the now iconic bridge.
The image above is a stunning glimpse into the history of one of Sydney’s more famous streets – Oxford Street. Today, known for shopping, restaurants and a vibrant culture, Oxford Street has a long history, and one which is far different to the Oxford Street which we know so well today.
Many Sydneysiders and visitors alike are familiar with Oxford Street, yet few realise that the famous roadway is actually probably the oldest highway in Australia! Indeed, Oxford Street was once part of the South Head Road, which connected the settlement of Sydney with the vital signal station at South Head. Indeed, Oxford Street was the main route between the growing settlement of Sydney and the coast.
As such an important roadway, it is perhaps no surprise that by the 1870s Oxford Street was one of the most successful and lucrative commercial areas of Sydney. In fact, by the end of the 1880s, Oxford Street was recognised as one of the most prominent ‘High Streets’ in the settlement.
Come back next week to discover how Oxford Street changed and evolved in the 20th century to become the vibrant hub we see today.
The image above is a stunning, panoramic view of one of Sydney’s most famous and exclusive beaches. Visited by Sydneysiders and visitors alike (and the home of Home and Away, which brings more tourists still) Palm Beach has long been a popular destination for people wanting to enjoy the sand, sun and sea.
Palm Beach, which is today one of the most exclusive and expensive areas in Pittwater, was actually named for the abundance of Cabbage Tree Palms which were once to be found in the area. The traditional and original owners, The Guringai people, used the fronds from this abundant resource to create fishing lines and also to patch leaks which had developed in their boats.
When Europeans colonised Australia, the cabbage tree palms found a new use, being woven into hats to keep the beating sun at bay. In fact, Cabbage Tree Hats are, in many ways, the first distinctly Australian fashion, and the making of the hats is probably Australias first cottage industry. Cabbage Tree Hats developed because the early colonists and convicts had no idea that Australia was going to be so hot, or the sun so fierce. They soon realised that the fibre from the Cabbage Tree Palm could be woven, just as the Guringai people did to make fishing lines. The hats usually had a high domed down and wide brim, perfect for the sunny Australian climate. The Cabbage Tree Hats became such a symbol of the convict era in Australia that gangs of young men were known as Cabbage Tree Mobs, after the hat they wore. Apparently, they enjoyed crushing the hats of men who they thought were ‘full of themselves’.
The image above is an idyllic glimpse of a time gone by, and a place which continues to attract Sydneysiders for a day out and about in our beautiful bushland. Yet today, many of the famous motor launches which once plied the waters are long gone, a memory of another time.
With beautiful scenery and a waterway to navigate, people have made the trip to the Georges River for many years to enjoy a day in the beautiful natural surroundings. In the early 1900s, some enterprising locals began to run motor launches on the River to carry picnickers and day trippers to scenic spots, or simply allow them to enjoy a day on the River in comfort.
Mr J. Latty was one of these men. He lived in Fairfield and in 1907, according to an article in The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (September 11), he had a motor launch built which could comfortably sit 20 picnickers. The launch plied the Georges River and was very popular. The postcard captures the Latty Motor Launch, full of picnickers enjoying a day out.
This week, with the July School Holidays drawing to a close, it is the perfect time to turn attention to one of Sydney’s favourite tourist destinations. For locals and visitors alike, Taronga Zoo has long been a popular place to visit for the day and view the amazing animals looked after by the zoo.
The Taronga Zoo which we see today builds on over a century of history, yet the zoo we now know is a far cry from the zoo of yesteryear. Taronga Zoo was established on its current premises in 1916, following the move of the original Zoological Gardens from Moore Park. Many of the animals, including elephants, were transported from the old Moore Park site by barge, travelling by water across the Harbour to their new home. They were settled into the new, larger premises, where the Elephant Temple, seal ponds and monkey pit were already constructed.
Yet these enclosures, many of which are maintained today as a memory of the zoo’s history, were a far cry from what we recognise today. As the postcard above shows, the old exhibits were small and could be quite spartan compared to what we now know. The focus of the zoo was on entertainment and fun, whereas today the zoo focuses on scientific research, conservation and education. This new focus for the zoo dates back to 1967, when a critical review of the zoo was undertaken. New exhibits were built and the focus of the zoo shifted to scientific research, conservation and education. Soon the famous elephant rides and monkey zoo were replaced with more educational activities, like the seal show.
The image above, from a postcard dated to circa 1910, is a beautiful and charming snapshot of a family day out and about in the beautiful Sydney Botanic Gardens. Today, on family days such as this, we often think of feeding ducks (though many councils request people do not do so), but in the image above the bird being fed by the children is the magnificent Native Black Swan.
The black swan is a majestic and interesting bird. Most famously it is the emblem associated with Western Australia, but the Black Swan is actually native to many areas of Australia. As such a large and beautiful bird, they also have a long history of being found in zoo’s and bird collections, and for many years they were also a popular part of public parks and gardens – like the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
Yet what is perhaps of most interest is what the phrase ‘black swan’ has come to mean. A black swan is a metaphor for an event or discovery which is unprecedented, unexpected and surprising but which in hindsight, really isn’t such a surprise after all. The phrase actually comes from the Latin and the oldest known use of the metaphor came almost a thousand years ago, in Juvenal’s line “rara avis in terries nigroque simillima cygno” which translates to “a rare bird in the lands and very much like a black swan”. At the time, and for centuries after, the only swans known were white swans, so it was assumed that the black swan did not exist. Then, in 1697, Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer, discovered black swans in Australia, proving they did exist after all. This came as a great surprise, but in hindsight many acknowledged that it really shouldn’t have been such a shock – just as other animals came in other colours, not all swans were white. Today, Black Swan Theory, as introduced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2007 is well known, but it all traces back to these majestic if unexpected birds which are such a feature of the Australian landscape.