SA Government LogoState Library of South Australia logoThe Foundation of South Australia 1852 - 1883
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People

The Foundation of South Australia 1852-1883 explores and illustrates the mining boom and exploration period in South Australia, and showcases the themes of People, Places, 1850s gold rush, Agricultural sector Growth, Commercial and social aspects, Exploration and expansion in the interior, Introduction to responsible government and the Mining industry development.

The people of South Australia during this thirty-year period, had established themselves and their families as pioneers, farmers and labourers (see The Foundation of South Australia 1800-1851: S.A. Northern Pioneers). The majority of the population were settled in the developing blocks of Adelaide, and some were beginning to forge a living out further. However, they were all about to face a mass exodus of their workforce in search of fortune in the Victorian goldfields. The legacy of the notable, wealthy, mediocre and infamous will be long remembered. The once entirely Aboriginal lands were taking on a European shape. The early settlers and their following generation contributed to and were involved in, developing the European tradition in South Australian during this period, which changed the path of the state's future. For thousands of years, some forty-one Aboriginal groups had occupied the area which became South Australia. Aboriginal people continued to be marginalised and moved on from their traditional and sacred areas.

Click on 'view details' below to explore resources, including photographs and daguerreotypes, first-hand accounts in diaries and letters, newspaper reports, artistic impressions of Adelaide and the expanding townships, maps and archival records. Displayed items illustrate the effects of the gold rush, exploration, mining developments... and more.

Selected highlights;

  • The bullion Act of 1852 prompted Alexander Tolmer to suggest an overland gold escort service from Victoria to South Australia. It was designed to reverse the drain of currency from the colony during the gold rush. He accompanied the first escort on 10 February.
  • In 1905 on her 80th birthday, Catherine Helen Spence, South Australian suffragist, author, journalist and lecturer, was declared 'The most distinguished woman they had had in Australia .... She was a novelist, a critic, an accomplished journalist, a preacher, a lecturer, a philanthropist, and a social and moral reformer' by South Australian Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Way.
  • In 1855 the South Australian government requested Sir George Airy, the astronomer royal, to select an observer and superintendent of the electric telegraph; he nominated Sir Charles Todd. Fascinated by telecommunications, Todd was appointed to the position 10 February 1855.
  • William Webster Hoare was trained as a pharmacist and obtained a position with the 1869-1870 Goyder Surveying Expedition to the Northern Territory as assistant to the surgeon, Dr Peel. He filled his spare time in the camp sketching, and his notebook (PRG 294) contains many small sketches of natural history items that he later worked up into full-size watercolour illustrations. Goyder, recognising Hoare's talent and the potential contribution, supported the artist's endeavours, providing him with materials and time to work with the expedition's naturalist, Friedrich Schultze.
  • Following physical abuse by her husband, William Davies, Eliza Davies (nee Arbuckle) described in her autobiography The story of an earnest life, the predicament of women of the period who, because of property and marriage laws, were unable to escape abusive relationships.
  • From the early 1870s, formidable police inspector of the Northern Territory and author, Paul Heinrich Matthias Foelsche succeeded Captain Samuel White Sweet as leading photographer of the Northern Territory, capturing images of local people, especially Indigenous people; landscapes, businesses and industries.
  • A colonist for 45 years, Captain George McKay, originally of Scotland was involved in developing the coastal trade of the colony. His shipping facilities made pioneering of the north more possible. Captain McKay was succeeded by his son, Captain Griffith McKay.
  • The women's suffrage movement in South Australia began with two distinct advantages. Firstly South Australia's female ratepayers were already enfranchised under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1861. Some women had therefore been voting in municipal elections for more than 20 years. Secondly, in South Australia higher education for women and girls was officially encouraged. Edith Emily Dornwell was as the university's first woman graduate and Australia's first female science graduate in 1885.

South Australiana: Sources a comprehensive list of websites, published and non-published sources for South Australiana materials.

Click on 'View item' below to explore the selected resources.

Aboriginal dwelling
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Adelaide Synagogue
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Advertisement for A. Simpson & Son's safes
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Alexander Tolmer
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Catherine Helen Spence and Helen Brodie Spence
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Charles Mullen and family
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Charles Todd in later life
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Daily ration book
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Diary of William Webster Hoare
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Discovery of Ayers Rock [Uluru]: diary 19 July 1873
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Eliza Davies
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George Taplin
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