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'Ten little nigger boys'
Title : 'Ten little nigger boys' 'Ten little nigger boys'
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Creator : John Martin & Co.
Date of creation : 1937
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 155 x 205 mm
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Donated by : John Martin & Co.
Copyright : This item is reproduced courtesy of David Jones Ltd.. It may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires written permission from David Jones Ltd. and the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

View of a float parked outside some Adelaide houses featuring 'ten little nigger boys' seated on a large 'log', with six clowns alongside and a woman dressed as an elf in front.

The first Christmas pageant in 1933 contained eight floats and this number has steadily increased over time; in 2006 there were 57.

Mostly based on Christmas stories, fantasy, fairytales and nursery rhymes, floats are reviewed, refreshed and rotated every year, with an effort to introduce new and exciting additions each pageant.

Throughout the pageant's history perennial favourites such as Puss in boots, Humpty Dumpty and the Old woman who lived in the shoe have been joined by more topical, less enduring themed floats, some of which now seem antiquated, even offensive.

This image of 'Ten little nigger boys' from the 1937 pageant is a perfect example of how social mores have changed. The float, based on a controversial nursery rhyme, featured ten people dressed as golliwogs sitting on a log. It remained a regular feature of the pageant until the late 1960s when, as a reflection of changing values it was retired. Whilst some floats continued to display characters and themes that would now be considered politically incorrect, in recent times efforts have been made to incorporate floats which are more encompassing of South Australia's diversity, including Kaurna country Christmas, Christmas around the world, and Tandanya Dreaming.

As well as reflecting attitudes of the times, floats were created to capitalise on popular fads and characters of the day. For instance 'space' themed floats were popular in the mid-1950s and again in the late 1960s; and before the current litigious climate, the pageant featured many faces from the world of popular culture such as Disney characters, Ginger Meggs, Tom and Jerry and the Flintstones.

Current floats include Christmas cricket, Bill Hyde Raiders drum corp and Christmas rapping.

Related names :

John Martin & Co.

Coverage year : 1937
Region : Adelaide city
Further reading :

'60th John Martin's State Bank Christmas pageant 1933-1993', Sunday Mail, 31 October 1993, 24 p. supp.

Adelaide's once-a-year day, Adelaide: Commercial Printing House, 1978.

'Street pageant delights crowd', Advertiser, 20 November 1933, p. 16.

A touch of magic [videorecording] : [the story behind the Christmas Pageant], West Lakes?, S. Aust. : Cine News Productions, 1993.

Internet links :

Credit Union Christmas pageant

John Martin's first pageant: 1933 [State Library of South Australia]



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