The Granny Smith apple is named after Maria Smith, an orchardist in Ryde, Sydney. Maria discovered the apple growing on her property as a ‘sport’ from some French crab apples. As a true mutation, the original seedling gave rise to more, which were originally exhibited as “Smith’s seedlings”, then “Granny Smith’s seedlings”, and finally just “Granny Smith’s”. The apples remained a local curiosity until after Maria Smith’s death, the first large-scale cultivation not taking place until 1895. More
To celebrate the first royal visit to Australia, by Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, a public banquet was held on 28 November. Instead of the anticipated crowd of 10,000, some 40-50,000 arrived. When the prince was late arriving, crowds broke the barriers and carried off the food and drink. The royal banquet ended in what The Argus called “one of the most tremendous and utter failures we have ever known”.
The Great Exhibition at London’s Crystal Palace in 1851 stimulated half a century of ‘exhibition fever’. Events like the Intercolonial Exhibition of Australasia, held in Melbourne in 1866-7, gave the individual colonies the chance to show off their produce and their manufacturing expertise. They continued to exhibit at, and host, international ‘World’s Fairs’ throughout the second half of the 19th century.
The Intercolonial Exhibition was not the first great exhibition to be held in Melbourne. The first was in 1854, and took place in a building at the corner of William Street and Little Lonsdale Steet. This building was used again for an exhibition in 1861.
The grander scale of the 1866 Exhibition, however, demanded larger premises. New exhibition buildings were constructed behind the public library in Swanston Street. The Argus reported at length on the opening of the event, saying that the previous exhibitions “… though notable in Melbourne annals, sink into insignificance when compared with the magnificent undertaking which was yesterday inaugurated. Both in conception and execution our third Exhibition stands out as a grand and peculiar one. For the first time, the various colonies of Australasia meet in friendly com petition at an independent gathering ‘.
New South Wales lagged a little, perhaps viewing the doings of other colonies as somewhat beneath its notice. However, in 1870 Sydney hosted its own intercolonial exhibition in Prince Alfred Park. The event marked the centenary of Captain cook’s landing and showcased agricultural produce, manufactures and fine arts. It was attended by over 185,000 people.
The first international exhibition held in Australia was the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879. Two major exhibitions followed in Melbourne in 1880 and 1888, now housed in the grand Royal Exhibition Buildings that we see today. In America, the events were termed ‘World’s Fairs’, of which the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 was the largest and most extravagant.
However, by then, the appetite for exhibiting was abating. The boom times of the gold rush years gave way to depression and colonial governments were financially strapped. In rejecting an invitation to participate in yet another exhibition, this time in Antwerp, the Premier of New South Wales, George Dibbs, perhaps spoke for his peers in the other colonies.
“I have just minuted a paper sent to me by Sir Robert Duff asking me to join in an exhibition in Antwerp in 1894 to say that the colony will not join,” he wrote. “I am full of affairs of this sort; our work is to be done at home. Besides, nine times out of ten the result is too costly … once in a quarter of a century should be sufficient and then only to first rate capitals of Europe.”
In 1865, brothers Joseph and Henry Best established vineyards at Great Western in Victoria. The Bests hired unemployed miners to create tunnels, or ‘drives’, where wine could be stored under their new winery. The Great Western vineyards and cellar were bought by a Ballarat businessman, Hans Irvine, in 1888. Irvine employed a French champagne maker to create sparkling wines in the true ‘methode champenoise” and promoted his wines locally and overseas. Irvine sold to Seppelt in 1918.
The Goyder Line is a line of reliable rainfall in South Australia. It separates land suitable for crops from general grazing land. It originated when the then Surveyor-General of South Australia, George Goyder, evaluated pastoral properties in the north of the State after a period of severe drought. More
A railway line to Bendigo was constructed by the government-owned Victorian Railways Department and opened in 1862. In 1864, it was extended to Echuca, connecting with paddle-steamers that transported produce to and from farms along the Murray River. Dubbed the ‘meeting of the whistles’, this made Melbourne the principal sea port handling produce from southern New South Wales. More
The English and Australian Cookery Book. Cookery for the Many, as Well as for the “Upper Ten Thousand” (London, 1864), was published by Edward Abbott under the pseudonym of ‘an Australian Aristologist’. It is generally acknowledged to be Australia’s first cook book. Abbott was a newspaper proprietor in Hobart, an MP and noted for his hospitality. His book included traditional recipes but also many with local ingredients, such as ‘slippery bob’ – battered kangaroo brains fried in emu fat.
The Victorian Acclimatisation Society was founded in 1861, largely through the efforts of Edward Wilson, editor of The Argus. Its aims were to introduce, acclimatise and domesticate useful or ornamental birds, fish, insects, vegetables and other exotic species. Later the same year an Acclimatisation Society was formed in New South Wales, with Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania following in 1862. More
The first Melbourne Cup was run on Thursday 7 November 1861 and won by the Sydney horse Archer. The Argus reported that ‘The refreshment booths drove a thriving trade throughout the day, and the refreshment rooms of the grand stand, where Messrs. Spiers and Pond were the caterers, were also largely patronized and the good things of their providing met with general approval.’
Jam was among the first locally manufactured foods in Australia. George Peacock of Hobart was the first to produce jam in tin cans, rather than jars. Peacock began to produce jams in a backyard factory. In response to demand from his customers he set up in a warehouse at Hobart’s Old Wharf where he canned jam using fruit shipped from the Huon in fishing boats. More
The Victorian Nicholson Act of 1860 was the first of several Acts passed in the 1860s with the intention of providing affordable land for small farmers. New South Wales introduced similar legislation in 1861. Further Land Acts were passed in Victoria in 1862 and 1865, followed by South Australia in 1869.
Twenty-five camels landed in Melbourne in 1860 to carry supplies for the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. Many more followed, along with their Muslim cameleers, known as Afghans. They butchered meat according to Halal principles and grew exotic plants and herbs important to their diet. Camels played a vital role in carrying provisions to outback settlements until the early 1900s. More