In 1869, a 100ft sailing ship was converted to steam and the SS Walrus began to sail up and down the rivers in Queensland’s Moreton Bay area as a floating sugar mill. James “The Bosun” Stewart also obtained a licence to operate a rum distillery on the boat, using the molasses obtained from sugar milling. The licence expired in 1872, but Stewart continued to operate the illegal still for a further 11 years. The pot still from the Walrus was used for the original Beenleigh rum. More
Trading began at the Adelaide Central Market in 1869, although the official opening took place the following year. First known as the City Market, and operating on Tuesdays and Saturdays, it initially had two sheds accommodating up to 100 vendors’ carts. The market was rebuilt in the early 1900s and has undergone many extensions since.
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. More
Although various mineral water springs were discovered in Australia through the 1820s and 1830s, it seems the first Australian mineral water to be bottled commercially was Ballan Selzer Water. The spring was located around 80km north west of Melbourne. Messrs Morton and Joeke were granted a Crown Lease in 1867 and set about constructing a plant to bottle the water. “In the course of a week or two,” said the Kyneton Observer, “the Ballan Selzer Water will have become a recognised beverage in Melbourne, and throughout the Colony.” Ballan Selzer was being marketed by Rowlands Soft Drinks of Ballarat, as late as 1914. 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, 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”.
Menzies Hotel, on the corner of Bourke and William Streets, was the first of Melbourne’s grand Victorian era hotels. For many years it was regarded as the finest hotel in Melbourne and boasted many famous guests. It was extended and remodelled many times, but in 1969 was demolished to make way for an office building. The only grand hotel of the era to survive is the Hotel Windsor (originally called the Grand Hotel) in Spring Street. More
You thought Keen’s Curry Powder was invented by the Keen’s Mustard people, right? Wrong. The curry powder is an all-Australian affair, invented in Tasmania by Joseph Keen (no relation) in the late 1850s. Widely used and promoted in its home state, Keen’s Curry Powder won prizes at the Inter-Colonial Exhibition in Melbourne in 1866. However, it was probably not until the 1950s, after the brand was bought by Reckitt & Colman, that it became widely used on the Australian mainland.
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. More
In 1865, a purpose-built Melbourne fish market was opened on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets – the site where Flinders Street Station now stands. An open-air market had previously operated on the site. The new building was claimed to be the first of its kind in Australia. A fish market in Hobart had been built in 1854 as part of the “New Market” but was never used. The first Sydney fish market, in Woolloomooloo, did not open until 1878. More
In 1865, brothers Joseph and Henry Best established vineyards at Great Western in the Grampians region of Victoria. The Bests hired unemployed miners to create tunnels, or ‘drives’, where wine could be stored under their new winery. Joseph’s vineyards and cellar were bought by a Ballarat businessman, Hans Irvine, in 1888. Henry’s property still operates as Best’s Great Western, owned by the Thompson family. More
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.
Thomas Cooper’s first recorded brew was made from four bushels of English malt and eight pounds (3.6 kilograms) of Kent hops in 46 gallons (2.9 litres) of water, fermented as a pale ale and a heavier ale. The Coopers brewery is still owned and operated by the Cooper family and is the only major Australian brewery not in foreign hands. More
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 Burke and Wills expedition to cross Australia to the Gulf of Carpentaria ended in tragedy when the explorers ran out of food. There are suggestions that their death was hastened by eating nardoo, a form of native cereal made from the spores of a fern. Aboriginal people knew how to prepare nardoo, but in its raw form the Thiaminase it contains can destroy vitamin B1, causing beri-beri.
This English cook book was equally popular in the British colonies and became a household bible for many Australian households. The first edition of Mrs Beeton’s book was published by Isabella Beeton’s husband, Samuel Beeton. At the time, Isabella was only 25. Like many books of its time, it borrowed recipes extensively from previous cook books. Later editions included a section on Australian cookery. 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