Adelaide - Exhibitions
The Exhibition Building
(Taken from Geoffrey H Manning's A Colonial Experience)
Is it not an occasion for remorse and mourning that after fifty years'
struggle and labour we must acknowledge that we have been a gigantic failure?
Instead of a prosperous population on the soil, we have created on the one
hand, some belted knights and money aristocrats, the majority of which are
a soulless lot of money-making machines; on the other hand, a discontented
and impoverished yeomanry and middle class and an army of paupers. We have
built a mushroom City of Churches, drinking shops, poorhouses and pawnbrokers'
shops... and now at our Jubilee year we find ourselves in a terrible mess,
with a stagnant trade, no money in circulation, relief works, soup kitchens,
free breakfasts... and a discontented and impoverished population. Who can
say that we have been a success?
(Register, 6 October 1886, page 3.)
On 23 September 1865 Mr E.T. Smith (later Sir Edwin) moved in the House of Assembly: 'That in the opinion of the house it is advisable that a jubilee exhibition for South Australia should be held in the year 1887 on the terms set out in Parliamentary Paper No. 105.'
This paper asked the government to provide £32,000 for the erection of an Exhibition Building, pavilion sheds, fencing and other permanent improvements and to 'move the City Corporation to surrender its title to a roadway leading from opposite Pulteney Street to Frome Street and to solicit the Botanic Gardens authorities in carrying out the general scheme.'
On 25 November 1865 the expenditure was approved but not before that cautious and respected bank manager, Samuel Tomkinson, desired to know from what source the government expected to obtain the money. If from a loan he would oppose it, but his mind was put to rest when he was assured that the funds would be provided from revenue.
One big problem was the plans of the buildings and around it a battle raged. The design was assailed as all too ambitious, but those who saw far ultimately had their own way. Then there was the collection of exhibits, for it was no use to have the shell without the kernel. Much strenuous work gained the support of other colonies, and also many nations, and the result was that for months the exhibition was the great meeting place for not the people of the city, but of Australians generally and hosts of visitors from the outside world. When it was all over there was a moderate credit balance and the croaking of the objectors had been abundantly falsified.
Indeed, the anticipations of its chief projector, Sir Edwin Smith, were thoroughly justified and South Australia advanced on the stage of national and material development by the revival of its industrial and commercial interests. The present and future generations may well bear in grateful remembrance the men who successfully carried through that great project.
The main building was carried out from the design of Messrs Withall & Wells; Henry Thompson, known as 'Blossom', was the Clerk of Works, William Rogers was the contractor and his brother, John, was in charge. The eastern annexe of wood and iron, which stood where the School of Mines is now, was included in the accepted design, but carried out under a separate contract.
The annexe also contained a a concert hall, while the western annexe stood on ground where the terraced grass plots and the avenue of trees leading to the lower grounds now are, and overlapped into the University grounds. This annexe was sold and pulled down after the exhibition closed, while the grounds now within the Jubilee Oval fences contained the northern annexe.
The large retaining walls north and south of the continental grounds were put in by the Government Works Department, Henry Dunstan being the contractor. The thousands of cubic yards of filling required to level up came from the slopes at the back of Government House and thousands of tons of metal and stone filling came from Yatala Labour Prison, which also provided large quantities of soil. On the continental grounds was a terra cotta pavilion exhibit and a Northern Territory exhibit designed and constructed by Mr Knight of Port Darwin. The site of the existing football and sports oval was more or less a swamp in winter, covered, in part, with reeds.
In the Armament Hall was a nine-inch hydro-pneumatic disappearing gun, with a Scott Moncrieff iron shield over all. A squad of permanent SA Artillery men under Lieutenant Hawker, with Sgt-Major Slane, put the gun into position. The gun was sold later to the federal government and its fellow, which occupied a shed on the coast at Grange for many years, met a similar fate and both were erected to the southward of Sydney Heads. At the conclusion of the exhibition the buildings came under the control of the Commissioner of Public Works and the first good use of it was as a skating rink, the lessee, at his own expense, laying a kauri pine floor that remains there today, and many a dance and big ceremony has that floor seen since 1888. For a time it was also let for a circus, while many a gallant soldier, before and after the Boer War, assembled on that floor.
A great dinner to the Federal convention delegates took place in the main hall, while Mayoral balls occupied three floors; the University hold examinations there; monster public meetings are a regular occurrence; Dame Nellie Melba and Clara Butt have filled the main hall with their splendid voices; Sir George Reid held the elite of Australia's politicians and statesmen breathless there and sailors of the Japanese fleet were entertained there. In fact, the building has proved itself a godsend to Adelaide.
Also see notes under South Australia - Comments on the Colony - Miscellany
The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London is discussed in the Observer,
22 October 1853, page 2c (supp.),
27 May 1854, page 12d.
"SA Art-Union Exhibition" is in the Register,
5 and 17 October 1859, pages 3f and 2g.
Information on a proposed "International Exhibition" is in the Register,
25 January 1861, page 2e,
17 April 1861, page 2f,
2 July 1861, page 2f.
"Wheat for the Great Exhibition" is in the Register,
13 and 14 September 1861, pages 3a and 3f.
"SA and the Great Exhibition" is in the Register,
11 and 25 January 1862, pages 2f and 5d; also see
12 May 1862, page 3a,
15 and 17 July 1862, pages 2b and 2a-3a,
18 August 1862, pages 2d-3b,
18 and 23 September 1862, pages 3d and 2e,
14 October 1862, page 2d,
22 April 1863, page 2e.
"Great Exhibition Medal" is in the Register,
9 May 1863, page 2f.
"South Australia and the International Exhibition in Paris" is in the Register,
12 and 13 February 1866, pages 2h and 2d,
12, 18, 19, 20 and 25 April 1866, pages 2e, 2d, 2g, 3b and 2g,
20 June 1866, page 2f,
18 July 1866, page 2e,
29 August 1866, page 2c,
3, 12 and 27 September 1866, pages 2d, 2d and 3g,
1 and 5 October 1866, pages 2g and 3h,
18 and 19 January 1867, pages 2d and 2h,
23 March 1867, page 2e,
15 April 1867, page 2c,
10 and 11 June 1867, pages 2e and 2h,
12 and 13 August 1867, pages 2f and 2f,
19 September 1867, page 2c,
26 March 1868, page 2d,
3 November 1868, page 2g.
The Inter-colonial Exhibition in Melbourne is discussed in the Register,
29 March 1866, page 2f,
16 and 19 April 1866, pages 3c and 2g,
26 June 1866, page 2f,
6 August 1866, page 2h,
25 August 1866, page 2c,
2 and 5 November 1866, pages 2c, 2f and 2d.
"The NSW Exhibition" is in the Register,
18 July 1870, page 5a.
"The Inter-colonial Exhibition" is discussed in the Observer,
24 September 1870, page 7g.
An exhibition of mechanical appliances, etc, is reported upon in the Register,
11 November 1875, page 5d.
"The Exhibition Building" is in the Register,
6 April 1876, page 5g,
"The Exhibition Grounds" on
16 July 1878, page 2c (supp.).
An industrial exhibition is reported upon in the Observer,
11 and 18 November 1876, pages 20a and 19f.
Sketches of South Australia's exhibits at the Paris Exhibition are in Frearson's
7 December 1878, page 324,
at the Sydney Exhibition on
22 November 1879, page 348,
7 February 1880, page 477. Also see
19 June 1878, page 2a (supp.),
15 July 1878, page 2a (supp.),
2 August 1878, page 6b,
9 December 1878, page 1d (supp.),
8 January 1879, page 6a in respect of the Paris event.
"The Boothby Select Committee" is in the Register,
30 July 1880, pages 4f-6g,
10 August 1880, page 7c,
14, 20 and 27 October 1880, pages 5a, 5c and 4d.
"Manufactures at the Sydney Exhibition" is in the Register,
3 June 1879, page 6a; also see
9 and 21 August 1879, pages 14qa and 5b,
3 and 6 September 1879, pages 6b and 4c.
"Industrial and Juvenile Exhibition" is in the Register,
1, 7, 8 and 13 September 1880, pages 4d, 4g, 5f and 4c.
The South Australian Court at the Melbourne Exhibition is described in
4 October 1880, page 5f,
9 October 1880, page 634d.
Information on a proposed Adelaide Exhibition is in the Register,
10, 14 and 19 February 1881, pages 4f-6f, 4g and 7d,
8, 24, 25, 28 and 30 March 1881, pages 7b, 5f, 5b-1a (supp.), 1g (supp.) and 3c (supp.),
4 and 13 April 1881, pages 6g and 5d-e,
4 and 28 June 1881, pages 6d and 5b,
2, 11 and 14 July 1881, pages 1a (supp.), 6b and 5c,
25 June 1881, page 1126e.
In July 1881 it is the subject of all but daily comment in the press and special supplements of the Register appear on
22 and 27 July 1881; also see
27 August 1881, page 25e,
3 September 1881, page 25b.
Sketches are in Frearson's Weekly,
6 and 13 August 1881, pages 409 and 424.
An Adelaide Young Men's Society Exhibition is reported in the Register,
20 June 1882, page 5f.
"SA and International Exhibitions" is in the Register,
30 October 1882, page 4e.
The inaugural meeting called to discuss the proposed International Exhibition
in Adelaide to celebrate the colony's 50th anniversary is reported in the Observer,
11 November 1882, page 34e,
2 June 1883, page 6d - also see
8, 13 and 26 June 1883, pages 4e, 6f and 4c,
6 July 1883, page 5f,
31 July 1883, page 4g,
1, 3 and 11 August 1883, pages 7c, 5a-7a and 5b,
31 July 1883, page 2f.
Cartoons and poems are in The Lantern,
3 and 10 October 1885, pages 1 and 14,
4 September 1886, page 18.
Sketches are in the Pictorial Australian in
July 1886, page 97, February 1887, page 24.
Also see Register,
1 August 1883, page 7c,
3, 14, 20 and 21 November 1883, pages 6g, 6d, 6d, and 6e,
7 December 1883, page 4d,
14 February 1884, pages 4e-6c,
17 April 1884, page 4d,
8 May 1884, page 4e,
22, 23, 24 and 29 May 1884, pages 6d, 6b, 6h and 6h,
7 and 26 June 1884, pages 5b and 4g,
29 July 1884, page 4e,
1 and 5 August 1884, pages 4d,
16 October 1884, pages 4e-6e,
17 December 1884, page 4h.
9 August 1884, page 5 (poem),
20 December 1884, page 38d.
Also see Register,
5 January 1885, pages 4f-6h,
31 January 1885, page 5a,
1 and 15 August 1885, pages 7d and 7e,
23 September 1885, page 4h,
3, 6, 8 and 30 October 1885, pages 4h-6b, 4f-6g, 4f-7a and 4e,
2, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 12 November 1885, pages 7e, 4f, 4h, 7b, 6e, 4h and 5a-6g,
2 and 23 December 1885, pages 3f and 6h,
6, 9, 10, 11, 13 and 15 February 1886, pages 5a-d-6f, 6b, 5b, 4h-6d, 3f and 5b,
3 March 1886, page 4h.
Also see Observer,
7 August 1886, page 24d,
1, 8, 13 and 16 April 1886, pages 6h, 4h, 4h and 5a,
5 May 1886, page 5a,
17, 21 and 22 May 1886, pages 5a, 4h and 4g,
19, 21 and 22 June 1886, pages 5b, 5a-b and 4e-6a,
29 July 1886, page 4e,
11 and 14 August 1886, pages 4e and 4h-7a,
27 September 1886, page 5b,
6, 9, 23 and 26 October 1886, pages 3g, 5c, 6d and 7g.
Is it not an occasion for remorse and mourning that after fifty years' struggle
and labour we must acknowledge that we have been a gigantic failure? Instead
of a prosperous population on the soil, we have created on the one hand,
some belted knights and money aristocrats, the majority of which are a soulless
lot of money-making machines; on the other hand, a discontented and impoverished
yeomanry and middle class and an army of paupers. We have built a mushroom
City of Churches, drinking shops, poorhouses and pawnbrokers' shops... and
now at our Jubilee year we find ourselves in a terrible mess, with a stagnant
trade, no money in circulation, relief works, soup kitchens, free breakfasts...
and a discontented and impoverished population. Who can say that we have
been a success?
(Register, 6 October 1886, page 3g.)
We have still nothing staring us in the face but terrible depression, insolvency,
poverty and myriads of unemployed, and, last but not least, an invariable
and steadily growing financial deficiency. What a pity our captains and crews
did not look ahead years ago and steer a course clear of the breakers.
8 February 1887, page 7g; also see
12 and15 February 1887, pages 7f and 7d.)
If the poor of today in this colony had the thousands of pounds that have
been wasted by the governments of the past 30 years divided amongst them
they would be able to enjoy the jubilee exhibition in a happy home with a
(Register, 13 June 1887, page 7f.)
"The Citizens and Mr E.T. Smith" is in the Register,
25 November 1886, pages 4g-7a.
Reminiscences by J.F. Conigrave are in the Register,
27 July 1918, page 6g.
For further preliminary comment on the Exhibition see Register,
15, 16, 17, 19 and 27 November 1886, pages 5b, 4f-h-7h, 6h, 7a and 4h-6e,
1, 4 and 17 December 1886, pages 4h, 4e and 6c,
3, 5, 15, 16, 19, and 21 March 1887, pages 4e-5h, 4e-7b, 5a, 7b, 4g-6d and 7d,
2, 4, 23 and 27 April 1887, pages 4g, 5h, 6g and 4f,
4 and 17 May 1887, pages 5a-6b-e and 4g,
24 and 28 May 1887, pages 4g and 4f,
9, 11 and 16 June 1887, pages 4f-7c, 6f and 6b.
7 May 1887, page 14 (cartoon).
A plan of land to be acquired for the Jubilee Exhibition is in the Pictorial
September 1885, page 157; also see
August 1887, pages 73 and 84;
sketches appear in
July 1887, pages 101 and 108,
October 1887, page 156.
For its opening and subsequent events see Register,
21 June 1887, pages 4g-5-6-7 and
27 and 30 June 1887 and
7 and 14 July 1887 - also see
7 July 1887, page 6 and 7,
9 and 18 January 1888, pages 4f-6a, 6b and 4e.
Reminiscences of this Exhibition appear on
27 July 1918, page 6g.
The final meeting of the Jubilee exhibition's promoters is reported in
15 December 1888, page 31c.
"The Calcutta Exhibition" is in the Register,
9, 22 and 23 January 1884, pages 5f, 7c and 1d (supp.),
19 February 1884, page 1d (supp.),
10 and 17 May 1884, pages 4g-6d and 4h-6a,
1 July 1884, pages 4f-7a.
"Grand Industrial Exhibition" is in the Observer,
10 May 1884, page 32d.
Information on the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London is in the Observer,
30 January 1886, page 39a,
27 February 1886, page 38c,
17 April 1886, page 7a,
8 and 15 May 1886, pages 24c and 13c,
12 and 26 June 1886, pages 7e and 31b,
24 July 1886 (sketches),
5 July 1886, page 6d.
"A Ghost Yarn" is in the Express,
30 November 1887, page 5b.
The Exhibition grounds are discussed in the Register,
7 March 1888, page 4g; also see
14 December 1888, pages 4h-6g,
16 May 1890, page 4g.
"The Blockers' Exhibition" is in the Register, 2 May 1890, pages 5b-6e.
Adelaide exhibits at the Bremen (Germany) Exhibition are discussed in
16 August 1890, page 6b.
An industrial Exhibition is reported upon in the Register,
27 February 1891, page 4h,
4, 7 and 8 May 1891, pages 5b, 4g-6d and 4h-7a,
18 May 1891, page 6h,
22 June 1891, page 4e,
while that conducted by the Chamber of Manufactures appears on
9 and 14 March 1895, pages 6f and 4e-6a - it has all but daily mention until its closure - see
15 April 1895, page 4e.
Photographs of an exhibition are in the Chronicle,
25 March 1905, page 27.
"A Novel [Education] Exhibition" is in the Register,
19 September 1898, page 6b.
Photographs of the Jubilee Exhibition building and exhibits, etc, are
in the Chronicle,
11 March 1899 (supplement).
An "All Nations' Fair" is in the Register,
19 April 1899, page 5i and
a Century Exhibition on
2 February 1900, page 4g,
5, 13, 14, 15 and 16 March 1900, pages 5b and 4f-7c,
24 March 1900, page 28e,
14 April 1900, page 28a,
12 May 1900 (supp.),
11 April 1900, page 6e,
21 April 1900, page 6e,
11 May 1900, page 4b.
A South Australian Exhibition is reported upon in the Register,
28 February 1905, page 5f,
18, 20 and 21 March 1905, pages 8e, 4c-5a-h and 4i-6a,
1 May 1905, page 5h.
25 March 1905, pages 35-36,
8 April 1905, page 38.
An exhibition of "Women's Work" is reported in the Register,
23 February 1907, page 8c,
4 March 1907, page 6b,
22 March 1907, page 6c,
22 May 1907, page 4h,
21 June 1907, page 4f,
19 July 1907, pages 4e-5d,
9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19 and 26 August 1907, pages 4g, 8f, 8e, 7d, 11d, 4d-6d and 6h.
Photographs are in the Chronicle,
24 and 31 August 1907, pages 27 and 27.
"SA Exhibition, 1910" is in the Register,
15 October 1908, page 4c,
"The 1910 Exhibition" on 22, 23, 24 and 25 March 1910, pages 9e, 9a, 6c and 7g,
2 and 5 May 1910, pages 4e and 5e.
"The 1910 Exhibition" is in the Advertiser,
8 and 28 March 1910, pages 10g and 8b.
Photographs are in the Observer, 9 April 1910, page 31-34.
A Chamber of Manufactures' Exhibition is reported in the Register,
24 March 1910, pages 6c-8c and
2 April 1910, page 43,
7 May 1910, page 50a.
A jubilee is reported in the Observer,
16 August 1919, page 36b.
A grocers' exhibition in London is reported in the Observer,
19 November 1910, page 44c.
A child welfare exhibition is reported in the Observer,
11 November 1916, pages 14a-26 (photos).
A Kindergarten Exhibition is reported in the Register on 10 June
1912, page 9b.
Also see South Australia - Education - Kindergartens.
A Peace Exhibition is reported in the Register,
17, 23, 26, 27 and 30 March 1920, pages 7f, 8b, 6c, 9b and 7g,
3 April 1920, page 33,
22 May 1920, page 9a.
"An Historic Exhibition - From Anzac to Armistice" is in the Register,
13 June 1923, page 10g.
"Adelaide Holds All-Australia Exhibition" is in the Register,
27 and 30 March 1925, pages 10 and 8g - the former has reminiscences of previous exhibitions.
Photographs are in the Chronicle,
4 and 11 April 1925, pages 35-36 and 37.
"The Home Beautiful - A Delightful Exhibition" is in the Register,
18 May 1926, page 9c.
"Modern Wireless - An Exhibition Opened" is in the Register,
6 April 1927, page 10d.
Also see South Australia - Communication - Wireless and Radio
"Historic Exhibition Building" is in The Mail,
19 June 1926, page 1a;
a history of it is in the Advertiser,
19 June 1933, page 8h.
Also see North Terrace.
Information on an All-Australian Exhibition is in The News,
20 March 1930, page 19,
"Monster Exhibition Opened" is in The Mail,
22 March 1930, page 3c; also see
2 August 1930, page 13.
The centenary exhibition is commented upon in The Mail,
21 March 1936, page 14.
"How Exhibitions Have Helped State Trade" is in The Mail,
21 March 1936, page 4.