Tag Archives: 1850s lifestyles

In praise of washing machines

full washing equip

An 1850s ‘washing machine’.

Many historians believe that the invention of electricity was the most important nineteenth century invention because it changed women’s lives dramatically. In the 1850s, there was no electricity and therefore no electric washing machine. What did this mean for those charged with washing the family’s clothes?

Nineteenth century gender roles, meaning the different kinds of jobs men and women were expected to do, were very strict – men worked outside the home in the ‘public’ world, while women worked inside the home in the ‘private’ world. Activities like working in mines or participating in politics were supposed to be performed by men, while taking care of the children and doing the family cooking and cleaning were activities performed by women. Nowadays, it is more common that all jobs, whether it’s mowing the lawn, making money from working in a factory or supermarket, or ironing clothes, are done by both men and women.

soap making

A tallow melting pan and a soap mold from the 1850s.

Washing clothes was a woman’s job in the 1850s. It required some very simple technologies: a large tub (bucket), a washboard, and some soap. Here, on the early diggings, most soap was homemade using tallow (which, in Ballarat, was sheep fat) mixed with some ash. Water had to be collected from creeks and lakes by bucket and was then heated over a fire. When Ballarat became a more established city, wealthier households built laundries in their gardens and installed ‘coppers’ (big copper buckets built over fireplaces) and garden water pumps (utilising underground ‘bore’ water) to make this work easier, but women still spent at least one entire day every week washing the family’s clothes.

copper

A laundry copper.

Have you ever heard the expression ‘She mangled her finger’? This comes from a clothes washing technology called a mangle. At first, these rollers, through which clothes would be squeezed near-dry, were hand-cranked, but when electric mangles were introduced many people (including children!) got their hands and hair caught in these machines with disastrous results. Thankfully, some of the most dangerous designs were outlawed. However, this wasn’t the only hazard to washer women. Irons made of heavy cast-iron were heated on the fireplace and then used to smoothe fabric. Modern irons are very safe in comparison! Women could easily burn themselves with 1850s irons, and getting serious burns (before antibiotics were invented) sometimes resulted in gangrene, blood poisoning and even death!

mangle

A 19th century mangle, also known as a wringer.

Until the electric washing machine became a common household appliance in the 1950s, women dedicated large amounts of their lives to washing, rinsing, wringing-out, drying, and ironing clothes. Some academics, like Swedish statistician Hans Rosling, believe that the electric washing machine was ‘the greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution’ because it suddenly afforded women time for things like education, work outside the home, and politics, once the washing machine was introduced. Can you think of any other inventions which have had a similarly big impact on people’s lives?

Links and references

A brief history of the washing machine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washing_machine

A history of laundry: http://www.oldandinteresting.com/history-of-washing-clothes.aspx

A brief history of the mangle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangle_(machine)

A history of irons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothes_iron

A history of antibiotics and infection: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/treatments/Pages/The-History-of-Antibiotics.aspx

A teacher resource on ‘Laundry in the 19th Century’: http://www.ebparks.org/Assets/files/Laundry_19th_Century_06-01-09.pdf

 

Oh, Sovereign Hill is a museum!

lollies

Hard-boiled lollies YUM!!!

Many of our guests – young and old – get confused about Sovereign Hill. Some people think that it is a theme park because panning for gold, eating lollies and riding in horse-drawn carriages is so much fun. However, Sovereign Hill is actually a museum, meaning it is a place where Ballarat’s history is studied, artefacts are collected, and Australia’s gold story is shared with visitors. Most museums tell their stories through displays in glass cases, but we teach visitors about the past through living exhibits.

Why does Sovereign Hill do this?

The first part of the answer challenges us to think about the purpose of studying history – why learn about the past? History helps us understand who we are; it explains why we speak the language we do, why we dress a certain way etc., and it also helps us understand the wider world and our place in it. It teaches us to avoid repeating the mistakes that others have already made, and to appreciate all of the good things about 21st century life. History also helps us see that there are other ways of living, of organising our society, of thinking about ourselves, and that things can and do change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Also let’s not forget all of the weird and wonderful characters, events, technologies and fashions from the past that make people of all ages giggle and gasp!

Why is Sovereign Hill a museum with living exhibits such as costumed people, fragrant horse poo and a creek complete with real gold? Because we think this is the most engaging and exciting way to learn about history. When you step through our gate you are sent 160 years back into the past, to a world of dirty miners, daggy troopers (policemen), and impractically-dressed but pretty ladies in big crinolines. Instead of looking at a display in a glass case, you get to talk to our costumed staff to learn about the past – do stop to have a chat, they are all very friendly!

gold panning

“Eureka!! I found some gold!”

Play is another important part of our living museum – try your hand at gold panning, go bowling, or make a candle. You can also taste history here – try some goodies from the bakery, or a lolly, or five. Lastly, you can smell the past – the lovely perfumes of the Apothecary (known in modern times as a pharmacy/ chemist) on Main Street were actually believed to prevent sickness! You will have so much fun in our museum that you won’t even realise you are learning. We believe that is the best way to make learning about the gold rush era stick in your head.

butcher's shambles

“Butcher’s Shambles” by S. T. Gill. You can find our Butcher’s Shambles at the bottom of the Red Hill Gully Diggings.

Of course not all of our exhibits are completely accurate for very practical reasons. If our museum really smelt like Ballarat did during the gold rush, you wouldn’t come. Nobody would! In the very early days after gold was discovered here in 1851, there were no sewerage pipes… You couldn’t flush away “your business”; you just tipped your chamber pot out wherever you could. By law you had to dig a hole to pour your poop down, but sometimes such muck just ended up on the street, along with the piles of horse and sheep manure. Talking of sheep, historians estimate that about 1000 sheep per day were walked into Ballarat to be butchered and eaten during the busiest part of the gold rush. This led to rotting scraps lying in huge piles next to the butchers’ shambles (shop), and this meant flies! I hope you agree that we have made the right decision in cleaning history up a little.

The most important thing we want you to do during a visit to Sovereign Hill is empathise with the people who were here 160 years ago. When you empathise with someone you try to put yourself in their shoes, and see the world through their eyes. When you walk around our Chinese Camp, try to imagine you were a Chinese gold miner living here in 1855.  What was life like for you? As you walk around the tents, imagine you were a woman with 4 children living on the diggings while your miner husband hasn’t found any gold. How would your family survive?

trooper

“No Gold License eh?!”

One of our favourite education sessions that school students enjoy is called “Gold Fever”. Maybe your class has visited us to play it, and you remember what it felt like to be a miner getting picked on by the nasty troopers. By competing to be the richest, and therefore, most successful miners, teams have to work together, be a little sneaky about Gold Licenses, and keep their eyes on the dodgy bankers. These are all problems Ballarat’s miners had to deal with on a daily basis. This game is all about teaching students to empathise with others and to understand how different life was in the past.

So, museums exist to teach people about history, while also teaching skills like empathy, critical thinking and chronology (putting historical events in order and understanding how one event often causes the next). Do you think Sovereign Hill does a good job at teaching visitors about history?

Links and References:

What is a museum? – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum

Why go to a museum? – http://colleendilen.com/2009/07/31/10-reasons-to-visit-a-museum/

Why study history? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLE-5ElGlPM 

Studying History is important – http://www.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/resources/articles/why_history_matters.html

A great YouTube Chanel dedicated to teaching History – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX6b17PVsYBQ0ip5gyeme-Q

Sesame Street explain empathy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_1Rt1R4xbM

For teachers; empathy theory – https://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_rifkin_on_the_empathic_civilization

Should museums teach facts or skills?: http://museumquestions.com/2015/01/26/schools-and-museums-can-museums-teach-content-to-school-groups/

The National Centre for History Education (Australian Government) on empathy –  http://www.hyperhistory.org/index.php?option=displaypage&Itemid=794&op=page

A Deaf Digger

Having recently learnt about a very interesting deaf man who spent some time on the Victorian goldfields during the 1850s, we thought we would share his story with you.

Frederick John Rose.

Frederick John Rose.

Frederick John Rose was a deaf man from England. He was born in 1831 and became profoundly deaf due to Scarlet Fever. He was educated at a Deaf School in Old Kent Road, London.

Rose came to Australia with his younger brother in 1852 when he was 21 years old. He began work as a cabinet maker in South Melbourne but was soon keen to try his luck prospecting for gold. He walked to the goldfields near Bendigo in 1853. Unfortunately he had no luck finding gold so he worked as a carpenter/builder.

While working in Bendigo, Rose saw a series of letters in the newspaper The Argus. One letter was from an unknown author who claimed there were as many as 50 deaf children living in Victoria who were without any form of schooling. Another letter was from a widow, Mrs Lewis, with a deaf daughter. Mrs Lewis wrote appealing for anyone who could educate her daughter Lucy. Rose had not realised there were so many deaf children in Victoria and so he decided to establish a school for the deaf in Melbourne. He wrote about this intention as a letter to The Argus and received answers from parents with deaf children who were interested in supporting the development of a school.

In 1860 the school, which has now become The Victorian College for the Deaf, was established and Lucy Lewis was the first pupil. By 1861 the school had eight students. Rose was now married and he and his wife had to keep renting new, bigger premises due to the increase in student numbers. Further enrolments led to Rose and his associates lobbying with the local church for a purpose-built school and in 1866 they moved into the new building and became a school and support service for Deaf children. The school and support service continued and still operate today as Deaf Children Australia, a not-for-profit agency supporting deaf and hard of hearing children and their families, and The Victorian College for the Deaf.  The school itself is no longer solely located in the original building (although some classes still occur within its facilities) however the original building still stands and is now listed with Heritage Victoria.

Frederick J. Rose continued as Superintendent and Headmaster of the school until 1891 when he was forced to leave when the school’s board of management decided to focus more on education taught through speaking and listening rather than signing. This was a result of the resolutions passed at the 2nd International Congress on Education of the Deaf. [See Milan Congress 1880 here and the rejections of the 1880 resolutions in 2010 here.]

Throughout his life, Rose raised lots of money for various organisations supporting deaf people and was a highly respected member of the community. He died in 1920 at the age of 89 and is buried in the St Kilda Cemetery in Melbourne. See a signed version of his story by Stan Batson, a highly respected deaf man, here.

Learning about the story of Frederick J. Rose has highlighted some of the historical discrimination deaf people have faced, and in some cases still face in Australia, in terms of access, education and also immigration. Jan Branson and Don Miller have written extensively on this topic. In 1998 they wrote about ship captains getting fined for bringing “infirm” people to Australia or New Zealand. Fortunately for F. J. Rose, and for all of Victoria’s deaf people past and present, he arrived in Australia before these immigration laws were created!

The sign language used by deaf people in Victorian times evolved as all languages do over time, and has today become what is called Australian Sign Language, or Auslan. This language is specific to Australian deaf people and is not ‘universal’; something many people mistakenly believe. Each country has its own sign language and culture that is particular to the deaf people living in those countries. This means that people in England use British Sign Language (BSL), people in America use American Sign Language (ASL) and people in France use French Sign Language (LSF). Auslan has links to both British and Irish sign languages because when deaf people migrated here or were transported here as convicts they brought their languages with them.

Auslan was recognised by the Australian government as a “community language other than English” and the preferred language of the Deaf community in policy statements in 1987 and 1991. However, this recognition is yet to filter through to many institutions, government departments and professionals who work with Deaf people. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auslan)

Deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind people may have differing needs or individual preferences to ensure access to clear communication. This may involve working with Auslan/English interpreters, Tactile Signing interpreters, seating arrangements, lighting, written information or gaining information through non-verbal signals such as facial expressions, lip patterns and body language.

In the days before technological advances such as mobile phones, the internet, television or even electric lighting, many deaf people met by gas light in the streets of Melbourne. These lights allowed deaf people to chat long after the sun had gone down.

This sign indicates that an event or video etc. has an Auslan interpreter.

This sign indicates that an event or video etc. has an Auslan interpreter.

Australian Deaf Culture is specific to the deaf community here in Australia. It contains a wealth of history, humour, customs, etiquette, and of course the language of Auslan is integral to all people who are members of the deaf community. Read more about Deaf culture here.

In many ways it can be useful to consider Auslan and the deaf community as a minority language community rather than a disability group. The deaf community in Australia have a different language, culture, history and customs to the mainstream community in Australia. In this way they are similar to people who have migrated to Australia from other countries, except that deaf people have not migrated. For this reason, many people feel there are strong similarities between deaf communities and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities who also have different languages and cultural practices compared with broader society. If we think about the deaf community like that it becomes easier to understand the challenges they face as a minority language seeking recognition, access and fair treatment in our society.

Did you know that there are also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who use a sign language for cultural reasons and at certain times? Some of these communities have deaf people as well and use different signs to Auslan to communicate. Read more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and signing here.

Links and References:

Timeline of F. J. Rose’s life: http://www.deafchildrenaustralia.org.au/FJ_Rose_Chronology

Short biography of F. J. Rose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_J_Rose

Interesting article on the history of Australian government discrimination against deaf immigrants: http://deafhistoryaustralia.com/tag/frederick-j-rose/

The Victorian College for the Deaf: http://www.vcd.vic.edu.au/6354650/victorian-college-history.htm  

The history of Auslan: http://www.auslan.org.au/about/history/

An explanation of deaf culture, do’s and don’t’s for interacting with deaf people, and a history of Auslan: http://www.aussiedeafkids.org.au/deaf-culture.html

On deaf culture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf_culture

Utmost for the Highest: The History of the Victorian School for Deaf Children, by J. H. Burchett, Melbourne, 1964.

No Longer By Gaslight, by John W Flynn. Adult Deaf Society, East Melbourne. 1984.

How not to say “I beg your pardon?”: http://bit.ly/17g0PfE 

Deaf History – Milan 1880: http://deafness.about.com/cs/featurearticles/a/milan1880.htm

A New Era: Deaf Participation and Collaboration, Vancover 2010: http://nad.org/sites/default/files/2010/July/ICEDNewEraVancouver2010.pdf

Frederic John Rose. Founder of the Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institutionhttp://bit.ly/1CGKgST 

Deaf History: Frederick John Rose: http://www.auslanstorybooks.com/fj-rose.html      

It’s beach time!

As this blog already contains several posts about the history of Christmas, this festive season we have decided to explore the history of beach holidays!

1

An early bathing machine.

Bathing in the ocean became popular in Europe in the 1700s, before Australia was colonised by Britain. Both immersing yourself in the water and drinking sea water were considered to cure all kinds of illnesses. As a result, many of Europe’s rich and powerful would spend a “season” at the seaside, bathing most days using a bathing machine. Believe it or not, winter was considered the best time to do this.

2

Ladies “Bathing Dress”- 1858, from the magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

A bathing machine was a hut on wheels in which people changed into their swim suits. This carriage-type contraption was then pushed into the water (using man power, horse power or sometimes even steam power) so the bather could step out and immediately lower themselves into the water. Some bathing machines had tents that would extend out and enable bathers to enter the water in complete privacy, while some came with “dippers” or “bathers”. These were attendants of the same sex as the bather who would dunk you underwater the correct number of times to cure whatever illness you had been diagnosed with.

Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert believed that sea bathing was beneficial to one’s health, and in 1846 he had a bathing machine installed on the beach near their summer palace on the Isle of Wight. Victoria and her daughters regularly used the bathing box to enjoy the water. The queen’s bathing box, used to preserve her modesty, is now fully restored and on public view.

3

Queen Victoria’s bathing machine has a veranda at the front where curtains concealed her from view whilst she bathed. Inside is a changing room and a plumbed-in toilet. The whole contraption was run into the sea from the beach along a long ramp, and pulled back using a wire rope and winch!

By the 1850s, when gold was discovered here in Ballarat, dippers had gone out of fashion. However, people continued to visit the seaside especially after train travel made reaching the beach cheap and convenient.  Some historians think that the main motivation now was pleasure and holiday making although many people still believed a visit to the seaside was good for your health. By this time people were going to the beach during summer rather than winter.

Bathing soon became popular here in Australia although in some parts of the country it was banned during daylight hours up until 1902 because a wet woman in a swim suit was considered an indecent sight. Furthermore, some men were said to enjoy swimming naked, so you definitely couldn’t do that in public.

4

St Kilda Esplanade, main beach (1864).

The St Kilda Sea Baths were opened in 1860 to take advantage of the popular seaside excursion trend. These enclosed sea baths were thought to keep bathers safe from Australia’s scariest sea creatures. However, even before the baths were built, St Kilda was a popular swimming spot. In the 1840s it already had bathing boxes (bathing machines with their wheels taken off), and by 1854 Captain Kenney had deliberately sunk a ship just off the beach and put out ropes to it for people to swim along. Once the St Kilda train station was opened in 1857 more sea baths opened and regular swimming competitions were held. As businesses, the baths were not the financial success the owners hoped as the majority of visitors to St Kilda soon became confident to swim in open water.

Since these humble beginnings, going to the beach has now become a normal part of Australian life. Most Australians live on or near the coast, and some of our beaches like Bells in Torquay, Bondi in Sydney and the Gold Coast near Brisbane are considered to be among the best in the world. Interestingly, having tanned skin was avoided by European women during the nineteenth century, as it showed you were poor and had to work outdoors like a peasant.

Like swimming, the history of swimwear is also fascinating, read all about it here. Enjoy the summer sun and happy holidays!

Links and References

The history of sea bathing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_bathing

19th century bathing history: http://consideringausten.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/so-you-want-to-go-swimming-in-regency-england/

18th and 19th century bathing history: http://www.messynessychic.com/2014/04/15/victorian-prudes-beachside-bathing-machines/

History of St Kilda Baths, Melbourne: http://www.stkildaseabaths.com.au/history

History of sun tanning: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning/tale-of-tanning

Alcohol on the Goldfields

Where and what did diggers drink?

This blog was inspired by a speech given by our CEO, Dr Jeremy Johnson in April 2010 at  the University of Ballarat Beer Awards. The speech was based on research done by Sovereign Hill’s Senior Historian, Dr Jan Croggon. The speech was recorded and an audio file is available at the end of this blog.

The problem of alcohol and young men

Diggers of low degree, S. T. Gill. Gold Museum Collection

“Diggers of low degree”, S. T. Gill. Gold Museum Collection

The colonial government of Victoria was incredibly worried about alcohol on the goldfields. The population of Victoria before 1860 was mainly young men, and the authorities were concerned that over indulgence in alcohol could lead to a breakdown in law and order in the colony. For that reason an act was passed to prohibit alcohol from being sold on the goldfields. This act allowed for harsh penalties if you were caught manufacturing or selling liquor.  A first offence carried a £50 fine, whereas threatening with a pistol might only incur a fine of £5. The Act was policed by plain clothes men, who were given half of the £50 fine for a first offence, and then, because a second offence brought months of hard labour, and no profit for the police, they resorted to blackmail, taking £5 whenever they felt like it.

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Weird and wonderful goldfields history. Part one.

Animals

TigerDuring the Christmas school holiday period this year Sovereign Hill has focussed on some of the strange but true stories of the Ballarat gold rush period. These have included stories about a deep sea diver, zebra, tiger and diggers dressed as women.  As entertaining as these weird and wonderful stories have been, we must remember that as a museum it is our responsibility to be as accurate in our portrayal of goldfields’ history as possible.

ZebraFor that reason all of these activities had to have some basis in fact, and this makes the stories even better. In this Blog we will explore two of these activities and the amazing true stories that they are based on.

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Confectionery

A short history of sweets

Our current school holiday program, the “Raspberry Drop Rebellion” inspired us to look at our confectioners and the history of sweet making. We already have a blog on raspberry drops and the history of our confectioners, so with the assistance of our Senior Historian Dr Jan Croggon, this blog is focused on the history of sweet making up to the goldfields era.

Etching of confectionery booth, including “a little boy with his conical bag of sugar plums” by Christoph Weigel, c. 1700
Etching of confectionery booth, including “a little boy with his conical bag of sugar plums” by Christoph Weigel, c. 1700

From earliest times, ‘Sweets’ were precious rarities, and status symbols, dating back to 600 years ago, when sugar was a rare and expensive commodity.  Sugar was closely associated with medicine, celebrations, and food preservation, and all of these came together in the early 1800s to be identified as ‘confectionery’, and sold in sweet shops.

Sugar sweetened early medicines. Apart from sweetening sugar can also preserve fruits and vegetables. Sugar was supposed to be good for colds, and comfits (nuts or seeds covered in sugar) were considered to aid digestion in the later Middle Ages (around 1400 CE). In later centuries sugar was used to preserve fruit and flowers for the winter months and enhanced the luxury image of confectionery.

From the Elizabethan age (around 1550 CE), through to the 18th century, sugar was a rich indulgence – and then falling sugar prices and technical innovation made ‘sweets’ available to more people, and ‘sugar became a necessity, and sweets a commonplace part of childhood.’ (Mason 1999).

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