Image The 1864 eight-hour day demonstration

TLF ID R2799

This is a black-and-white print that shows the eight-hour day demonstration entering the Zoological Gardens (now the Royal Melbourne Zoo) in Melbourne, Victoria. The large procession of people, some carrying banners and flags, can be seen in the background, while in the foreground, several spectators including a few policemen observe the march, and a group on horseback is shown conversing. Several marquees have been erected in the Gardens. The print is from a wood engraving made by artist Samuel Calvert in 1864.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts a public demonstration in support of the eight-hour day - the normal working day in the 1860s was much longer than eight hours but after the eight-hour day was granted to a group of stonemasons in Sydney in 1855, Melbourne building workers launched a campaign under the slogan 'eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest' in 1856; over the following decades, workers throughout Australia progressively won an eight-hour day; the 40-hour, five-day week was approved by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court only in 1947.
  • It indicates that eight-hour day processions were held in Melbourne in this period - held annually on 21 April from 1857, the event was marked by a public holiday in 1879; it became Melbourne's largest annual procession, reaching its peak just before the First World War, when tens of thousands of spectators watched 13,000 'eight-hour men' march; the processions dwindled during the 1930s Depression and the Second World War and the final march was held in 1951.
  • It indicates that banners were used in the eight-hour day procession in this period - the major spectacle of the processions were the union banners, which were usually mounted on horse-drawn carriages; banners were about 3 by 4 metres in size, and were made from canvas or silk; the banners depicted a trade or craft, including its history and the tools and skills it required.
  • It suggests that trade unions and workers were active in Australia in this period - trade unions operated in Australia from the second half of the 19th century; the eight-hour day movement was one of the foundations of labour organisation and led to the creation of many unions and union federations.
  • It provides an example of the type of clothing worn by men and women in this period - men wore suits with a waistcoat, a tie or cravat and 'peg-leg' trousers; women's dress usually consisted of a separate bodice and a long, often trailing skirt which flowed out from a cinched waist; the skirt was worn over a crinoline frame giving it a round, wide shape.
  • It suggests that the wearing of hats in public was the convention in this period - it was considered immodest for men and women to appear bareheaded in public.
  • It provides an example of the work of the artist Samuel Calvert - one of Australia's best known wood engravers, Calvert (1828-1913) emigrated from London in 1848 and settled in Melbourne four years later; from 1855 to 1890 Calvert produced hundreds of engraved illustrations for numerous publications, including the 'Illustrated Melbourne Post', 'Melbourne Punch' and the 'Illustrated Journal of Australasia'.
  • It is an example of the type of illustration that appeared in newspapers and magazines in this period - engravings and line drawings were used to illustrate newspapers and magazines until the early 1900s when they were superseded by photographs.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Samuel Calvert
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Samuel Calvert
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements