Image 'The great Mt Dromedary strike', c1898

TLF ID R3318

This is a black-and-white photograph, taken by William Henry Corkhill (1846-1936), of 25 striking miners clustered on the veranda of a Mount Dromedary Gold Mining Company building. They probably constitute a picket line, or a delegation representing other miners. The men all wear hats, heavy trousers, boots and light-coloured shirts with rolled sleeves; most also wear waistcoats. Written indistinctly in white at the foot of the picture are the words 'The great Mt Dromedary Strike'.



Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset portrays a group of men who were probably employed by the Mt Dromedary Gold Mining Company, which operated from 1878 to 1910 on Mount Dromedary, the highest point on the south coast of New South Wales, 365 kilometres south of Sydney - the company used high-powered sluices to expose the ore, flying foxes and aerial trams to carry it down the mountainside, and steam-powered batteries to crush the ore and free the gold.
  • It shows men who in earlier times may have been working their own small-scale claims - alluvial mining probably commenced on Mount Dromedary around 1860 but, after three deep reefs of gold were discovered in 1877, the nature of gold extraction changed; by the mid-1890s, approximately 300 people lived on the mountain and most of them worked for wages for larger concerns such as R H Easdon or the Mount Dromedary Gold Mining Company.
  • It shows an industrial dispute at the Mount Dromedary Gold Mining Company towards the end of the 1890s, a decade which had seen major industrial disputes and strikes across NSW and Victoria involving miners, watersiders, shearers and draymen demanding better pay and conditions - the strikes were largely unsuccessful as there was a major economic depression at the time and there were many unemployed to take the places of striking workers.
  • It depicts workers who are most probably participating in either a picket line to dissuade others from dealing with the company, or a delegation representing other miners in discussions with company management - unions grew stronger in the latter half of the 19th century, with the Amalgamated Miners' Association of Australasia having more than 25,000 members by 1890.
  • It depicts workers who, after the failure of their strike, would have pinned their hopes for improvement on political rather than industrial action - the worker-based political party, the Australian Labor Party (Australia's oldest political party, founded in 1891) grew substantially throughout the 1890s and achieved government in NSW in 1910.
  • It shows the style of clothing worn by miners at the end of the 19th century - hats, heavy trousers secured by belts rather than braces, boots, waistcoats and light-coloured shirts; very few men in the picture are clean-shaven.
  • It shows an example of the photography of William Henry Corkhill, who took thousands of photographs in the Tilba Tilba area between 1890 and 1910 - the 849 glass negatives that remain provide an insight into everyday life in the area; these negatives comprise the Tilba Tilba Collection held by the National Library of Australia.

Other details

Contributors
  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: National Library of Australia
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
  • Author
  • Name: William Henry Corkhill
  • Remarks: photographer
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 31 Aug 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements