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Merino Wool and Sydney Harbour Bridge

Merino Wool and Sydney Harbour Bridge

This map of Australia and New Zealand charts the commercial developments of Australia circa 1930.

At the time of this map, following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, The Great Depression was beginning to have a wide ranging affect across the country. Unemployment in Australia was already at 10%, doubling to 21% following the crash and rising to a huge 32% at it’s peak in the mid 1930’s. Still recovering from the impact felt during the first World War ,where 60,000 Australian lives were lost with many more unable to work as a result of their injuries, recovery from the Great Depression was slow and long lasting.

The mining industry, as listed in the key, was still a significant contributor to the Australian economy. The Gold Rush of the mid to late 19th century was over but the legacy remained. During this period Australia’s total population more than tripled in just twenty years - from 430,000 in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871. The Gold Rush bought the arrival of free emigrants, with new skills and professions, and this huge influx of people demanded homes and more progressive cities. The rapid construction of the early 1900’s ground to a halt during The Great Depression and recovery did not begin until the end of the decade.

As depicted in this map, over two thirds of Australian land is given over to agriculture. The farming of Sheep (Wool), Cattle and Wheat being most suitable to the Australian climate and pastoral land. European farms were first developed in 1788, with the arrival of First Fleet. The livestock listed at that time consisted of seven horses, seven cattle, twenty-nine sheep, seventy-four pigs, five rabbits, eighteen turkeys, twenty-nine geese, thirty-five ducks and two hundred and nine fowls. Many, if not all, of these animals were slaughtered for meat with European farmers, at the beginning, heavily reliant on Aboriginal trade of kangaroos, fish and oysters. As European farmers began to exploit the free labour of convicts, Sheep farming was firmly established over the following century as further livestock was imported, the first Merino Sheep purportedly from the Cape of Good Hope in 1796. Benefiting from various agricultural practices - such a cheap labour, land grants and overseas capital, the Australian Merino wool industry boomed, developing in to one of the largest in the world. Merino wool, famed for it’s softness, made scarce during World War 1, became increasingly desirable again. By the 1930’s, Merino wool made up 30% of Australia’s total export.

The construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge began in 1924, took eight years, and 1400 men, until its completion in 1932. During it’s construction 16 workers died and as many as 800 families were relocated and their homes demolished. Despite this, the bridge was a great triumph, providing huge numbers with employment during a time that unemployment was at a catastrophic high. Six million hand driven rivets, the last being driven through the deck on the 21st January 1932, and 53,000 tons of steel were used. The arch is 1149 metres long, composed of two 28 panel arch trusses, 134 metres above sea level. The four pylons, one pair at each end of the bridge, stand at 89 metres above sea level and are faced with 173,000 blocks of granite. Around 250 Australian, Scottish and Italian stone masons, and their families, relocated to a temporary settlement at Moruya, New South Wales whilst the bridge was being completed. Four quarries Louttits, Government, Zieglers and McCredies existed in Moruya at this time but it is claimed that Government Quarry produced the 18,000 cubic metres of granite needed.

 

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