Queensland throughout the decades

Annually on 6 June we celebrate Queensland Day which marks the official separation from New South Wales as an independent colony since 1859. For over 157 years Queensland Museum Network has been collecting objects and items to document the past, and today we’re taking a looking back at items in the State Collection that relate to each decade.

1860’s – Silk Address

This invitation, in the form of a Silk Address, is for the inauguration of construction for Queensland’s first railway from Ipswich to Bigge’s Camp (Grandchester) held on 25 February 1864.

The construction of the railway from Ipswich towards Toowoomba was a much-debated and key activity in the development of a transport network in Queensland. The Inauguration of Construction was marked by the “turning of the first sod”. The event was attended by the Governor, Sir George Bowen, and his wife, Lady Diamantina Bowen, together with prominent Railway officials, the Mayor and councillors of Ipswich, and a large crowd of spectators. Reported in detail in the newspapers of the day, the event was seen as an important day for the fledgling colony.

Queensland Day - Silk Address - 1860

1870’s – The Ekka

The Royal Queensland Show, affectionately nicknamed the Ekka, is a 10 day annual exhibition that commences on the second Thursday of August held at the RNA showgrounds in Brisbane. The first show was the Queensland Intercolonial Exhibition held in 1876, following the formation of the National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland in 1875. Read our previous blog post on Sample Bags here.


1880’s – Jawun

Jawun, or bicornual baskets, are woven from lawyer cane, a climbing palm found in abundance throughout the North Queensland rainforest. Generally, jawun have a short handle for carrying or hanging the basket on a hook, and another much longer handle that is positioned on the forehead, to enable the basket to be carried on the back. The handles on this basket have been damaged. This basket dates back to the 1880s, when it was collected in the Ingham area.

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1890’s – Tabletop woolwagon

Large woolwagons like this one at Cobb + Co Museum were first used in the 1890s, and could still be seen on country roads and around shearing sheds and railway yards until the 1930s. They replaced two-wheeled bullock drays and smaller four-wheeled box wagons.

It took two horses to pull and empty wagon, and an extra horse for every tonne on the back. Loads of twelve tonnes of wool bales with a fourteen horse team were common. The driver walked along beside the wagon on the ‘near’ (footpath) side. If he had a helper he was on the other ‘off’ side, hence the term ‘offsider’ for a helper. Teamsters (drivers) could be away from home for months at a time, but some drivers took their families with them, sitting up on top of the load or riding behind in a buggy.

The wagon teams would do between 20- and 30 kilometres per day, and camp overnight near creeks or waterholes. Pubs sprang up at popular ‘watering holes’, and even towns if the track was busy enough.

H20983 Woolwagon for blog

1900’s – Steam Locomotive

No.444 is a PB15 Class 4-6-0 locomotive. Built in 1908 by Walkers Ltd at Maryborough, it entered service in July 1908. Based at Roma for most of its working life, it serviced mainly south-west Queensland. PB15 No. 444 ran almost 2,000,000 km in its life.

Introduced in 1900, more than 200 PB15 class locomotives were built for Queensland Railways. They were designed for country passenger trains but were also used for goods trains and suburban passenger trains. Explore more of our collection here.


1910’s – A7V Sturmpanzerwagen – Mephisto

Mephisto is the last surviving German A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank from World War I (1914-1918). Mephisto was captured in northern France by Australian troops and shipped to Australia as a ‘war trophy’, arriving in Brisbane in June 1919. Only 20 A7V tanks like Mephisto were built. Mephisto is the only surviving example. View Mephisto here.


1920’s – Auburn Taxi

Manufactured in 1927, the vehicle was used as a taxi by Reel Cabs, one of Brisbane’s early motorised taxi companies set up after World War 1 by returned servicemen. Employment after WW1 was a significant issue for returned servicemen and taxi companies were among those assisted by the Repatriation Department to offer employment in Brisbane.

One of the companies was the Returned Soldiers Auto Co Ltd, which, as the name suggests, was established by a group of former AIF servicemen in 1918 with assistance from the Repatriation Department. This company set up Reel Cabs in 1926, and both companies continued to hire mainly returned soldiers or diggers. By 1927 there was even a Reel Cabs Sub-branch of the RSSILA (Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia, now the RSL). View more information here.


1930’s – Experimental TV Equipment – Scanning Disk

This is a component of homemade equipment used to send the first television signals in Queensland, and possibly Australia. X-ray technician Thomas Elliott spent years experimenting with the radio in Queensland, working from the old observatory on Wickham Terrace with radiologist Val McDowell, owner of experimental radio station 4CM. Over a period of months, Elliott built this television transmitter.

The first transmission was made on 10 April 1934 from the observatory to Alan Campbell’s home at Wilston Heights, where his 11cm screen received the first image, which was of actress Janet Gaynor. Read more about early TV Transmission in Queensland here.


1940’s – Fold Out Postcards

The postcard was originally purchased by the late Lloyd Noel Vickers during his time stationed in Townsville in the mid-1940s as a member of the Australian Armed Forces.  Fold out postcards allowed people to send their loved ones multiple images at a time, rather than the single image postcards of today.

This photograph and the postcard were recently donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland by Vickers’ daughter, Denise Mitchell (Vickers), in memory of her father. Read the full story of the postcard here.

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1950’s – Royal Tour of Australia

This glass was created to commemorate the 1954 visit to Australia of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It was part of a set of four, featuring the E II R insignia beneath a crown and incorporating a map of Australia and the date. The royal visit began in February of 1954 and made Queen Elizabeth II the first reigning monarch to visit Australia. Their visit took in all the capital cities (except Darwin) and around 70 regional communities. View more here.


1960’s – Moon Landing

On Monday 21 July at 12.56pm, Eastern Standard Time, Queenslanders were among the estimated 600 million people watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing television broadcast across the world. The event received extensive coverage in television, radio and print media. These editions of Brisbane’s Courier Mail, published on 21 and 22 July, feature articles about the Apollo 11 mission and crew, along with public and political views on the Moon landing. Read the full story here.


1970’s – Brisbane Floods

The Workshops Rail Museum Collection Manager recently unearthed some colour slides of Brisbane during the 1974 floods. During the floods sixteen people lost their lives and thousands of people were made homeless by the biggest flood to hit the city since 1893. The cost of the damage was thought to be close to 1 billion dollars (in 1974 dollars).

Looking towards Eagle Street Pier from the Story Bridge during the 1974 flood. Photographer: RG Henderson. QMN Collection.

1980’s – World Expo 88

World Expo ’88 is often said to have been a turning point for Brisbane, and Queensland, having attracted large numbers of tourists and increased local interest and investment in arts and cultural industries. Expo Oz was the platypus mascot and the character was commissioned in 1984 by then Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. View more here. 


1990’s – Dr Ernie Grant

Dr Ernie Grant is a Jirrbal Elder from Tully in Far North Queensland. He has worked widely across Queensland. In his early days, Ernie worked for the Railways, and for government departments controlling noxious weeds. From there, he worked in the timber industry in Papua New Guinea, and in 1991 joined the Queensland Education Department as a Cultural Research Officer based in Cairns.

Ernie’s work in the Queensland Education system has made a significant impact in the way language and culture are taught in the Queensland curriculum. He was instrumental in the development of holistic planning and teaching frameworks, for embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and knowledge in the education system.

The Ernie Grant Collection represents the cultural and social life of Ernie Grant and his family. The objects in the Museum’s Ernie Grant Collection include boomerangs, shields, a ceramic shield created by artist Danie Mellor, firesticks, a shadow box and baskets – these are representative of Ernie’s wider personal collection, and document key moments in Ernie’s life and work. View more here.

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2000’sAustralovenator was discovered

Queensland Museum palaeontologist, Dr Scott Hocknull found the first bone of this meat eater dinosaur in 2006 and scientifically named Australia’s most complete meat-eating dinosaur, Australovenator wintonensis in 2009.

Australovenator has been coined as Australia’s answer to Velociraptor for its speed, razor-sharp teeth and three large slashing claws on each hand. At approximately 5 metres long, 1.5 metres high at the hip and weighing 500 kg, Australovenator was many times bigger than Velociraptor. View the 3D model here. 

3D Model – Konstantinov, Atuchin & Hocknull (2013).K3D Model – Konstantinov, Atuchin & Hocknull (2013). Sketchfab Scene – Hocknull (2020) Image Credit – Hocknull (2016) Copyright Queensland Museum (2020)

2010’s – State of Origin 100th game

The State of Origin series attracts an enormous amount of support and attention from Queenslanders far and wide and is an iconic rugby league event. It is an important part of Queensland’s annual sporting calendar.

This supporter flag features the team mascot, a cane toad, as a player holding a football. The object is significant because of its association with the 2014 State of Origin series, which contained a significant milestone, the 100th game of the series. View more here.


Collections Online

Are you interested in exploring more of Queensland’s history? Discover over 788,800 cultural artefacts, historical objects, biological specimens and geological samples held by Queensland Museum online here.