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Part 2 - Celebrating Federation

The Federation Pavilion in Sydney’s Centennial Park, which had been designed by Walter Vernon, New South Wales Government Architect, was the focus of the inauguration ceremonies.


Board of Fire Commissioners | Government Printing Office | Railway Commissioners | Sydney Harbour Trust | Treasury

The Commonwealth of Australia came into being on Tuesday 1 January 1901. The Federation Pavilion in Sydney's Centennial Park, which had been designed by Walter Vernon, New South Wales Government Architect, was the focus of the inauguration ceremonies. At 10.30am starting at the Domain a procession comprising military bands, troops, police, firefighters, stockmen, heads of church and synagogue, representatives of the University of Sydney, foreign governments, trade unions and government officials1 set out. It followed a five mile route through the streets of Sydney which were decorated with triumphal arches (erected by various citizens’ committees), flags and bunting and was watched by large crowds.

The formal ceremony began at 12.30pm with prayers, the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Swearing-in of the Governor-General, the Earl of Hopetoun, and the federal ministers, including Edmund Barton as interim Prime Minister.

The Federation Pavilion was surrounded by an enclosure containing seats for 7,500 invited guests. There was also an enclosure for members of the press and photographers. Beyond this was the area for the military portion of the procession and, further beyond this, enclosures for 10,000 school children, 1,000 chorus and 400 choir and members of the general public.

That evening a State Banquet was held at the Sydney Town Hall. A cycling carnival was also held that night at the Sydney Cricket Ground. This was the beginning of 8 days of celebrations from 1 to 8 January 1901 which included church services, military displays, sporting carnivals, concerts, banquets, fireworks and illuminations. On 8 January a special train was provided to convey interstate and overseas guests to a commercial and municipal picnic which was held at Berry on the South Coast. Later that month Queen Victoria died, on 22 January 1901. Had Queen Victoria died prior to the Proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia her death may have affected the transition of the Australian colonies to nationhood. Much correspondence from this time in our collection is black bordered as a sign of official mourning.

The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited in May 1901 to open the first Commonwealth Parliament (in Melbourne), and toured the State, travelling from Albury to Jennings (near Glen Innes) in May and June 1901. This gave the people of New South Wales another opportunity to celebrate Federation.

Records of the Colonial Secretary and the Governor described in the 1901-1914 section of this Guide should also be consulted.

Board of Fire Commissioners

NRS 15454, Photographs of fire brigade staff, Board members and Sydney fire scenes, 24 Jun 1884-1970 [Items 28-30]
This series consists of 17 photographs of Sydney fire scenes, official and sporting photographs of firefighters of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, equipment used for fighting fires, and members of the Fire Brigades Board and Board of Fire Commissioners.
Of special note are three photographs described as officials and audience arriving for the federation celebrations in Sydney (Item Nos. 28, 29, 30).

Government Printing Office

NRS 4483, Photographs of Sydney showing Federation displays and the decorations of streets and buildings during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in May 1901 [4/8596]
Reel 2787, contact prints [City] COD 121A, aperture cards available for reproduction purposes
Includes the landing at Farm Cove, triumphal arches and street decorations.

NRS 4481, Glass negatives, 1870-1988 [4/8585-98, 4/8599B-8679]
Reels 278, 2546-47, 2643; COD 121 A & B
The photographs cover a wide variety of subjects. Of special note are those images of Federation decorations for the Commonwealth Celebrations in January 1901 and the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall in May 1901. Also includes images of the Parkes Ministry and Cranbrook.
The original plates are not available for research due to their fragility. State Records, however, has copied a number of them on to modern safety film and a preliminary list of the photographs and an index are available in the reading room.
Additional negatives have been copied by the State Library of NSW as part of its PICMAN project.
a. Same size prints taken from the glass negatives, c.1890–c.1920 (c.1900 prints to date)
b. Contact prints taken from glass negatives, c.1890–c.1920
c. Aperture card negatives, c.1890–c.1920 (c.2100 aperture cards to date)
d. Viewing positive microfilm copies of glass negatives, c.1890–c.1920.

NRS 4473, Draft and final designs for invitations to Commonwealth Celebrations, 1901 [X719, X9]
These are draft and final invitations to receptions held to celebrate the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia. Functions include the State Banquet, the swearing-in ceremony of the Governor-General, and the Press Dinner.


Contents of [X719]:

  • Invitations to Commonwealth of Australia, Inaugural Celebrations, Sydney; Swearing-in of the Earl Hopetoun as Governor-General; State Banquet, 1 January 1901, and
  • Tickets for Reserve—Swearing-in Ceremony; specially reserved seats; choristers pass for swearing-in ceremony programs of the Assault-at-Arms; Smoke Concert draft artwork.

Contents of [X9]:

A copy of the Proclamation to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia; Ode for Commonwealth Day; two letters from Julian Ashton in Melbourne written to the Government Printer, dated 21 and 26 April 1901 concerning various cards and work produced by the Government Printer. Various invitations, tickets, menus and programs are included for the following events:

  • Military picnic to the Hawkesbury River, 31 December 1900
  • Inaugural Celebrations Official program, 31 December 1900-8 January 1901
  • Pocket-size program of Reception and Entertainments Committee, 31 December 1900-8 January 1901
  • Swearing-in Ceremony, 1 January 1901
  • State Banquet, 1 January 1901
  • Cycling Carnival, 1 January 1901
  • Conversazione at Sydney Town Hall, 2 January 1901
  • Swimming Carnival, 2 January 1901
  • Public Schools Commonwealth Display, 3 January 1901
  • Theatre Command Night, 3 January 1901
  • Commonwealth Aquatic Demonstration, 4 January 1901
  • Harbour Fireworks Display, 4 January 1901
  • Picnic for municipal and commercial guests at the Hawkesbury River, 4 January 1901
  • Athletic and Cycling Championship Sports Carnival, 4 January 1901
  • Naval and Military Banquet, 5 January 1901
  • United Friendly Societies’ and Trades Unions’ Demonstration and Sports, 5 January 1901
  • Theatre party given to visiting parliamentarians, 5 January 1901
  • Harbour excursion, 7 January 1901
  • State Municipal and Civil Luncheon at Sydney Town Hall, 7 January 1901
  • Parliamentary Picnic to Kurnell, 7 January 1901
  • Re-enactment of the Landing of Captain Cook, 7 January 1901
  • Assault-at-Arms, 7 January 1901, and
  • Press Dinner, 8 January 1901.

NRS 4413, Letters sent to departments and government officials, 1882-1922

Railway Commissioners

NUA 69, Photographic Reference Print Collection
This Collection consists of reference prints drawn from a variety of sources, primarily sources within State Rail and predecessor organizations.
The reference prints are mounted on a large card with a number and a caption. There is a subject index available in the reading room.
The collection also includes negatives of some of the photographs. The negatives have the same number as the photograph and should be used for making prints.
Of special note are the Federation Train decorations (No. 423), the Royal Train used by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (No. 440/4) and the Royal Visit to Honeysuckle Point, Newcastle on 25 May 1901 (Nos. 1063 and 1579).

NRS 15499, Royal tours memorabilia, 1 Jan 1901-31 Dec 1980 (1-3)
This series appears to be a collection of record items relating to railway arrangements for Royal Tours of New South Wales. It is likely that some of these items were removed from existing series, for example, correspondence series, to document all aspects of a Royal Tour.
There are specific transport documents including timetables plus train and ticket arrangements along with schematic diagrams of Royal train carriages. Tour programmes, luncheon and dinner menus, souvenirs, staff instructions, press clippings, details of street decorations, and correspondence have also been included in the series.
Of special note are
1. Timetable for the tour of HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, 20-30 May 1901;
2. Visit of HRH The Duke of Cornwall and York to Sydney, train and ticket arrangements, 20-30 May 1901;
3. Regulations, arrangements and orders for the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, 23 May-5 June 1901.

Sydney Harbour Trust

NRS 13973, Special bundle
Royal Visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall & York, May 1901 [7/7530]
Correspondence with officials concerning the arrangements for the visit and the arrival and departure of the Royal Yacht, Ophir.


NRS 14194, Special bundles
Fireworks display for Royal Visit, 1900-01 [10/4154 part]
Includes a brochure on fireworks displays shown elsewhere together with the proposed display.

NRS 14110, Registers of letters, received from public officers, 1886-1900 [9/1437-68]
These registers list in chronological order letters received from public officers. There are indexes in the front of the volumes.
Of special note are the entries under Commonwealth Celebrations Committee in the Index to the register for October-December 1900, [9/1468] pp.62, 63. This committee met for 3 months at the end of 1900 to coordinate the New South Wales Celebrations of the Inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia.


Department of Education | Premiers Department

Federation was again celebrated on its 50th Anniversary in 1951. The Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations of Federation in 1951 were initiated by the Commonwealth Government in cooperation with the various State governments.

In New South Wales there were State-wide celebrations with sporting, cultural and social events and the participation of schools was actively encouraged. Schools all over the State from Broken Hill to Crookwell marked the occasion. In Sydney celebrations included a ceremony in Centennial Park on 1 January 1951 and on 29 January a Cavalcade of Jubilee through the streets of Sydney with a Venetian Carnival and fireworks display at night.

Department of Education

NRS 15051, Photographic collection, c.1850-1991
The History Unit of the Department of School Education collected these photographs when preparing school histories, research for public relations, or giving presentations. The collection consists mainly of photographic prints. Most show school buildings, pupils, teachers, or educational activities, with most including an identifying caption and date.
They are arranged alphabetically by name of school or topic. Of special note are photographs showing the Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations, 1951 at Broken Hill and Crookwell.

Premiers Department

NRS 12061, Special bundles
Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations - financial matters, 1950-52 [19/8480 part]
File Nos. 51/2072 and 51/1186
Papers relating to the allocation of money to committees and societies for the purpose of celebrating the Jubilee, purchase of equipment and payments for services rendered in conjunction with the celebrations.

NRS 12137, Photographs of the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Federation, 1951 [4/4850-4831]
88 photographs showing displays, floats, military bands, re-enactments and a garden party at Government House.

NRS 12170, State Arts Committee for the Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations: Minute book, 22 Aug 1950-16 May 1951 [5/1315]
The State Arts Committee coordinated the Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations for New South Wales. The minutes of meetings record those present, discussion of proposed celebratory events and requests for grants to assist with those events.

NRS 12171, State Arts Committee for the Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations: Correspondence, 1950-52 [3/5639-5640]
Correspondence between the State Executive Officer of the Committee, the Convenor of the Federal Arts Sub-Committee, and various individuals and organisations. The correspondence concerns administrative arrangements, organisation of competitions displays, and requests for finance and advice. Budget summaries and programs of the celebrations in each State are included. There is also a list of approved projects.
The official programs for New South Wales and the Commonwealth program including all States are in [3/5640].


[1] Irving, ed., op.cit., p.383.

State Records Authority of New South Wales
Sydney,  Australia
May, 2001
© Copyright reserved by the Government of NSW, 2001. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method without the prior written consent of the State Records Authority of NSW.
ISBN 0-7310-1759-5