Today in History - September
On this day in 1922 the poet and writer Henry Lawson died in Sydney. Lawson became the first person in NSW to be granted a State funeral as a 'distinguished citizen' rather than a politician. Although much of his writing was acclaimed, Lawson suffered from a lack of funds, depression and alcoholism. He spent time in Darlinghurst Gaol between 1905 and 1909 for drunkeness and non-payment of alimony.
- See Digital Gallery: 50 Years at State Records NSW for the Henry Lawson entry
- Search the Index to Gaol Photographs for Henry Lawson
On this day in 1794 a 17-year old convict, Mary Haydock, married Thomas Reibey, a junior officer on the store ship "Britannia". Thomas died in 1811 and Mary Reibey went on to manage and enlarge their trading and mercantile business. Mary Reibey died in 1855 and was later the face on the $20 Australian banknote.
On this day in 1792 the first possible burial, that of convict Michael Dunn, may have occured in the Sydney Burial Ground. The Sydney Burial Ground, also known as the Old Sydney Burial Ground, the George St Burial Ground, the Cathedral Close Cemetery or the Town Hall Cemetery, was set out by Governor Phillip and Rev. Johnson in September 1793 and was bounded by George, Druitt, Bathurst and Kent Streets. It is estimated that approximately 2300 people were buried at this site which was used until around 1820 when a new burial ground was opened on the outskirts of Sydney, at the Brickfields (later Central Railway Station). The remains of the Old Burial Ground were removed in 1869 to Haslem's Creek (Rookwood Cemetery) as the site was cleared for the building of Sydney Town Hall.
On this day in 1823 Susan Courtney was tried in England for returning from transportation. She had escaped from Van Diemen's Land and returned to England, only to be recognised and arrested. Susan was re-transported to NSW in 1825 with a life sentence.
On this day in 1812 Governor Macquarie ordered the branding of all cattle in the Government herds. There were about 3700 horned cattle along with about 1170 sheep and over 70 horses in the Government herds at the time and they were vital to the burgeoning agricultural development of the State. In April 1813 Macquarie dismissed the Superintendent of Government Stock, John Jamieson, along with all the overseers and stockment of the Government herds in an attempt to stop the ongoing theft of cattle. As part of the State archives we hold a number of large stock brand directories dating back to 1873.
- See our catalogue for series NRS 120: Large Stock Brand Directories of New South Wales
- See entry in Colonial Secretary's Papers under John Jamieson
- See entry in Colonial Secretary's Papers under Cattle
On this day in 1955 the NSW Government launched a competition for an international design for an Opera House at Bennelong Point in Sydney. The competition was announced by Premier Joe Cahill and received 233 entries from architects in 32 countries around the world. Jørn Utzon was announced as the winner in 1957 and construction commenced in 1959.
- See our Digital Gallery on the the Sydney Opera House - they include the 1955 booklet setting out the conditions for the architectural competition, the original set of competition drawings submitted by Jørn Utzon, as well as a number of later, more detailed sketches, drawings and plans
On this day in 1801 John Macarthur was arrested following a duel with his superior officer, Captain Robert Paterson. Governor King sent Macarthur back to England to face his court martial. Macarthur resigned his commission and returned to NSW after a period of four years with plans to develop the wool industry. He had the backing of the Colonial Secretary, Lord Camden, and a grant of 5000 acres, which he claimed at Cowpastures and named Camden Park.
- See entry in Colonial Secretay's Papers under John Macarthur
- See entry in Colonial Secretary's Papers under Wool
On this day in 1793 noted explorer and botanist Captain William Paterson left Sydney leading a group of fellow Scotsmen in an attempt to cross the Blue Mountains for the first time. Paterson, a member of the NSW Corps, was unsuccessful. The Paterson River in the Hunter is named after him.
- See Colonial Secretary's Papers under William Paterson (Lieut Col)
- See our Blue Mountains Digital Gallery - Westward, Ho!
On this day in 1804 the first and only Government brewery began brewing beer. In 1805 12,000 gallons of beer were produced but production stalled as the supply of barley was unreliable and hops had to be imported. The brewery closed shortly after 1805.
- Search the online index to Publicans Licenses 1830-61
- See our information leaflet - Archives in Brief 61: Publicans' licenses
On this day in 1797 coal was officially discovered in the Newcastle region by Lieutenant John Shortland. He was exploring the area around present day Newcastle in search of run-away convicts when he found the coal. By 1801 a convict camp was established to mine for coal. A new settlement on Coal River (Hunter River) started in 1804 and eventually became Newcastle. Military rule in Newcastle ended in 1823.
On this day in 1852 Francis Thomas Green became the last person to be publicly hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol. Green was convicted of murdering John Jones at Buckley's Creek on 10 March 1852 with a pistol. The public gallows at the Gaol was set up outside the main gate in Forbes Street. There was also a private gallows inside the walls of the Gaol. The last hanging in NSW occurred on 24 August 1939 at Long Bay Gaol.
On this day in 1882 the Garden Palace fire occurred. The Garden Palace was built in only eight months to house the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879 in the southwestern end of the Royal Botanic Gardens. At the time of the fire a number of government departments housed records in the Palace so that when fire completely engulfed the timber building a number of significant documents, such as the 1881 Census, were destroyed.
On this day in 1993 Sydney was officially announced as the venue for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games at the 101st IOC Session in Monte Carlo, Monaco. In 1991 the NSW Government decided to enter the contest to host the 2000 Olympic Games and the Sydney Olympics 2000 Bid Ltd was formed to prepare the bid. Sydney was selected over Beijing after four rounds of voting. The Olympic Games were held from 15 September to 1 October.
- See our catalogue under Agency #1990 - Sydney Olympics 2000 Bid
- Search our catalogue under Olympics and Homebush
On this day in 1857 a mass funeral was held for those who died and who, in most cases, could not be identified from the shipwreck of the Dunbar on 20 August 1857. The interments took place at St. Stephen's Cemetery, Camperdown, where there is still a monument to the victims.
- See tour Gallery on the shipwreck of the Dunbar
- See our information leaflet: Archives in Brief 67: The wreck of the Dunbar
On this day in 1855 the first railway line in NSW was opened. The 22km 'Great Trunk Line' operated from Sydney (Redfern) to Parramatta with stations at Newtown, Ashfield, Burwood, Homebush and Parramatta Junction at Granville. The Sydney terminal was on the south side of Devonshire Street, just south of the current location of Central Station. In its first full year of operation over 350,000 passengers had used the new rail service.
- See our information leaflet - Archives in Brief 54: An Introduction to State Rail records
- See our resources page on railway workers
- Search our online indexes for railway employees
- Browse Photo Investigator for images of trains, train stations etc
On this day in 1851 the last known official duel in NSW was fought between Sir Thomas Mitchell and Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson. Mitchell was the Surveyor General and a well-known explorer of NSW and Victoria. Donaldson was a well-known settler of the New England region and was later elected to the Legislative Council and became Premier of NSW in 1856. It was while campaigning for re-election that Donaldson and Mitchell exchanged words and Mitchell demanded a duel. Both men fired three shots each, with Mitchell's last shot blowing off Donaldson's hat. There are numerous references to both men in the Colonial Secretary's Papers.
- See our catalogue under Agency # 1773 - Surveyor General
- See our catalogue under Ministry #1 - Donaldson Ministry
On this day in 1973 the first public performance in the newly completed Sydney Opera House took place. An all Wagner concert was performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Mackerras with Birgit Nilsson as the soprano soloist. The Opera House was officially opened on 20 October 1973.
- See our information leaflet - Archives in Brief 30: Records relating to the Sydney Opera House
- Browse the Sydney Opera House Galleries
On this day in 1813 the 'holey dollar' and 'dump' coins became legal tender in NSW. Governor Macquarie faced currency shortages soon after his arrival in the colony. The British Government bought 40,000 dollars worth of Spanish coins in India and sent them to NSW in 1812. Macquarie commissioned convict forger William Henshall to cut the centre (the dump) out of each coin and stamp them with NSW. The smaller 'dump' was worth fifteen pence and the larger 'holey dollar' (with a hole in the centre) was worth five shillings. Although these coins became legal tender on September 30 they were not available for general issue until January 1814.
On this day in 1850 an act to endow the University of Sydney received royal assent. The University is Australia's oldest university. The NSW Government granted the University land at Grose Farm, three kilometres from the city, which became the main Camperdown campus. Teaching commenced on 11 October 1852 in the Big Schoolroom of what is now the Sydney Grammar School, before moving to Camperdown in 1859.
- See our catalogue under Organisation #3 - University of Sydney
- See our catalogue for series NRS 14318
- See Photo Investigator for images of the university
On this day in 1813 the 'holey dollar' and 'dump' coins became legal tender in NSW. Governor Macquarie faced currency shortages soon after his arrival in the colony. The British Government bought 40,000 dollars worth of Spanish coins in India and sent them to NSW in 1812. Macquarie commissioned convict forger William Henshall to cut the centre (the dump) out of each coin and stamp them with NSW. The smaller 'dump' was worth fifteen pence and the larger 'holey dollar' (with a hole in the centre) was worth five shillings. Although these coins became legal tender on September 30 they were not available for general issue until January 1814 and finally withdrawn from circulation on September 17 1828.