Australian Boys' Clothes: Families

Figure 1.--This Australian photograph was taken on the family's front porch in 1913. Notice how mother has set up the tea service. The boy was a cadet which means he attended a secondary school. We are guessing tghat he and not mother chose the uniform for the photograph. He would not have normally worn it for a typical afternoon tea. We are not sure if this would be a suburban or rural home. The family looked rather refined. The image is especially poignent given the outbreak of World War I a year later and Australia's role in it. We are not sure of the boy's age, perhaps 14 years old. By 1917 or 18 he would have been of military age.

Australia is a very new country in most regards. Aboriginee civilization is among the oldest in the world, ironically as it was the last major Old world land mass reached by man. European colonization, however, was largeky a 19th century phenomenon. Thus Australian family images span much of the country's modern history. What we see is largely British society transplanted to South Pacific Oceania. And then afyrr th turn-of-the 20th century we see Australia gradually shifting from Bitish to an independent society with its own conventions and fashions. The turning point was world War II when Austrlia played hist to American servicemen who largelyly prevented a castrotrophic Japanese invasion. Gradually American became an important cultural influence which can be seen in the family images we are collecting. Family images are particularly informative. They often tell us more than an individual studio portrait, as valuable as those images are. Familiy photographs are especially helpful in setting the larger context of both fashions as well as providing useful sociological information. The family images show us what adults and other children were wearing along with various boys' clothing styles. We can see what girls' fashions were associated with boys' styles as well as what adults were wearing. We can also observe social interactions and better assess the social class and demographic relationship. These 19th century early portrait photographs provide an amazing window into life in the various chronological periods. And after the turn-of-the 20th century we have family snap shots to add to the record showing life beyond the studio. Not only do we see images of a cross section of Australian society but the clothing fashions of the day, their hair styles, the jewellery they were wearing and the props the photographers of the day were using such as wall hangings, interersting pieces of furniture etc. A collection of these images over time thus provides a great deal of chronological information.

The 19th Century

Maria Elizabeth O’Mullane and Her Children (about 1852)

This portrait of Maria Elizabeth O’Mullane and her four surviving children was painted by an unknown, but competent artist if showing some chracteistics of naive art. The O'Mullane family lived in Melbourne. Curiously Dr. O’Mullane, is not included in the portrait. He emmigrated from Cork, Ireland, although weare not sure when. He died at his house in Bourke Street only 51 years old (1863). This suggests to us that there wre oythr portraits. The fmily portrait is undated, but given the age of the children would have been painted about 1852. They are clearly an affluent family painted very early in Australia's colonial history. It is basically a family portrait, but includes both fashion and genre elements of interest to HBC. It is set in the family's parlor with a magificent rug, but strangly a blank wall. Perhaps the artist had tired after the tedious job of painting the wall. Victorian parlors even in Austrlia did not have blank walls. Perhps the family had just moved in the home. We see pets and toys. The pet in this cse is of all things a pony, brought inside the home. And we see toys including a doll and bow and arrow--a curiously American toy. Notice the a century plant in the garden which can be seen through the window. Colonists often chose succulents like this for their gardens in the rather dry climate. The sparse interior is furnished with chaise longue, footstool and chair; this kind of furniture and the English floral carpet was sold in Melbourne in the 1840s and 1850s. The rather widely spaced sunjects seem more a collection of inddividual portraits than a family scene. We get no idea of family relations and mother in particular is depicted in isolation from the children. Thisprobably means a lack shown of professional traiing rather than a statement of Maria as a mother.

Melbourne Nanny and Boys (1872)

Here we have the children of a well-to-do Melbourne family. This wonderful carte de visite pprtrait shows a nanny with four young boys. You can tell the lady is a nanny because she wears a kind of uniform. She clearly has a very close personsal relationship with the boys. The older boy is wearing a dark suit and has his derby hat on the floor. The three younger boys are dressed in light-colored knee pants outfits. We believe there is some sailor stylig, but it is alittle difficult to tell. The youngest seems to be falling asleeping or probanly squirming about while lying back on the nanny's lap He is holding a straw hat. They were probably photographed during a summer vacation. The photographer is J.Sharp, Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia. The portrait is dated on back -- 1872. The writing looks like 1872 to us, but the dealer seems to think it was 1892.

Adelide Children (1890s)

This Australian cabinet card shows three unidentified children avout 5-11 years old, a girl and two boys. They look to come from a well-to-do family. The older boys wears a vested sailor suit. Mother has added an Eton collar, small neck bow, and large sailor scarf. It is a knee pants sailor suit, worn with long stockings and patent leather strap shoes. Their sister wears a dress with a lace ruff and velvet trim. She also wears long stockings, but with high-top shos. Their little brother wears an identical sailor suit outfit, although with knee socks rather than long stockings. He wears hightop shoes. The older boy has short hair. The girl and her little brother have similar hair styles with bangs and long hair at the back. In addition to the clothes, there are interesting props. There is a broad-brimmed sailor hat in the lower left cormer. Notice the streamer. We are not sure who it is for, but it is set close to the older boy. As the youngr boy wears an identical suit, presumably he would also wear the same hat. Notice that the hat color matches their suits. We are unsure about big sister's headwear. She holds a jump rope and little brother a cricket bat. The studio was the Solomon School of Photogrphy in Adelaide.

The 20th Century

Unidentitified Front Porch Tea (1913)

This Australian photograph was taken on the family's front porch in 1913, just before World War I (figure 1). Notice how mother has set up the tea service. The boy was a cadet shich means he attended a secondary school. He clearly is very proud of being a cadet as he has chosen his uniform for the portrait. This clearly is not a candid portrait. We are not sure if this would be a suburban or rural home. The family looked rather refined. The image is especially poignent given the outbreak of World war I a year later and Australia's role in it. We are not sure of the boy's age, perhaps 14 years old. By 1917 or 18 he would have been of military age.

Strutton Family on an Outing (1916)

Here we have a portrait of the Strutton family taken at Turtle Bay in Queensland during in 1916. We do not know anything more about the family. They are certainly a large family. Here we see three generations with the family of grown children. We would guess that they are a farm family. Even one of tge fathers, a grown son, of the elderly gentleman is barefoot. This was not that common. Usually we obly see the children bsrefoot. We suspect this reflects the fact that the family is on sime kind of outing, probably a picnic on Sunday after church. As the photograph was taken in 1916, ot is likely that family members are serving in the World war I military in France or Egypt.

James Family (1928)

This photograph shows Gwilym Evans and Eleanor James with their family in Albany, Western Australia. Gwilym was born in 1884 in Aberdare, Glamorgan, Wales. He married Eleanor James in 1906. They had six children, including five sons (1911, 1913, 1916, 1918, 1923) and a daughter (1925). They emigrated to Australia (1927). The photo was probanly taken about an year after they arrived in Australia, probably about 1928. We are not sure what occupation the father pursued in Australia or nything more about the children.

Mason Family (1954)

Australia is an important producer of wool. Denis and Vera Mason leased land in the Charles Darwin Reserve in northern Australia during 1953. They established a sheep station (ranch) there. They lived in a hut with their children (Leigh, Robert and Tony). The snapshot here was taken in 1954. Part of the nythology of Australia is rugged individuals like the Nasons have a go in the huge outback. The country is, however, one of the most urbanized in the world.


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Crerated: November 5, 2002
Last updated: 10:45 PM 6/30/2016