Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition

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Copy of a Certificate made out to Charles Ralston who exhibited a lever bread-cutter. Courtesy University of Ballarat Historical Collection - Gift of Peter Spark].



The first Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition (held in Victoria) opened on 15 February 1878 at Ballarat's Alfred Hall, market sheds and adjoining grounds. It aimed to encourage young people to compete in 'works of industry and usefulness', to impress the dignity and honour of labour, to nurture those in the trades, to show handiwork, to share ideas, to develop the idea of 'useful employment' in leisure hours, and, to create a 'taste for the fine arts and ornamental works, so as to make the home attractive'.[1]

R. D. Bannister was the project manager for this exhibition.[2]

By the end of January the committee had received 1476 enties, 708 males and 708 females. Of the 1878 entries 586 entries came from Ballarat, 336 from Melbourne, 151 from Geelong, 65 from Bendigo, 28 from Creswick, 29 from Daylesford, the remaining 290 from the remining parts of Victoria and other colonies. [3]

The following tenders were accepted for services during the exhibition:

  • Mr Brunn - musical entertainment
  • R. Davis - confectionary stall
  • G.H. Smith - fruit stall
  • J. Wise - oyster stall [4]

The inaugural exhibition closed on 1 June. It had attracted 159,500 visitors, with total takings of 4,466 pounds.

‘The first Juvenile Industrial Exhibition in Victoria was opened in Ballarat on the 15th February, 1878, by his Excellency Sir G. Bowen, in the Alfred Hall and in the market hall then adjacent. It was projected and managed by Mr. R. D. Bannister, and was very successful. A credit balance of £758 17s. 2d. remained at the close, and was vested in the following trustees—A. Hunter, H. R. Caselli, J. Buley, G. O. Preshaw, and H. Reid. Subsequently J. Hickman and E. Curtis were appointed in place of Buley and Caselli, deceased, and J. C. Smith in place of Preshaw, removed. With £500 of the money entrusted the trust purchased the frontage in Lydiard street, on which the Commercial Club building and other offices stand. The site was let on a 40 years’ building lease to the club, at a rental of £91 a year, with the right of purchase for £3000 at any time within 15 years from the date of the lease. A commemorative banquet was given in the city hall on the 1st of last month (June) by Mr. Hickman to the committee and representative citizens, when Mr. H. Bradbury, the exhibition secretary, read a report showing that there was £725 in bank at interest. The banquetters resolved informally that another exhibition should be held as soon as possible’.[5]



At the meeting of the Executive Committee of the above exhibition held last night, the honorary Secretary lead a letter from Major Pitt, in which he stated that he was desired by His Excellency to acknowledge receipt of the programmes and letters for Her Majesty the Queen and two members of the Royal Family and to say that he had forwarded the same to their destination on Tuesday last. A mass of correspondence was also gone through from numerous parties applying for space and for information. Letters were also received from the town clerks of Sandhurst, Colac and Queenscliff, promising the heartiest support of the municipal councils of those places. A letter was also read from the secretary of the Water Commission, offering the use of the Alfred hall on certain terms and conditions , but as these were considered to be anything but liberal, a sub-committee was appointed to try and make more favourable terms with the Hall Committee.
The honorary secretary said that in the course of conversation Mr. George Smith, nursery and seedsman, had told him that he had decorated the hall on the occasion of its first use, for Prince Alfred's visit, for which he had been paid £10, and he would, when the time came, decorate it quite as beautifully for the exhibition and make no charge at all for it. Messrs R. Sutton and Co. also offered the free use of one of their beat pianos during the exhibition. For these handsome offers Messrs. Smith and Sutton and Co. were awarded special votes of thanks. Mr. Bannister also stated that he had made arrangements, in accordance with the wish of the committee, to devote the whole of next week to visiting Melbourne, Geelong, and Sandhurst to make a special appeal to the wealthy and manufacturing classes to support the exhibition with money and exhibits, and also to get large committees enlisted to help him in the good work. He further reported having received a very handsome special prize from a lady, for the best drawing at the exhibition and that he had been promised several others of less but still good value, in the shape of medals, pictures, books, writing desks, workboxes, &c. He desired to draw attention to an erroneous impression that had gone abroad, which he much regretted, to the effect that the Phoenix Foundry apprentices who had agreed to make the miniature railway, with all its appliances, would claim a monopoly of the rails for their own models of engines, carriages, waggons, trucks, &c; and he wished it to be known that this was not the case.
Mr. HUGH REID, a member of the committee, and foreman at the Phoenix Foundry, sald he was glad indeed to know that this false impression would now be removed, and proud to say that the Phoenix lads never tor one moment thought of holding a monopoly of the rails, whether laid by themselves or by the committee. He was also glad to hear that the Union lads were going to enter the lists against the Phoenix, and he hoped all the foundries in the colony would do the same, as it would put both sides, and all others who might choose to enter the lists, on their best mettle. One thing he desired was that the committee should bear in mind that the Phoenix lads had undertaken to complete a very heavy task within a very limited time, that it would take up a great deal of their spare time, and cost them a good sum of money-they had already spent £14 in various tools they required-and he hoped the committee would see the necessity of giving a good money prize that would in some measure recoup their losses, besides gaining them honour, or if not them, the winners of the prize whoever they might be.
The committee thought it would be very desirable to accept Mr. Reid's suggestion so far as they could.
Mr. REID then explained that as the miniature railway and carriage, &c., would all be made to the same scale, distant exhibitors should know that that scale would be 1 ½ in. to the foot, and that the rails would in consequence be laid 8in. apart exactly, that is, 8in. clear between the rails. A member of the committee suggested that on one of the artificial hills to be thrown up a miniature river should be constructed, for the purpose of showing cascades, fluming, flood gates, and the various kinds of water wheels (models of course), also a turbine to exemplify hydraulic force.
The CHAIRMAN said that some lads had but a few days since consulted him as to what they should exhibit, and on his proposing water wheels, they jumped at the idea, and said they would commence work on them at once, and no doubt somebody else would do the rest.
It was decided that all the dividend paying mining companies in the colony be appealed to to contribute to one handsome special money prize, to be given for the best models of appliances for mining and of the latest improvements in mining machinery. The appointment of a ladies' committee was urged, and it was suggested that as soon as possible lady volunteers for the office of committee-women be invited to offer their services. The meeting then closed.[6]
(From the Melbourne Telegraph.)
FRIDAY, February 15.
THE idea of getting up an exhibition in Ballarat of specimens of the handiwork of Australian juveniles was mooted by Mr Bannister about six months ago, and the result of it is that to-day Mr Bannister has the satisfaction of witnessing the fruition of his labors.
The building in which the exhibition is held is the Alfred Hall, and it possesses the advantage of affording plenty of space and a good light to enable visitors to see them. In the hall no attempt has been made at anything like elaborate ornamentation. The arches are hung with festoons of flowers, and in the centre of the hall is a fountain, around which are placed growing plants in pots. At the corners of the various stalls are placed some tree ferns, which produce a very pleasing effect, and the walls are covered on both sides with drawings, plans of buildings, draughtsmen’s work, water-color paintings, wool pictures, specimens of handwriting, and other exhibitions of youthful skill and ingenuity, too numerous to particularise. Many of the pictures display artistic ability of no mean order, whole all of them may be describes as very creditable specimens of youthful industry. The exhibition contains some contributions from New South Wales and New Zealand, but the great bulk of exhibits are of Victorian workmanship, Ballarat, Sandhurst, Geelong, Melbourne, and Emerald Hill occupying leading positions. The exhibits are arranged on two rows of stalls running the length of the building.
Beginning on the left side of the hall, attention is attracted to a large number of rolls of various kinds of leather, and in various stages of manufacture. These are the exhibits of the Geelong tannery, and judges of leather pronounce them to be first-class specimens of colonial industry. Near the leather-stall is one containing a collection of apparently very well made and durable boots, the work of the inmates of the Melbourne Orphan Asylum and the Deaf and Dumb Asylum. Adjoining these is a good collection of saddler, contributed by the apprentices of a tradesman at Emerald Hill. The exhibits of wheelwrights’ work are not numerous, but they are pronounced by competent judges to be of first-class quality. There is a very handsome single-seated hooded buggy of first-class workmanship, the credit of which belongs to four youths of Ballarat, under the ages of twenty, nineteen, eighteen, and fifteen respectively. Beside it is an open-seated one, the work of the apprentices of Messrs. Inglis and Wyatt, all youths, one of them being under sixteen years of age. There is also a set of carriage wheels, contributed by a youth of Carlton under twenty years of age. Passing up the left aisle we come to a miscellaneous collection of articles, comprising some very neatly made churns, the work of Henry Beach of Geelong, a youth under sixteen years of age; some well-finished railway portmanteaus, the work of Arthur Brewster, of Melbourne, aged seventeen years; and others by Thomas Doyle, who, it is stated, has been only three years at the trade. There is also a case of horse-shoes and models of horses’ feet contributed by Mr Fitzpatrick, of Emerald Hill; another of brass taps and stop-cocks, the work of a Ballarat youth under sixteen. Passing on to the next stall we come upon some splendid specimens of engineering work, which excite very general attention. Amongst these is a model steam-engine. The diameter of the fly-wheel is 10in., and the length of the stroke 4in. All the parts are beautifully finished, and reflect great credit on the workman, Wm. Thomas Hewett, of Emerald Hill, a youth of eighteen years of age. Beside it is another engine of a similar description, contributed by Frederick Mitchell of Ballarat. On the same stall is a machine for making nuts, and another for making bolts; also the work of a Ballarat youth. A youth of Emerald Hill has contributed a model of a brewer’s refrigerator, which appears to be very accurately constructed. The attention of those interested in agricultural pursuits is attracted to a collection of models of ploughs fashioned after the latest improvements, and in proximity is a five-barred gate, which is made to rise from the ground by placing the hand on a spring. Adjoining these is a miscellaneous collection of articles, comprising a model of a fire-place, a meter, and a slate enamelled mantel-piece. On a stall on the right side of the hall is a collection of ornamental jewellery, comprising brooches, rings, ear-drips, and other articles, in embossed silver. To this collection a youth of eighteen, who has been only three years at the trade, contributes a silver tablet, representing Joan of Arc riding, sword in hand, at the head of the French troops. Another youth of fourteen years, who has been only eight months in the trade, has sent a very elegant specimen of workmanship, in the form of an emu egg mounted in silver. Among the articles, which attracted the attention of lady visitors especially, are some sets of artificial teeth, the setting and mounting of which display excellent workmanship.
Science also has its votaries among our colonial youth. Two youths of Ballarat have contributed an entomological collection, comprising numerous specimens of the Lipdoptera, Aptera, Hemiphera, and other families of the insect tribe. In the case containing this collection is a spider’s nest. On the same stall is a case of fishes, which were preserved by Miss E. A. S. John, aged ten years, and her brother, aged eight years. The collection comprises butter-fish, salmon trout, parrot-fish, and many curious specimens of animals, which inhabit the ocean. The most interesting, however, of all the natural curiosities is a case of corals, numbering about ten different specimens. These were brought from Tonga, one of the New Hebrides group, and it is generally admitted by those who have seen them that more beautiful specimens were never exhibited. On the same stall is a case of small birds’ eggs, and a case of stuffed birds, which reflect no little credit on the skill of the taxidermists. There is also a very pretty collection of shells and seaweed, which was presented by a young lady under seventeen. One of the curiosities of the exhibition is a hair-ball, about the size of an ordinary football, which was taken from the stomach of a cow. It is perfectly smooth and round, and is said to have become so through the action of the stomach. The contributions of the students of the school of mines consist of a set of illustrations of gold bullion assay, showing the various stages of the operation, and a series of illustrations of an auriferous quartz assay. The architectural genius of Victorian youth is represented by a model of a cathedral, and some villa residences of elaborate structure. The upper stall on the right-hand of the hall contains a varied collection of useful and ornamental articles of elegantly-wrought book-stands, brackets of Huon pine elaborately carved, and numerous cases of artificial flowers in paper, wax, and wool. The next stall, contains a choice and varied collection of cabinetmaker’s and book-binder’s work, silk cocoons, models of ships, and other articles too numerous to mention more particularly. On a bench along the wall, on the right-hand side, are some tempting-looking specimens of domestic cookery, in the form of loaves of bread and cakes. In a room at the rear of the building is a large and varied collection of ladies’ and gentlemen’s clothing. Of the former there is sufficient to stock two or three milliners’ shops, and affords gratifying evidence of the skill and industry of the female portion of the rising generation of Victoria.[7]

Patron and Officials

The Governor of Victoria, Sir George Bowen, KCMG, was the Patron of the Exhibition, which was intended to be inter-colonial, but only New Zealand 'entered the competition with spirit'. [8]

The Chair of the first Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition was Henry R. Caselli, with R.D. Bannister acting as honorary secretary. Other members of the committee of 1878 were Thomas C. Bodycomb (1829-1919), J. Buley, Joseph Flude, A. Hunter, G.O. Preshaw, H. Reid, Henry Smith, G. Smith, J.C. Smith., E. Curtis, P. Macartney, James Campbell, W. Evans, William H. Keast, H. Bradbury, J.M. Main, P. Matthews, J. McDowall, C.J. Richardson, J. Robinson, W. Proctor, Robert M. Serjeant, W. Benson, J. Whitehead. [9]


People of both sexes under the age of 21 were invited to participate while parents, employers and teachers were asked to encourage participation. A total of 5105 exhibits were mounted, with categories including furniture, boots and shoes, brassware and tinware, agricultural implements, processed foods, handcrafts and art, maps and plans, shorthand and writing, photography and jewellery. [10]

James Campbell Brown (1857-1936)

Francis Henry Davis (1858-1940)

Louis Ludwig Ballhausen (1857-1912)

Samuel J. Morgan (1856-1939)

Herman R. Warlond (Phoenix Foundry)

Certificates & Medals

The first Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition certificates were signed by Henry R. Caselli (Chairman) and R.D. Bannister (Hon. Secretary)

William Baragwanath

George Kermude - manufacture of horse collars [1878] [11])

Charles Ralston - lever bread cutter [1878][12]

Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition - Ballaarat, 1878, Image ex ebay courtesy seller jatw.

The 1878 silver medals were struck to the design of Ernst Altmann [13] and were awarded to -

William E. Draeger - silver medal for jewellery [14]

E.A. Goswinckle (aged 18) - for scientific instruments [15]

Also See

Model Locomotive Engine


  2. accessed 15 March 2013.
  3. Evening Post, 29 January 1878.
  4. Evening Post, 29 January 1878.
  5. William Bramwell Withers. The History of Ballarat from the First Pastoral Settlement to the Present Time. Ballarat: F. W. Niven and Co., 1887, page 297. [University of Ballarat, Mt Helen Library]
  6. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Monday 10 September 1877, page 7. Digital copy accessed via Trove.
  7. "THE JUVENILE INDUSTRIAL EXHIBITION AT BALLARAT." Colonist, Rōrahi XX, Putanga 2356, 2 Poutūterangi 1878, page 3.
  9. Evening Post, 29 January 1878.
  11. Unnamed news clipping (probably Ballarat Courier), 28 August 1964.
  12. University of Ballarat Historical Collection, Cat. No. 12141

--C.K.Gervasoni 18:11, 24 August 2011 (EST)

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