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Nothing on TV is a podcast that ransacks Trove Newspapers, the National Library of Australia’s
online repository of digitised historical newsprint, to present stories from an era when there was
– literally – nothing on TV.

I’ve been writing about Australian history for nearly 30 years, and newspapers have always been a
mainstay of my research. Scouring 19th-century papers, I’ve often been struck by accounts of
immense crowds turning out to witness the merest public spectacle – say, the laying of a foundation
stone for a public building. Thousands, even tens of thousands.

And why? For the same reason you’d have found a pub on every corner: there was nothing on TV.
But there was plenty in the papers. And, thanks to Trove, there still is.

New episodes of Nothing on TV will appear monthly (or so), featuring a ghost story or two, tales of
wildlife in suburbia, stories from the Lost & Found column, and more.

Champagne & Anarchy – ep. 4

Wherein we have our cockles warmed by Lord Hopetoun’s liquid largesse, as dispensed by an anarchist on the mean streets of Melbourne in 1902.

Argus (Melbourne), 26 June 1902, p. 5, column 3
Read the whole of the report, plus all that day’s news (including the king’s illness) here.

Critic (Adelaide), 5 January 1901, p. 3                                Australasian, 12 January 1901, p. 29
(Left) An official 1901 portrait of the G-G. Note the stamp, defective original, at the foot of the page. This
seems to refer to the newspaper, not Lord Hopetoun – notwithstanding views expressed in the Barrier Miner.
(Right) His Excellency’s safari pants and yoga pose strike an informal note, compared with Prime Minister
Edmund Barton’s dress-suit, in a photo taken following the swearing-in of Australia’s first federal cabinet.

The crowd in Argyle Place, Carlton, on the morning of Wednesday, 25 June 1902.

‘Mr Fleming hands out the first bottle of Lord Hopetoun’s gift (25 dozen champagne)’
To qualify for a bottle, you had to have a ’tache. Note that the bottle is still packed for shipping
in a protective coating of… could they be grapevine cuttings?

A queue (possibly those troublesome Smiths) outside the bootshop.
One of Chummy Fleming’s confederates (left) shouts the next name on the list.

The above three photos come from the Australasian, 5 July 1902, p. 28
Take a closer look here – you’ll notice that, at the bottom left-hand corner of the page, a photo of the
bacchanal at the beer barrels has been partly torn out of the copy of the Australasian that was digitised.

Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 September 1947, p. 25
J.W. (Chummy) Fleming, still waving the flag at Melbourne’s Yarra Bank speakers’ corner in 1947, three years before his death.

And here is that flag – now in the Realia Collection of the State Library of Victoria (Accession no: H89.109/2)

Have you seen my poncho cloak? – ep. 3

Wherein we plunder drapers’ shops, cloakrooms, and the Lost & Found column in search of the poncho cloak and its shoddy brethren.

Argus (Melbourne), 23 June 1855, p. 1, column 6
Or take a look here at what else was lost and found that day

The full poncho range of Benjamin Lazarus & Co., Sydney drapers
Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 1855, p. 8, column 6
Click here to compare Lazarus’s stock with that of his competitors,
or here to read what his persuasive rival, Mr Marks, had to offer

Argus (Melbourne), 16 July 1855, p. 6, columns 6 & 7
Read click here to follow the fall-out of the cloakroom cock-up at the Patriotic Fund Ball

Or, for a different perspective…

I’ve searched in vain for an image of a contemporary poncho cloak
(an Inverness cape just doesn’t cut it), so you’ll have to make do with this –

Australian Women’s Weekly, 16 June 1971,
‘Knits for Action’ supplement, p. 14

Yeah! That’s how we did things in the ’70s. Well, actually… this is how we did things –

(cut out of an actual newspaper – source forgotten!)


The Marble Man – ep. 2 (part 1)

Wherein we trace the curious career and prehistory of a ‘petrified man’ dug out of a New South Wales marble quarry.

See post for The Marble Man part 2 for further reading and links for this two-part episode.

The Marble Man – ep. 2 (part 2)

Wherein we continue to trace the curious career and prehistory of a ‘petrified man’ dug out of a New South Wales marble quarry.

Further reading and links for this episode:

Bathurst Free Press & Mining Journal, 21 May 1889, p. 2, columns 4-5
Read the full article in situ and see what else was happening in district news that week.

from The Legend of the Petrified or Marble Man by Harry Stockdale, F. Cunninghame & Co., Sydney, 1889
Read the book online

The Cardiff Giant, on display at the Bastable in Syracuse, NY, circa 1869
(New York State Historical Association Library)

The petrified Finn McCool, the Causeway Giant
from The Strand Magazine (London), vol. X, July to December 1895, p. 646 (digitised by archive.org)
See that photo in situ, featured in the fascinating article, ‘The Lost Property Office’

And finally – click here to view images of Pompeii bodies, cast in plaster

Enter the Elephant – ep. 1

Wherein we chart the declining fortunes of a performing elephant in goldrush-era Victoria.

Further reading and links for this episode:

Age (Melbourne), 7 November 1854, p. 5 – or read it in situ (look at the top of column 5),
to see what else was happening in the news that day.

Argus (Melbourne), 16 October 1854, p. 8 – or read it in situ (column 5),
to discover what else was on in Melbourne that week.

Click here to read an article looking back at the Cremorne Gardens of the 1850s & ’60s,
from the Melbourne Argus, 8 April 1933, p. 6

© Robyn Annear | site by Greengraphics