Beneath the Southern Cross

Passionate about industrial heritage and recently on a trip to Lithgow, NSW  I stumbled upon a wonderful collection of Union  banners at the State Mine Museum titled “Beneath the Southern Cross”.

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State Mine bath house with union banner exhibit, Lithgow

The rise of industrialism  during the late ninteenth and early twentieth centuries was cause for pride within the union movement and these giant  banners were a symbol of united identity.

The banners proudly depict  a range of trade unions  with a  utopian view that transformed the harsh working conditions of many trades into  a pastoral paradise for workers. They were used in street parades and union rallies to headline the relevant unions.

This exhibition is housed in the old mine bath house where 700 workers  at the end of their shift from underground coal mining  bathed before going home.

An evocative site for  this Unions of NSW display of these trade banners.

Would I find a hatters guild represented amongst the banners?

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Presses Society banner

No such luck but I found some affiliated references to the clothing trades with the closest being  the Presses Society.

This image depicts a room of men pressing suits with heavy irons that were filled with hot coals .

Also of interest was the Shop Assistants and Warehouse Employees Federation banner showing women selecting cloth from bolts of fabric from gentlemenly shop assistants.

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Shop Assistants and Warehouse Employees Federation of Australia banner

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Wicker workers, french polishers and mattress makers’ banner,

Upholserters and more!

All hanging from the rafters of the industrial bath house.

Each banner is hand painted and decorated with gold cord work and  fringing.

They are a potent symbol of a vast array of trades that once existed in Australia and are cause for reflection upon the granting of the 8 hour  work day  in1856 which in 2009 has been eroded for many workers with the casualisation of the labour market.

Our October public holiday, Labour day, celebrates this achievement for workers.

If you are in Lithgow, do make the effort to see these glorious  hand painted banners in a fascinating  industrial site.
On exhibition at the State Mine Heritage Park, Lithgow until October 2009

Rosie Boylan

2 Responses to Beneath the Southern Cross

  1. ianhobbs December 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    great Article!

  2. Jerry February 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

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