Australia in the 1870s


In 1870 Frederick Ward (18351870), the bushranger known as Captain Thunderbolt, was shot dead by police near Uralla in New South Wales. He was a former drover and horse breaker. He was first convicted of stealing horses in 1856. Between 1856 and his death 14 years later, he was in prison several times for robbing inns and mail-coaches. He was regarded as one of the most successful bushrangers in New South Wales.

In 1872 another bushranger, Andrew George Scott (18451880), known as Captain Moonlight, was jailed for 11 years for the Mount Edgerton bank robbery. In 1879 he was charged with the murder of a policeman and sentenced to death. Three of his associates were also hanged.

By 1878 Irish migrant Edward (Ned) Kelly (18551880) and his brother Dan Kelly (18611880) had a price of £100 on their heads and were hiding in the Wombat Ranges in Victoria. At the time, it was believed Ned had wounded Constable Fitzpatrick. One month later, the price on their head had increased to £500 each, dead or alive, after three policemen from the Mansfield station had been killed at Stringy Bark Creek. Following their daytime robbery of the National Bank at Euroa, the price for Dan and Ned Kelly rose to £1,000 each. In February 1879, the reward for the capture of Ned Kelly and his brother had risen to £2,000 after they robbed the Bank of New South Wales at Jerilderie. Ned Kelly gave the bank teller a statement of more than 8,000 words, known as the 'Jerilderie letter', which was a justification for his actions. In 1880 at Glenrowan, Ned Kelly was wounded in a shootout with police, and sentenced to death at his trial in Melbourne. Despite strong support for a reprieve, he was hanged on 11 November 1880. The other Kelly gang members, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Jo Byrne, died at Glenrowan.

Death of Frederick Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt)

A snapshot of 1878

  • January
    • The construction of the Ghan railway line commenced at Port Augusta in South Australia.

  • February
    • The telephone was used for the first time in Melbourne.

  • April
    • The Stawell Easter Gift, a professional foot-racing competition over 120 metres, was run for the first time on Easter Monday.

  • May
    • One thousand unemployed men marched up Collins Street in Melbourne demanding relief work.

  • November
    • The song 'Advance Australia Fair' was presented for the first time.

  • December
    • Seamen in Sydney went on strike against the employment of low-paid Chinese crews on ships. The strike spread to other ports in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. A mass anti-Chinese meeting was held in Hyde Park, Sydney.


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