Australia in the 1870s


In 1876, the stump-jump plough was invented in South Australia by Richard Bowyer Smith, an agricultural machinery apprentice. It was one of the most important farming and agricultural inventions of the 19th century. Prior to its invention, farmers had great difficulty clearing the land for cultivation. Ordinary ploughs were not used as the blades would hit buried mallee roots or rocks. Smith invented the plough to ride or 'jump' over the tops of roots, thus allowing newly cleared land to be cultivated. His brother Clarence improved the original plough design and set up a successful factory to make and distribute them.
Thomas Gale and John Allen ascended in a hot-air balloon called 'Young Australian' from Victoria Park near Sydney University in 1871. Gale claimed that the balloon reached the height of four kilometres, but others reported that it only reached about one kilometre. In June, Thomas Gale flew again in a gas balloon in Adelaide. In 1879 Henri L'Estrange inflated his balloon, the 'Aurora', with coal gas supplied by the Metropolitan Gas Company, and ascended from the agricultural showgrounds in Melbourne. He made some errors in his calculations and the balloon rose to an estimated 2.7 kilometres. This ascendency was too fast and the balloon tore and burst. L'Estrange had attached a parachute to the balloon and was able to parachute safely to the ground. This was the first recorded survival by parachute in Australia.

Stump-jump plough

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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