Against the backdrop of embryonic Melbourne, John Thomas Smith left behind his currency roots to become an influential
member of society. A widely recognised figure about town smoking a cutty
pipe and wearing a white top hat, in 1851 he became Lord Mayor of
Melbourne; he went on to be re-elected seven times. His scandalous
marriage to the daughter of an Irish Catholic publican, however, and his
awkwardly appropriated gentility, made him unpopular with certain
sections of society. From 1849 to 1860 Smith and his family occupied 300 Queen Street,
Melbourne, one of the first true residential townhouses in the city.
Flashy, Fun and Functional: How Things Helped to Invent Melbourne’s Gold
explores the things they left behind.
Excavations at the site in 1982 by Judy Birmingham and Associates
uncovered a rich and important archaeological record of the Smiths’
lives in the form of a cesspit rubbish deposit. The recovered artefacts
can be used to examine the distinctive way the Smith family used
material culture to negotiate their position in colonial society.
Popular decoration styles and expensive materials suggest the family’s
efforts to secure their newly obtained social status. The artefacts
evoke the turmoil, volatility and opportunity of life in the first
decades of the colony at Port Phillip. They provide an example of the
possibility of social mobility in the colony, but also of the challenges
of navigating the customs of a newly forming society.
Sarah Hayes is a historical archaeologist who researches quality of life and social mobility in 19th-century Victoria through the lives, homes and rubbish of everyday people. She works within the Heritage and Indigeneity stream of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.
List of figures
List of tables
List of plates
2. Early Melbourne and 300 Queen Street
3. Personal histories
4. Architecture and spatial layout
6. Life at 300 Queen Street
7. Cultural capital and the road to success
297 × 210 × 5 mm
17 b&w tables, 43 b&w illustrations, and 8 colour illustrations
21 Sep 2018
Studies in Australasian Historical Archaeology