Gold Boom | State Library of New South Wales

Gold Boom

The gold rushes contributed to the development of a modern Australian society and economy. The diggers brought with them a wide range of skills and professions, which helped transform one-time rural economies into larger, diversified markets.

The Australian colonies were no longer seen as places of convict exile; they were respectable destinations for immigrants and investment.

The Lucky Digger by S.T. Gill

Lucky digger that returned, 185? Scenes in the gold diggings, Australia by Samuel Thomas Gill
Coloured lithograph Q85/63/23

Railway infrastructure linked major ports to inland towns, strengthening regional centres. Melbourne became the main entry port to the Victorian goldfields and consequently developed into Australia’s largest city and financial centre for the next half century.

 Collins St looking west from Russell st, 1853

Collins Street looking west from Russell St, 1853, Collection of lithographs and sketches, 1853-1874 by Samuel Thomas Gill
Lithograph, PX*D 384/28

Immigrants who established businesses on the goldfields have their own stories of success. The wealth generated from many 'service industries' on the goldfields meant that these families prospered in their adopted country.

The fascinating Holtermann collection of photographs of goldfield towns of NSW and Victoria documents the ordinary people who established businesses on the goldfields along with the mines and miners.

Bernard Otto Holtermann, successful gold miner and merchant, commissioned Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss from the American & Australasian Photographic Company to document gold towns in New South Wales and Victoria from 1872 to 1875. Towns such as Hill End and Gulgong were captured at the height of their settlement. Every business, church and school was photographed, with their owners, staff and customers posed outside.

It is such thorough documentary coverage that it is possible to reconstruct the main streets of Hill End and Gulgong in precise detail. 

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> Find the Holtermann collection of 3,500 photographs of goldfields, via the Library's catalogue catalogue link



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