From gold to Golden City: promoting a civic identity

In postcards, souvenirs, and mementos aimed at the tourist market, we observe the features of a place that are used to define its identity.

COLLECTION: A Souvenir of the “Golden City” of Bendigo. Written and illustrated by Bert A. Levy, 1902. Collection Dennis O’Hoy.

COLLECTION: A Souvenir of the “Golden City” of Bendigo. Written and illustrated by Bert A. Levy, 1902. Collection Dennis O’Hoy.

The natural, built and cultural assets of Bendigo are featured on civic publicity and collectibles dating back to the late 19th century when the city was firmly established following the gold rushes of the 1850s.

The earliest promotional material projects an image of Sandhurst, as Bendigo was initially known, as a city rich in industry, culture and grand, late Victorian architecture alongside open parks and gardens.

This publication, written with obvious affection, gives a sense of the city’s self-image at this time.

Emma Busowsky Cox

In the first year of the new century, the city celebrated the 50th anniversary since the discovery of gold with a major trade exhibition.

The Victorian Gold Jubilee Exhibition, held between November 13, 1901, and May 14, 1902, at the Bendigo Town Hall, was the city’s first ‘blockbuster’, and attracted some 208,000 visitors from far and wide.

A Souvenir of the Golden City of Bendigo, written and illustrated by Bert A. Levy, of the Bendigo Advertiser and The Bendigonian, in 1902 for visitors, and to “those far and near who know not Bendigo, it will be my pleasure to tell of things…as faithfully as I am able, the place, people, and general aspects of this remarkable gold-fields city.” 

This publication, written with obvious affection, gives a sense of the city’s self-image at this time.

Early souvenir publications also provided the opportunity for local businesses to advertise, and promote the city as a desirable destination for visitors: “Bendigo is a perfect winter sanatorium, highly recommended by the medical faculty,” wrote Montague Levy, proprietor of the Hotel Shamrock, in 1902. 

As Bendigo evolved through the 20th century, sites such as the Central Deborah Gold Mine were successfully transformed from their original industrial purposes into cultural attractions, and the city’s parks, gardens and lakes, as well as the sunny climate, itself continued to be promoted. 

‘Sunshine hours’ are recorded by the Bureau of Meteorology, and historical data confirms that the Bendigo region has a proportionally high number of sunny days compared to the part of Victoria on the southern side of the Great Dividing Range - comparable, in fact, to far north Queensland.

This natural asset is highlighted in much of the literature promoting the city.

Bendigo for sunshine, business and pleasure surveys the history of tourism in the region and will open on December 15 at Post Office Gallery.