SLSA - Meet the Old Colonists

For most of last century, portraits of over 1000 of South Australia’s ‘Old Colonists’ were on display in the State Library of South Australia.

However this was no ordinary collection of portraits, but rather, this large mosaic was showing those who attended the ‘The Old Colonists Banquet’, which was commissioned by businessman Emanuel Solomon to commemorate a free banquet he held at the Adelaide Town Hall on 28th December 1871 for fellow colonists ‘who date their arrival before 1841’. 

With around 500 early pioneer men attending this banquet which was held to commemorate 35 years since colonisation, it would have been something to see. Trove has numerous articles on the banquet. The one I’ve included here from the South Australian Advertiser includes the names of those who attended, as well as details of the whole evening’s proceedings:, below is a small portion of it.

“The most interesting gathering which took place on the 35th anniversary of the foundation of the colony was that which took place in the Town Hall on Thursday night, when upwards of 500 persons – old colonists – assembled at the hospitable invitation of Mr Emanuel Solomon to partake of a liberal banquet provided by that gentleman. The invitations were issued mainly to persons who arrived in the colony prior to the year 1841, but a number of gentlemen who were later arrivals were also present as prominent citizen or as personal friends of the host.”

The banquet was also reported in the South Australian Register, and includes some different details, so it’s useful to read both

The Old Colonists Banquet Group [mosaic]. Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia reference: B47769/MOSAIC

The Old Colonists Banquet Group [mosaic]. Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia reference: B47769/MOSAIC

The companion mosaic of women was created partly as a consolation to women who applied for tickets only to be told that the banquet was for ‘the Male Sex’!

Now thanks to funding from the Friends of the State Library, the Old Colonists mosaic is back in the State Library of South Australia as facsimiles.

Since then the mosaics have been celebrated as unique in the history of Australian photography. So if you’re visiting the SLSA, be sure to take a look at them, or check out every one of the portraits (both the men and women) online on the State Library of South Australia’s website: 

And be sure to check out the original “Records of the Old Colonists’ Association Register” listing over 1000 (130+ pages) of those who were part of the Association.  Information in the book includes:
– No. of Registration
– Surname, Extra Name & relation
– Age
– When arrived in South Australia
– Name of Ship and captain
– Residence and occupation