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A race to the gold diggings

Date: c 1855
Overall: 487 mm
Medium: Ink on linen with wooden box and lead tokens
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Board game
Object No: V00006083

User Terms

    This board game was made in England during the decade of the Australian gold rushes. It consists of a board made from a hand coloured lithographic sheet mounted on linen, a metal playing token, a rules list from a woodcut print and an illustrated varnished container. Depicted on the board game is the route from England to Australia including the key landmarks of Batavia, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Cape of Good Hope. While in the centre is a portrayal of miners easily extracting chunks of gold.
    SignificanceThis game highlights the preoccupation with gold prevalent in America, England and Australia during the 1850s. The gold rush generated a sense of excitement, adventure and wealth that even permeated down to the production of children's board games. This is the earliest known game that is entirely devoted to Australia.
    HistoryChildren's board games offer an insight into the ideals and values of the society that manufactured them. During the 1800s most children's games presented a moralistic view that often emphasised the value of hard work and persistence. The gold rush emphasised a different focus in the production of games. It glorified the chances of quick wealth and fortune in the exciting new colony. Dice were associated with gambling during the 19th century and were not used in children’s games. Instead an instrument known as a teeotum, a numbered spinning tool was used to indicate how many places a player could move.

    In many ways the discovery of gold in Australia echoed the California gold rush of 1849. Edward Hargraves discovered gold in New South Wales in 1851 after returning from the Californian diggings. This discovery started a gold rush that tripled Australia's population in just ten years. Gold brought people and wealth to both countries, dramatically changing their societies and environments. Miners came from Britain, Europe, America and China to mix in harsh conditions on the diggings. This changed Australian beliefs, politics, economics and technology. Most of the gold was exhausted in Victoria and New South Wales by 1861 but the impact of the gold rush continued to be felt 150 years later.

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