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The burning of the SUCCESS

Date: 1946
Sheet: 500 × 605 mm
Medium: Photographic print on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from LeeRoy T Bracken
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00028859

User Terms

    Colour photographic print documenting the destruction of the exhibition ship SUCCESS. The print shows the advance stages of the burning when the middle section of SUCCESS has mostly been destroyed, but the ship still remains afloat.

    SignificanceIn a career that spanned 106 years (1840-1946) and four continents, SUCCESS performed a variety of roles such as emigrant ship, trader, prison hulk and exhibition ship. The vessel achieved great fame in the twentieth century as a floating museum, based partly on the erroneous claim that it had transported convicts to Australia. This booklet is representative of the popularity of SUCCESS as a museum ship and the intense public interest in Australia's convict past. It is believed that millions of curious sightseers visited the vessel throughout her more than 50 years of exhibition.
    HistoryConvict transportation to Australia began in 1787 when the First Fleet set sail. It was seen as a solution to the overcrowding of British prisons and the temporary measure in England of stowing convicts on prison hulks. Transportation reached a peak in the 1830s and continued until 1857, by which time new prisons were opening, many of which are still in use today. The practice of transportation wasn't formally abolished until 1868.

    Between 1788 and 1868 over 168,000 men, women and children were transported from Britain to Australia as convicts on board more than 1,000 modified merchant ships which had been converted into convict transports.

    The SUCCESS was a barque of 622 tons built at Moulemain, India in 1840. Employed as a 'country ship' in the UK to East Indies trade the owners then transferred the vessel to the Australian immigrant service in 1847. On one run in 1853 upon arriving at Geelong, Victoria, the crew deserted to join the gold rush, leaving the vessel stranded. It was purchased later that year by the Victorian Government and turned into a prison hulk for convicts. In March 1857 the Inspector-General of Penal Establishments in Victoria, Captain John Price, visited Williamstown to investigate conditions on the hulks. During this visit, he was surrounded and attacked by a party of convicts, dying from his injuries the next day. A group of SUCCESS prisoners were hanged for the murder, and the incident initiated an inquiry into the use of prison hulks, ultimately bringing an end to this system of incarceration.

    SUCCESS was next transferred to Sydney owners before being sold to entrepreneurs in 1890. The ship departed Australia and surreptitiously arrived in England as an 'exhibition ship', fitted out as a floating museum and falsely billed as having a history of transporting convicts to Australia- 'the last of England's infamous felon fleet'. SUCCESS remained on exhibition there until 1912 when the vessel was sold to American owners for the same purpose, going on to tour the east and west coasts of the United States. The greatly exaggerated and often fabricated stories of SUCCESS' dreadful convict history drew multitudes of curious visitors, and in the 1920s and 1930s the Australian government unsuccessfully attempted to have the enterprise shut down. In addition to inaccurately claiming a convict transport past, SUCCESS' operators also declared her to be the oldest ship afloat, advertising 1790 as the year the vessel was built rather than 1840. Despite this, the ship continued on display in the US for many years and was a star attraction at the 1933 Chicago World Fair. However in 1946, after more than 50 years of exhibition, SUCCESS was destroyed by fire and sunk in Lake Erie, USA.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Photographic print titled 'The Burning of the SUCCESS'.

    Primary title: The burning of the SUCCESS

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