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Ferry nearing berth at Circular Quay facing Alfred Street

Date: 1892-1895
Overall: 72 x 100 mm
Medium: Silver gelatin print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00027579
Place Manufactured:Circular Quay
Related Place:Sydney Cove, Circular Quay,

User Terms

    This photograph captures a busy scene at Circular Quay, Sydney. The steam ferry BIRKENHEAD is nearing the wharf, its two decks crowded with passengers. At the centre of the image is Customs House, and the central clock showing the time is 13 minutes to 12.
    SignificanceThis photograph is an excellent snapshot of activity at Circular Quay in the 1890s.
    HistoryThe early British govenors of New South Wales believed a time-based discilinary system would instill moral order and help reform within the penal colony. As the new settlement grew, more and more public buildings featured large clocks, encouraging a regimented working life and uniform timetables for the developing city.

    Public clocks and towers were built at prominent landmarks, and in 1858 a time-ball tower was built at the observatory - announcing the time to ships on Sydney harbour. With the development of the city, audible signals - such as a canon fire - were introduced, and eventually a telegraph line was established in 1870 to link the city clocks with the regulator clocks at the observatory.

    Through the 1890s five million passengers a year traveled on steam-operated ferries which passed through the Quay, where they relied on the handsome Customs House clock to check their pocket watches and make sure they were on time for work and appointments.

    The dolphins and tridents surrounding the customs clock are reminders of the Customs agency's traditional maritime associations. The turret clock also had maritime significance, as ships' officers used this and the observatory time ball to adjust their chronometers.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Ferry nearing berth at Circular Quay facing Alfred Street

    Web title: Ferry nearing berth at Circular Quay facing Alfred Street

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