Programme printed to commemorate the Pioneers' Ball held at the Town Hall in Melbourne on 17 October 1934. It was printed by Ramsay Publishing.

In 1934, as Melbourne planned to celebrate the centenary of European settlement, it seemed to some that there was little to celebrate. The financial strains of the depression, unemployment and the scandal of the city's slums all undercut claims of unbridled progress.

Perhaps because of such troubles, the organisers of the centenary celebrations tried doubly hard to be positive. The themes of the celebrations were conservative, reflecting the desire of some Melbournians for security in troubled times. The widely promoted image of the 'Garden City' and 'Queen City of the South' emphasised the idea of Melbourne as a very British city. A visit by the Duke of Gloucester, son of George V, the ageing king, provided a reassuring strengthening of Melbourne's imperial connections.

The presented view of Melbourne's history stressed the 'myth of the pioneer', embodied in people such as John Batman. Elevated to heroic status, he was reinvented as courageous pioneers whose life exemplified the rewards of self-improvement. Such a portrayal ignored Batman's dubious 'treaty' with local Aborigines and the less savoury details of his personal life.

Melbourne's indigenous people were excluded from this triumphant view of Melbourne's past. The centenary celebrations now seem dated, but the image of Melbourne as a conservative city largely influenced by Britain has been more enduring.

Physical Description

Quarto, illustrated, stapled in original colour. Textured cream card cover printed in green, gold, black and red. Cover image shows a woman in a ball gown with parasol and hat, in arm with a man dressed in a top hat, suit holding a cane. They are surrounded by simple drawings of soldiers, a sailing ship, cows, a fox terrier and an image of an Australian bush scene. Extensive black and white text and photographic images within.


The Pioneer Ball program in particular is significant as it represents the 'myth of the pioneer', which was a central theme of the Centenary celebrations. The Program is in fact a `Who's Who' of pioneers and pioneering families from the early years of white settlement, as well as the contemporary descendants representing each family at the Ball. It has a wonderful selection of evocative advertisements, particularly for local companies, with an emphasis on Centenary souvenirs.

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