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Image 'Diggers' auction, Eagle Hawk, Bendigo', 1853

TLF ID R3052

This is a hand-coloured lithographic print that shows a digger (miner) auctioning his mining equipment at the Eaglehawk gold fields near Bendigo in Victoria. A small crowd is shown gathered around the digger and part of the Eaglehawk tent settlement can be seen behind him. The print is from a watercolour painting by Samuel Thomas Gill and appeared as a plate in Gill's book 'Sketches of the Victoria gold diggings and diggers as they are' published in 1853. The print measures 15.8 cm x 19.5 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows an aspect of the gold rush in this period - gold was officially discovered in the Bathurst region of New South Wales and the Central Highlands of Victoria in 1851; the discoveries triggered a series of rushes from towns and cities in Australia, many of which were almost emptied of men, who went to seek their fortunes on the gold fields; the gold rushes also led to mass immigration to the Australian colonies and by 1871 the population had trebled to 1.7 million people.
  • It shows a digger auctioning his mining tools - while many people did strike it rich on the gold fields, many more returned empty-handed and were forced to 'sell up'.
  • It depicts examples of the types of tools used by diggers on the gold fields - the digger holds a pick, while on the ground below him is a puddling tub, which was filled with water and earth and mixed or 'puddled' to separate the heavier gold from the earth; the boy in the centre has secured a pan, which was used in the more delicate process of separating the gold from the remaining gravel, the heavier gold becoming trapped in ridges around the bottom of the pan; the digger on the left has bought a dipper, which was used to pour water over earth in the Californian cradle, a box on rockers that separated gold and stones from larger rocks and silt.
  • It provides an example of the type of outfit worn by diggers in this period - the outfit usually consisted of a serge or flannel shirt, moleskin trousers, belt, sturdy boots and cabbage tree hat (broad-brimmed hat); some of the diggers represented here are wearing bowyangs or gaiters (a strip of lightweight waterproof material that went from the instep to the knee).
  • It shows an aspect of a gold field settlement - diggers lived in makeshift huts and canvas tents; the townships of tents that sprang up on the gold fields also included businesses such as butchers, grocers, sly grog shops and a blacksmith's forge to mend picks and shovels.
  • It shows that some women and children lived on the gold fields in this period - the gold fields were regarded as an unsuitable place for women, and men outnumbered women by four to one, however, as more families immigrated to Australia more women began working alongside their male relatives looking for gold.
  • It shows a trooper (mounted policeman) - detachments of police were sent to the gold fields to keep law and order and to enforce the hated mining licence fee; when 80 per cent of the Victorian police force resigned to join the gold rush, the government was forced to recruit ex-convicts, many of whom were corrupt.
  • It is an example of the work of Samuel Thomas Gill - the English-born Gill (1818-1880) was a draughtsman, watercolour painter and lithographer; Gill arrived on the Victorian gold fields in 1852 but soon abandoned the quest for gold in favour of drawing and painting all aspects of life on the gold fields; this print appeared in 'Sketches of the Victorian gold diggings and diggers as they are' (1853).
Year level


Learning area
  • History
  • History/Historical knowledge and understanding

    Other details

    • Content provider
    • Copyright holder
    • Organisation: National Library of Australia
    • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
    • Author
    • Date of contribution: 1853
    • Name: Samuel Thomas Gill
    • Remarks: artist
    • Author
    • Date of contribution: 1853
    • Organisation: H H Collins and Company
    • Remarks: publisher
    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 30 Aug 2013
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
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    Learning resource type
    • Image
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    • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements