Canberra 1913: Naming the Federal Capital of Australia
In 1908 the site of the nation’s capital was chosen as a compromise between rival cities, Sydney (NSW) and Melbourne (Vic). It was decided that Canberra was to be a wholly planned city. An international contest attracted 137 entries from 15 countries and in 1912 led to the selection of a design by Chicago (US) architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. The Griffins’ plan featured geometric motifs such as circles, hexagons and triangles, and was centred on axes aligned with significant topographical landmarks. The foundation stone was laid on 12 March 1913 and construction commenced soon after.
On the morning of Wednesday 12 March 1913, 500 invited guests, over 700 mounted and artillery troops and a public crowd of over 3000 locals came to witness the formal naming of Canberra. Foundation stones were laid by Governor-General Lord Thomas Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher and the Minister for Home Affairs, King O’Malley. The national anthem was played and Lady Gertrude Denman announced the chosen name for the new-born federal capital. This recently completed digital restoration of the film, with music by Elaine Loebenstein, includes beautiful, clear images of guests arriving to watch the ceremony. Many of the troops seen in the film would soon be sent to fight overseas during the First World War. The film, directed by Raymond Longford and shot by Ernest Higgins, ends with a long panoramic sweep from Mt Pleasant taken the day after the ceremony.