Footscray 1911

Footscray 1911
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This clip captures scenes of daily life in the main streets of Footscray, Melbourne, in 1910 and 1911.

Summary by Poppy De Souza

In this clip, the camera films from street level and remains mostly static, although it does occasionally pan to follow the movement of people within the frame. Some members of the public consciously acknowledge the camera (particularly children), while others conduct their business regardless. A moving image camera and crew was still a novelty for people in the early decades of last century and provoked curiosity.

These scenes were filmed in the middle of a Melbourne summer in 1910, but the only obvious indication that it was not winter are the few boys wearing shorts. The clothing custom of the time dictated that men and women were formally clothed in public.


Footscray 1911 synopsis

This unedited actuality footage of Footscray in 1910 captures street scenes of daily life in the Melbourne suburb. The film is silent, without intertitles and filmed mostly with a static camera.


Footscray 1911 Curator's notes

This is one of the earliest moving image recordings of Footscray. According to the Footscray Advertiser newspaper, most of the footage was shot on 14 December 1910 by a Pathé Australian Animated Gazette film crew. The unedited footage was compiled with intertitles and screened a week later at the Federal Hall in Nicholson Street, Footscray, to a local audience. 

In 1971, prominent Melbourne film lover and collector Harry Davidson shot actuality footage of Footscray for his friend Brian Davis, possibly for the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Grand Picture Palace. It is unusual to have actuality footage of the same suburb so many years apart and, when both are viewed together, it is remarkable to see the development of the suburb over that time.

Notes by Poppy De Souza


Education notes

This black-and-white silent clip filmed in 1910 and 1911 shows scenes of daily life in the streets of Footscray, an inner western suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. Footage includes carts, buggies, bicycles and a solitary car as well as pedestrians, shopfronts, awnings and shop signs. The camera, placed in a few fixed positions, films pedestrians as they cross the street, including a young girl in a bonnet, a man smoking, a young boy with a lace collar and a woman driving a buggy. Passers-by appear curious about the camera. In the final scene people are grouped outside a shop.


Educational value points

  • The clip provides a rare record of early 20th-century life in Footscray, a working-class suburb of Melbourne. This actuality footage shows the daily life of people shopping and doing business in Footscray in 1910 when it had developed into one of the most industrialised suburbs in Melbourne. Short actuality films recording daily life in Australia had been made and screened from the late 1890s but few have survived.
  • A range of modes of transport is shown in the clip, from bicycles and horsedrawn vehicles to a solitary parked car. The most common forms of transport are still horsedrawn and the motor vehicle, which had first appeared in Melbourne around the turn of the century, may still have been a novelty. The two-wheeled wagons made deliveries and transported goods. Passenger vehicles include a four-wheeled lightweight lady’s phaeton with a folding hood.
  • The clip provides a detailed view of a range of fashions worn by women, men and children in public on a summer’s day at the time. As the dress code of the day dictated, most people are formally dressed. Despite summertime heat the men wear suits with waistcoats, and women and children wear layers of clothing and long sleeves. All wear hats, with some men wearing summertime straw boaters.
  • Some indication of the character of the suburb of Footscray is shown here only 50 years after its settlement. Substantial shops line streets busy with traffic and people, giving some indication of the large working-class population, mainly of British or Irish descent, living in Footscray in 1910-11. Smoke on the horizon may be from one of the many factories built during the boom years from 1860 to the 1890s that established Footscray as a thriving industrial hub.
  • The curiosity about the camera shown by onlookers provides evidence of the novelty of film and filmmaking at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1906 The Story of the Kelly Gang had premiered at The Athenaeum in Melbourne, and in 1910 a permanent projection box was built there suggesting that the showing of films had become a permanent fixture. However, it is unlikely that many Melburnians around the time would have seen a movie camera.
  • The clip shows a range of signage above shopfronts and on the sides of buildings advertising products and commercial businesses. A prominent sign advertises Capstan, a popular cigarette of the day. This advertisement, together with the number of men smoking in the street, reflects the increased uptake of smoking among men, which started in Australia from around 1910 and continued into the 1920s.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia