Saturday, 8 September 2012

Seeing swans in black and white

I had to share these cartoons dating from the early days of British settlement of the Swan River Colony in Western Australia. They are funny and fascinating at the same time.

They show that the nature of capitalist enterprise was alive and well back then, along with a sense that those in positions of influence will try to get away with whatever they can - and that things don't always turn out as planned. Has anything changed? What I particularly 'love' about them is the depiction of the swans. The swans here are of course black - but to the British mind swans were white - and so black becomes white. Perhaps it is a window into the wrong-headedness of much of the early years of the colony. Seeing but not seeing, understanding but misunderstanding?? The swans don't look too happy either ...

Captain Dick Demi-Solde on a Wilde Goose Flight to the Swan River, 1829. by caricaturist  S. Stoutshanks, lithographer  Charles Ingrey, published in 1829.

The first image depicts the Duke of Wellington (Prime Minister of England) and is a criticism of the British Government over the establishment of the Swan River Colony.

Peel, Peel, Swan River Peel! Very Fine Peel! 1829. by caricaturist A Sharpshooter, published in 1829

The next two cartoons criticise the Right Honorable Robert Peel, who was Secretary of State (in England) and his cousin Thomas. These cartoons imply that Robert Peel influenced the decision to grant land to Thomas' syndicate of financiers who had tried to do a deal with the Government for a grant of prime land. However they failed to be allocated prime land as Peel's shipload of settlers arrived six weeks after the Government's stipulated deadline. They were allocated poorer land and eventually the whole scheme failed.

Cousin Thomas, or the Swan River Job [Plucking or Peeling], 1829 by caricaturist Robert Seymour, published in 1829.

All the images are from the National Gallery of Australia and are part of the Wordsworth Collection, purchased in 2010. Link to the NGA here.


  1. These are just great Janine. They would be a good base for an article. Go on!

  2. Yes, There is so much fodder there ... I am very tempted ...