EB Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historic Research
January 1997, No. 16
Paris (of the Antipodes) in the Twenties
They had to let Squizzy go.
A Melbourne judge ruled in October of 1919 that there was insufficient proof
to hold pickpocket and holdup man Joseph Leslie Theodore "Squizzy"
Taylor, a. k. a. The Turk. The court moved on to other matters. The law
had plenty on its mind. So did Australia.
In the aftermath of the Great War, the capitals of Europe were struggling
to reconstruct their shattered societies. London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin,
Madrid, Rome ­p; all were marshalling kings' men and horses to put back
together the broken shards of civilization.
Many of their colonial capitals faced the same challenges, even those imperial
outposts south of the Equator. Australia had suffered some of the most devastating
losses. 330,000 troops had gone off to fight this war which wouldn't end
all wars. 60,000 remained in Europe's battlefield graveyards forever. Of
the remaining troops, 152,000 returned smashed, blinded, crippled, maimed.
They would go a-waltzing, Matilda, no more.
Even those who returned relatively whole would find their society forever
changed. These changes were under way at every crossroad, every waterhole
and every sheep station on the continent, as well as in the towns and cities,
as the third decade of the twentieth century opened. Melbourne was one such
This capital city lying between Victoria's Dandenong Mountains and Port
Phillip Bay, in the continent's southernmost state, was less than a hundred
years old as the new decade began. The settlement had been founded in 1835,
by immigrants from Tasmania, across the Bass Strait. Born in isolation,
as were most cities in this vast continent, Melbourne became part of the
outside world when the first troopship retrieved its hawser and sailed away.
Now 270,000 survivors faced another battle; to survive once again. They
found a country facing war debts estimated at £364,000,000. Those who
had not gone off to fight had been doing Melbourne's work. Now the returning
veterans wanted those positions back. A maritime strike further reduced
the work available. On March 14, 1920, 500 jobless veterans held a protest
march. The government told them there we unfilled jobs, especially in the
lumber industry. Another 10,000 former soldiers planned on walking in the
city's St. Patrick's Day parade on the 20th; even though the police were
worried about demonstrations the men were allowed to march. The following
year the government responded to the problem by cutting the standard work
week from 48 hours to 44. Many of the unemployed became soldier settlers
and began leaving the cities to farm the interior frontier. Government projects
such as a new power station at Yallourn, and even the building of a city
in 1924 for a new capital at Canberra, complete with electricity, sewage
and water facilities, provided more jobs.
Even as unemployment began to drop wartime prices continued rising. Women
were in the forefront of protest. The Housewives Association was formed
and launched a three-month boycott on gloves in 1920. By 1923 they were
getting down to more basic needs, protesting 40% price hikes for gas. They
were also pressing for ­p; and sometimes receiving ­p; equality. The
country got its first female MP in 1921, when Edith Dircksey Cowan became
the first woman member of an Australian parliament, taking her seat in Western
Australia's ruling body. The following year Women doctors were protesting
their exclusion from the casualty wards of Melbourne Hospital. In 1923 the
parliament in Victoria itself permitted women to stand for election.
Life for women, and their families, was beginning to ease as the early years
of the decade passed. Electric power and appliances, air mail, radio ­p;
all were making life a bit easier. City transportation began improving as
the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board began turning out new trolley
cars. The cars would carry much of the city's work force out to the many
new suburbs, where they would increasingly begin living in an import from
the States ­p; the California bungalow. For a £600 war service loan
a veteran could now afford a low maintenance brick house, suited for a lifestyle
focused on the outdoors.
The residents of Melbourne began settling down to enjoy some of the fruits
of peacetime. On September 11, 1922, tabloid journalism debuted, as a new
morning newspaper, The Sun News Pictorial, took the shipping company
advertisements off the front page and replaced them with ­p; are you
ready for this? ­p; news. The next year saw the introduction of several
new foods. The Hoadley Chocolate Company came out with its new Violet Crumble
bar. And Fred Walker introduced the vegetable extract Vegemite, a home-grown
rival of the British tea spread Marmite ­p; which has been described
as 'dried mud with a touch of salt.' The Melbourne version was apparently
not much of an improvement, as declining sales prompted a name change to
The Sun News-Pictorial had much to report in the middle years of
the decade. Squizzy Taylor, for one thing. In the spring of 1924 he was
often found in court; twice in one day on May 15th. Charged in April with
being idle and disorderly, he now found himself facing more serious charges
­p; harboring an escaped murderer and shortly afterwards with negligent
driving in an accident which left one woman dead. Squizzy was getting to
be about as popular as a dab of Vegemite gone bad.
Marvelous Melbourne's print media also reported lighter fare. The opening
of Essendon Airport. Dame Nellie Melba's farewell performance at Her Majesty's
Theatre. Actress Louise Lovely directing and starring in the first all-Australian
film Jeweled Nights. Expatriate pianist composer Percy Grainger and
then Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, stopping by to perform while on tour.
Wireless transmission to the UK. The first skywriting exhibition. Theater
chains converted for "talkies".
The twenties may not have actually roared in Melbourne, but they certainly
weren't dull. In 1922 Colin Campbell Ross, proclaiming his innocence right
up to the gallows' steps, paid for the murder of twelve-year-old Alma Tirtschke,
found strangled in an alley. In 1923 the Yarra River overflowed its banks,
submerging city streets, driving hundreds from their homes, and drowning
two people. And weeks later Victoria state police walked off the job, leaving
these same streets vulnerable again, especially after Derby Day, giving
roving packs of drunken looters the opportunity to sweep through the city,
doing thousands of pounds worth of damage.
And there were minor discontents. The radio, a boon to the thousands of
Australians scattered across the empty spaces of the continent, also raised
fears that parents were abandoning their responsibilities, leaving mechanical
voices to tell progeny their nightly bedtime stories. Kangaroos and prickly
pears were becoming pests to outlying farmers. Voter turnout in Federal
elections were so low that voting had to be made mandatory. Automobile traffic
flow began clotting during peak hours and the complete lack of driving standards
led to the founding of the Australian Automobile Association.
On the plus side of the ledger ­p; sports. Horse racing fans turned out
for the annual Melbourne Cup classic every November, first cheering on Poitrel,
then Sister Olive, King Ingoda, Bitalli, Blackwood, Windbag (the first Cup
race broadcast over the radio), Spearfelt, Trivalve, Statesman and Nightmarch.
In 1923 cricket batsman William Ponsford finished the season with the highest
score in a first-class match, making 429 runs against Tasmania. Four years
later he scored 437, in a match against Queensland. Geelong Football Club
administrator Charles Brownlow died in 1924; in his honor the Brownlow Medal
was instituted, to honor the best player in the league's home and away series.
Edward (Cargie) Greeves won the first medal.
And so the decade and the society proceeded. The former had opened with
physical and psychic wounds from war's trenches still on view in every section
of the city. Perhaps the bad times had now passed, along with the decade.
Of course, there was some talk of economic problems for the Americans. But
at least the Hun was tamed. Melbourne looked forward to the thirties.
Most of Melbourne, anyway.
On October 27, 1927, police arrived at a house in the Carlton section of
the city to find gangster John "Snowy" Cutmore lying dead, shot
through the heart. As he died he pumped a bullet into his assailant's lung.
A short time later that day Squizzy Taylor, delivered by a cabbie, died
in the casualty ward of St. Vincent's Hospital.
Notes: For a moving portrayal of the feelings that may have been going
through the minds of returning Australia veterans, listen to Eric Bogle's
powerful The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
(Not the Worst of Eric Bogle)
A search of Eagles Byte chronologies for "media" turns up the
following events for 1920
Rochester, New York, publisher Clement G. Lanni merges two weekly Italian-language
newspapers, La Tribuna and Il Popolo Italiano, into La
The first scheduled radio broadcast (of presidential election results) is
made by Westinghouse Electric station KDKA in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Warren G. Harding is elected the 29th President on his 55th birthday.
Texas A&M radio station 5XB (WTAW) broadcasts the first collegiate football
E. W. Morse's biography of U. S. editor-critic Hamilton Wright Mabie is
The mystery magazine Black Mask is founded by H. L. Mencken and George Jean
East Pittsburgh station KDKA transmits the first church service to be broadcast
by radio, from the Calvary Episcopal Church.
New York City magazine editors Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson are charged
with obscenity when they publish excerpts from James Joyce's Ulysses.
Warren G. Harding is inaugurated. His inaugural address is the first to
be broadcast over the radio.
The first sporting event broadcast ­p; a boxing match.
Jack Dempsey knocks out Georges Carpentier, in the fourth round, at Boyle's
30 Acres in Jersey City, New Jersey, retains his heavyweight championship.
The first prize fight with a one million dollar gate. The match is broadcast.
The publishing firms of Collier and Harper announce a merger.
Pittsburgh radio station KDKA is the first to broadcast a baseball game,
between the Pirates and the Phillies.
The New York World begins a series of exposes on the Ku Klux Klan.
Heywood Broun publishes his first column for the New York World.
The newly-formed Newark, New Jersey radio station WJZ (later WABC) broadcasts
the first play-by-play World Series description. The New York Giants defeat
the New York Yankees, five games to three - the first Subway Series.
Former gambler and lawman William Barclay "Bat" Masterson, sports
editor for New York City's Morning Telegraph, dies at the age of
Iowa State College found s the first educational radio station, WOI.
The Dalhousie Review begins publication.
Henry R. Luce becomes a reporter for the Chicago Daily News.
Station KYW is formed to broadcast the Chicago Opera season. It operates
from the roof of the Commonwealth Edison building.
When you research a subject on the World Wide Web, the most useful tool
is a search engine dedicated to your subject. And for Australia, the best
jumping off spot is the Web Wombat
PEARL OF AN URL
As well as providing a search tool for all things Down Under, the site also
contains links to Australian and other international newspapers and periodicals.
You were asked to name London's highly mobile detective unit founded after
World War I. There were no correct answers. Although it was not airborne,
it was speedy, so it was known as The Flying Squad.
Radio pioneer Lee de Forest was a fan of the illustrated Youth's Companion.
Name the Boston publishing house that created the magazine.
EB SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
(more detailed versions available)
Most of the research for the lead article came from:
- Ross, John - Chronicle of Australia (Lomdon, Chronicle Communications,
For further information:
- Allan, James Alexander - Men and Manners in Australia, Being a Social
and Economic Sketch History (Melbourne, F. W. Cheshire pty. ltd., 1945)
- Bambrick, Susan, ed. - The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Australia (Cambridge
University Press, 1994)
- Brown, Robin & Appleton, Richard - Collins Milestones in Australian
History : 1788 to the Present (Boston : G.K. Hall, c. 1986)
- Chartwood, Don - The Long Farewell: The Perilous Voyages of Settlers
Under Sail in the Great Migrations to Australia (New York, Penguin, 1983)
- Daley, Charles - The History of South Melbourne from the Foundation
of Settlement at Port Phillip to the Year 1938 (Melbourne, Robertson &
- Higgins, C. S. & Moss, P. D. - Sounds Real : Radio in Every Day
Life (St. Lucia, New York, University of Queensland Press, c. 1982)
- Jones, F. Lancaster - Dimensions of Urban Social Structure; the Social
Areas of Melbourne, Australia (University of Toronto Press, c. 1969)
- Kenyon, Alfred S. - The Story of Melbourne (Melbourne , Lothian, 1934)
- Lewis, Brian - Our War: Australia during World War I (Carlton, Victoria,
Melbourne University Press, 1980)
- McLeod, Alan Linsey - The Pattern of Australian Culture Ithaca, Cornell
University Press, c. 1963)
- Rienits, Rex & Thea - A Pictorial History of Australia (London,
New York, Hamlyn, 1969)
- Souter, Gavin - Acts of Parliament : A Narrative History of the Senate
and House of Representatives, Commonwealth of Australia (Carlton, Melbourne
University Press, 1988)
- Willbanks, Ray - Australian Voices: Writers and their Work (Austin,
University of Texas Press, 1991)
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I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends.
If you'd like further information and/or fees, feel free to e-mail me.
Copyright 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte
London, England, 1920s Theater