Perth Platypuses

Under an agreement between the State Gardens Board of Western Australia and the Victorian Fisheries and Game Department, Mr David Fleay captured two platypuses in the Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria and quickly sent them to Perth in an Australian National Airways plane.

The platypuses. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S4151- cons1068 1942/0742 V1).
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The Elvira Mystery

Two years before the murder at Mount Magnet, the Elvira mine, located north east of Coolgardie and near the Red Bluff, had been sitting abandoned for over a year. On 9 June 1896, Joseph Sorensen lodged an application and was granted a lease over the site.

Red Bluff at Coolgardie circa 1901. Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia.

Work began immediately. Joseph started clearing the mine out and on 11 August he was working on the north shaft. Having sent up dozens of buckets during the course of the work, he moved a slab of wood and came across earth mixed with stones. He began picking it away and as he did so, a skull rolled out.

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The Disappearance of Mollie Tipping

Mollie Tipping was smart, kind and well loved by those who knew her. She was born on 30 July 1901 in Brunswick, Victoria however she spent most of her youth growing up in Milton, Queensland. She attended Craigard School for Girls and studied music, spoke French, was a gymnast and actively participated in community activities.

At the age of 14 she competed in the beginners’ swimming race at her school’s annual swimming competition and came second. She continued with swimming lessons and performed well in the sport, often being listed as placing first or second for breaststroke.

Graduating from school, in 1919 she sat an Arts Matriculation exam for Queensland University and passed. She began studying a Bachelor of Arts and when her father obtained a new position with The West Australian in 1920, she transferred to the University of Western Australia.

Mollie continued in much the same way in Western Australia as she did in Queensland. She studied, made friends and participated in various social activities. She officially completed her degree on 15 May 1925 at age 23 and began working as a teacher.

She lived with her parents, Ivon and Ada Tipping, in Leederville and in 1928 she advertised her services as a University coach at Hartill’s Commercial College. By 1929 she obtained a position at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Ballarat and taught at the school until about 1932. She returned to Western Australia and in 1933 she holidayed for 10 months in England, Scotland and Southern India. The following year Mollie was appointed Mathematics Mistress at the Church of England Girls’ Grammar School in Moss Vale, New South Wales.

In 1935, at the age of 33, Mollie returned to Western Australia and began working as the Science Mistress at the Presbyterian Ladies College. She was still working at the school and was living with her parents at 104 Broome Street in Cottesloe when, early in the morning on 21 January 1937, she walked out of her home wearing cream silk pyjamas and disappeared.

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Frank Fogarty Escapes

Frank Fogarty’s rap sheet read like an ode to burglary. He was first convicted of breaking and entering and stealing and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in 1897. In subsequent years he was found in possession of skeleton keys and housebreaking implements; was unlawfully on premises; and gave a false name. By 1903 he was the known leader of a group of “crib-crackers, safe dynamiters and bold bad burglars” known to the police as the Fogarty gang.

He was considered to be one of the “cleverest safe openers in Australia” and had no qualms about regularly putting that skill to use.

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£1 Hudson

Eager to prove that the Great Depression was not affecting the financial world as badly as newspapers were reporting, Sydney Atkinson of Sydney Atkinson Motors decided to offer a used car for sale for £1 to the first person through the doors at 9 am on Friday, 28 March 1930.

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Moore’s Escalator

As early as 1898 Western Australians were aware of the invention of the moving stairway (escalator) when The Daily News published a story about Bloomingdale’s (New York) installing it in their store. It allowed shoppers to go from floor to floor, from department to department without having to move and was “like the magic carpet of the Arabian Nights“.

Illustration of an escalator circa 1902.

London railway stations followed department stores and had escalators installed. Reports highlighted the advantages of such technology which included transporting a large number of people from one place to the other without having to wait (such as in the case of lifts). Despite reading about them in the newspapers, many Western Australians would not have the opportunity to see one until 1929.

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Battle of the Bellmen

Courtesy of Libraries Tasmania

On 21 May 1886 Tommy Hopkins was walking down Hay Street, preparing to ring his bell and announce to the public that Messrs. E. Solomon and Co. had a sale.

Eyeing him as he traversed the streets, Billy Boy the Bellman was far from pleased. As town crier, Perth was his domain while Tommy had the run of Fremantle. Two bellmen in the city would never do.

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The South Cornwall Ghost

Sinking operations continued at the South Cornwall tin mine however the men struggled a little due to the hardness of the diorite. In early December 1907 the results at the Greenbushes tin field was “watched with the keenest of interest” and was considered “the one hope of the future.” Also being keenly watched at around the same time was what The Blackwood Times dubbed ‘The South Cornwall Ghost‘.

A tin mine at Spring Gully, Greenbushes circa 1903. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (1176B/1).
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The Women’s Rush

Shenton Street in Menzies circa 1906

Following the discovery of the Golden Eagle nugget at Larkinville on 15 January 1931, gold was at the forefront in the minds of Western Australians. Reminiscent of earlier gold rush years, some men left their jobs to travel to the field in the hope they would strike it rich. Gold was the hot topic of the day and everyone kept their eyes peeled, including the women of Menzies.

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Controversial Slacks

Driving with her mother and sister from Sydney to Canberra in 1933, 23 year old Dorothy Henderson-Smart of Johannesburg thought little of the black slacks she wore throughout the journey. Comfort was her main priority on a drive that would take many hours.

They arrived in Canberra and on 21 November 1933 they took a tour of Parliament House. Still wearing slacks, Dorothy noticed a few men looking at her but she had no idea why. It wasn’t until later that day that she was informed that the wearing of slacks by women in Parliament House was inappropriate.

Old Parliament House circa 1927. Courtesy of the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate archive.
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