Stephen Jakubowicz (MA in History 2021), ‘The Mischief Wrought by the Master of the Skerryvore: Victoria at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876′
This thesis is a study of the colony of Victoria’s involvement in the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. The chance to send a display to Philadelphia provided an exciting opportunity for the colony to foster a sense of racial and cultural belonging with the Exhibition’s fairgoers with the aim of consolidating economic, cultural, scientific and social networks between Victoria, the United States and the world. Of the Australian colonies, Victoria sent the largest exhibition contingent to Philadelphia. However, restrictive trade laws, parliamentary disunity, and doubts regarding the usefulness of sending exhibits to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition negatively impacted its planning and staging. These problems ultimately led to the attempted scuttling of the Skerryvore, the ship tasked with transporting the Victorian exhibits to the United States, and the subsequent damage to many of the items sent to represent the colony at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.
This thesis uses Victoria’s involvement in the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition as a lens through which to consider how competing visions of the colony’s future, as well as economic and political factors, impacted the colony’s representation at Philadelphia. By re-embedding this event in the complex economic, political, and cultural context within which it took place, this thesis sheds light on the broader role played by these influences in affecting the representation of colonies, dependencies and nations at nineteenth-century exhibitions.
Supervisors: Professor David Goodman, Dr Julie Fedor