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Banner - Australian Railways Union, Victorian Branch, circa 1911 Object Reg. No: HT 1115

Canvas banner painted about 1911 by John Hennessey of Carlton, Victoria. It was commissioned by the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union, and cost £100.

This trade union banner was carried in Eight Hour Day processions in Melbourne for many decades. Each year, thousands of unionists marched to celebrate the achievements of the union movement and express their pride in their work. In 1911 there were over 7000 members of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Railways Union. The banner shows vignettes of some of the work done by union members: signalling, shunting, plate laying, carriage building. The reverse side depicts the strength of united labour; each individual length of wood can be easily broken, but combined they are impossible to break.

The banner was restored within the Conservation Department at Museum Victoria in 2003, with financial assistance from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union. It was included on the Victorian Heritage Register on 8 December 2005.
Textile banner painted on both sides. It consists of two large sections of oil painted canvas, placed back to back and machine stitched together around the outer edge. The painted image is 3180 x 3800 mm, and with the textile border the total dimension is 3810 x 4420 mm. The media is oil on coarse weave canvas, each side with a linen interleaving layer between them. The border is the same canvas painted rich red, 220 mm wide. A green brocade border has been added to the red border. The same canvas extends to a canvas border along the top. A rope was once threaded through this with 44 metal eyelets along the top, to aid suspension of the banner during marches and rallies.
Side A: The Power of the Unions. Central panel depicts Joseph's carpentry shop, wherein the figure of Joseph is instructing two younger figures. In the upper left corner is a depiction of carriage building; upper right transport workers; lower right surveyors at work; and lower left the station yard. There are two coats-of-arms representing Australia and Britain, the Australian one incorporating the shamrock, thistle and rose. The newly federated Australia is represented by the Southern Cross and a map of Australia, together with an emu and a kangaroo. On this side is also the motto 'Behold the power of Union'.
Side B: Australian Railways Union: A star at the top is enclosed by wings; there is a stylised design below, possibly of wattle. In the centre is a large image of a steam engine with men in front of it. Top left image of signalman in his box; top right, railway bridge; middle left, naked worker against a tiled background; middle right, younger naked worked with two metal tools; bottom left image of a city and a railway yard; bottom right a man standing in front of a building.
Acquisition Information:
Loan & Subsequent Donation from Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Victorian Branch, 1998
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 3810 mm (Height), 4420 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: banners, railways, textiles, trade unions, working life, workers, workers rights, making history - eight hour day
Themes this item is part of: Victorian Trade Union Banners: a proud tradition - Origins, Victorian Trade Union Banners: a proud tradition - Imagery, Victorian Trade Union Banners: a proud tradition - The Banners, Clothing & Textiles Collection, Public Life & Institutions Collection, Transport Collection, Working Life & Trades Collection, Trade Union Movement in Australia
Primary Classification: TRADE UNIONS
Secondary Classification: Transport - Rail
Tertiary Classification: banners
Artist: John Hennessey, Carlton, Victoria, Australia, circa 1911
Commissioned By: Victorian Railways Union (VRU), Victoria, Australia, circa 1911
Date Made: Victoria, Australia, circa 1911
User: Australian Railways Union (ARU) Victorian Branch, Victoria, Australia, by 1921
References: 'Eight Hours' Day Banners of Victoria' - thesis by Anne Mancini, 1984, Vol. II, pp 235-236 & 302, Vol III, Figs. 72 & 73

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