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Victorian Trade Union Banners: a proud tradition - The Banners

Banner - Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Blacksmiths, Fitters, Patternmakers, Turners & Machinists, Ballarat Branch, 1890

Image: Banner - Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Blacksmiths, Fitters, Patternmakers, Turners & Machinists, Ballarat Branch, 1890

Source: Museum Victoria

Australian trade union banners only appeared in public for Eight Hour Day processions. This contrasts with their British counterparts, which were used in strikes and demonstrations supporting progressive causes.

While the original 8 Hour Day banner was made of bunting, most of the early trade union banners were either silk or calico. These were vulnerable to the weather, and many were reportedly destroyed by high winds, so from the 1980s more robust canvas banners became common.

Banners were mounted onto horse-drawn drays and later onto lorries, as they were too large and heavy to be carried by hand. Then from early in the 20th century, complicated frames were made so the banners could be lowered as they passed under the power and tram lines that were becoming part of the cityscape.

There were more than 200 Victorian banners made between 1856 to 1950, but only about a dozen survive. It is thought that many were burnt in a Collingwood fire in the mid 1960s.

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