A new photo from the Powerhouse Museum every day
This striking photo of Sydney Harbour bridge construction workers was taken on the 10th of September 1930. It is but one in a series of glass plate prints originally taken by the Department of Public Works, Sydney Harbour Bridge Branch between 1923 and 1933. Copies of these prints have been acquired by both the State Records NSW and the Powerhouse Museum.
The scene could be from any high-rise construction worksite in the rapidly modernising cities of this era. One is reminded of iconic images of New York construction workers building its rapidly evolving skyline. In the background you can see the growing city of Sydney, Australia. Similar images from The State Records indicate this photo is most likely taken at the ‘Packs for Centre Joint – Top Chord’. Hence we believe that this photo was taken during the final stages of arch construction were the northern and southern central curved arches that make the Sydney Harbour bridge are joined.
The attire worn by the individuals in the photo is also interesting. The central figure is particularly dapper. The identity of this individual is
unconfirmed believed to be that of Mr. Lawrence Ennis, who was the director of construction for the Sydney Harbour Bridge on behalf of his employer, Dorman Long (Thanks to Bob Meade for identifying this figure).
The other workers are typically attired for the tasks at hand and period in which this image was taken. Notice the greased hands from hard labour, leather shoes and complete lack of safety equipment at such perilous heights. It is interesting to note, of the estimated sixteen deaths during its construction, only two of them were related to falls. The background of the image has a flurry of activity as more men in suites standing around supervising those doing the manual labour. Some may wonder, how much has the working world changed since then?
This image will feature as part of an upcoming free sydney Harbour Bridge historical walking tour currently in production for iOS and Android devices. Our prints from this series will soon be made available on the Powerhouse Museum’s Flickr Commons. For more information on the original glass plate negatives, greater series and contents please see the State Records of NSW and State Records Archives Investigator.
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