Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition

The Adelaide International Jubilee Exhibition of 1887 was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne on 20 June 1837,[1] held in Adelaide, South Australia in 1887. It was also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Proclamation of South Australia which occurred around six months earlier, on 28 December 1886.

Plan of the Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition grounds and adjacent areas, about 1905

Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition
BIE-classUnrecognized exposition
NameAdelaide Jubilee International Exhibition
Building(s)Jubilee Exhibition Building
Area18 acres
CityAdelaide, South Australia
VenueNorth Terrace
Coordinates34°55′14″S 138°36′22″E
Opening21 June 1887
Closure7 January 1888


The idea of South Australia hosting an international exhibition as a patriotic gesture was promoted in the early 1880s, culminating in a Bill which was passed by Parliament in 1883. Subsequent opposition to the scheme on the grounds of the expense involved saw the Bill being repealed in 1884, and Sir Edwin T. Smith pushed for a less grandiose celebration, which resulted in the Act of 1885, and the voting of £32,000 for a permanent Exhibition Building, as well as an adjacent temporary building. The cost of running the Exhibition, expected to be met by entrance fees, was underwritten by a handful of wealthy guarantors,[2] including pastoralist Clement Sabine. A railway line was constructed from the Adelaide railway station to the Exhibition Building.

J. F. Conigrave was Secretary, William Alfred Robinson was on the committee; Robert Dalrymple Ross was a promoter. H. C. E. Muecke was Executive Commissioner for Germany; C. L. Meyer (1849–1916) for Austria-Hungary. Sir Herbert Sandford R.A. (1826–1892) visited as British Commissioner,[3] enlisting J. C. Wharton as secretary. John Neild was the popular and hard-working commissioner for New South Wales.[4]

A London Committee was formed under Chairman the Duke of Manchester, while secretary George Levey contributed largely to the Melbourne, London, Philadelphia, New York and Paris press, and wrote various important official reports.

Opening and closing ceremonies

The formal opening ceremony took place on 21 June 1887 and began, after a prayer by Bishop Kennion and a performance of the Exhibition Cantata (George Herbert Cossins / Edward R. G. W. Andrews), with an address by Sir Edwin Smith, the Vice-President of the South Australian Commission, presenting to the President, the Governor Sir William Robinson with a golden master key to the Building, all the locks having been donated by Chubb & Co. This part of the formalities over, the orchestra and chorus under Professor Joshua Ives struck up The Song of Australia.[5]

At the closing ceremony on 7 January 1888, the Jubilee Cantata (or Victoria Cantata) was performed. Written (words and music) by Carl Puttmann, it opened with variations on the Song of Australia and concluded with a fugue on God Save the Queen. Total attendance at the Exhibition was announced as 766,880, of which cash admissions were 378,558; season ticketholders 372,818; schools 12,034; and free 3,470.[6]


Thirty-four juries, each with between 4 and 12 jurors,[note 1] made 3,426 awards:[7]

Awards by countries and Australian states
British North Borneo11
New South Wales18913075394
South Australia457316225998
Seychelles Islands44
United States of America56211087
United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland
New Zealand6410


Dozens of concerts were given during the course of the Exhibition, including the following:

  • W. R. Pybus gave an organ recital on 9 September, and a military display was held on the same day.
  • An organ recital was given by W. R. Knox on the afternoon of Saturday 17 September, and a "grand popular concert" was organised by Bessie Royal for the evening, Mr Pybus serving as accompanist.[8] and another concert was held on 20 September
  • The Model Band gave a performance on the afternoon of 24 September, and T. H. Jones gave an organ recital in the evening.[9]
  • Coward's Premier Band gave a concert on 29 September.
  • A Grand International Band Competition was held on 1 October.[10]
  • W. R. Pybus gave another organ recital on 28 October, and the Militia Band performed on 29 October.
  • A concert was given on 19 November, with singers H. G. Nash and Bessie Royal, accompanied by W. R. Pybus.
  • On 24 November a "Grand instrumental concert with vocal intermezzo" was given by Professor Ives, Hermann Reimann and Miss Hawkins, vocalist.

Agricultural Show

The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society ran their Spring Show concurrently with the Jubilee Exhibition from 14 to 17 September, but at the "Old Exhibition Grounds" on the other side of Frome Road. The Show had been extended from two to four days on account of the great interest shown, particularly in the display of sheep, which was of a very high standard.[11]


A wide range of awards included:

  • photographer: Friedrich C. Krichauff
  • painter: John Reinhard Weguelin
  • red wine: Thomas Hardy (after Paul de Castella of Yarra Flats was disqualified on technical grounds)
  • billiard tables: B. Hulbert of Sydney, Alcock & Co. of Melbourne and P. Gay of Adelaide
  • tinned jam: the Wirrilda Jam factory, Stirling East
  • various classes of heating and cooking stoves: Thos. Fletcher & Co., S. Flavel, and G. W. Grove, all of Leamington; McDowell, Steven & Co., and Smith & Wellstood, both of Scotland; and Fischer Heating and Cooking Apparatus Company of Cincinnati
  • musical instruments: the Besson Company of Great Britain for brass instruments; Estey Organ Company of Vermont for reed organs; and Fincham & Hobday of Adelaide for a pipe organ.


Costs of running the Exhibition, not counting capital works, were more than covered by gate takings and other receipts, a tribute to the Committee's organisation, but also to the patriotic fervour of the times.

John Neild began to encounter difficulties in his political career towards the end of the 1880s; criticism of his oversight of the establishment of the Exhibition led to investigation by a Legislative Assembly select committee, but he was exonerated.

The area north of the Exhibition Railway Station was cleared and formed into a sports oval, bordered by a banked cycle racing track, and christened the Jubilee Oval. It was used, in conjunction with the Jubilee Exhibition Building, for Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Autumn Show in 1895, and all Shows until the Spring Show at the Wayville showgrounds in September 1925.


  1. The total number of jurors was 192, of whom 100 were from South Australia; the remainder were from New South Wales and Victoria.


  1. Her coronation was held on 28 June 1838
  2. "History of this Exhibition". South Australian Register. Vol. LII, no. 12, 668. South Australia. 21 June 1887. p. 9 (Jubilee Supplement to the South Australia Register.). Retrieved 7 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "The Late Sir H. B. Sandford". Evening Journal (Adelaide). Vol. XXIV, no. 6662. South Australia. 3 February 1892. p. 3. Retrieved 7 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "A Popular Personality". The Register (Adelaide). Vol. LXXVI, no. 20, 070. South Australia. 10 March 1911. p. 4. Retrieved 16 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "The Formal Ceremonies". South Australian Register. Vol. LII, no. 12, 669. South Australia. 22 June 1887. p. 5. Retrieved 29 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition: the closing ceremony". The South Australian Advertiser. Vol. XXX, no. 9118. (Original, Adelaide. Digital reproduction, Canberra: National Library of Australia – Trove digital newspaper archive). 9 January 1888. p. 6. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  7. "General News". South Australian Weekly Chronicle. Vol. XXX, no. 1, 528. South Australia. 3 December 1887. p. 12. Retrieved 8 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "The Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition". The South Australian Advertiser. Vol. XXX, no. 9023. South Australia. 19 September 1887. p. 6. Retrieved 17 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "The Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition". The South Australian Advertiser. Vol. XXX, no. 9029. South Australia. 26 September 1887. p. 6. Retrieved 17 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "THE Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition". The South Australian Advertiser. Vol. XXX, no. 9026. South Australia. 22 September 1887. p. 6. Retrieved 17 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "The Show and the Farmers". Adelaide Observer. Vol. XLIV, no. 2398. South Australia. 17 September 1887. p. 24. Retrieved 17 June 2016 via National Library of Australia.
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