National Flower Day photographic collection
This sub-collection of the South Australian Government Photographic Collection (c.1890-1957) includes 100 images of National Flower Day, held annually in South Australia between 1938 and 1975.
The collection captures National Flower Day exhibits in four separate years: 1938, 1939, 1948 and 1949. The photographs show the types of displays that were laid out. For example, there were carpets of flowers, nursery-rhyme scenes, displays honouring returned service men and women, a miniature Japanese garden, a school crest, and a Legacy badge, all made with flowers. Some displays were ‘in ground’ displays while others decorated buildings or were exhibited in cases. Locations captured in the collection include the Government Tourist Bureau offices, the lawn in front of the War Memorial on North Terrace, the lawns adjacent to the western wall of Government House, Victoria Square, Wakefield street, the YWCA, and the State Bank of South Australia.
This collection captures the nature of Adelaide’s National Flower Day, an event unique to the state and held annually from 1938 to 1975. Organised and run by a volunteer committee of women, the aim of National Flower Day was to promote Adelaide both within Australia and the British Empire and germinate in Adelaidians a desire to beautify their own suburban streets. National Flower Day began in April 1938 with the support of Mrs Grace (Gretta) Margaret Lewis, the woman responsible for the spectacular 1936 Floral Pageant held during South Australia’s centenary year celebrations.
Displays featuring the Union Jack and the use of flowers that were predominantly English or European suggest that Flower Day reflected South Australia’s British heritage. And yet, nationalism was evident as early as the first Flower Day in 1938 with the use of the rising sun in floral displays. The rising sun was by then a popular image that symbolised Australia’s nationhood, wartime heritage, youth, opportunity and integrity.
National Flower Day relied heavily on the volunteer principle. Women gave freely of their time and through their school-age children, families donated flowers which were then arranged at various locations around Adelaide. Incorporated into the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1960, National Flower Day ceased after 1975.
A History SA collection. Access to collection items is by appointment only.
The original glass plates are held by State Records of South Australia (GRG35/342). History SA holds the catalogue and digitised copy set of the collection.
Adelaide; Civic pride; Decoration; Flowers; National Flower Day; South Australia; South Australian history
Flowers; Glass plate negatives; Wreaths
History SA, South Australia
Australia; Adelaide, South Australia