At the moment it seems that almost every news bulletin is headlined with another Trump edict. The American Australian alliance is a 20th century phenomenon that frequently celebrates ‘the ties that bind us’. And if we look bck in Sydney’s history we find the connections go back much further than 1908 and the Great White Fleet visit; indeed they go right back to the start of the white invasion of Sydney. Listen now
We have an excellent article in the Dictionary by my colleague Margaret Park that outlines Americans ties and influences in Sydney. It’s a very informative article and there are a few “well, what do ya know?” moments, even for me. You can read the entry here.
At least three convicts who were transported in the first few years were African Americans: John Moseley, John Randall, and perhaps most famously, Billy Blue who said he was born in Jamaica, New York City (the same suburb as Donald Trump). Billy Blue ran a North Shore ferry service and became such a well-known figure his name still graces Blue’s Point.
The fine maritime port of Sydney was a perfect stop-over for American trading, whaling and sealing vessels. Some convicts tried to abscond on ships; and Governors tried to control trade with American ships. Neutral Bay was set up to manage foreign ships in the harbour, but there was little the early governors could do to control the American traders.
The gold rush of the 1850s brought another wave of Americans in Sydney’s shores. We often think about the Chinese and the goldrushes, but we shouldn’t forget about the Americans. As Margaret Park points out,
“By 1848 gold was discovered in the San Francisco region of California. Not long afterwards, in 1851, Australia’s own gold rush was on, although the precious metal had been uncovered years earlier. Keen American goldseekers, many of whom had already ventured to the Californian gold fields seeking their fortunes, embarked upon a voyage downunder to continue their search for gold and glory.”
And with them came the entrepreneur Freeman Cobb, who established the coaching business Cobb & Co in Victoria. This was expanded by another American, James Rutherford, into New South Wales. The Cobb & Co coaches are one of the most famous forms of transport connecting rural Australia on the eastern seaboard. All started by an American. Who knew? You can read more about Freeman Cobb in the Australian Dictionary of Biography online here.
These are just some of the early American connections and namesakes that you can read about in the Dictionary of Sydney here. Trump that!