The Roaring Nineties

Article | Updated 4 years ago

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Pound Sign

The 1890s was a watershed in Western Australia’s economic history following the discovery of gold on the eastern goldfields. In just one decade the small rural-based economy saw a four-fold increase in population and a massive increase in infrastructure as capital became available. 

From just 48,000 people in 1890 the population climbed to 180,000 in 1901. The majority came from eastern Australia to seek their fortunes on the goldfields. Most were able-bodied young men; wives and families followed later.

The sudden influx of people to the isolated goldfields saw tent towns mushroom following news of a strike. Others disappeared almost as quickly as they had sprung up. In the early years, few basic amenities were available.

Early Kalgoorlie, 1894
Early Kalgoorlie, 1894
Image copyright WA Museum
Hannans from Mt Charlotte, 1894
Hannans from Mt Charlotte, 1894
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 4406B/2

The Coolgardie Exhibition

Crowds in front of the Coolgardie Exhibition Building, 1899.
Crowds in front of the Coolgardie Exhibition Building, 1899.
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 5001B/6

Publicity and an attendance of 60,000 people for the opening of the Coolgardie International Mining and Industrial Exhibition created greater recognition of the goldfields’ importance