‘Australia’ draws back the Queensland curtain to reveal the Black Friday strike in 1912. This iconic poster by James Thomas Case has been digitised recently at SLQ.
The poster is a reproduction of Jim Case’s cartoon that originally appeared on the front page of the Worker. Case’s depiction of a shocked maiden ‘Australia’ revealing police brutally clubbing Brisbane workers on ‘Black Friday’ during the 1912 general strike became a classic among Australian political cartoons,” according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. The poster has the Queensland shield on top of the curtain and the Australia emblem hangs on her waist.
Interestingly, when the cartoon was first published in the Worker on 2 February 1912, the shield and emblem were not there and ‘Australia’ was more scantily clad. The poster also depicts different features of the woman, and a more conservative view of her bosom, perhaps showing the artist’s sense of humour, or with a view to selling more posters and postcards that were reproduced from the original. Time and distance make it hard to know why the original was altered.
Case and his cartoons were renown for representing politics and industrial Labor in Queensland during a radical time. Case had a long history with the Worker and its affiliation with the Australian Labor Party. A native Queenslander from Caboolture, he left school at the age of 14 to work in the machine room of the Worker. Upon winning a cartoon contest at the paper in 1908, he became the resident artist and then chief cartoonist in 1909. His national reputation was made as a World War I anti-conscription cartoonist in 1916 and 1917. During the two referenda his work appeared in Labor and union papers throughout Australia.
Case’s many works can be found in the Worker, digitised by the State Library of Queensland and available in Trove.
C. Cottle – Digital Collections Curator, State Library of Queensland