A Golden Opportunity: Mayor Smith and Melbourne’s Emergence as a Global City

  • Sarah HayesEmail author


In the earliest decades of the settlement of Melbourne, people’s backgrounds and origins were hazy and unknown, allowing a golden opportunity to reinvent and reprise not just individual wealth and success but also, consequently, the nature of society. At the same time, Melbourne was emerging as a truly global colonial city. Within this context, John Thomas Smith was making a rapid progression from son of a convict shoemaker to middle-class mayor of Melbourne. Such dramatic social mobility was a uniquely colonial phenomenon and material culture had a vital role to play in the renegotiation of Melbourne’s middle class.


Middle class Social mobility Comparative analysis Modern cities Melbourne 



This paper is based on research conducted as part of the Australian Research Council-funded Suburban Archaeology: Approaching an archaeology of the middle class in 19th-century Melbourne project (DP1093001) held jointly by La Trobe University, Deakin University and University of Melbourne. Chief investigators on this project are Tim Murray, Susan Lawrence, Andrew Brown-May and Linda Young. My research was conducted at La Trobe University and benefitted from the intellectual and technical support offered by the Department of Archaeology and History. Thank you to Charlotte Smith at Museum Victoria for access to the collection, support and use of museum facilities. A heartfelt thanks to historian Barbara Minchinton who conducted research into the lives of the Smiths for this project and Noriaki Sato for his input on the theoretical aspects of this paper. Finally, thank you to Edwina Kay for providing feedback on early drafts and two anonymous reviewers for their input.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and HistoryLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

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