Ballarat Punch

Posted on: 27 July, 2020

Ballarat Punch was a satirical publication which contained funny cartoons and drawings, satirical articles which made fun of local public figures, and provided a chiding moral commentary on everyday life.

Ballarat Punch was based on London’s Punch magazine which commenced in the United Kingdom in 1841. Ballarat’s first edition was published on 28 October 1857 and only lasted for five issues. Production on this first series ceased in November 1857.

Ballarat Punch was relaunched on the 9 February 1867 and remained in publication until 9 January 1870, when it ceased production. The Australian Research Collection has several copies of the 1867-70 editions in its collection.

The following image is the front cover to the 15 February 1868 edition. I chose this image as it was typical of the satirical drawings that Ballarat Punch was known for. The images were filled with references that would have resinated with news stories from the period and general life in Ballarat.

During this period a troupe of Japanese jugglers and acrobats were touring the goldfields. The front page shows the stage at the Theatre Royal where they were performing. There a number of the acrobats featured at the top of the image, however instead of the performers on the stage we can see Mr Punch walking through Ballarat with a cart of tricks, a piece of paper falling states ‘You never can tell’, the name of a growing mine in Ballarat but also potentially a warning.1967/68 was a turbulent period for the Ballarat Stock exchange, on the left side of the stage you can see people clawing their way up, tempted by dividends, the right side shows them tumbling down again. At the top many are drinking from ‘Warrenheip’ – a reference to the Warrenheip Distillery. Perhaps though the acrobats were performing at the theatre, it was life in Ballarat that was a juggling act.

Simon Jacks
Australiana Research Collection
Ballarat Research Hub at Eureka (BRHAE)

15 Feb 1868 Punch Cover
Ballarat Punch, 15 February 1868, Australian Research Collection