Mark Twain on South Australia

Roesttamoon is pleased to present a correspondent from the past and his witty and prosaic observations of early South Australia – Ladies and gentlemen…a round of applause for Mr Mark Twain…

Excerpt from Mark Twain – Following the Equator, 1897

In 1829 South Australia hadn’t a white man in it.

In 1836 the British Parliament erected it— still a solitude— into a Province, and gave it a governor
and other governmental machinery. Speculators took hold, now, and inaugurated a vast land
scheme, and invited immigration, encouraging it with lurid promises of sudden wealth.

It was well worked in London; and bishops, statesmen, and all sorts of people made a rush for the land
company’s shares. Immigrants soon began to pour into the region of Adelaide and select town lots
and farms in the sand and the mangrove swamps by the sea.

The crowds continued to come, prices of land rose high, then higher and still higher, everybody was prosperous and happy, the boom swelled into gigantic proportions. A village of sheet iron huts and clapboard sheds sprang up in the sand, and in these wigwams fashion made display; richly dressed ladies played on costly pianos, London swells in evening dress and patent- leather boots were abundant, and this fine society drank champagne, and in other ways conducted itself in this capital of humble sheds as it
had been accustomed to do in the aristocratic quarters of the metropolis of the world.

The provincial government put up expensive buildings for its own use, and a palace with gardens for
the use of its governor. The governor had a guard, and maintained a court. Roads, wharves, and
hospitals were built. All this on credit, on paper, on wind, on inflated and fictitious values — on the
boom’s moonshine, in fact. This went on handsomely during four or five years. Then all of a
sudden came a smash.

Bills for a huge amount drawn by the governor upon the Treasury were dishonored, the land company’s credit went up in smoke, a panic followed, values fell with a rush, the frightened immigrants seized their grip sacks and fled to other lands, leaving behind them a good imitation of a solitude, where lately had been a buzzing and populous hive of men.

Adelaide was indeed almost empty; its population had fallen to 3,000. During two years or more
the death trance continued. Prospect of revival there was none; hope of it ceased.

Then, as suddenly as the paralysis had come, came the resurrection from it. Those astonishingly rich copper
mines were discovered, and the corpse got up and danced.

Readers may enjoy the free audio of this amazing adventure of discovery via Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World