Investigation 1

What were Tasmania’s towns and rural areas like in the late 1800s?

By the time of Federation, there were numerous towns across Tasmania. None of these were large in size or population compared to cities in the other colonies. Some were very small rural communities. However, they all provided examples of the colony’s growth and progress during the 1800s in building, establishing industries, using the land and natural resources in a variety of ways, and developing transport and technology.

Today, we can use descriptions from the time and other information to ‘picture’ what Tasmania was like more than 100 years ago.

Your Task

Investigate Tasmanian towns and their industries, transport and technology.


  1. As a class, read the newspaper extracts about Tasmanian towns. Discuss or use a dictionary for words you don’t know.
  2. In a small group, use an atlas to locate the towns listed. Record the location of the towns on the map of Tasmania. Classify the towns according to the industries and land use.
  3. Have each member of your group choose a town. Find out what your town looked like by browsing the index of photographs on the Archive Office of Tasmania website. To search for photographs, type the town’s name in ‘Locality’, and then type in a date range, such as 1890 to 1901.
  4. Using a different coloured pencil for each town, show the route you would travel to visit all of your group members and return home. Use ‘Distances between towns’ to calculate the distance you would need to travel to visit each of your group members. A horse could comfortably travel a distance of 50 miles in a day. How many days would it take to visit each of your group members?
  5. Write a letter, diary entry or postcard about visiting the towns around Tasmania. Think about the following questions as you write.
    • What did you see?
    • How was the land being used?
    • Were the towns busy and bustling or quiet and peaceful?
    Display the letters, diary entries and postcards around your classroom. You might like to volunteer to read your piece of writing to the rest of the class.