In the 1850s thousands of immigrants arrived to seek their fortunes on the Australian goldfields. Hoping to find wealth, most unearthed only hardship and disappointment. Nevertheless the discovery of gold inspired tales of adventure in children's fiction and non-fiction. It also inspired board games illustrating life on the gold fields. Around this time the game called 'Race to the gold diggings of Australia' was produced in England.
It is the detailed colour illustrations which make this game interesting by revealing contemporary attitudes to the Australian gold rush. A circular track on the board simulates the journey by sea from England to Australia. Players must embark at Plymouth, make the hazardous ocean voyage, land at Port Philip [sic] and take part in the gold diggings. The winner is the first to arrive in Australia.
Naturally there are large gold nuggets to be found as soon as the happy immigrants set foot on land. It is interesting that the miners' clothing suggests that they have come from many parts of the world, not just England. The board shows prospectors digging while women and children gather around their tents. Ships are anchored in a nearby bay, an unrealistic stone's throw from the gold diggings.
A rare and valuable piece, the game is in excellent condition. The board is made of a hand-coloured lithographic sheet mounted on linen. It comes with a printed rule card, six painted ship pieces and a teetotum. Its pine box bears an illustrated lid showing ships passing the Cape of Good Hope.
Most board games at this time were moralistic and didactic rather than entertaining and amusing. This could not be said for 'Race to the gold diggings of Australia'. It may have had limited appeal in its time because it presents a romantic myth of the gold rush -- instant wealth in a far off land -- without attempting to instil any virtues of thrift and hard work. Nevertheless it is a graphic reminder of the excitement, expectations and avarice that the Australian gold rush inspired.