By Mark McConville
STUNNING retro pictures have revealed what most of us quite possibly experienced over the new year as a man gets progressively drunker as he goes through the ‘five stages of inebriation’.
This set of five prints was produced by the Sydney studio of Charles Percy Pickering (1825-1908), and date from the period of Pickering’s location at 612 George Street, circa 1865.
The printed studio mark on reverse reads “Photographic Artist. C. Pickering, 612 George Street, near Wilshire’s Buildings, Sydney”.
It is possible that the photographs were commissioned by a local temperance group for educative purposes, and may also have been used by an engraver for illustrations.
The frame of the drunk in a wheelbarrow resembles S.T. Gill’s watercolour ‘Ease without Opulence’.
Though Australia never enacted full prohibition like the United States, organizations such as the Independent Order of Rechabites campaigned against alcohol beginning in the mid-1800s.
Decades after these photos were taken, the Australian temperance movement seemingly scored a victory when mandatory early closures were enacted for pubs and hotel bars as an austerity measure during World War I.
This backfired, however. The early closing times created the “six o’clock swill,” as people dashed from work to bars and drank as heavily and quickly as possible, ending up like the model in these photos before the sun was down.