Home » Product » The Sydney Harbour Bridge Map 1932

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Map 1932

  • Author: LLOYD, Russell Sydney (artist) - COWDROY, Vic (artist)
  • Publisher: LLOYD, Russell Sydney (Publisher)
  • Engraver: John Sands, Pruitt Street, Sydney (Printers)
  • Date: 1932
  • Dimensions: Map sheet: 98 x 74.5 cms


Australian artist Russell Sydney Lloyd’s spectacular 1932 pictorial map commemorating the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

About this piece:

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Map commemorating the Opening 19th Day of March [in the Year of our] Lord 1932

Border Text:

Breathes There A Man With Soul So Dead / Who Never To Himself Hath Said / “This Is my Own, My Native Land”?. If / Such There Be, Go Mark Him Well!


(Lower Centre (within map)): This Map was Designed and Drawn by Russell Sydney Lloyd of Bondi, Sydney; Figures Were Drawn by Miss Vic Cowdroy. Copyright Russell Lloyd. Printed by John Sands, Pruitt Street, Sydney.

(Lower left (blank margin)): Copyright. Published by R. S. Lloyd.  Phone FW3214

(Lower right (blank margin)): Price : Three Shillings and Sixpence

Map sheet: 98 x 74.5 cms. Original colour printed lithographic map poster. Traces of old folds & light creasing at lower centre, the paper now flattened & sheet verso entirely lined with museum-quality archival tissue for better presentation & preservation. Small area of light spotting/staining in lower blank margin, not affecting printed surface. With all a fine example of this rare poster.

This wonderful pictorial map of the City of Sydney was designed and published in 1932 by local Bondi-based artist and illustrator, Russell Sydney Lloyd [1904-1953] with the assistance of the remarkable young female designer, Vic Cowdroy [1908-1994]. It commemorates the opening of one of Sydney’s most iconic structures, the Harbour Bridge, amid great popular acclaim and considerable political controversy, on Saturday March 19th, 1932.

Clearly influenced by the work of British poster artist & pictorial cartographer, Leslie MacDonald Gill [1885-1947] perhaps best known for his Wonderground Map of London Town [1914/24] Russell Lloyd’s map provides a stunning bird’s eye perspective of the city from the South East as if viewed from North Bondi and Vaucluse. It shows the layout of the city and its suburbs on the left side from Centennial Park & the Royal Agricultural Showground to Redfern. In the bottom centre the southern shorelines of the harbour extend from Rushcutter’s & Elizabeth Bays right through to Barangaroo and the docks beyond the Harbour Bridge, including the Goods Harbour (present-day Darling Harbour & Cockle Bay) and the adjacent reclaimed lands along the shoreline. The Blue Mountains can be seen on the horizon beyond. The newly opened Harbour Bridge appears in the upper right. Only Woolwich and the tip of Kirribili are visible on the North side of the Harbour. Noticeable too is the castellated form of the Fort Macquarie Tram Sheds located on the tip of Bennelong Point, adjacent to Government House and the Botanic Gardens, which would close down in 1955 and be demolished three years later to make way for the present-day Sydney Opera House. The Principal buildings and streetscapes are depicted in three dimensional profile and identified with small banner-style labels. The main tram lines are outlined in red, providing a striking contrast with the rich yellows of the map border and City streets and the greens of the City parks and gardens.

The border text is in fact an extract from 19th Century Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott’s “Lay of the Last Minstrel”. At each corner, Lloyd includes four of the State’s best-known native flowers, including the waratah and flannel flower.

The whole map is populated by a chaotic array of comic figures & vignettes designed by the talented young Sydney artist, Vic Cowdroy, though the density with which they fill the map alongside the tightly-packed topographical detail perhaps makes this a map that deserves very close inspection & study to fully appreciate its true merits &  absorb its wonderfully anarchic pictorial comedy. Humorous comments, quotable quips & comic one-liners abound in individual speech bubbles across the whole map, providing a unique insight into the daily life, amusements & mores of early 1930s Sydney.

Plans to link the northern and southern shores of Sydney Harbour had been mooted since the earliest years of the 19th Century, but it was not until the aftermath of World War I that the project began to gain real political momentum. Under the guidance & direction of John Bradfield, the Chief Engineer for the proposed project, and inspired by the arch design of New York’s Hell’s Gate Bridge, the Australian Government finally passed the Sydney Harbour Bridge Act in 1922, specifying that a cantilever or arched bridge should be constructed across the harbour between Dawes & Milson Points and that it should be able to accommodate both road and tram traffic for the recently constructed Sydney underground network. The project was put out to international tender and in March 1924 awarded to the British firm of Dorman Long Ltd of Middlesbrough, who would later construct a similar bridge across the River Tyne in Newcastle. Initial construction and clearance of some 469 buildings along the shoreline began in October 1923. The assembly and building of the bridge’s steel arches began in October 1928 and in August 1930 the two halves of the arch met in the middle of the span for the first time. By Jan 1932 the Bridge was ready for stress testing. In February,  96 locomotive  engines were positioned end to end across its entire length and by early March the Bridge was declared safe and ready for use. On March 19th the official opening ceremony took place, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at its southern end to be undertaken personally by Australian Premier, Jack Lang, familiarly known as the Big Fella (& in what was seen by many as a direct snub to the British Government, the Governor, Sir Philip Game, who was allotted a relatively limited role at the official opening). The ceremony was in fact spectacularly hijacked by the right-wing extremist, Francis de Groot, a member of a recently established fascist-inspired monarchist organisation known as the New Guard. The New Guard were particular critical of the activities of the socialist Lang, whose policies to alleviate the economic impact of the Great Depression were seen as a move towards the Left that might in turn bolster the Australian Communist movement. Dressed in military uniform and galloping forward on a horse De Groot  cut the ribbon with his sword and declared the bridge open in the name of “the decent & respectable people of New South Wales”. With de Groot hastily arrested, the official ceremony proceeded as originally planned.

In one the most famous speeches in Australian political history, Lang used the bridge as a symbolic metaphor for the wider aspirations of the Australian people and in particular for the final bridging of the geographical divides within the Australian Federation & Commonwealth, declaring that:

The achievement of this bridge is symbolic of the things Australians strive for but have not yet achieved. The bridge itself unites people who have similar aims and ideals but are divided by geographic boundaries. Just as Sydney has completed this material bridge which will unite her people, so will Australia ultimately perfect the bridge which it commenced just over 30 years ago. The statesmen of that period set out to build a bridge of common understanding that would serve the whole of the people of our great continent. That bridge, unlike this, is still building. The builders of that bridge, as the builders of this, meet with disappointments which make the task difficult sometimes – often delicate. But that bridge of understanding among the Australian people will yet be built….

Once opened, bystanders and spectators began crossing the bridge on foot in their tens of thousands, accompanied by a 21 gun salute and a fly-past by famed Australian aviator, Charles Kingsford Smith. On the map a monoplane can be seen looping the loop above the Harbour, in similar fashion to the plane on Gill’s Wonderground map, its pilot Smith waving the national flag and the plane’s cloudy vapour trail proudly dislaying a roll call of Australia’s most famous contemporary aviators.

Mapmaker Russell Sydney Lloyd was born at Woy Woy near Gosford, New South Wales on 28th September 1904, the eldest son of Sydney Russell Lloyd [1880-1942] and Sarah May Moran [1881-1945]. He had two younger brothers, Reginald [b.1906] and Allan Lewis [b.1907]. We know little of Russell’s early life, the first indications of his artistic leanings being revealed in the Sydney Morning Herald in the lists of examination results for students of Sydney Technical College, in which Russell is revealed as a student in the Architectural Department during the 1927 academic year. He continued his architectural studies and successfully completed Stage II of the Architecture course in 1929. In 1930 he was commended for a finely executed Renaissance study of the Pavilion de Flore in Paris published in the Architectural Students’ Year Book. The Lloyd family appears to have settled at No.28 Blair Street, Allanville, North Bondi during the late 1920s or early 1930s. During this period Russell’s father’s occupation is listed as an “orchardist“. Russell’s occupation, like that of his brother Reginald, is listed simply as “clerk” though other contemporary records note his occupation as “architectural draftsman“. He may be the same Russell S Lloyd who took a financial interest in The Craftsman Bookshop, 10 Hosking Place, Sydney shortly after it was sold by Harold C Savage to Owen F Clayton in July 1943. If so, he retired from the bookshop in June 1945. Russell passed away at Bondi on 10th April 1953 at the age of 49.

His collaborator in this splendid map, Victoria (Vic) Ethel Cowdroy, was born in Sydney on 2nd April 1908, the daughter of William Guest Cowdroy [1874-1944] and Ethel Victoria Shepherd [1880-1959]. After moving to Eden on the south coast of New South Wales, the family returned to Sydney, where Vic attended Fort Street High School. After a serious bout of scarlet fever in 1921, Vic left school to pursue her art studies at East Sydney Technical College (ESTC) with the assistance of a scholarship provided by the Syndey Artists’ Ball Trust which allowed her to complete her diploma at ESTC. In 1925, sculptor Rayner Hoff, her tutor, declared the seventeen year old Vic his “star pupil”. As well as sculpture, Vic became an accomplished artist and cartoonist, whose work appeared in an increasing number of popular magazines such as Aussie and Home. In 1925 she was designed the plasterwork panel decorations for the Black & White Artists’ Ball, one of the bohemian highlights of the Sydney social calendar. The artwork described by one contemporary critic as “weirdly original in design, displaying her virile imagination, her innate sense of composition and her skilful modelling”. The following year she designed the poster for the same event and in August 1926 married lawyer, George S Bunting  [1904-1945]. By 1930, the newly-wed couple had settled in Castlefield Street, Bondi, which perhaps explains the connection & subsequent collaboration between Lloyd & Cowdroy on this wonderful 1932 map. The Buntings later moved to Vaucluse and then to Darlinghurst and Thornleigh in the late 1930s & early 1940s. During the War George enlisted with the Australian Army, serving as a Lance Bombardier in the Royal Australian Artillery. He passed away on active service in May 1945. The couple had one daughter, Diane, who later became a fashion artist. In 1946 Vic moved to London, and two years later married fellow Australian-born artist and cartoonist, Arthur Horner [1916-1997], who had served as a camouflage officer in Burma during the War. Horner is perhaps best known for his serialised adventures of Colonel Pewter which were published in both British & Australian newspapers between 1952 and 1970.  The couple returned to Australia in the mid-1970s. Vic & Arthur had two daughters, one of whom Julia (Wakefield) has also become a well-known Australian painter and poet.

Examples of the map are now quite rare and appear relatively infrequently on the market.

Refs: National Library of Australia