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Detailed History

1840 First Society formed. The Pastoral and Agricultural Society of Australia Felix was formed.
1848 First Ploughing match. Ploughing matches were conducted around Flemington by the Moonee Ponds Farmers’ Society.
  Society Name Change. The Moonee Ponds Farmers’ Society becomes the Port Phillip Farmers’ Society. “The objects of this Society shall be to encourage a spirit of emulation amongst Agriculturalists and Farm Servants by offering premiums to be competed for annually by the growers of the best samples of grain and other produce, and the owners of the best stock for grazing and dairy purposes; also for the best agricultural implements; and to offer prizes to be competed for at an annual ploughing match.”
1851 First prize medallions. Medallions were presented for the first time to winners of ploughing, stock and produce.
1855 First land grant. Three acres of land on the Sydney Road opposite the University was granted to the Society.
1867 Last Show at Parkville. The last Show at the Parkville Showgrounds was held and was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria.
1870 New Society. The National Agricultural Society of Victoria was formed.
1871 New Showgrounds. The first Show was held at the new St Kilda Road Showgrounds.
1874 First Shearing demonstration. Forty shearers entered a sheep shearing match, introduced by C. B. Fisher. 
1882  Intercolonial match.  The first Intercolonial Champion Ploughing Match was held at Chirnside Park, Werribee. 
  Another Site. The NASV accepted the site for the new Showgrounds - 30 acres near Flemington Racecourse. There were worries that this was ‘too remote’ from the city. 
1883  First Show.   In November, the first Show was held at the new Showgrounds.
1884  First Wine Show. The number of entries in the first Royal Melbourne Wine Show was recorded at 13. 
1885  Public holiday.   A half day on a Thursday was granted as a public holiday for the Show.
1890 Royal name.  Queen Victoria gave permission for the Society to become the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria and Speed the Plough became the official motto. 
1898  Longer Show.  The four day Show became a five day Show.
1900  War in South Africa.  Troops from the Mounted Rifles were accommodated at the Showgrounds. 
1901  Removing the hill.  Work began to remove the hill on the arena and was completed in time for the 1902 Royal Show. 
1904  Arts and Crafts Pavilion.  The Arts and Crafts Pavilion was erected for a cost of 3,730 pounds. 
1909  Naming the Streets.  Streets and avenues on the Showgrounds began to be named after ‘men giving notable service to the Society’. 
1910  Grand Parade.  The first Grand Parade consisting of horses and cattle proved very popular with the public. Before this they had always paraded separately. 
1911   Women’s Entries. The new Women’s Industries Section received 172 entries. 
1913   Change of date. The Show date was changed from early September to the last week of September.
1914   Fire. On the second day of Show, Tuesday 22nd September, fire destroyed the Grandstand, industrial Hall and twelve exhibitors’ buildings. 
1915  Building.  The new Grandstand, Hall of Commerce and Cattle Pavilion 1 were built.
   War. On 22nd July the Minister for Defence requisitioned the Showgrounds for defence purposes. No Show was held that year. 
1919  Fairy Floss.  Tommy Castles bought a fairy floss machine from a Sydney store that had purchased it in America. It was manually operated; sugar poured in the top and the machine churned by hand. Australians thought the fairy floss looked like cotton wool and it took quite a while to sell well.  
1921  Jubilee.  The Jubilee of the formation of the National Agricultural Society of Victoria was held with the Show gaining record entries (10,754) and a record attendance (212,916). 
1923  More construction.  The Members’ Stand, Horse Pavilion, vehicle shelter and Hall of Manufactures were built. The Show was held over nine days. 
1926  Show Guides. Show Guides were introduced to direct the public to various areas of the grounds. 
1927  Fever.  No pigs were shown because of the prevalence of swine fever. 
1930  Wittingslow’s debut.  Tom Wittingslow started in show business by guessing people’s weight. He made his debut at the Royal Melbourne Show in the 30’s by working Greenhalgh and Jackson’s ‘Wall of Death’. The Wittinglsow family later became famous for their running of amusements at Shows. After starting with a small merry-go-round, his first big ride was the ‘Cha Cha’. 
  Floral Clock.  The floral clock first made its appearance, constructed by RASV plumber Mr Jack Carlton. The assembly of the clock, about twenty feet in diameter, consisted almost entirely of scraps; “a small electric motor, an old steel grader, a number of bicycle sprockets and chains, a leather clutch and a worked-out cream separator.” 
1931  Depression innovation.  During the Depression years the RASV staff were not retrenched but donated 2.5% of their salary back to the Society each pay day. 
1932  City Procession.  Amplifiers were installed in the Arena and there was a procession of horses through the city to the Showgrounds on the last Saturday of the Show.
1934  Garryowen Trophy introduced.  On 24 March 1934 a tragedy occurred which shocked horse lovers all over Australia. In the early hours, a fire broke out in the stables of Mr and Mrs Murrell at Mentone, which resulted in the deaths of both Violet and Bill Murrell, and their horses, including the champion hack, Garryowen.  The Garryowen perpetual Trophy was introduced as a tribute to the heroism of Violet Murrell and was won in the first year by Miss Kitty Sutherland.
  Centenary.   Centenary Hall was built to mark the Centenary of the Royal show.
1936  CWA.  The Country Womens’ Association was granted tenancy of a rest room, free of rent.
1937  First Night Show.  Facilities for flood-lighting the Arena and illuminating the grounds were installed and allowed the first night Show to take place. 
1938  Showman’s Guild.  The Showman’s Guild was formed, pulling all ‘Showies’ together and enabling them to negotiate about sites and rent. 
1939  World War 2.  Immediately after the Show, the grounds were taken over by the Defence Department. The Showgrounds became the RAAF No 1 Aeronautical Engineering School. No Shows were held for the duration of the war. The first post-war Show was held in 1946. 
1940  Laughing clowns.  Jack Allan, a Showie, introduced Laughing Clowns into Australia from New Zealand (although they had been made in England.) 
1948  Century Show.  The Royal Melbourne Century Show was held to commemorate 100 years of service to primary producers. 
1949   Polio scare. Due to a spread of poliomyelitis, parents were urged not to let their children attend the Show. Attendance figures dropped 240,000 below the previous year’s. 
 1949  Shearing competition. Shearing competitions were arranged to draw attention to the shortage of competent shearers. 
1950   No more freaks. Show authorities barred freak shows, both animal and human. Gone were the days when you could see Chang the Pin-head boy, Mexican Rose, the Fat Lady (all 58 stone), Billy the Boy Giant (16 years old, 8ft 6in) or Franklin Tearney, the 3-legged Frenchman who used to tap dance. 
   Diamond Jubilee. The Royal Melbourne Diamond Jubilee Show was held to commemorate that in 1890 the then NASV had been given permission for the use of the prefix ‘Royal’. During this Show, arena events included camp drafting, the Novice Dressage Test and fireworks. 
1951   New horse events. Olympic jumping and dressage were new features of the Arena program. 
1952  Side-shows return.  The side-show area had still been occupied by the Defense Force until the 1952 Show. These returned to great success. The Jersey judging ring was made into a Woodchopping stadium. 
1955 New stand and a successful dairy display. The building of the new A. G. Hunter stand began. The new dairy industry display sold 65,000 bottles of milk and introduced Australia to flavoured milk for the first time.
1957 Show Girl. Miss Show Girl Competition began.
1958 Film making. The Showgrounds were used to film ‘On the Beach’ by Stanley Kramer Pictures Corporation of the USA.
1962 Jimmy Watson Trophy. The famous Jimmy Watson Trophy was first awarded this year for best one year-old red in the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. The trophy is a memorial to the late Jimmy Watson, proprietor of the wine bar in Carlton, which still bears that name.
1964 Animal Nursery began. A small Animal Nursery was set up in part of the Sheep Pavilion and proved to be a hit with Show patrons.
1964 VASA formed. The Victorian Agricultural Societies’ Association was formed in December.
1967 New stand on stands. The new Mitchell Stand opened and the Society resolved that all grandstands (except the Members’ Stand) be open to the public without charge.
1968 Never on a Sunday. The first Sunday Show was held (only 1.30pm to 6.00pm) and an amusement area was created behind the Mitchell Stand.
1969 Show Day & Moon Landing. The Show Day Holiday was fixed as the fourth Thursday in September. The man on the Moon exhibition was a big attraction this year.
1970 View from on high. The Chairlift was erected consisting of 112 chairs and able to cover the 1,800 foot journey in 7 minutes. The Farm Produce display was established in the centre of Centenary Hall.
1971 Goodbye to the tent shows. The last of the ‘tent shows’, the Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe, closed in 1971 after operating from 1911. It had been a Showtime legend, made famous with the cry ‘Who’ll take a glove?’
1972 All time record attendance. The Royal Melbourne Show reached a record attendance of 916,730. Number 6 Cattle Pavilion was built.
1974 Visiting Shah. The Shah of Iran visited the 1974 Show.
1977 Government Pavilion. The new Government Pavilion was completed costing $1,800,000 and covering an area of 2,839 square metres. The Animal Nursery area was roofed over.
1978 Royal opening. HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent opened the Royal Melbourne Show and the P B Ronald Pavilion.
1979 Dairy fire. The Dairy Industry Pavilion was destroyed by fire on 2May. Having been built in 1911, it was the second oldest building on the Grounds. A new Dairy Pavilion was built plus a new building in the shape of a ‘Big M’.
1980 Woodchop. A Woodchop arena was constructed especially for this popular attraction for a cost of $100,000.
1986 Australian International Beer Awards. First year of the Australian International Beer Awards, run jointly by the University of Ballarat and the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria. These awards became an international competition in 1995, when Malta won the first Grand Champion Beer award. Australian International Beer Awards are now the second largest competition of their kind in the world.
1992 Royal Melbourne Dairy Produce Show. First year of the Royal Melbourne Show Dairy produce awards, featuring competitions for all segments of dairy produce including cheese, butter, desserts, cheesecakes, chocolate, ice-cream, cream, flavoured milk, powdered milk, custard and yoghurt.
1993 Pigs & People. The “Pigs & People” display was launched at the Royal Melbourne Show.
1994 Significant Site. Although the Show Day Holiday was revoked, the Showgrounds were incorporated into the City of Melbourne as a site of State significance. The system of governance of the RASV changed with a Board of Directors appointed.
1995 Birthing first. Introduction of Nature’s Way, the first animal ‘birthing centre’ at an Australian Royal Show.
1996 New Centre. The first stage of the redevelopment was completed, the Showgrounds Exhibition Centre.
1998 Anniversary. The celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria.
2001 Art and Craft Building. Building number 2 built in 1904, known as the Art and Craft building was destroyed by fire.
2005 Redevelopment Begins. Entire showgrounds begins redevelopment.
2006 Redeveloped showgrounds. Grounds are completed in time for 2006 Show at new redeveloped showgrounds.
2007 Horse Influenza. No horses appeared at the Royal Melbourne Show due to an outbreak of horse influenza.
2009 75 years of Garryowen. 75 years since the first Garryowen event was held.
2010 100 years of Grand Parades. 100 years since the first “Grand Parade” was held at the Royal Melbourne Show.
All information has been sourced from Speed the Plough I and II, written by FH Noble and R Morgan.