18th May 2021

Black Swan

The settlement that was to become Perth was originally called the Swan River Colony, or more simply, Swan River. Captain James Stirling led an expedition up Swan River Valley in 1827, and the colony was established in 1829. The river had been named by the Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlaming in 1697, not surprisingly, due to the large number of black swans. The figure of the black swan has therefore figured in the state from as early as the 1830s. It appeared on government papers, bank notes, stamps, newspapers, the state badge, flag, coat-of-arms, etc.

From Trove.

The State Badge was designed in 1870 and officially adopted in 1876; a black swan on a yellow background. This can be seen on the State flag.

The swan has appeared on many uniform buttons, including those for pre and post Federation military, tramways, railways, police, wardens, fire brigade and a shipping line. Below is a description of the new uniform for the state’s rifle volunteers at Guilford, Perth and Fremantle, organised in 1893 into the 1st Infantry Volunteer Regiment. This button appears on page 27 of Cossum’s book.

Tony Earl’s button.

The West Australian (Perth), 17th November 1893 p 6.

This may be one of the earliest uniform button depicting the black swan. However, there may have been, from 1886, a button for the West Australian Steam Navigation Company showing the house flag that included a swan.

Please let me know of any other early swan bearing buttons!

The West Australian, 14th September 1906 page 7. From an article about the WA Fire Brigades Association.

The Daily News (Perth), 27th June 1934 page 1. The Firm was Sheridan’s.

The Northam Advertiser (WA), 17th April 1953. The only traffic inspector button I own has no swan, so maybe the original design was simplified.