1914-1921 – Works as a ‘Showman’ throughout Australia

Sam in Australia

Sam stands in the back row, 2nd from the right

Sam Bonar as a Carney

A closeup of Sam derived from the above photograph.

Through a number of documents provided by the Australian National Archives, it is possible to trace much of Sam’s life in Australia. The file begins with a “Conviction of Alien” arrest warrant issued on May 2, 1918, eight years after he arrived in Australia. Sam’s offense is listed as “Breach of Regulation 9, Alien Registration”, and he was registered as alien number 17. Were it not for this turn of events, the details of Sam’s 13 years in Australia most probably would have been completely lost.

On May 7, 1919 Sam entered the following information into a statuary declaration: in his own handwriting, Sam states that he had been ‘carrying on business as a Showman in New South Wales for a period of five years’ (i.e. 1914-1919). The profession of Showman in Australia means Concessionaire, that is, someone who works in the booths at a circus, carnival or state fair selling food, drinks, and souvenirs and the like.


In this Australian postcard from The Bonar Family collection, Sam Bonar, or one of his colleagues, is standing in front of a concession booth. This particular booth contains souvenir plates, clocks, and photographs. In order to pay for them, the customer first threw darts at the board in the rear of the booth, which contains numbers indicating a variety of prices, with the hopes of hitting a low number. A fence in front of the booth prevents the ‘rubes’ from getting in too close.

Sam at carnival booth Austral Postcard.jpg

Postcard from the Bonar Family collection with markings indicating that it was printed in Australia. Is this Sam at a concession booth during his days as a ‘Showman’?

Sam Bernhardt

Another photo from Sam’s collection. Two of the showmen carry pennants labeled S.D.I.F. Perhaps this stands for Showmen’s ____ Independent Federation.

In another excerpt from his application of 1919, Sam states that his residence, which he calls his ‘headquarters’ has been in Sydney at 8 Australia Street, Newtown since the time of his arrival in Australia in 1910, and that his business takes him all over the country. In addition, Sam gives another address in Sydney where he conducts business: 91 Liverpool Street.


8 Australia Street Sydney NSW2

Sam’s residence in Sydney: 8 Australia Street. He lived here from 1910 until 1919.

8 Australia Street Sydney NSW

8 Australia Street Sydney (A) was very near to a showground: Camperdown Park

91 Liverpool Street Sydneyl

91 Liverpool Street Sydney, where Sam reports that he conducted business in 1919.

91 Liverpool Street Sydney2

91 Liverpool Street Sydney (A) where Sam reports that he conducted  business. Note that this hotel is in the vicinity of a large park which might have served as a showground in 1919.

The following is a letter in Sam’s hand: it is here that he first mentions the land he owns in Maitland New South Wales, but he does not indicate its size or use. The letter was written on September 11,  1919 from West Maitland.


On Oct. 13, 1919:  Sam was residing in West Maitland on Cultivation Road. His address included the following: c/o Peters. He had been a showman for 5 years by this time.


Maitland NSW Overview

Maitland, New South Wales, Australia

Cultivation Road Maitland

Cultivation Road Maitland where Sam resided in 1919. Note that this very short road is located next to the extensive Showgrounds.

Looking Down Cultivation Road from Cracknell Lane

Looking Down Cultivation Road from Cracknell Lane.

Maitland Showgroups Pic.jpg

The Maitland Showgrounds in the early 21st Century. Cultivation Road can be seen in the upper left-hand portion of this aerial photograph.

On November 30th, 1920, Sam’s address was: Louth Park, West Maitland, NSW. This locale is situated a few miles to the south of the Maitland Showgrounds. By 1921 Sam gave his address simply as: c/o Post Office, West Maitland, NSW.

Louth Park

Overview of the farming community of Louth Park, West Maitland where Sam resided in 1920. Perhaps this is where the property in Maitland mentioned by Sam in 1919  was located.

If Sam did have a farm in Australia, as Merrill Bonar has stated, then the farming community of Louth Park, just south Maitland where Sam lived in 1920, might have been its location. Merrill also reported that during the 1930s Sam maintained a chicken coop containing some 40 hens in the backyard of his residence on Prospect Street in Wilmar, a suburb of Los Angeles. In fact, in 1924 when Sam married Sylvia Block in Los Angeles, his profession was listed as ‘egg dealer’. So, it could very well be that Sam first became acquainted with the raising of chickens in Louth Park.

Louth Park2

Looking up Louth Park Road. The Maitland Showgrounds were not far from here.

Louth Park- O'Connell's Road

Another look at Louth Park- O’Connell’s Road



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