JOHANNESBURG, Sept. 1936 - Jan 1937


Extracts from a pamphlet distributed by the Government Travel Bureau,

South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London, W.C.2.


            Natural beauty, charm, grandeur and a wonderful climate are well known features of South Africa which are annually proving irresistible to an ever increasing number of visitors from overseas. To winter in the Union of South Africa ensures a holiday which is unforgettable and invariably results in a return visit.


            To those who intend to visit South Africa during the winter of 1936-37 a fresh and unique attraction is offered, that of the Empire Exhibition which is to be held in Johannesberg, the Golden City of a Golden Country.

            The Union of South Africa is indeed fortunate, for whilst so many other lands are deep in the slough of industrial depression she firmly treads the broad path of prosperity with undiminishing confidence.

            No wonder then, that the Union has been chosen as the venue for the first great Empire Exhibition to be held since Wembley.

The City of Gold

            Johannesburg celebrates its Golden Jubilee in October 1936, and it is therefore fitting that the Golden City should stage the great exhibition.

            It has been well said that "where ever one goes in Johannesburg it is gold, more gold, and still more gold," and it is largely to the precious metal which comes in the main from this African Eldorado that the prosperity of the Union can be attributed.

            However the Exhibition, although coinciding with Johannesburg's Jubilee Celebrations, will not be local in character, but will be staged on a comprehensive scale in order to demonstrate the progress made by the Empire during the past fifty years.

            That the idea of the exhibition is well conceived may be gathered from the fact that through it, thousands of South African and Overseas visitors will, for the first time, realise what the Empire means to them and the great place which the Union holds in this vast Commonwealth of Peoples.

Strong Backing

            The wide appeal which this great venture makes is borne out by the strong recommendations made in its favour to British manufacturers by the Grand Council of the Federation of British Industries. The Exhibition has likewise the approval and also the strong financial backing of the Government of the Union, whilst the City of Johannesburg has given a grant equal to that guaranteed by the Government.

Site of the Exhibition

            The site of over 100 acres will be Milner Park, in the grounds of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society and is considered to be the most suitable that has ever been available for a great Exhibition.

            These grounds, although only a mile from the heart of the city, are of great scenic beauty, and provide extensive views to the Magaliesberg Hills, some 50 miles away. An artificial lake, with waterfalls, is being formed, surrounding which will be a South African rock garden, filled with rare specimens of flora.

            New pavilions and halls are being erected, while in the centre of the grounds will be a tower 200 feet high, which will be illuminated and visible up and down the Reef at night.

            Amongst the other displays The Port of London Authority is setting up a replica of its London headquarters. This structure will be 60 feet high and will cover 4,000 square feet, besides standing in a garden of its own.

            All parts of the grounds will be rendered easily accessible by the Exhibition's own transport service of miniature buses, which are expected to carry over a million passengers during the three months.


            In the centre of the Exhibition grounds a vast open-air Auditorium is being constructed, designed to contain 12,000 seats in the stands, and a total 20,000 when its grassy floor is included. In this Auditorium there will be staged native war dances, many picturesque pageants of African history, and probably a Rodeo and other performances.

            Ten thousand spectators will be accommodated in an open air theatre, for which the seats are to be cut into the bluff on either side of the waterfall feeding the artificial lake. Projecting into the lake there will be an open air bandstand and stage. Ballets and musical performances will be given here, and their beauty will be enhanced by the lighting effects reflected from the water.

            Arrangements are well on the way towards holding an Empire Chess Tournament during the run of the Exhibition, and it is also hoped to hold a Bowling Tournament, and possibly an Ice Hockey Competition.

            There will be a large Ice Skating Rink, on a perfect sheet of frozen water, a quarter of an acre in extent. It is hoped to secure the services of many famous skaters from overseas to give exhibitions on the Rink. A magnificent ballroom dancing floor is being laid down, which will provide a pleasure resort of a kind not seen before in South Africa. It will not be a palais-de-dance, but new ideas and effects are being considered by experts from London, Paris, and New York, as well as by the dancing profession of the Union itself.

            The musical arrangements for the theatres, and restaurants, skating rink and ballroom are in the hands of a well known impresario, who is searching Europe for the finest personnel available.

            On the artistic side visitors will find galleries of pictures, photographs, black and white drawings and sculpture, which will survey the collective achievements of the Empire and the Union. There will also be dioramas displaying various scenes in the history of the Union.

The Industrial Side

            There are already over thirteen acres of buildings available for industrial and commercial exhibits, and further construction is in progress. There will be pavilions displaying the products of Great Britain, the Dominions, Rhodesia and the East African Colonies, while separate buildings will house the exhibits of such large undertakings as the Transvaal Chamber of Mines, the Iscor Steel Works of Pretoria, the South African Railways and the Port of London Authority. The commercial exhibits will be grouped under eight main categories.


            Conferences of important scientific, technical and social bodies are being convened at Johannesburg in conjunction with the Exhibition. Among the local bodies who are planning these functions are the S.A. Association for the Advancement of Science, the S.A. Institute of Electrical Engineers, the S.A. Institute of Engineers, the S.A. Chemical Institute, the Geological Society of S.A. the Institute of South African Architects and others.

            In addition negotiations are in progress towards the holding of various conferences on matters of imperial and commercial interest, such as Civil Aviation, Town Planning, Road Construction, Irrigation, Infant Welfare, Electrical Engineering, Metallurgy and Locust Prevention.

How to Visit the Exhibition

            The Exhibition will be held over the period September 1936, to January 1937, the best season of the South African Year and special fares will be in operation by certain Steamship Lines and over the South African Railways, which are the acme of comfort. During this time special arrangements will be made for visitors to see the World-famed Kruger Park Game Reserve, the Victoria Falls, the Zimbabwe Ruins, the Johannesburg Gold Mines, the mountain scenery of the Provinces and the varied native life of the country. Bookings, on the steamship passages and any inland tour in South Africa can be made at the office of The Director, Government Travel Bureau, South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London. or Principal Tourist and Travel Agencies.



© Exhibition Study Group 1994