Mr Wong's Emporium

[Episode 11 | 1908 : Evelyn]

Evelyn, Edward and Freddie try to replace the fireworks. They visit Mr Wong's emporium to buy a replacement box but find they can't afford it. They then try to obtain some gunpowder in an attempt to make their own fireworks.


The Australian curriculum: History

Show curriculum details

The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [5]

Activity 1: Multicultural Australia
Show details
Subtheme(s): Multiculturalism; Politics; Social order and education

In the early years of the twentieth century, at the time of the Federation of the colonial states and territories, many important events occurred in Australia. These include:

  • the implementation of laws to improve working conditions and devise fairer wages
  • the extension of the vote to non-Indigenous women
  • the introduction of the White Australia policy, which restricted immigration.

The new Australian Constitution discriminated against Indigenous Australians by excluding them from the national census and preventing parliament from making laws about them.
At the time of Federation in 1901, three quarters of the population were Australian born, the majority of English, Scottish and Irish descent. The Chinese, who had represented 3.3% of the population in 1861, represented 0.8% of the population at the time of Federation.

  • Students can research why and when Chinese people came to Australia. Mr Wong is a significant character in this episode and his story could be a good starting point for discussing the reasons Chinese people came to Australia at different times. Why might Mr Wong have come to live in Australia?

  • As a class, look at the laws and policies of Australia that have had an impact on Chinese Australians. How might Mr Wong have been affected by Australian laws and policies?
  • Students could develop a timeline of Chinese migration to Australia. The timeline should use dates, images and reasons for coming to Australia.


Activity 2: Mr Wong
Show details
Subtheme(s): Multiculturalism

Mr Wong's Emporium seems to be a hub for the local people. He sells everything from fireworks to paper products. He knows the local children and is friendly and cheerful. We know that Mr Wong's Emporium is quite established, as it appeared in Episode 12: 1898: Rowley.


  • Who is Mr Wong? Students can create an imaginary profile for Mr Wong using the 'historyface' template in Student Activity Sheet H11.5, with information and old photos from their research on the Chinese community in Australia  in the early 1900s.  Students need to include his date of birth, background information, family information, status updates and anything else of interest.
  • Ask students to design a postcard that Mr Wong might have sent back to China, informing his relatives about his life in Australia. The postcard should have an image on one side and text on the other.


Activity 3: Currency
Show details
Subtheme(s): Currency

Loose change doesn't buy much these days, and it seems to be the same for Evelyn and her companions. Loose change couldn't buy them the fireworks they wanted from Mr Wong's Emporium.

  • Coins and notes from the early 1900s were different to the coins and notes of today, and so was the amount families needed to spend on everyday items like milk and bread.
  • Research the currency of the 1900s using the following websites:
  1. Museum of Australian Currency Notes,
  2. Printing, 'A New Currency: 1900–1910',
  • The reference book, Australian decimal currency: an introduction for teachers by the Australian Decimal Currency Board (1965) has some interesting information.

  • Ask students to bring current Australian coins of each denomination to class. Photocopy or download pictures of coins from the early 1900s. Students can compare the coins they use today to the coins of the 1900s by using the table in Student Activity Sheet H11.6. They can trace or rub over the coins they have brought into class, as well as cutting and pasting the pictures of the old coins.


Activity 4: The price of bread
Show details
Subtheme(s): Currency; Food
  • What did a loaf of bread cost back then? In pairs, students research the cost of everyday essential items like bread and milk in the early 1900s, and compare it to the cost of the same items today. Ask students to conduct an online search and utilise reference books in the library.
  • Students can develop a cost-comparison chart by listing the items they have researched and converting the pre-decimal amounts into decimal currency. They can use the list on the template provided in Student Activity Sheet H11.7 and add other items if they wish. On the chart, include images of actual advertisements for these commodities.


Activity 5: Gunpowder
Show details
Subtheme(s): Celebrations; Inventions and electronic media
  • In this clip, Evelyn, Edward and Freddie try to create fireworks by obtaining gunpowder. Why does this plan fail? What are the ingredients of gunpowder; where and when was it invented, and by whom? A useful website to start your research with is Wikipedia, 'Gunpowder',
  • As a class, discuss the benefits and risks associated with gunpowder.

  • Ask students to research the origins of gunpowder and list some technological advances in its use across time. They could develop a timeline of the developments associated with gunpowder.


{tpl region name=footerbottom}