Finlay Brothers history site

James Finlay
Preserving the bicycle and
motorcycle heritage of
Finlay Brothers, Elizabeth St
Melbourne, 1900-1961.
The Burman photographs
The Burman photographs

James Finlay and "The Barb" 1869
Source: Museum Victoria

In 1869, The Argus wrote:

“We have been shown some well-executed photographs by Mr. F.G. Burman, of Gertrude-street, Fitzroy, representing the first two-mile velocipede-race which occurred in Victoria, with portraits of the winner and his competitors, which are interesting both as souvenirs of the event itself and as good specimens of the photographic art.”1

The Burman photographs - a record of the first wheelmen?

In 1869, the earliest known Victorian bicycle race - possibly Australia's first, took place on the Melbourne Cricket ground.2  Individual photographs were taken of each of the competitors by Fitzroy photographer Mr Burman.3

Only one of these competitor's photographs is still known to exist - that of the race winner James Finlay.  There are two copies of James Finlay's photograph - one held by Museum Victoria and the other held in a private family collection.

The other Burman photographs that may still exist are of the race's second placegetter Mr Warnock (with bicycle "Emerald-hill"), and the third placegetter Mr Thompson (with tricycle "Flyaway").4

The copy of James Finlay's photograph that is held by Museum Victoria is displayed above right, and the copy held in a private family collection is shown below.

Source: Private family collection


1. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic:1848-1956), July 14, 1869, 5.

2. "Bicycle History", Powerhouse Museum,

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic:1848-1956), July 14, 1869, 5.

4. “Athletic sports on the Melbourne Cricket Ground”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1956), July 12, 1869, 6.

James Finlay