1936 – Empire Exhibition

1936 Empire Exhibition

15 September 1936 – 15 January 1937 

The 1936 Empire Exhibition was held in Milner Park, Johannesburg to bring together ideas, people and objects from South Africa and the Empire.The event coincided with the Johannesburg Jubilee celebrations (50 years since gold was discovered in the Highvelds).

The Exhibition was held over the period September 1936, to January 1937, the best season of the South African Year. Special fares for visitors were offered by certain Steamship Lines and the South African Railways. Special arrangements were offered 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.

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

Ten thousand spectators could accommodate the open air theatre, for which the seats were cut into the bluff on either side of the waterfall feeding the artificial lake. Projecting into the lake was an open air bandstand and stage where ballets and musical performances were given.

Other events included an Empire Chess Tournament, Bowling Tournament, and an Ice Hockey Competition held on a large Ice Skating Rink, a quarter of an acre in size. Also constructed was a magnificent ballroom with ideas and effects provided by experts from London, Paris, and New York. On the artistic side, there were galleries of pictures, photographs, black and white drawings and sculpture, demonstrating the collective achievements of the Empire and the Union.

The Exhibition held a number of functions for 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 to these functions were 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.


  • Keith Harrop
  • Andrew Wilkie
  • James Gavin