Don Bradman - The Icon

By Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Sport and Australian Identity - Bradman Museum

Many ask ‘Why is Sir
Donald Bradman so universally admired?’  The answer lies within the character of
the man set against the background of Australian history of the day.    

Going out to bat, Don Bradman - signed (1948) by Herald and Weekly TimesBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

'He had the most brilliant and incisive mind of anyone I’ve ever known in cricket. Above all else, he was very much an Aussie. He was an Aussie sportsman, a great sportsman, said by his critics never once to have questioned an umpire’s decision. He was a sportsman, and it wasn’t just for a few seconds, or a few days, it was for all eras, and it is for all sports followers.’

Richie Benaud, former Australian Test captain, 'voice of Australian cricket' on Wide World of Sports. Memorial Service for Sir Donald Bradman,Adelaide Cathedral, March 25, 2001.

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Image of Don Bradman at Testimonial match. MCG, December 1948.

Don Bradman, in Leeds crowd England (1930-07-11)Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don Bradman became a national symbol through his unique physical and mental skills applied as a cricketer, which took him to the highest pinnacle of sporting achievement.

This precocious talent was reinforced by a depth of character, which in combination yielded a widespread fondness held for him both in Australia and abroad. His humble, almost frugal upbringing in Bowral, under the watchful eye of his parents, largely shaped his character. He learned the value of hard work and adaptability in a modest domestic environment.

From an early age he expressed a comfortable self-sufficiency, without judging others, and his unwavering diligence in meeting his responsibilities was expressed poignantly in the reams of correspondence received throughout his life, which he unfailingly undertook to personally reply, regardless of origin.

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Image of Bradman leaving the field of play after scoring 309 runs in a single day's play. Headingley, Leeds, July 11, 1930.

Image missing

His successes, particularly against England, then known as the ‘mother country’, empowered Australians with a strong sense of their own worth, and freed them from the mindset that they were somehow a poor colonial outpost.

In short Bradman made people feel good about themselves and their country and they loved him for it!

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In the 1930's Bradman's success on the cricket field spawned mass production of memorabilia in celebration of him. Cigarette cards, flicker books, banners, portraits, booklets, brooches and even cuff links were produced in a frenzy of 'Bradmania'. The affection with which the Australian public held for Bradman endured throughout his playing career, as evident in this cricket record book, produced in 1948.

Sydney Mail, Don Bradman 452 Celebration (1930-01-15) by John Fairfax & Sons, Ltd.Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Bradman was young, good-looking, respectful, eager and modest. With most adult males out of work or on reduced (pay due to the economic Depression), children commonly shoeless and the cost of meat prohibitive, Bradman’s positive, flowing and rapid batting were a joy to behold. His cricketing achievements lifted national pride and Australians spirits at a time of fear and anxiety.

Worlds Greatest Batsman Don Bradman, The Pictorial (1930) by The Australasian PictorialBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The voice of the Press

News publications regularly praised Bradman as a national hero, his boyish good looks and sporting prowess appealing to a broad cross-section of the community.

Billboard,'Bradman versus England', Eastern Daily Press, Bradman Museum Collection, 1930-07-12, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Bradman's Amazing Treble Century Billboard, Daily Mirror UK, Bradman Museum Collection, 1930-07-12, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Don Bradman Front Page of the Sydney Mail, The Sydney Mail, Bradman Museum Collection, 1930-06-18, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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'We are with you, Don' Billboard front page, The Melbourne Arrow, Bradman museum Collection, 1932-12-30, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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'Our Don Bradman' Songsheet Cover (1930) by Allan's Music Publishing. Jack O'Hagan song.Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Our Don Bradman by Jack O'Hagan
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The voice of the people

As well as the print media, Bradman's successes were even celebrated in popular music. The snappy fox trot song 'Our Don Bradman', written by Jack O'Hagan and sung by Art Leonard, became a Number 1 hit on the Australian charts in 1930, prior to Bradman's first Ashes tour to England.


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Upon his homecoming return to Bowral at the end of the 1930 Ashes series, Don Bradman and his family were serenaded by the Bowral Town Band at a large community reception held in his honour at Corbett Gardens, Bowral.

'Rainbow Day' Songsheet cover, D.Davis &​ Co. Don Bradman & Jack Lumsdane., 1930, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Bradman was a talented pianist and even wrote music which was released commercially.

'Mighty Don' Songsheet Cover., Peggie Thorne, Bradman Museum Collection, 1940, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Portrait, Sir Donald Bradman (1949) by Sir Ivor HeleBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Constant adulation however did not affect Bradman's personality, and he remained true to his values learned as a child in Bowral.

‘When considering the stature of an athlete, I place great store on certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that a person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and perhaps most of all modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination and competitiveness.’

Sir Donald Bradman, on being inducted into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame, 1985




"He reminded Australians that they were capable of great things in their own right. He was the greatest, nobody will be anywhere near him. He was a hero of mine as a young child, and remained a hero to me all my life."

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, current Patron of Bradman Foundation.


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Oil on Canvas of Sir Donald Bradman painted by Ivor Hele, 1949. Copies of this painting were sent to district cricket clubs throughout Australian capital cities and country clubs in that year. The painting was commissioned by the estate of George Adams (Tattersall's), and was later displayed in Adelaide. Hele had six sittings with Bradman for this portrait, of two hours each (with a break).

Sir Donald Bradman with schoolboys. Adelaide Oval (1958) by Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

State schoolboy cricketers meet with Don Bradman during a Sheffield Shield match, Adelaide Oval, 1958. Photograph donated to Bradman Museum by Paul Martin.

Don Bradman Souvenir Flag (1930) by WACA MuseumBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The Bradman Brand

The Bradman name became so powerful, it took on a life of its own. Not only did Bradman appear on advertising for sporting equipment, he also was used to promote menswear, automobiles, watches, life assurance, and even ice cream. He permeated Australian culture deeply.


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Souvenir flag from Perth, Western Australia. Donated to Bradman Museum by W.A.C.A Museum.

Sykes 'Don Bradman' Bats advertisement, Sykes, Bradman Museum Collection, 1930/1939, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Don Bradman had a bat sponsorship from William Sykes and sons for most of his career. During the Second World War Slazenger purchased Sykes. For all his post-war cricket Bradman used Slazenger bats.

Peters Ice Cream advert with Don Bradman, Peters Ice Cream, Bradman Museum Collection, 1930/1939, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Arthur Mailey caricature of Don Bradman by Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Respect for him also transcended the sporting arena. As Captain he had proved himself a very good speaker and his intelligent, witty and insightful speeches were always in demand. Yet he never chose to capitalise from this in any material sense. Nor did he turn his back on cricket, remaining a cricket administrator, often in an honorary capacity, for 50 consecutive years.

"The word icon is used too often, but it does apply to him."

David Graveney, former English cricketer, and Chairman of Selectors.

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Don Bradman's friend and former Test player Arthur Mailey penned this affectionate and widely circulated caricature of 'Australia's Greatest Batsman'. Bradman Museum Collection.

Donald Bradman WWII General Service Badge by Australian Imperial Force. Donation Sir Donald BradmanBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Donald Bradman enlisted in the RAAF in June 1940 and given the rank of lieutenant. Yet, surplus to the RAAF's requirements, he transferred to the army in October as an instructor at the School of Physical and Recreational Training, Frankston, Victoria.

The General Service Badge was issued to Australian service personnel who did not see active service during the Second World War.
(Issued circa 1945)
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Donation Sir Donald Bradman, Bradman Museum Collection.

Don Bradman - Best Single Performance by a Male Athlete (1988) by Mark Kelly Photography. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

In 1949, after retiring from cricket, Bradman was knighted, the only Australian player so recognised. In 1979 he was made a Companion in the Order of Australia. In the year 2000 he was awarded the Australian Sportsman of the Century while a panel from Wisden separately voted him one of only five players of the 20th Century. He was the only one unanimously acknowledged.


"If you're going to be compared to someone who was great in his sport, the biggest honour would be Donald Bradman. As far as setting the bar in sport, he set the bar."
American Surfing Legend, Kelly Slater


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The Wang Trophy for Best Single Performance by a Male Athlete (1788-1988) was awarded to Sir Donald Bradman, as part of Australia's bicentennial celebrations, retrospectively recognising his 309 runs in a single day's play at Headingley England, in July 1930. The female recipient of this award was Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser for her three consecutive 100m Olympic Gold medals. This trophy housed at Bradman Museum. Donation Sir Donald Bradman. Image by Mark Kelly.

Bradman Stamp Collection (1997-01-23) by Australia Post. Donation Sir Donald BradmanBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Sir Donald Bradman was the first living Australian to be depicted on an Australian stamp, when he was included in the 'Australian Legends' series, January 1997.Image shows the official gold blocks commemorating the stamps by Australia Post and presented to Sir Donald Bradman.
Donation by Sir Donald Bradman to Bradman Museum.

The image also features a detail from a letter dated 14 February 1983, from Mr G.W Vance of the Prime Minister's Department to Noel Almeida, in response to his suggestion that a stamp featuring Bradman be struck. Almeida has later attached two limited edition stamps marked 'First day of issue Bowral P.O 23 January 1997'. Donation Noel Almeida, Bradman Museum Collection.

Portrait, Sir Donald Bradman and Richie Benaud (2015) by Dave Thomas. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Today Don Bradman's legacy is imprinted on the Australian landscape with cricket ground grandstands named in his honour (at the SCG, Adelaide Oval, Manuka Oval) and statues at Bradman Oval Bowral, Adelaide Oval and Cootamundra.

"He is probably the most important Australian of all time." Richie Benaud

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Portrait of Sir Donald Bradman and Richie Benaud by Dave Thomas. Oil on canvas, 2015. Bradman Museum Collection.

Bradman Bats Once More, The Weekend Australian, 1989-10-14, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Announcement of the opening of Bradman Museum, Bowral, in October 1989 made national news.

The dedicated Bradman Gallery at Bradman Museum Bowral. Opened in 1996, it holds many hundreds of items donated by Sir Donald Bradman.

Interacting with Bradman history (2019) by Cole BennetsBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Cricketers continue to revere Don Bradman's legacy, regularly visiting the Bradman Museum, Bowral; situated at his childhood home-ground and final resting place. Former Australian Test Captain, cricket legend Steve Waugh and Bradman Museum Director, Rina Hore. Image Cole Bennets 2019.

The Australian Newspaper, Sir Donald Bradman's death (2001-02-27) by The Australian Newspaper. Bradman Museum Collection.Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Bradman believed in respect for one’s parents, and a high sense of duty to one’s roles be they as a parent, husband, employee, sportsman or cricket administrator. Despite the incessant adulation he received throughout his life Don Bradman remained unswervingly true to these values which only served to raise further respect for him in the broader community.

Rather than declining with age community respect continued to grow. New generations discovered and became engaged by his many qualities. When he died in 2001 aged 92 there was a genuine outpouring of national grief for a man who had last played cricket 52 years earlier.

Farewell Sir Donald Bradman, front page news., Daily Telegraph. Bradman Museum Collection, 2001-02-27, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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A Tribute to the Memory of Sir Donald George Bradman, AC (2001) by Parliament of Commonwealth of Australia Tribute 2001. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Such was his national significance and affection by all Australians, that at his passing in 2001, the Australian Parliament was stopped to pay an official tribute to 'The Don'. This Parliamentary Tribute to the memory of Sir Donald Bradman was published, containing speeches made by the members of both the Senate and House of Representatives. Bradman Museum Collection.

In Memoriam, Donald George Bradman, 2001, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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A Final Salute, Bronze Statue, by Tanya Bartlett (2002-02-25) by Photograph by Martin BultBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The National Icon

When then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser visited Nelson Mandela in prison, in 1986, Mandela's first words to Fraser were "...can you please tell me, is Donald Bradman still alive?"

In February 2001, when Sir Donald died there Australians struggled to come to terms with his loss.

In many respects he had maintained an ongoing conversation with the Australian people throughout his entire life, by faithfully replying to the reams of correspondence he received on a daily basis. Despite being fiercely private and shying away from public appearances, the Australian people, recognising his resolute commitment to cricket and family values, confirmed him as a national icon.

Regarded by fellow Test cricketer Bill Brown as Australia's first international ambassador, Sir Donald Bradman put Australia on the world sporting stage.


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Statue of Sir Donald Bradman 'A Final Salute' sculpted by Tanya Bartlett and opened by former Test cricketers Bill Brown and Ian Craig, 25 February 2002. Bradman Museum, Bowral Australia.

Portrait of Sir Donald Bradman (1989) by Bill Leak. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

By the end of the 20th century, Sir Donald Bradman's name permeated Australian culture, and indeed, the world.

The subject of four Archibald Portrait Prize finalist paintings, he has been painted in many more artworks of national significance.

Popular songs by leading Australian musicians Jack O'Hagan, and later John Williams and Paul Kelly, were recorded about him. Films and countless publications have been made about the man. An ornamental and fragrant red rose was even developed and named after him.

Knighted for services to cricket (1949) and a recipient of a Companion of the Order of Australia (1979) for services to cricket, he was also awarded the Bicentennial Athlete of the Century (1988), and in 1993 became 'Legend of Australian Sport' in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Numerous other notable awards, scholarships, and a dedicated museum are named in his honour. The Australian Government even created a law to protect the Bradman name; Hitherto reserved only for royal dignitaries and government bodies.


"We're just lucky he was born in Australia."
Former Australian Test Captain, Bill Lawry.

Credits: Story

Author: David Wells, Rina Hore, Bradman Museum.

Art Direction: Monica Donoso, Bradman Museum.

© Bradman Museum 2019

Objects:
Donald Bradman WWII General Service Badge. Donation Sir Donald Bradman, Bradman Museum Collection. BM 2000.101
Trophy 'Best Single Performance by a Male Athlete' 1788 - 1988. Donation Sir Donald Bradman. Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1989.072
Portrait, Sir Donald Bradman, by Bill Leak 1989. Donation Bill Leak. Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1989.146
Portrait, Richie Benaud and Sir Donald Bradman, by Dave Thomas 2015. Commission Bradman Foundation. Bradman Museum Collection.
The Bradman Book, 1948. Atlas Publishing. Bradman Museum Collection.
Don Bradman Marutomo Pottery Jug, 1934. Bradman Museum Collection.
1936-37 Ashes Series Commemorative Matchbox Protector.
Bradman Museum Collection.
Bradman Caricature, by Arthur Mailey. c.1935. Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1990.078
W.A.C.A Souvenir Flag, 1930. Donation WACA Museum. Bradman Museum Collection.
Australia Post gold blocks. Donation Sir Donald Bradman, Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1997.069
Letter, Prime Ministers Office: Donation Noel Almeida, Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1997.065
Statue. 'A Final Salute' by Tanya Bartlett 2002. Commission Bradman Foundation.
Bradman Memorabilia, Bradman Museum Collection.
Print, 'Sir Donald Bradman' portrait by Sir Ivor Hele, 1949.
Billboard: The Sydney Mail. Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1994.097
Billboard: The Australasian Pictorial. Bradman Museum Collection. BM 2000.098.3
Billboard: Eastern Daily Press. Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1996.629.8
Billboard: Daily Mirror. Bradman Museum Collection.
Billboard: The Melbourne Arrow. Bradman Museum Collection.
Billboard: The Weekend Australian, Bradman Museum Collection.
Billboard: The Australian. Bradman Museum Collection.
Billboard: Daily Telegraph, February 27, 2001. Bradman Museum Collection. BM 2010.254
Songbooks, Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1992.006 / BM 1994.002 / BM 2001.082
Parliament of Commonwealth of Australia. A tribute to the memory of Sir Donald Bradman. 2001. Bradman Museum Collection.
In Memorium, Donald George Bradman. 2001, Bradman Museum Collection.


Images:
Mark Kelly
Ron Berg/Adelaide Advertiser
John Gollings
Herald and Weekly Times
Channel Nine Network
Cricket Australia
Martin Bult
Monica Donoso
Cole Bennets/Google

Audio Song:
Our Don Bradman. Jack O'Hagan. EMI Records.

Streetview Bradman Gallery by Google 2018.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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