Sir Littleton Ernest Groom (1867–1936), the son of a convict and politician, was born in Toowoomba, Queensland, and educated at Toowoomba Grammar School and the University of Melbourne. He practised as a barrister and was involved in a range of journalistic, cultural and church activities. In September 1901, following a by-election, he succeeded his father as the Member for Darling Downs in the House of Representatives. Apart from a break in 1929–31, he was to hold the seat until his death in 1936.
In his early career Groom was a radical Protectionist and he supported the Labor Government in 1904. In 1905 he was appointed Minister for Home Affairs by Alfred Deakin and he was subsequently to serve under Joseph Cook, W.M. Hughes and S.M. Bruce. His portfolios included Attorney-General (1906–08 and 1921–25), External Affairs (1909–10), Trade and Customs (1913–14), and Works and Railways (1918–21). He led the Australian delegation at the Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva in 1924. Following his resignation from the Bruce–Page Government in 1925, he became Speaker of the House of Representatives for four years. He did not hold office again, but in his last years he was an active member of the League of Nations Union and the Synod of the Church of England. He was knighted in 1923.
Groom was a strong supporter of Canberra and he argued for the establishment of a national university and other national institutions. As Speaker, he chaired the Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library from 1926 to 1929 and he continued to take a keen interest in the Library when he returned to Canberra in 1931. He was involved in the acquisition of the papers of Sir Edmund Barton and expressed the wish that his own books and papers would be preserved in the Library.
The books, pamphlets, personal papers and photographs of Groom were donated by Lady Groom to the Commonwealth National Library in 1937. They constituted the first large personal archive acquired by the Library. In 2006 further personal papers of both Groom and Lady Groom were donated under the Cultural Gifts Program by Marie Pearce and other members of Groom’s family.
The Littleton Groom Collection contains about 200 books and 260 pamphlets. The books, many of which are inscribed, mainly relate to Australian history, law, literature and religion. The following are some examples:
Cockburn, J.A., Australian Federation (1901)
Crombie, Andrew, After Sixty Years or Recollections of an Australian Bushman (1927)
Evans, George Essex, Collected Verse (1928)
Evans, George Essex, The Secret Key and Other Verses (1906)
Hall, Thomas, The Early History of Warwick District and Pioneers of the Darling Downs (n.d.)
O’Hara, John Bernard, A Book of Sonnets (1902)
O’Hara, John Bernard, Calypso and Other Poems (1912)
O’Hara, John Bernard, Odes and Lyrics (1906)
Russell, Henry Stuart, The Genesis of Queensland (1888)
Stephens, J. Brunton, Convict Once and Other Poems (1885).
The pamphlets, which include speeches and newspaper cuttings, deal with such subjects as federal politics, the Constitution, elections, referenda, federalism, socialism, imperial relations, the federal capital, World War I, the League of Nations, the Nationalist Party, the River Murray Waters question, irrigation, the Anglican Church and the Empire Parliamentary Association. They were mostly published in the 1900–30 period.
The papers cover Groom’s adult life and include family and political correspondence, subject files, reports, legal opinions, notes, manuscripts, speeches, newspaper cuttings and printed items. They touch on most matters of importance that came before the Federal Government and Parliament including the High Court, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, federal and state finance, Papua and the Pacific Islands, imperial conferences, sugar, the River Murray Commission, the transcontinental railway, World War I, recruiting, the establishment of Canberra, and referenda and elections. There are also extensive papers on the League of Nations and the Anglican Church.
In addition to a number of portraits of Groom, the Groom Collection contains six albums of photographs. Four are presentation albums, depicting Mount Morgan mines; the visit of the British Parliamentary Association to Australia (1911); the Australian exhibition at Wembley, London (1924); and an album presented by the Toowoomba branch of the Church of England Men’s Society (1929). The other two are general and personal albums, dating from about 1905–20, with photographs of family groups, politicians, houses, ships, planes, Burrunjuck Dam, Werribee Gorge, Sherbrooke Forest, the search for the federal capital site, the River Murray Commission, visits by Lord Kitchener and the Prince of Wales, army camps and troop ships. The annotations are in Groom’s handwriting.
The Library also holds the silver and wood spade used by Groom to commence construction of the first weir and lock on the River Murray at Torrumbarry on 14 June 1919.
The books in the Littleton Groom Collection have been catalogued individually and integrated in the Australian Collection, whereas the pamphlets have been retained as a formed collection. The pamphlets were originally in nine volumes; one volume has been retained and the remainder of the pamphlets are filed in eight boxes. The pamphlets have also been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefix SR N LEG 080.
The personal papers are kept together in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 236 (the original collection) and MS 10046 (the 2006 addition). There are also newspaper cuttings at MS 1452. Fing aids for both MS 236 and MS 10046 are available online at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-251992477/findingaid and https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-369478626/findingaid. A card index to the correspondence in MS 236 is held in the Manuscripts Collection.
The photographs, photograph albums and spade are held in the Pictures Collection. The albums are numbered 258, 279, 360, 360A, 378 and 542. Most of them have been individually catalogued.
David Carment, Groom, Sir Littleton Ernest (1867–1936), Australian Dictionary of Biography online
Jessie Groom (ed.), Nation Building in Australia: The Life and Work of Sir Littleton Ernest Groom, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1941.
Stuart Macintyre, The Library and the Political Life of the Nation, in Peter Cochrane (ed.), Remarkable Occurrences: The National Library of Australia’s First Hundred Years 1901–2001, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2001, pp. 123–43.
First posted 2008 (revised 2019)