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The rural area surrounding Adelaide was surveyed by Light in preparation to sell a total of over 405 km (156 sq mi) of land.

Adelaide's early economy started to get on its feet in 1838 with the arrival of livestock from Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

The site of the colony's capital was surveyed and laid out by Colonel William Light, the first Surveyor-General of South Australia, through the design made by the architect George Strickland Kingston.

Adelaide was established as a planned colony of free immigrants, promising civil liberties and freedom from religious persecution, based upon the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

Governor Gawler took over from Hindmarsh in late 1838 and, despite being under orders from the Select Committee on South Australia in Britain not to undertake any public works, promptly oversaw construction of a governor's house, the Adelaide Gaol, police barracks, a hospital, a customs house and a wharf at Port Adelaide.

Gawler was recalled and replaced by Governor Grey in 1841.

Gas street lighting was implemented in 1867, the University of Adelaide was founded in 1874, the South Australian Art Gallery opened in 1881 and the Happy Valley Reservoir opened in 1896.

In the 1890s Australia was affected by a severe economic depression, ending a hectic era of land booms and tumultuous expansionism.

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In July 1876, the Illustrated Sydney News published a special supplement that included an early aerial view of the City of Adelaide, the River Torrens and portion of North Adelaide from a point above Pennington Terrace, North Adelaide.

Following a burglary, a murder, and two attempted murders in Adelaide during March 1838, Governor Hindmarsh created the South Australian Police Force (now named South Australia Police) in April 1838 under 21-year-old Henry Inman.

The first governor of South Australia, John Hindmarsh, clashed frequently with others, in particular the Resident Commissioner, James Hurtle Fisher.

Adelaide stretches 20 km (12 mi) from the coast to the foothills, and 94 to 104 km (58 to 65 mi) from Gawler at its northern extent to Sellicks Beach in the south.

Named in honour of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV, the city was founded in 1836 as the planned capital for a freely-settled British province in Australia.