The word “Mechanics” in our name comes from the SMSA’s roots in an adult education movement that originated in Scotland in the 1820s and soon spread throughout the English-speaking world. “Mechanics”, in this context, refers to people working in technical trades or as artisans. These institutes and schools were founded in the belief that society would benefit from better-educated working people, however as the movement evolved, middle-class professionals, merchants, shopkeepers, clerks and office workers also joined the organisations which now provided ‘rational recreation’ for their members.
Debating clubs, public lectures and lending libraries were the officially sanctioned means by which schools of arts and mechanics’ institutes promoted rational recreation in their communities. But arguably the institutes were also meeting this objective when they ran informal social events and leisure activities. The School of Arts Movement, Dictionary of Sydney