Fur manufacturing equipment, spray cans (2), measuring tools (2), and scalloping tool, wood / metal, makers unknown, used by Cornelius Furs, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1943-2000
Fur has a long history of use in clothing, valued firstly for its warmth it became a key player in the use of dress to express wealth, status and luxury and more recently has become the target of anti-fur campaigners.
This equipment is part of a collection of archival material and objects (dating from the 1940s to 2000) relating to Australian fur manufacturer and retailer, Cornelius Furs. The Cornelius Furs shop on the corner of King and Castlereagh Streets, Sydney was established by Max and Stella Cornelius in 1943, at a time when a fur coat was considered almost an essential part of a womens wardrobe. In 1984 Sonia Kempler took over the business, running it until July 2000 when Cornelius Furs closed, the last boutique in Australia with fur as its main trade. This collection provides a rare opportunity to look at the manufacture and retailing of furs in Australia and the cultural politics of fur and fashion.
The collection includes scrap books containing Cornelius Furs advertisments from the 1950s to the 1980s, documenting over a forty year period changes in fur fashions, the imagery and text used to promote fur, changing attitudes towards the use of fur bearing animals and the shift in emphasis from made-to-measure to ready-to-wear furs. The subtext also reflects the impact animal rights and welfare organisations had on mobilising public opinion in Britain, America and Australia against the use of fur in fashion. This is complemented by books on the fur trade as well as conservation literature indicating Cornelius Furs owners were compelled to research and justify what had became a controversial trade by the late 20th century.
The small collection of fur manufacturing equipment and machinery documents the fur manufacturing process from cutting (mink cutting machine) and stretching (fur stretchers) through to a sewing machine (Bonis fur sewing machine) for joining sections and pattern pieces together.
The fur pelts are firstly sorted into bundles containing enough pelts for one garment. They are matched according to colour, quality and type. The pelts are cut using cardboard pattern pieces. High value pelts like Mink are 'let out' using the mink cutting machine. This cuts the pelt into fine strips, the disposition of cuts changing the proportions of the skin area, increasing length at the expense of width which helps produce a full garment length out of a single skin. More skins are used to produce one garment but the result is a uniform stripe the full length of the garment. Finally they are sewn together into a finished garment.
This group of fur manufacturing equipment was used by Cornelius Furs. The Cornelius Furs collection and archive was originally held by Max and Stella Cornelius who established the company in 1943. It was added to by Sonia Kempler who took over ownership of Cornelius Furs in 1984. With the closure of Cornelius Furs in 2000 the Kempler family decided to auction the machinery and stock. The Powerhouse Museum previewed the Cornelius collection and purchased a selection of items.