The other day I was walking through the museum and came across a family visiting the Steam Revolution exhibition. Their young son was racing around in typical fashion when he came to a dead stop in front of the above object and exclaimed ‘Wow – a giant exploded treasure chest!!’
The object in question is the Day Street Boiler and it does have a pretty interesting story. This large end section was unearthed in 1976 during construction of the Western Distributor freeway. It appears to have been used as landfill in the early days of Sydney when land reclamations took place for construction of the dockland area at Darling Harbour, between 1838 and 1848. There were only 6 steam engines operating in Sydney in 1831, which grew to 26 by the end of the 1840s, so the Day Street Boiler is quite a rare piece of metal.
Continue reading ‘Wow – a giant exploded treasure chest!’
P1223 Botanical illustration, ‘ Eugenia ventenatii (Large leaved water gum/ Drooping Myrtle)’, painted by Agard Hagman, Sydney, 1887
This lovely botanical illustration was painted by Agard Hagman in 1887. It was one of many illustrations included in an extensive display of Australian timbers in the Timber Courts at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (the former Powerhouse Museum). Indeed, when the museum opened in 1893, the whole first floor was given over to the vegetable kingdom. Subjects included timber, food, drugs, oil and many others.
The Museum did not limit itself to just exhibitions and advice, it actively promoted the commercial potential of Australian plants, particularly Eucalypts and Wattles. The display of Australian timbers included drawings, jars filled with leaves and seeds, sections through tree trunks, examples of raw and polished timbers and furniture and fittings made from different timbers.
This painting shows the species Eugenia ventenatii which is currently named Waterhousea floribunda or the Weeping Lilly Pilly (as many gardeners complain botanists are in the habit of renaming species). The 1887 painting is titled Timber and Food. It’s use today appears to be primarily as an ornamental garden tree.
The image below shows this painting on display in the Timber Court in about 1900.
Timber Courts at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, c 1900
Post by Lynne McNairn, Digital Services
Reference: Yesterday’s tomorrows: the Powerhouse Museum and its precursors 1880-2005 by Graeme Davison and Kimberley Webber (eds)
86/4466 Cash register made by The National Cash Register Co, Dayton, Ohio, United States of America, c. 1900
With Christmas over and the sales in full swing, it seemed like a good time to look at this beautiful old cash register.
This cash register was made in about 1900 by the National Cash Register Company, in Dayton, Ohio the first company to manufacture and promote cash registers. This machine is an example of the ‘brass era’ when cash registers were designed to look beautiful as well as register sales. They featured elaborate moulded brass casings and viewing panels so that people could look through to the mechanism inside. Such machines would have been important status symbols and indicated to customers that this was a thriving business.
Continue reading ‘Counting cash with brass – cash register from 1900′
Sales catalogue for Sunbeam motorcycles, England, 1929
This charming drawing is from the cover of a sales catalogue for the 1929 range of Sunbeam motorcycles. The drawing shows a man astride his Sunbeam in the English countryside, with an empty country road stretched out behind him. These were the days of little traffic, few road rules and certainly no helmets. Driving and motorcycling could be pure adventure!
Continue reading ‘The halcyon days of the Sunbeam motorcycle’
2007/16/1 Dessert plate, Australian wildflowers, porcelain (bone china), made by Doulton & Co, painted by Louis Bilton, Burslem, Staffordshire, England, c. 1892
This beautiful dessert plate from the collection features a plant common in Sydney bushland but unusual as a subject for china painting. The plant is the Fringe Myrtle or Calytrix tetragona. Waratahs, Flannel Flowers, Christmas Bells, Wattle and Gum Leaves are frequent subjects but the Fringe Myrtle has not attracted many artists to its cause. The Museum database notes:
Continue reading ‘Rare Doulton dessert plate painted by Louis Bilton with Australian wildflowers’
B1174 – Motor cycle and sidecar made by Bradbury & Co Ltd, Oldham, England, 1914.
Motorcycles or motorbikes can have unsavoury connotations in current times with the phrase ‘outlaw motorcycle gang’ rarely out the headlines but in 1914 when the Bradbury motorcycle and sidecar were built they were the height of middle class respectability.
Continue reading ‘The Bradbury motorcycle and sidecar – respectable transport’
2003/143/1 Volunteers uniform and accessories for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Designed by Wendy Paulucci and made by Bonds, Fiji / Australia/ Malaysia, 2000. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.
If you were living in or visiting Sydney during the year 2000 Olympic Games it seemed that every second person was wearing this uniform. The colourful and highly visible design could not be mistaken for anything else and was worn proudly by people from all walks of life and all shapes and sizes. It was not uncommon to see whole families (even with teenage children) decked out in their uniforms heading off by train or bus to report for duty.
Continue reading ‘Remembering the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – volunteers uniform’
94/230/1-4 String quartet by Kitty Smith: Collection Powerhouse Museum
This splendid string quartet (two violins, a viola and a cello) was made by Kitty Smith (1912-2005) a professional violin maker who started her craft in the 1930s. Kitty was the daughter of Arthur Edward (A E) Smith (1880-1978) who is considered the most important violin maker in Australia.
These instruments came to mind recently on a visit to the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens when we stopped to admire this Dragon’s Blood Tree, Dracena draco. The tree was still growing happily in spite of having fallen over. ‘Dragon’s Blood’ – the red sap from this tree can be used as an ingredient in varnish. It is soluble in alcohol, ether and oils and imparts to its solvent a rich red colour.
Continue reading ‘String quartet by Kitty Smith – varnished with Dragons Blood’
Recently ukuleles have been undergoing quite a revival with ukulele clubs and festivals springing up all over the world (there are at least seven clubs in Sydney). But Hawaiian music and ukuleles were very popular in Australia during the 1920s and 1930s and remained so until the 1950s. This ukulele from our collection was made in Hawaii in the 1930s by Jonah Kumalae, a prolific and famous maker who is credited with creating the first ukulele craze when his ukuleles were exhibited at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.
Continue reading ‘The Ukulele Craze’
Recently I blogged about how sedan chairs (seen here on display in our Transport Exhibition) were used in London in the 1600 and 1700s. However sedan chairs were never really used in Australia so how did this peculiar item end up here?
Continue reading ‘Curious Communications’