20th Australiana Virtual Show and Tell Report


Whale Ivory Glass 

Made by Crestfurn Albany WA. Height 20cm.
As the manufacturer is in Albany WA, we assume the glass manufacturing process uses byproducts of the whaling industry. Whale ivory, is a whitish yellow substance from the teeth of some whales.

A set of whale ivory shot glasses was sold by McKenzies, a WA auction house, in 2015. No other information was found.


Wattle and Wren Painting  

Variegated Wren and Wattle
gouache, by Gordon Alley, 28 x 25 cm

Original label to verso ‘BAN’ art or possibly ‘Barrington Francis Art Collection’? Signature is just below the wattle on the right hand side. The little known artist appears to have specialised in illustrating Australian birds and worked from 1970s.

His first listing on the secondary market was in 1983 and subsequently a further 10 have come on the market. An internet search for ‘Barrington Francis Art’ revealed it is a NY art and antiques company which seems unlikely for this painting.

The subject: The variegated wren in this picture is male, the female of species is brownish grey. It is widely dispersed throughout the mainland of Australia. The wattle is an acacia of which there are over 1,000 species found in Australia. Wattle branches have been on Australia’s coat of arms (but not on the armorial) since 1912, and wattle is Australia’s national floral emblem.

Wattle and Wren Painting


Stool Money Box

Handmade plywood money box nailed together with domed upholstery tacks and embellished with a boomerang. The text is in black ink and reads: Now make it a rule to put your pennies in this stool. Size: height 11 cm width 8 cm length 17.5 cm

Due to its basic construction material the owner believes it dates to the depression era. The owner has only seen this kind of money box with an Australian motif in Newcastle. A search on the internet revealed that similar examples were made in the UK and date to the 1890s, but of superior quality and the text is on a brass plaque, professionally made.

Money boxes have been made of cast iron (beware reproductions) tin, pottery, plastic, paper-mâché, and coconut shells.

Money boxes are humble objects however they form an important part of Australian culture. Like many Australian customs and habits, they can be traced back to Great Britain and this stool money box’s has its predecessor that was made there a generation earlier. Youngsters learned to save money this way while creating a good habit.


Newcastle Half Loaf Bread Token  

Newcastle District Co-Operative Limited Bakery’s Half Loaf aluminium token. Size: 23 x 32 cm

Bread and milk tokens were introduced in Australia about 1920 and were in use until the 1970s.

Bakeries and milk factories sold their goods on a daily basis and delivered them mainly in horse drawn carts to homes in the early hours of the morning, in time for the housewife to make lunch time sandwiches and pour fresh milk on breakfast cereals and to make tea for the family. This was an era in Australia before fridges were comon in the home and supermarkets were not heard of.

Tokens were purchased at bakery shops and corner stores. One did not have to use tokens but the delivery people insisted on the exact money to be left out, sometimes inconvienient. However the main reason to use them was to stop thieves, normally children, stealing the money left out, usually by the front door. The owner of this token lives in Adelaide and that city did not have tokens and thefts did occur! His parents left out money and a note for the milk quantity and an old buiscuit tin for the bread to be placed inside.

The Newcastle District Co-op began in 1898 and at its peak was the biggest co-operative in the southern hemishere. The store also delivered groceries, fruit and vegatables at a much later time of day than its bread. The co-op’s bakery opened in 1908 and by 1942 it was the largest bakery in Australia, baking about 62,800 loaves a week. The store closed in 1981.

Mary and Kate left a broader civic legacy through their involvement in establishing the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1913.

 These objects are thought to have been made by Hilda. They are special in that they are Australian bush scenes. Most of their works were European or Asian subjects. Hilda lived elsewhere for 30 years and so was less influenced by the European style at Buda.  

Hilda was responsible for selling Buda to the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1970.


Mystery Object Feedback from VS&T18

Bone or Ivory object, before 1860. Length 80 mm, diameter 26 mm

Recapping… During excavation of the 1832 townhouse in Dawes Point this small ivory or bone object was discovered by the owners. It partly unscrews and gives the impression that there was originally more to the object.

Three AS members offered an opinion on the mystery object.

  1. The mystery object is a whale bone douche from an enema kit.
  2. An implement to go inside the finger of a glove……. to either stretch it, hold it in position so that it can be mended or to help turn the glove finger right side out after removal or washing. The size seems appropriate to the task.
  3. A spindle whorl or scrimshaw spindle whorl, typically made for mothers, wives, and girlfriends.

All suggestions were thoughtfully considered, most likely – a SPINDLE WHORL.


Morialta Children’s Homes ‘Tinnie’ Badge

The centre of this appeal day badge depicts a young girl in pony tails indicating the badge is circa 1940-50s. Maker Unknown. Diameter 32 mm

A Protestant home for orphans and neglected children at ‘Morialta House’ in the Adelaide Hills.

A 1931 newspaper article states: ‘Children Do All Work. ‘Early to bed and early to rise’ is the motto. Rising at 6.15, they make their own beds; one section sweeps and washes dormitory floors, another attends to the breakfast dishes. And several boys go milking. Lunches are prepared and taken to school. After they have completed their work in the evening, most of the children retire to bed before 8 o’clock; older ones are allowed up a little later, but all are in bed before 9 o’clock. Work is done in the fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, and among the cows, pigs and fowls: the elder boys do the separating. The ages of the inmates range from two to 14 years.’

Appeal badges helped raise large amounts for hospitals, elderly and young peoples’ homes, and for institutional facilities that cared for those with a disability. Their value from an Australian social history perspective cannot be overlooked. In later years they were made of paper and were cut out in diamond, shield, and book mark shapes.

Yarranung Tathra Butter Keg


Yarranung Tathra Butter Keg

White ash timber, iron bands made by Coopers, Bega
Contents 23 – 40 kg

This keg was used by the Yarranung Butter Factory in Tathra to transport butter from the port at Tathra to the Sydney markets. The kegs were also assembled at train stations for collection.

The keg is constructed with upright standing boards of white ash taken from nearby Brown Mountain. Four iron bands are stretched around the body for additional strength. The keg’s original lid has been retained and is inscribed with the identifiers “21” and “Yarranung Butter Factory, Tathra.

The kegs were used until they fell apart. They were returned empty to the farmers who were able to recognise their keg by the markings on the surface. Markings included inscribed names, numbers and painted strips.

Brass Captain’s Ring Kangaroo Crest


Brass Captain’s Ring Kangaroo Crest

Encrusted heavy brass ring, kangaroo crest on shield. Diameter 2 cm, shield 14 mm x 10 mm

Acquired in London, what was described as a brass Captain’s ring, recovered by mudlarks from the banks of the River Thames. The owner was intrigued by the kangaroo shield (Australian?), and the indecipherable markings on the inside of the ring.

The editors believe it is crafted in a brass-type metal with textured shoulders, and made in late 19th century in England in spite of the unusual kangaroo crest. We don’t know why it would be called a captain’s ring.

South Yarra Rifle Club Spoon


South Yarra Rifle Club Spoon

Sterling silver teaspoon, Birmingham 1911, decoration an imperial crown above a wreath with crossed swords. Bowl inscribed ‘W Sword. S.Y.R.C. 600 Yds, 5’7’13’. Maker William James Dingley (W.J.D.) Size: 11.5 x 2.2 cm

The SYRC, was founded in April 1900, with 35 members and an annual fee of 10/6d. Rifle shooting was included in the 1908 London Olympics. ‘Spoon Shoots’ were a specific competition for the best score from 14 shots across 600 yards (or other distances).

The Malvern Standard of 26 July 1913, on the SYRC’s spoon shoot of 5th July tells that ‘Mr W. Sword put up a very fine performance, only dropping five points off the rifle.’ Sword’s name appears in several newspaper reports of the South Yarra Rifle Club including in November 1913 that he achieved eight bullseyes. He was also noted in events in 1914/1915.

Victoria’s Rifle Association held its first annual match in 1860. Once the Imperial garrisons departed the Australian colonies from 1871, there was a transition from volunteer soldiers to a partly paid militia. During the Boer Wars there had been a huge growth of civilian rifle clubs particularly in Victoria and by 1912, Victoria had over 17,000. As political and military interests evolved regarding the defence of the young nation, friction rose about the civilian target shooters who could ‘shoot but can’t drill’ and the military shooters who ‘could drill but can’t shoot.’ By 1910 the Australian rifle clubs were considered a reservoir of manpower if an invasion should occur.

Utilitarian Cedar Dresser


Utilitarian Cedar Dresser

Size: height 216, width 137, depth 70 cm

From the Uralla district of NSW and claimed to have an association with local bushranger Captain Thunderbolt (Fred Ward) who died near Uralla in 1870. The dresser spent its early life on LHS of a chimney breast with corresponding smoke/soot stains. Construction is wholly mortice and tendon. The cedar is one inch thick except for the legs.

Owner’s Questions:
Are the backboards original?
Are the backboards original to the item?
The top has a small frieze which looks out of place – original?
What are the pros and cons of restoring the piece?

Unusual for the dresser to be made of cedar, most are pine. It’s similar to the utilitarian table made for the Tasmanian asylum (Aust, Feb 2019). It is difficult to date as it has no particular stylistic features. You might find similar pieces in department store catalogues (eg Anthony Hordern) and there is a similar cedar dresser in Craig, Fahy & Robertson p 176.

Comments from the Timber Expert:
I’m not sure it’s cedar.
It seems to be standard rural construction.
They often didn’t have backboards, and often did. Yes I suspect in this case they were added but I regard this as irrelevant (see below).

So many simple and useful pieces have been modified over time to better suit their purpose. This is a characteristic of their genre. It looks great.
But… with these things, which don’t fit into the realm of artisan work, the value is in the story. And what a great story it is. It should be written out and attached to the back for posterity. I would touch it myself, apart from the occasional wax, because it should look like its story.


The Show and Tell has been a very popular with members and was a great way to keep in contact during Covid when members were isolated and events cancelled.

The Board would like to thank Peter Lane, Yvonne Barber, David Bedford, Bob Fredman and Nicola Kissane for their efforts in collating member’s contributions.