On this very festive day, I thought I would ‘unwrap’ for you some of the playful and eclectic Christmas related objects we have in our collection! Starting with this cardboard marionette of Santa Claus designed and printed by Raphael Tuck and Sons in Great Britain and made in Bavaria in 1905-1910. Raphael Tuck and Sons were well-known publishers from around the mid-19th to early 20th centuries who published for the royal family and were recognised for this service with a royal warrant from Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1893.
These are three French hens nesting in rather plush surrounds, and as you have probably already guessed, belongs to one of twelve gift boxes in the collection celebrating the famous English Christmas carol – ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. The carol starts:
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree…”
These boxes were designed and made by Stuart Devlin, an internationally renowned metalworker and designer from Australia (he also designed our decimal coinage). He made one of these boxes every year for 12 years and they are currently on display in the Museum’s front foyer (opposite the shop). The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ starts on December 25 and ends on the evening of January 5.
These beautifully hand and machine-embroidered Christmas placemats were made in the early 1900s and, despite being used by a Sydney family every Christmas from the 1940s-1980s, have been kept in excellent condition!
Any thoughts what this is? To give you some sense of scale, it measures 70cm high x 65cm wide, which is just large enough to house a dog – because that’s actually what it’s for – it’s a dog kennel! It was designed between 1995 and 2000 by Richard Lee in Sydney and later modified to sit on the back of a bicycle. There is a lot to look at, both in terms of religious and Christmas imagery – the Christian cross, icon of Mary with child, Hindu gods, Japanese houses and gardens, a ‘G’Day mate!’ sign, powered by a battery-operated motor which causes the sign to flip over and display ‘Welcome to Sydney!’ (in celebration of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games), disco balls, gold sequins and a Japanese miso soup bowl used for the dog’s water! I tell you, my dog, who is virtually pocket-sized, wouldn’t want a bar of sitting inside this kennel – and that’s when it isn’t perched on the back of a bike!
Onto a necessary evil, especially at Christmas time, this is a 1983 David Jones Christmas account credit card, featuring their trademark houndstooth logo. It is one of three David Jones Christmas credit cards in the collection, along with 87/220-2 and 87/220-3, each of different designs.
This 1949 poster was designed by P. I. Cox for the Post Master General’s Department in Australia. But, how does one interpret ‘post early’ (apart from, “in time for Christmas”)? I received a Christmas card from my Aunty and Uncle in the UK in the first week of October this year because of the strikes and on-again off-again British Postal Service! Note to relatives – October is simply way too early, so in future, just send an e-card instead!
The Museum also has a lovely collection of personal Christmas cards designed by Gordon Andrews, which he and his wife Mary, sent out to family and friends each year. Gordon Andrews is best known for designing the first decimal currency bank notes in Australia, but he was also one of Australia’s foremost industrial designers.
And, what is Christmas without Christmas crackers? These paper and tinsel bonbons, still with their contents (whatever they may be!?), date to the 1950s. They complement other examples of Christmas crackers in the collection dating as early as the 1930s (89/1629) and even a Christmas cracker making machine, which is on display at Castle Hill (B2340).
From everyone here at Object of the Week, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and New Year and thanks heaps for reading our posts!