Inside the Collection

Calling all apple experts!

Wax models of apples
Collection, Powerhouse Museum.

Any apple experts out there?

We need help in identifying the varieties of these lifelike wax models of apples in the museum collection so that we can match them with our written records.

The Museum’s wax fruit and vegetable collection was first created after Museum Curator, Joseph Maiden, saw the Melbourne Technological Museum’s ‘fine models’ of fruit and vegetables in 1883 and decided that Sydney needed a similar display to highlight the agricultural products of New South Wales. In late 1885 a Mrs A.G. Goodman wrote to Maiden to get the official goahead to make wax models for the Sydney Technological, Sanitary and Industrial Museum (as we were then known). She already had some mangoes and a cucumber on hand and was anxious to get started before they went off.

Over the course of the next 12 months Mrs Goodman would make over three hundred wax models of different varieties of fruit and vegetables including 124 varieties of apples. She also produced several plaster reproductions of meteorites and famous gold nuggets.

Originally from Melbourne, Mrs Goodman, when she was Miss McMillan, had already won awards at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition for her wax fruit models.

In early 1886, Anna Gillespie Goodman had begun making her wax fruit and vegetable models for the Museum in a room rented from her landlady in Crown Street Surry Hills. She would cast the original fruit in plaster of paris, making a mould which would be filled with wax – finally the model was painted, using any of the 20 pigments (which included brown, rose, rubens, purple and pink madder, indian red, raw sienna and burnt umber) in her colour palette.

A few weeks later Maiden received a letter from Goodman’s landlady, Mrs Baldwin, informing him that Mr and Mrs Goodman had been ‘locked up’ on a charge of stealing and that ‘the Detectives have also the key of the room containing the materials for wax fruit making, belonging to the Government’. The evidence against them, provided by Mrs Baldwin and her mother, was sketchy though, and the Goodmans were released. Two weeks later, now living in nearby Alexandria, Mrs Goodman had sold a further 31 models of apples, plums, pears, mandarins to the Museum.

By June 1886 Joseph Maiden informed the Museum Trustees that he had ‘at last been able to provide suitable accommodation for the modeller in the Museum’ and that she would be making wax models in front of Museum visitors.

Mrs A.G.Goodman in 1886 in the Technological Museum with models of gold nuggets
Mrs A.G.Goodman in 1886 in the Technological Museum with models of gold nuggets. Collection, Powerhouse Museum.

At a meeting of the Horticultural Society of NSW the night before Maiden had ‘obtained some very nice specimens of apples, pears etc’ not already in the Museum collection and intended approaching more growers for specimens to be modelled by Mrs Goodman. Reporting on the Technological Museum, a Sydney Morning Herald article from August 1886 said

The modelling of fruit, cereals, and vegetables is a branch of industry that attracts a great deal of attention. It is under the direction of Mrs H.J. Goodman who is exceedingly clever in imitating nature, not only in regard to form, but colouring also. The articles she manufactures are so like the originals that it is difficult to decide, except by taste, that they are artificial.”

If we have gotten any apple experts hooked, we would like to hear from you if you can indentify any of the varieties in the first photo!

6 responses to “Calling all apple experts!

  • Those models are awesome! Old skool mouleurs really knew their stuff!

    The RAS NSW could probably be able to help you identify them.

    Maybe they can go on display at the Easter Show this year!

  • Terribly, terribly long bow – but I wonder if there is any connection to Goodmans, the still existing nursery at Bairnsdale, in Victoria. Will dig out a family history on them from the early 1980s, where they were celebrating 100 years on site. Do you know anything about her husband, as there is considerable expertise somewhere there in knowing what apples to model? From memory, we used the Melbourne models for study at Burnley Horticultural College in the early 1970s.

    I had a bit of a play in Victorian BD&Ms to see if I could find anything, but without result. She was born in 1859 in Prahran (Melbourne), daughter of Thomas McMillan and Margaret Knox, and her husband was born in Benalla, Victoria. From memory the pioneer nurseryman, Richard Goodman, was born in England.

    She has two daughters, in 1882 and 1884, the first not surviving infancy, the second I cannot track. I also cannot find her death in Victoria, even under another married name. I cannot find her husband’s death either.

    I wonder what happened to her – I think reading the above that she moved to Sydney, but am confused as we have a Surry Hills in Melbourne, but no Alexandria.

    I loved the Melbourne models.

  • Over the weekend a friend told me about Petty’s Ochard in the Yarra Valley. This is now a National Park but it was an orhard run by the Petty Family for three generations until Parks Victoria purchased the property in 1981.

    As collectors of apple cultivators, it has become part of a world wide network which is conserving antique apples and protecting them from extinction. It might be worthwhile to contact Parks Victoria about the models.

    The Website address is

  • These are all great ideas – Petty’s Orchard and some of the sources listed in the Age article, in particular Clive Winmill’s book and Bob’s suggestion of Rippon Lea Estate, could possibly hold the key to these apple varieties.
    It would be very interesting to find out if there’s any connection with Goodman’s Nursery, too. I have no idea what Herbert Goodman’s profession was but do know that he was killed in the Boer War in 1900. A monument to his memory was erected in the Victorian town of Mansfield. There’s a tantalising connection here as well because the McMillan family were a prominent farming family in this town. And in answer to your question, Linda, the Surry Hills and Alexandria mentioned in the blog are both inner city suburbs of Sydney. Lack of secure employment meant that the Goodmans lived in a number of addresses in the area and also on the outskirts of Sydney, in the space of 3 years. They also had a son, Herbert, in 1887, while living in Sydney.

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