We remain a society fascinated by gadgetry. The industrial revolution ensured that our ancestors were similarly attracted to wondrous objects which promised to make life easier, and, at times, more profitable. We might say that all useful objects are not gadgets and all gadgets are not necessarily useful objects. Knives for picking the stones out of horses hooves are time-honoured useful objects and while a White Mountain Apple Parer might be useful, it is also a gadget and forerunner to our endless “television specials”.
Much of the simple technology familiar to people around the turn of the 20th century had been in existence for hundreds and even thousands of years. Much of the old technology survived unchanged up to the end of the Second World War. After that time modernisation really took hold and while many basic objects used in daily life for centuries did not disappear, they at least were altered in design and materials used in their manufacture. Aluminium, stainless steel, plastic and nylon have taken over where brass, copper, wood, etc. once ruled.
Objects such as box irons and Mrs. Potts cold-handled irons were descendants of the even heavier solid cast metal tailors’ irons used in the preceding centuries. These. in turn, were supplanted by gas, petrol (spirit) and electric irons. The copper with its cast-iron casing was a step forward from boiling up clothes in a cauldron; the various designs of wash-board simply another step from scrubbing clothes on the rocks in a creek. Galvanised iron tubs and buckets were replacements for those made of wood, some were even painted in woodgrain.
Those great cast-iron mangles were widely used throughout the period 1880 to 1940, as were hand-operated, wooden-framed clothes wringers. An extraordinary offering of patent washing machines were available to anyone of means – some were great tumbling wooden barrels while others followed very closely the familiar principle used in modern electric models.
Monday was the traditional wash day in most households and the whole operation was like a ship in the days of steam and sail. What a scene there was on Mondays in the wash-house: clouds of steam, smells of soap and smoke, white sheets and blue bags. Many older folk will remember itinerants coming round selling clothes props made from thin saplings and even handmade clothes pegs. The clothes horse was an essential item – still to be seen but generally replaced by the tumble dryer.
For kitchen utensils, there were patent egg whisks, lemon squeezers, flour sifters, cork shapers, food choppers and meat mincers, spring balances, jam pans, enamelled colanders, soap savers, preserving jars, knife cleaners, pudding boilers, gem scone pans, waffle irons and a whole range of bins, crocks and tins for flour, bread, sugar, tea, rice and other foodstuffs.
Can openers naturally appeared when cans were eventually made out of reasonably thin plate. The bullshead type is thought to be the earliest and to have been first made in the United States. Curling tongs and goffering irons are two interesting old items. The former were essential at times when curls were fashionable and the latter were used for pressing ruffles in clothes. Corkscrews, bottle openers and penknives capture the imagination of a whole troop of keen collectors. Few now remember that penknives or pocket-knives were once for cutting the pen point of a writing feather or quill.
Match holders and match tidies in cast iron were an interesting household object. Most had a receptacle for the box of matches and a little tray for dead matches.
Mousetraps and rat traps ranged from that basic wooden type still available today, to the most ingenious and one might say, ghoulish devices that could be dreamt up. Fly traps were and still are very useful and effective items for Australian households; and there was the ecologically-sound wire fly swatter of course, which some connoisseurs say is far superior to the plastic variety.
Meat safes and Coolgardie safes were to be found in any house before the ice chest and the refrigerator came along – like the old canvas water bag, they are now relegated to distant and isolated corners or to certain lifestyles quite removed from life in the cities.
However, many items from our parents’ and grand-parents’ and great-grandparents’ times have changed little and remain familiar, others have become collectors’ curiosities to marvel at or simply enjoy as reminders of a different age.
To see these, and many other interesting objects from days gone by, visit the City of Canada Bay Museum on any Wednesday or Saturday between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Air-conditioned. Entry Free. Everyone welcome.
The “first” Sydney Harbour tunnel built about a century ago has been largely forgotten.
The tunnel, dug under Sydney’s harbour at its narrowest point between Greenwich in the north and Birchgrove in the inner west, was a technical feat involving the sort of hard physical labour almost impossible to contemplate today.
It was built for cables to supply the northern suburbs tram system from Pyrmont. Is only around two metres high. Two men could walk side by side along it. It was allowed to flood in 1930, and ceased to be used in 1969. Owned and managed by RailCorp.
In those days it was just muscles, just men. They decided that blasting in this tunnel was too dangerous, so the whole thing was done by men, with jackhammers and shovelling and wheeling.
As Sydney expanded at the turn of the century, so did its transport system of trams on the north side of the city.
Massive cables were required to run electricity to the north from the Pyrmont Power Station on the south side, and before the tunnel was built, the cables were run across the floor of the harbour.
It wasn’t long before the cables were damaged and sometimes severed, as the anchors of passing ships caught in gales dragged them along the harbour floor, cutting power to the North Shore.
Historians say it’s impressive that when NSW Railways decided to build the tunnel, they did so without the help of international consultants.
They didn’t appreciate how deep the Harbour is, so when they tunnelled down presuming they’d be in rock, they were still in the silt of the valley, [and the] tunnel flooded.
It must have been dangerous because vast amounts of water flowing in all the time and the pumps were going flat out to try and keep up with the leaking of the water.
A Sydney Morning Herald article from 1992 quoted 87-year-old worker Ted Gregory, who recalled working as an apprentice electrician and surviving two cave-ins of the tunnel. “God it was dangerous and I can’t say I relished the thought of working there. We all knew if the tunnel caved in we’d be goners,” he said.
Mr Gregory was paid several shillings a week plus sixpence in danger money.
A spokesman from Transport for NSW said authorities stopped using the tunnel because technological advances in the power grid meant the under-harbour cables were no longer required.
It is also only two metres high so it’s not high enough for any current form of rail transport, he said.
The tunnel is heritage listed and is described as “a major technological and engineering achievement & although flooded is an important element of the development of public transport in Sydney.
Courtesy; (edited extract) https://www.abc.net.au/…/sydneys-first-harbour…/9234518
Main Photo: Engineer W.R.H. Melville with some of the miners who worked on the tunnel.(Supplied: Courtesy G. Melville/Lane Cove Library)
This was a post by Bronwyn Carnegie in the Facebook site Australia Remembers When. If you want to learn more about Australia’s past you can follow that page.
On Wednesday 20th January, in conjunction with the Concord Library, we hosted “Storytime at the Museum” for youngsters from the area. Unfortunately, the attendance was not as great as we had hoped, but the mums and children who did come had a wonderful time.
A story was read by Liz from the library, which was followed by a tour of the museum, led by our own member Andrew, where the children were introduced to objects that their grandparents might have used.
We look forward to more joint events with the library as a way of introducing more people, both adults and children, to our museum. The City of Canada Bay Museum is considered to be one of the best in the metropolitan area.
It is well worthy of a visit as our displays are constantly changing and there is always something new to see. It is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 p.m. and entry is FREE.
All Absolutely Wrong!!!
25. “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” – Albert Einstein, 1932
24. “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” – Decca Recording Company on declining to sign the Beatles, 1962.
23. “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” – Western Union internal memo, 1876
21. “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” – Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830.
22. “Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.” United Artists executive after rejecting Reagan as lead in the 1964 film The Best Man.
20. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
19. “X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” – Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883.
18. “Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognise it as a conspicuous failure.” – Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880.
17. “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” – The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co, 1903.
16. “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” – Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.
15. “No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free.” – King William I of Prussia, on trains, 1854.
14. “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” – Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston.
13. “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” – W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954.
12. “No, it will make war impossible.” – Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, in response to the question “Will this gun not make war more terrible?” from Havelock Ellis, an English scientist, 1893.
11. “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?” – Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter’s call for investment in the radio in 1921.
10. “There will never be a bigger plane built.” – A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin-engine plane that holds ten people.
9. “How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.” Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s.
8. “The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous.” – Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration, 1916.
7. “I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” – H.G. Wells, British novelist, in 1901.
6. “The world potential market for copying machines in 5000 at most.” – IBM, to the eventual founder of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.
5. “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” – Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.
4. “It’ll be gone by June.” – Variety Magazine on Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1955.
3. “And for the tourist who really wants to get away from it all, safaris in Vietnam.” – Newsweek, predicting popular holidays for the late 1960s.
2. “When the Paris Exhibition (of 1878) closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.” – Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson.
1. “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” – New York Times, 1936.
City of Canada Bay Heritage Society Inc., PO Box 152, Concord, 2137 :: Phone: 9744-8528
email: email@example.com :: https://www.canadabayheritage.asn.au
City of Canada Bay Museum, 1 Bent Street, Concord
Open Wed & Sat 10am to 4pm :: phone: 9743-3034 during museum hours.
Regular Guest Speakers at the museum First Saturday of each month 1:30 for 2:00 pm start