Era: 1840 - 1900 Cultural background: German Collection: Jindera Theme:Folk Art Food Settlement
German Enamelware Draining Board c.1890-1910. Image courtesy of the Jindera Museum.
Jindera Museum, Jindera, Australia.
German Enamelware Draining Board.
The draining board is made from pressed metal and has been treated with white enamel. The draining board has 6 hooks to hang cleaning brushes, with separate hooks for different cleaning purposes and is printed with ornate German text, which translates to ‘washing up brushes- cups, soup, bowls, glasses, jugs, frying pots, plates’. There is evidence of some corrosion at the rear and along the side of the board. The draining board is in good original condition. Dimensions: approx 420mm long x 300mm wide x 10mm high.
The new colony of Australia became an increasingly popular destination for immigrants from European countries in the middle of the nineteenth century. Germany was one such country, which made a major contribution to the migrant population at this time. Although German immigration was initially undertaken to avoid religious persecution, the majority of immigrants were motivated by depressed economic conditions in the homeland and the desire to escape conscription. For most it was the desire to obtain land, have debt free ownership of a farm, and practice freedom in making a living that drove immigration to Australia.
While all states in Australia are known to have been destinations for German immigrants in the nineteenth century, for this discussion South Australia (Port Adelaide) is most significant. In addition to receiving the highest percentage of German immigrants of any port in Australia in the mid to late nineteenth century, it was also the port of arrival of the majority of German settlers in the Riverina. German immigrants who had initially settled or had intended to settle in South Australia became discouraged by high land prices, limited availability of land, and poor yields. As a result some settlers made the decision to move to New South Wales when the Robertson’s Land Act of 1861 opened up large areas of New South Wales for selection The majority of these German settlers in the Riverina formed cohesive communities bound by their Lutheran faith, and as a result maintained strong cultural and linguistic links with their German heritage up until the beginning of World War I.
This enamel draining board for cleaning brushes has a series of separate hooks to hang brushes. This segregation of cleaning items reflects the fastidious cleanliness typical of the German housewife as it was the woman’s job to keep the house sparkling clean in the traditional German manner. Hygiene was of the utmost importance with dish washing performed with the use of different tea towels for different purposes, one for glasses, one for plates etc., which and were to be kept separate from hand towels.
While enamelling has been recognised as an art form as far back as ancient Chinese times, the commercial use of enamelling on metals of cookware and home-wares did not occur until the mid nineteenth century, with mass production occurring after 1870. It was a popular item in country areas with Anthony Hordens’ Catalogue of 1911 advertising it as ‘highly suitable due to its practical unbreakableness for country residents, for whom the replacement of broken articles is sometimes a difficult matter’ 1.
The draining board is estimated to have been manufactured in the period 1890-1910 where solid white pieces trimmed with a black or dark blue edges were typical in the late nineteenth century, and the trough at the bottom of draining racks was a feature also incorporated in late nineteenth century designs.
While the enamelware shows no manufacturing marks, the printing of German language on the item infers it was most certainly made in Germany and exported. There were at least three enamel ware manufactures in Germany that had agents in England. Countries such as Britain, Yugoslavia and Poland preferred plain and simple designs, France, Germany and Holland produced more imaginative and colourful pieces.
It is most likely that the draining board was purchased in the district as Albury general storekeepers were known to carry a wide range of goods from the worlds markets, with the Albury Border Post listing many German traders at this time 2. The local Jindera store proprietor P.C. Wagner was also known to have links with the homeland, as indicated by postcards found at the museum, and thus may have imported goods directly from Germany to his store.
This enamelware kitchen item is located in the kitchen display of the Jindera Pioneer Museum in New South Wales.
The draining board is of historical significance due to its rarity, with no other enamel board of this exact type so far being located in an Australian collection. The value of the antique board is also increased by the excellent condition it remains in, with enamelware often affected by rust or chipping of enamel surface with the ravages of time and use. The existence of the board in an Australian collection also provides historical evidence of the early importation of consumer goods manufactured in other countries to supply demands of an emerging multi-cultural society.
The draining board possesses cultural significance for it provides an example of the fastidious cleanliness of the German housewife and the continuance of practices they were accustomed to in the homeland.
But more conclusive are the German inscriptions, which appear on the draining board for they demonstrate the continued use of the German language for as long as half a century after the settlers had arrived in Australia. The existence of the item in this local collection also demonstrates that there was a market for German goods in the district, supporting claims that there were a high percentage of German settlers in the Riverina still using the German language and still culturally connected with their homeland.
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Heritage Futures Australia
Edited by Stephen Thompson
Migration Heritage Centre
February 2007 – updated 2011
Crown copyright 2007©
The Migration Heritage Centre at the Powerhouse Museum is a NSW Government initiative supported by the Community Relations Commission.
The Museum of the Riverina is supported by the City of Wagga Wagga and the NSW Ministry for the Arts.