Era: 1840 - 1900 Cultural background: German Collection: Jindera Theme:Folk Art Settlement
Side of chest with ‘bauernmaleri’ style of decoration, indicating the chest was used as an item of furniture. Courtesy Jindera Museum.
Jindera Museum, Jindera, Australia.
Timber cabin chest.
The chest was made in Germany from local timber. The chest has a mural painted on its side, with a typical German ‘Bauernmalerei’ folk art style of decoration, which indicates it was used as an item of furniture in Australia. The chest has a clear inscription, ‘No III. George Krautz über (via) Hamburg Port Adelaide’, on the side of the chest which, allowed for the owner of the chest to be identified. The wooden chest is in good original condition. Dimensions: 9550mm long x 4250mm wide x 375cm deep.
Timber cabin chest from collection with the inscription clearly visible on the side. Courtesy Jindera Museum.
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 migration to Australia.
While all major ports in Australia are known to have been destinations for German migrants in the nineteenth Century, Port Adelaide in South Australia was the most significant as it had the highest percentage of German migrants travel through it on their way to a new life.
Port Adelaide was also the port of arrival of the majority of German settlers in the Riverina. They had initially settled or had intended to settle in South Australia but were discouraged by high land prices, limited availability of land, and poor yields. As a result the decision was made 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 German settlers in the Riverina formed cohesive communities, and maintained strong cultural and linguistic links with their German heritage up until the beginning of World War I.
The chest belonged to George Krautz a 32 year old shoemaker and his family from Preilack, Preussen who were passengers on the Iserbrook on the 1865 voyage to Port Adelaide.
|Passen-ger no.||First name||Surname||Age||Gender||Place of origin||Profession|
Table 1. Details of shipping record for George Krautz and family aboard the Iserbrook in 18651.
The word ‘Raum’ (translated ‘room’) on the chest indicates that it was stored in the cabin. The use of cabin chests to store personal items for the voyage is frequently mentioned in guidebooks written to assist immigrants, as access to the bulk of luggage stored in the hull was given only once a month during the voyage. The chest contained personal items that belonged to George Krautz and his family and it would have been a vital item for the migrating family.
The chest is historically of national and state significance for the inscription of the chest provides definitive evidence that the chest is representative of the voyage thousands of Europeans made in the nineteenth century, as they packed their belongings and left their homeland for the new colony. As the chest is now located in the Riverina it is further representative of the extended journey some German immigrants made, initially from Hamburg to Port Adelaide, and later moving on to the Riverina in New South Wales.
The chest has aesthetic and cultural significance in that the patina of age is combined with a German ‘bauernmalerei’, folk art design which reflects the influence of German artistic and cultural traditions amongst early German immigrants in Australia. The cultural significance of the item is enhanced by the location of the chest in a place, which has a strong cultural link with German migrant settlers. The decoration of the trunk is also significant as it reflects the attempts the immigrants made to create a homely environment in their new country.
The chest also has substantial social value for in a country with a population derived largely from immigration, it allows people in today’s materialistic world to identify with the hardships early immigrants faced, space for personal belongings confined to such a small chest. As many people in the Jindera area of the Riverina (where the chest is located), are descendants of German settlers, the chest also provides the community with a link to their German heritage and symbolises the arduous journey their ancestors made. The re-use of the chest as an item of furniture also demonstrates the financial hardship of the new immigrant, but at the same time their resilience to ‘make do’ with what they had.
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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.