Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


Mary Willsallen driving a sulky


Mary Willsallen driving a sulky

Object information

Physical description

A black and white photograph of a woman driving a sulky which is being drawn by a dark-coloured horse. The driver is wearing a light-coloured jacket and a hat with a dark crown and a light brim. She also has a rug over her knees. There is black text stamped on the reverse side of the photograph which reads 'PHOTOGRAPH BY / ALAN D. ARNOLD A.C.S. / 4 COMER ST., / EAST BRIGHTON / VICTORIA / -7484 / QUOTE NO. 25-37'.

Statement of significance

The Mary Willsallen collection comprises a pony-sized sulky, matching harness, carriage-driving whip and hat used by Willsallen when competing in driving events and in harness classes at agricultural shows. It is complemented by a horse measuring stick; a rug (made from show ribbons); a trunk used to store parts of the sulky; and a sample of 20 ribbons won in harness, riding and led classes. The collection also includes manuscript records by Willsallen on the history of her pony and hackney studs, as well as documents and photographs illustrating her involvement in showing and breeding.

Willsallen was born in 1927 near Harden when horses were still integral to urban and rural life. Despite the abrupt end to the reliance of horses in harness for haulage and transport with the rise of mechanised vehicles, Willsallen became a prominent pony and hackney breeder. She was also a founder of the Australian Driving Society and crucial to the development of carriage driving as a sport. Agricultural shows were one of the main avenues for Willsallen to display her prowess at driving and breeding. The competitive aspect of shows and their importance in establishing benchmarks in breeding is evident in her collection. The pony-sized Sydney sulky Willsallen used in competition is of particular interest as it was probably made by H.H. Stocks, one of the last coachbuilding firms in Sydney. Like similar trades, Stocks moved into motor body building with the dominance of the car.

Object information

Back to top