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National Museum of Australia

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Mary Willsallen and sulky in a show ring

2013.0007.0005.006

Mary Willsallen and sulky in a show ring

Object information

Physical description

A colour photograph depicting a woman in her sulky and is in a show ring. The woman is holding a pair of reins that are fastened to a brown horse. There is also another woman holding the horse at the front. To the left side of the photograph is another woman in a sulky with a man standing beside it and on the right side of the photograph is part of a horse and a sulky wheel with a man holding the horse at the front. Another man with one hand in his pocket is featured walking in front and in the background is a crowd and various billboards. One of the billboards reads 'maya NATARAJ / FINEST INDIA TEA', and it is black and white in colour.

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

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