Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

Printed advertising leaflet with photograph of Shetland pony Topsy and trainer Tom Dennis, post 1958

MU00051.001

Printed advertising leaflet with photograph of Shetland pony Topsy and trainer Tom Dennis, post 1958

Object information

Description

During the 1940s and 50s, trainer Tom Dennis of Surfers Paradise, Queensland, travelled the country with his 'talking pony' named Topsy, advertised as 'the pony with the human mind'. A Shetland-Timor cross, standing 10.3 hands high, Topsy was able to count and perform magic tricks. Topsy's career highlights were performances for Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 and the Queen Mother in 1958, and appearances on screen, television and radio in 1955-56. This advertising material from the 1950s captures the height of Topsy's popularity.

Physical description

A blue and yellow coloured leaflet on a piece of card folded in half. The front page of the leaflet has black printed text within a black border. The text partially reads 'COMMAND PERFORMANCE / by TOPSY / FOR ROYAL COUPLE / 1954 / and QUEEN MOTHER at Government House, Brisbane, / 1958. / Owned and Trained by / TOM DENNIS'. There is a white piece of paper attached to top left corner of the front page with the name of 'Jan Gurney' handwritten on it. There is black printed text on the inside and backside of the leaflet with a black and white photograph of a man and horse attached to the inside of the folded cardboard. On the bottom of the back page of the leaflet are the printed text 'Tweed Newspaper Co. Pty. Ltd. Print.'.

Statement of significance

The Horse photographs and ephemera collection no. 2 consists of photographs and items of ephemera associated with the history of horses in Australia, primarily in the subjects of transport, farming, pastoral work, commercial businesses, sport and entertainment. The Cooley's omnibus service timetable is a rare surviving example of advertising for a Tasmanian urban coaching service. The Chivers family album presents strong family stories of 1920s travel and transportation.The Bullivant family photographs offer insight into the life of a saddler during the nineteenth century, and context for the Ned Kelly bushranging story.

Horses played a major role in early colonial Australia, where the limits of horses were tested through contests of speed, endurance and power. By the early twentieth century, Australia had become 'exceptionally well supplied with horses', with a ratio of almost one horse to every two people by 1920. Equine muscle became the key form of power on Australian farms and coaching firms developed passenger networks through much of inland Australia, while horses hauled goods between shops, homes, factories and docks, and helped construct streets, buildings and infrastructure. Associated trades and businesses prospered, until the gradual transition to fossil fuel-powered engines during the twentieth century.

Object information

When

Who

Back to top