Australian dress register ID:643
Owner:National Museum of Australia
Owner registration number:2013.0070.0001
Place of origin:Robe, South Australia, Australia
The Reg and Flora Mason collection (in the National Museum of Australia) comprises a rabbit fur coat gifted by Reg Mason to his wife Flora in 1945. The coat was tailored by Adelaide furrier Thomas Curtis Hunter from the skins of rabbits trapped by Reg Mason and his son, Murray, in the Reedy Creek area near Robe, South Australia.
Introduction of the rabbit to Australia ranks as one of the most significant human interventions in this country's environmental history. Yet while the species has caused ecological and agricultural devastation, it has also secured a central place in Australia's collective memory. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have hunted rabbits for meat and hides, especially in times of hardship and distress. Rabbit skins have been used for felt-making, and in patchwork quilts and coats. Frequently, small rural businesses such as tanneries and furriers have relied on the relative abundance of rabbits to sustain production. The coat in this collection is an excellent example of the way in which rabbits have been valued and incorporated into the national story. Author: George Main, 13/03/2013.
A dark brown rabbit fur coat with light tan coloured fabric lining. The coat comprises many small rectangular rabbit pelts sewn together. Light and dark areas of fur give the coat a striped appearance, especially on the sleeves. A section of lining has been cut away from the hemline making it shorter than the outer fur layer. The lining is pinned to the coat in several places. The underside of some pelts and hand-stitched white fabric tape is visible along the hemline. A single hook and loop closure fastens the coat at the chest.
History and Provenance
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
Flora Mason's granddaughter, Debra Liego, provided the following provenance of the rabbit fur coat:
'The coat was made from the skins of rabbits caught by my grandfather, Reg Mason and his eldest son, Murray Mason. Reg had been trapping rabbits to supplement his income from other rural/agricultural work since the early 1930s. Reg and his brothers Jim and Syd Mason worked for Mr Sterling in the Cowell, South Australia, area in the early 1930s. They were trapping rabbits in their spare time then and entered their buckboard, covered in hanging rabbit skins, in the Cowell Pageant in 1936. Presumably the pageant was to celebrate the South Australian Centenary.
The rabbits used to make this coat were caught in the Robe area, south-east South Australia, after Reg's discharge from the army in March 1945. They trapped rabbits to sell skins for additional income and used boiled the meat to feed to the pigs on Mt Bentley where Reg worked and lived with his family.
The skins were tanned and tailored into a ladies coat by TG Hunter, Wyatt House, Grenfell St, central Adelaide. The coat was given to my grandmother, Flora Mason before the birth of my mother, Barbara Ann Mason.
The coat was sent back to the tanner for treatment of an insect infestation six or seven years after it was made, in the early 1950s. Murray Mason recalls that part of the coat was damaged but could not recall exactly where the damage was. The insect damage and treatment may possibly explain the damage to the satin lining.
Flora wore the coat for social outings such as dancing, to the pictures, day trips to the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide, CWA meetings etc. Wearing the coat wasn't restricted to evening wear but it was not worn for farm work. As a young child I recall that my sisters and I, and probably some cousins, worn the coat for dress ups. I recall, in my latter years of high school, early 1980s, going out one cold winter evening. My mother encouraged me to wear Flora's rabbit skin coat. I recall trying the coat on but don't think I actually wore it out that night. I was probably too embarrassed as teenager to be seen wearing my grandmother's old rabbit skin coat!'
Where did this information come from?
Flora Mason's granddaughter, Debra Liego
Place of origin:
Robe, South Australia, Australia
Social outings, dancing, pictures, visits to Adelaide botanic gardens, CWA meetings. Not restricted to evening wear. Not for farm work.
The coat was made from the skins of rabbits caught by Flora's father, Reg Mason and her eldest brother, Murray Mason. Reg had been trapping rabbits to supplement his income from other rural/agricultural work since the early 1930s. Reg and his brothers Jim and Syd Mason worked for Mr Sterling in the Cowell, South Australia, area in the early 1930s.
Flora Mason and given to her before the birth of her daughter Barbara Ann Mason in 1945.
The skins were tanned and tailored into a ladies coat by TG Hunter, Wyatt House, Grenfell St, central Adelaide.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
A single hook and loop closure fastens the coat at the chest
- Hook and eye
Coat sent back to tanner for treatment of insect infestation 6-7 years after it was made (early 1950s). Murray Mason recalls that part of the coat was damaged but couldn't recall where the damage was. Insect damage and treatment may possibly explain the damage to the satin lining.