While visiting Tasmania a few years ago, I bought a miniature barrel (circa 1940s), made from Tasmanian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon). It’s a very tactile object, but more importantly it reminds me of my childhood in the island state. On the lid is a tiny, silver map of Tassie. The souvenir was made circa 1940s in Launceston, for the manufacturers Shott & Son. A huge range of similar items were sold at The Old Umbrella Shop, operated by the Shott family from 1921 until 1978. The shop is now run by The National Trust.

I spotted the items below on an auction site recently; vintage salt and pepper shakers; blackwood with bakelite tops.

FROM THE 1950s


I grew up on a farm outside Ulverstone, where a giant blackwood grew near our gravel pit. The tree produces pale golden blooms, a reminder that it is from the wattle (acacia) family.


There was a talented furniture maker in Ulverstone, Mr T. H. (Tom) Piper. He arrived from Victoria and set up business in 1921.

From The Advocate, March 10, 1937 under the heading, TASMANIAN SOUVENIRS FOR ENGLAND;

Arranged on an oval blackwood table, the mementoes referred to included a beautiful tie box of figured blackwood intended for an English nobleman, his initials inlaid across one corner in Huon pine of golden colouring. There were six cigar boxes of square shape, and as many oblong cigarette boxes. Three glove boxes are intended for ladies, and four tie presses are practical gifts for gentlemen. Then one dozen boomerang paper knives will be treasured by their recipients. Every article bears a dear little silver map of Tasmania.

Soon after we moved to Ulverstone in 1952 my parents bought a blackwood, extension dining table and six carved chairs from Piper’s. When relatives were coming we would wind out the table and insert the extra ‘leaves’. Oh the wonderful celebrations we enjoyed; Christmas, New Year, Easter, birthdays etc, etc. My siblings and I also played board games on it and sat at it to do our homework. Mind you, I don’t think we always gave it the respect it deserved, and it did suffer a few scratches! 😥 The suite is now in my sister Robyn’s home, much cherished and still used on special occasions. In the late 1960s the chairs were re-covered by our much loved Uncle Reg Larcombe, a man of many talents and a self-taught upholsterer.

Blackwood dining suite.


While I was researching this article the following photo popped up in a Tasmanian history FB group. The miniature blackwood furniture was the State’s gift to Princess Elizabeth on her first birthday.

Miniature blackwood dolls' furniture for Princess Elizabeth on her 1st birthday.

Not shown above is a dressing table stool and a bedroom chair. The Miniature suite was made by Hobart’s W. Coogan & Co. The pieces were of figured blackwood, lined with Huon pine. The suite may have been dolls’ house size, but there were no concessions re quality; drawers were dove-tailed and doors fitted with mortice locks. Here are some of the dimensions;

The wardrobe with its bevelled mirror was 25 inches high, 51 inches in depth. The dressing table was 10 inches high, six inches wide.

When the gift was put on public display a tiny, cut glass bowl was placed on the bedside cabinet, filled with bluebells.

Can you spot the little maps of Tasmania on the wardrobe and the foot of the bed? They are similar to the one on my little barrel, and also those used by Piper’s at Ulverstone. I wonder where they were made, and by whom?

Blackwood was being used for household furniture from the very early days of European settlement. Pieces from Tasmania were exhibited at the famous 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London.

I love this child’s high chair that converts to a little push-cart. It dates from around 1900. It appeared on the sale site Gumtree recently for $90…..a steal!

Blackwood high chair
Blackwood high chair when converted to a push-cart.

Cedar and Huon pine are the definitely the most famous of the Tasmanian timbers, and rightly so. But I think blackwood deserves to be celebrated too.

For More on Shott and Son and the Old Umbrella Shop, CLICK HERE.

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