Historical information

Pap boats date from approximately 1710 and were in extensive use until the end of the nineteenth century. They were used to feed pap to infants or invalids.
Pap was a mixture of breadcrumbs, flour, rice or barley mixed with fluids such as broth, milk (if the infant was lucky), water, wine and even beer, to aid the digestion of pap it was often pre-chewed by the nurse or nanny. Pap was a popular form of infant nutrition for almost 300 years and used in many well to do homes. For unwanted or illegitimate infants in foundling homes it was often the only form of sustenance, however, and as a result the mortality rate was appallingly high. Despite a growing number of experts advising against the use of pap, it nevertheless persisted as a major source of infant nutrition in many nurseries until the late 1800’s, largely due to the ignorance of nannies and nurses who took great delight in disregarding the advice of physicians, who they believed were usurping their position in the household. ‘Nanny knows best’.(Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, 'Pap Boat')


Mary Howlett (1840-1922) began practising as a country midwife in 1866 in the western district of Victoria. She qualified as a 'ladies monthly nurse' in 1887 and continued to practise as a nurse and midwife until 1920. She began her six months training at the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital. She was known by many as 'Auntie', and her career spanned more than 50 years. Mrs Howlett's midwifery box and contents were given to Dr Frank Forster, and he donated them to the museum collection in 1993.

Physical description

Small round white china container with an extended slim lip. Fluid capacity approximately 30-90ml. The boat has been made from two moulded sections.