Historical information

This sturdy, deep hat box has been carefully constructed to give the contents utmost protection in the roughest of travel conditions. At the same time, attention to detail and quality of materials makes the box an attractive, desirable and useful piece of luggage. The supports inside the hat box show that the hat’s brim dipped at the front and back in the popular 1920s Homburg or Derby style. The hat box was likely to have been purchased, complete with its fashionable hat and personalised with the initials ‘G.M.’.

The five shipping labels on the hat box tell that the owner traveller overseas with it on more than one occasion. The owner had first travelled with the shipping line Peninsular & Orient Steam Navigation Company, and may have been one the first Australian passengers in 1932, as the remnant of label on the base reads Sydney. The owner later voyaged under the company’s new name of P & O. and travelled from at least one of the voyages from Melbourne to London The square label, with “P & O” and red printed “M” in centre of circle, refers to alphabetical organisation of baggage by surname, connecting the owner ‘G.M.’ to the owner’s voyage with P & O.

The P & O shipping line’s early beginnings started with the partnership of London ship broker Brodie McGhie Willcox and Scottish sailor Arthur Anderson in 1822. The partnership was joined by Irish shipowner Captain Richard Bourne in 1835 and they began operation as the Peninsular & Orient Steam Navigation Company with a service between London- Spain - Portugal. In 1932 the company expanded to include Australia with its passenger services departing from Sydney; in 1840 the company was incorporated. After various take-overs of other shipping lines and businesses, it operated under the name P & O.


The hat box was made by Australian saddle designer and maker, John Brush, Sons & Co. Brush began his saddlery trade in Roma, Queensland, His designing process included consulting with the men who rode and worked the horses. He was described in the Sydney Morning Herald of December 15, 1897, as a leading Sydney saddler, well known and reliable, with every kind of English and Australian saddle on view.

John Brush established his business in 1840, operating from 371 George Street Sydney. A catalogue from that era jointly advertises John Brush (371 George Sty Sydney) and Butlers & Brush (432-4 Queen Street Sydney), both under the name of Edward Butler & Co. Pty. Ltd. The catalogue included saddlery, harness equipment, riding wear and travel goods, and strongly promoted the Wienkek made saddles, which he distributed Australia wide. John Brush, So & co. advertised its ‘new’ address in 1887, as 403 George Street Sydney. In 1898 Brush made a side-saddle for a customer, a design popular with gentlewomen of the era. The business was still operating over 100 years later, producing a catalogue in the 1950s.


This early 20th century hat box is significant for being one of a kind in our Collection. Its fitted design shows the shape of the hat, dating it from the 1920s men’s fashions.
The hat box is significant for being a high quality hat box made in Sydney, Australia by prominent and successful early colonial saddler and leather goods business, John Brush, Son & Co.
The labels on the outside of the hat box are also significant, representing the prosperous lifestyle of an Australian traveller who purchased quality goods and cared for them. The traveller was able to depart from firstly the Port of Sydney and later the Port of Melbourne.

Physical description

Hatbox, oval shape, brown leather, strong, sturdy construction, six pieces, and metal lock on base. Wide lid, then tapers to a narrower base that has a red leather trim.
Brown velvet fabric lining inside and covers some accessories. Other internal accessories are trimmed with plain red paper and blue and white striped paper.
The lid has two attached leather tabs and a leather handle and underneath it has a drawstring liner and oval, gold-lettered maker’s label.
The internal oval box has a leather retention strap and brim support. Separate moulded brim support is included. A detached leather strap with catch is inside the base.
Inscriptions are stamped on the lid, printed on the maker’s label, attached as printed paper labels to the lid, sides, and under the base.
Maker is John Brush, Son & Co. of Sydney.
The owner’s initials “G.M” are embossed on the lid.

Inscriptions & markings

Stamped on lid “G. M.”


Label, paper: “BAGGAGE, MELBOURNE TO LONDON’, part of word ‘CABIN’ and “P & O”

Label, square, white background, black print, circular emblem: ‘PE - - - - - & ORIEN-’, ‘STEAM NAVIATION COMPY.’ BAGGAGE’ and a red printed “M” in centre of circle.

Label, rectangular, white background, black print; narrow line border, text in rows and an ‘X’ overprinted, from corner to corner of the border: “BAGGAGE / P. & O. S. N. Co. / MELBOURNE / To / LONDON”

Label, paper, rectangular, white background, black print, an “X” across the label: “CABIN / P & O / “

Label, paper, on base, “– aid” [Paid], “SYDNEY”