Historical information

This set of kitchen dry food canisters is made of metal; each container has a different height, width and capacity. The rolled thin metal has created a strong, round design with decorative rings on the circumference. The base and close-fitting lid protect the contents from vermin and most insects, and the handle on top aids in the removal of the lid. Metal containers like these are reusable and can be re-purposed, which is advantageous when living in regional or rural areas. The type of manufacture indicates that the set was made in the late 19th to early 20th century. Gradually, colourful and attractive plastic kitchenware began to replace metalware.

One of the canisters is labelled 'coffee'; coffee plants and seeds were transported from Brazil into Australia in 1788 when the First Fleet arrived although their growth was unsuccessful. However, by the 1920s, a tenth of the Australian population was drinking readily stored coffee. Large quantities of harvested grains such as maize, wheat and barley were protected from pests by being stored in airy buildings, often raised from the ground. This was an age-old practice used by civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians and early Hebrews. Smaller quantities of food for short-term use in the homes were stored in woven baskets or clay pots.


This set of kitchen food containers is an example of colonial food storage used in a domestic setting to store and preserve dry ingredients. These canisters give a snapshot of early domestic life in Australia.

Physical description

Canister set; four cylindrical cream coloured metal canisters with domed lids that have lift-up handles on top. They are made from rolled metal and the bases and lids have a side seam. Each canister is a different size and displays a label for different contents. The adhesive labels are vertical, and a gold colour with black vertical text. The cream paint has brush strokes and small areas have exposed green paint under the cream. The insides of the bases are painted dark grey but the lids have no paint underneath. The empty canisters can fit one inside the other.

Inscriptions & markings

Labels, in descending order: "FLOUR" "RICE" "SAGO" "COFFEE"