1879 Mary Trappel (nee Kullner) wedding dress

Contributed by: The Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles

Front view of wedding dress Back view of dress Close up of piping Close up of self-fabric buttons
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Object information

Significance statement

Mary Trappel (nee Kullner’s) wedding dress, a light blue brocade princess dress, embellished with piping at the bust and sleeves, self-fabric buttons at the sleeves, lace trim at the skirt and hand-pleating at the sleeve and dress hemlines and with a bustle at back, is in excellent original and unrestored condition.

It is an aide memoire of German immigration to the Hunter region in the nineteenth century, in the form of a dress. Emigration from Germany to the Hunter district was prevalent in the nineteenth century. Wilhelm Kirchner, Counsul for Hamburg, wrote of Maitland, describing it as the capital of the Hunter District, about 80 miles north from Sydney. He wrote that it was linked daily to Sydney by steam-packets, and that in the surrounding regions the best wine in the colony was produced.

In twenty-one ship passenger lists that were researched, 60 percent of German immigrants whose occupations were recorded by clerks at the Immigration Board at Port Jackson were vinedressers, coopers and wine-makers.

The wedding dress is historically significant due to its personal associations with not only the Trappel family but also the Maitland community in general, as its chain of ownership is so well documented. 

Author: Eloise Maree Crossman, 01.06.2015.

Description

The 1879 Mary Trappel (nee Kullner) wedding dress is a light blue brocade princess dress. It is a fitted dress, cut in long panels without a horizontal join or separation at the waist, achieved by way of long seems and shaped pattern pieces (popular in the late 1870s and early 1880s).

The dress has a high neckline, is embellished with piping at the bust and sleeves, self-fabric buttons at the sleeves, lace trim at the skirt and hand-pleating at the sleeve and dress hemlines, with a bustle at back. 

History and Provenance

Mary Trappel (nee Kullner) of Germany arrived in Sydney, Australia in March 1852. She married and John (Johann) Trappel on the 17th of September, 1879. They lived in Stony Creek near Clarence Town (about 40 kilometres Northeast of Maitland) and ran a dairy farm. 

Mary bore ten children; John Andrew (Jack) in 1880, Mary Ann, in 1882, George Edward in 1883, Charles Joseph (Charlie) in 1885, Margaret Agnes (Maggie) in 1887, William Henry (Bill) in 1889, Percival Anthony (Perce) in 1891, Mary Elizabeth (May) in 1892, Rosey Alma (Alma) in 1894 and Annie Jessie in 1896.

John, however, developed pneumonia and died on the 10th of September 1896, only one year after his father passed away. This was a tragedy for the family as his youngest child was only three months of age.

After John’s death Mary struggled alone to bring up her children. Despite obstacles, however, the dairy farm thrived. Mary must have been an astute business woman to have been able to run the farm, cope with a large family as well as being able to finance further land purchases at a time when women were second-class citizens.

The Trappels were respected residents of the district. The Dungog Chronicle states that Mrs Trappel was “popularly known throughout the whole district, many coming long distances to pay their last respects” upon her passing in 1935.

Alma Trappel, Mary and John’s second-youngest child, moved to East Maitland in the 1950s, and it was upon Alma’s passing that Mary’s wedding dress (and other apparel) were gifted to the Museum of Clothing (as Alma’s brother George Trappel, Mary and John’s second eldest child, was Museum of Clothing founder Nell Pyle’s husband Bruce’s grandfather). 

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Emigration from Germany (and in particular Rhineland) to the Hunter district was prevalent in the nineteenth century, what with Australian’s abundance of food and much-improved living conditions. Wilhelm Kirchner, Counsul for Hamburg, wrote of Maitland, describing it as the capital of the Hunter District, about 80 miles north from Sydney. He wrote that it was linked daily to Sydney by steam-packets, and that in the surrounding regions the best wine in the colony was produced.

In twenty-one ship passenger lists that were researched, 60 percent of German immigrants whose occupations were recorded by clerks at the Immigration Board at Port Jackson were vinedressers, coopers and wine-makers. It was these immigrants that successfully established the wine industry in the colony. 

Where did this information come from?

Ruth Trappel’s The Trappel Story, From Germany to Australia 1852-1996; The Dungog Chronicle 

  1. Place of origin:

    Stony Creek, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Mary Trappel (nee Kullner) 

    (Now owned by The Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles, by way of Rosey Alma (Alma) Trappel, Mary's second-youngest child) 

  3. Worn by:

    Mary Trappel 

  4. Occasion(s):

    Wedding 

  5. Place:

    Stony Creek near Clarence Town (about 40 kilometres Northeast of Maitland) 

  6. Made for:

    Mary Trappel 

Trimmings / Decoration

Piping, self-fabric buttons, lace trim and hand-pleating 

Fibre / Weave

Brocade, a heavy fabric of silk, cotton or wool (in this case silk) woven on a jacquard loom with a raised design 

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Hooks and eyes on bodice, self-fabric buttons on sleeves 

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Condition

Excellent condition, an important family heirloom

Slight discoloration and darkening bespattered throughout the sleeves and skirt 

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

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