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c. 1900

Emily Ferrar (1857–1940)

bone (juvenile thylacine maxilla or upper jawbone); textile (silk velvet, silk ribbon); fibre (cotton wadding); metal (steel pins); pigments (unidentified)

7.5 h x 7.3 w x 17.6 d cm

Bequest of Sarah Mitchell, 1937



The thylacine bone pincushion was given to Sarah Mitchell by its maker, Emily Ferrar. It was subsequently donated, along with other items, to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 1937. At the request of the donor, the items were collected from Schouten House, Swansea, where they had formed part of a small museum display. The pincushion was registered at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery as a zoological specimen, A1280. It was transferred to the Decorative Arts collection in 2008.


This pincushion is made from the inverted mandible, or lower jawbone of a young adult thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus). It was made by Emily Ferrar (1857–1940) in around 1900 and entered in the annual Glamorgan Horticultural Show held at Morrison’s Store in Swansea on Tasmania’s east coast. It won second prize in the fancy needlework section. A note supplied with the cushion by the donor, Sarah Mitchell, suggests that ‘originality’ was one of the standards by which entries in the needlework section of the show were judged and this may account for the unique design and singular nature of this object.

The pincushion is one of very few objects known to have been made from the Tasmanian tiger, and the only known item not made from the animal’s skin. The note from Sarah Mitchell also mentions the passage of a bill through Tasmania’s Parliament that permitted the Ferrar family to trap thylacines on their east-coast property, Milton. This jawbone is from one of the thylacines they caught there.

The last thylacine is thought to have died in the Hobart Zoo in 1936 and the animal was declared officially extinct in 1986. Thylacines were driven to extinction by a combination of factors including habitat change, collection for museums and zoos, and hunting and trapping by landholders who claimed they were a threat to livestock. Efforts at eradication were supported through bounties paid by groups such as the Buckland and Spring Bay Tiger and Eagle Extermination Society as well as the Tasmanian government.


Pincushion made from the inverted lower jawbone (mandible) of a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger). An elongated triangular pad covered with off-white silk velvet has been attached to the upper part of the bone. The fabric runs from the posterior end of the bone to terminate several centimetres before the anterior. The pad is finished with machine-made patterned silk ribbon running over the rear section in two bands connected by decorative bows on either side; there is a third bow finishing the anterior end. The wider, rear part of the bone is wrapped in velvet, gathered, sewn and pinned on the inside of the jawbone. The exposed part of the bone is painted with thick red paint over a thinly applied undercoat of black pigment. The pad has pins pushed into it in an ‘S’ pattern.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of decorative arts made in Tasmania throughout the colonial period. While many of colonial-made objects from this period are similar to corresponding objects made in Britain, most have local idiosyncrasies arising out of the colonial context. This pincushion is, however, entirely unique and appears to have no precedent. It is one of very few items made from parts of the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, and is the only known object in this group not made from the skin of the animal. The pincushion indicates the emphasis placed on originality in early twentieth century handcrafts as well as an increasing desire on the part of Tasmanians to make use of a unique local resource.


Inscribed in black ink on the left side: ‘Mrs Ferrar / 1900 / __ ____ / S.E.E.M. / __ ____ w’; inscribed in black on the right side: ‘T_______ / jaw’; inscribed in black ink on bone on right side: ‘A1280’.

Transcript of note supplied with the pincushion by Sarah Mitchell in 1937:

[page 1]

Schouten House


21 / 5 / 1930


Mrs Ferrar Sen, / Gave me / Gave me the jaw / Of a Tasmanian / Tiger, / made into a / Pincushion for / Most original one, but / Someone got the prize / For two mice running up / A bag. Mr John Lyne / M.H.A. got a bill / Through Parliament / For the Ferrar family / to make a fenced

[page 2]


yard with / gaps and spring guns / That went off / when stepped / on the gap, / many Tigers were / shot (17?) This / jaw was one, / they called him ‘Gun Lyne’, because of it.

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© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 26 August, 2010