Send email to History SA

Please indicate your interest in the attached collection. If this enquiry relates to a research project a brief out outline would be appreciated

*Please complete all fields in the form.


William Russell sailmakers' collection

Don Lucas collection



Offline Only


The collection comprises four hundred items of general shipping equipment, mainly associated with ships chandlery, and almost two hundred sailmaking tools and pieces of machinery from the William Russell sailmakers collection. The collection dates from the early 1800s until the close of the William Russell sailmakers loft in 1985.

William Russell was a prominent Port Adelaide figure who established a sailmaking, chandlery and provisioning business in St Vincent Street in 1870. The collection was donated to the museum by Don Lucas in 1985-86, whose family owned and operated the Russell establishment for several generations. Most of items were collected by Lucas or his father, Don Lucas senior. These include whale bone rubbing tools, needles and needle horns, thimbles, stitch prickers, fids, leather sewing palms, malin spikes, clews, bees wax, eyelets, blocks , tape measures, canvas hole punchers, awls, shears, pliers, cutting blocks, sewing machines as well as documentation connected with the day-to-day operation of the business. The collection of general shipping equipment is diverse and includes fire buckets, dead eyes, lamps and lanterns, life jackets, belaying pins, ship telegraphs, nautical instruments, binnacles, oars, bottles, ships logs, shackles, hooks and floats.

This collection is from one of Australia's oldest continuously operating sail makers and ship chandlers. This comprehensive collection comprises practically all tools used in the William Russell sailmakers loft from the 1870s until 1985. Sailmaking was an essential trade in the days of sail and continued to be significant even when sail had declined. Sailmakers worked ashore usually in sail lofts and worked closely with riggers. While most seamen were expected to be able to sew, the repair sails and rigging, rope work and knot making was considered a skilled trade. Sailmaking was one of the maritime trades integral to a working port. Up until the 1930s South Australia relied on small, sail powered ketches to transport goods to and from settlements beyond Adelaide. Technology changed slowly in sailmaking and many of the tools used by William Russell to make sails continued to be used when the Lucas family took over the business. These jealously guarded traditions were passed on through the apprenticeship system and tools of trade also tended to be handed down through the generations. This collection is a complete representation of a maritime trade that is increasingly rare. The other material donated by the Lucas family relating to the ship chandlers business illustrates the great diversity of work which had to be undertaken in order to sustain a viable business in a relatively small port such as Port Adelaide.

A South Australian Maritime Museum collection. Access to collection items held in Museum Stores is by appointment only.


Don Lucas; Sailmaking; Ship chandler; William Russell

Don Lucas; South Australian Maritime Museum; William Russell

Maritime history; Sailing; Sails; Tools

Nautical equipment; Sail making tools; Sailmakers; Sailmaking; Sails; Ship's chandleries; Tools

Nautical equipment; Occupation-based equipment; Sailmaking equipment; Woodworking tools

Coverage Spatial

South Australia; Port Adelaide, South Australia

Coverage Temporal



Related Collections


2012-05-30 23:42

2011-03-23 15:04