Similar items over time

Water Wings - Father Neptune's Safe Float, circa 1930 Object Reg. No: HT 21431

Alternative Name: Floatation Device, Buoyancy Aid

Cream textile water wings, printed with images of 'Neptune' on front and back.

Used by Margaret Daws when she was about four years old, around 1930. She used to go to the beach between Mordialloc and Aspendale every summer with her family for a two-month holiday. Margaret remembers wearing beach shoes and getting sunburnt. The donor has supplied copies of photographs taken during these beach holidays.

The family lived in Coburg, and drove their Hupmobile to the beach. The car had a 'coffin' screwed onto the running board that contained everything for the family's stay at the beach. They rented the same house, belonging to Mr and Mrs Yeoman (the 1930 Sands & McDougall records a house occupied by Jno. Yeoman at Pt Nepean Road, Aspendale). Relatives used to visit during their stay.

Margaret was born in Coburg, and had one brother and two sisters. The family had a live-in maid who didn't like to come to the beach. She told them she'd choked on a penny in a Christmas cake to avoid going one year.
Cream textile water wings, printed with images of 'Neptune' on front and back. The wings comprise two panels of rounded fabric that narrow to a centre join. A metal (aluminium?) valve is inserted at the centre join, from the top of which extend two thin tapes, each approximately 470mm long. Wings are foxed and yellowed.
Statement Of Significance:
The water wings are rare survivors amongst the ephemeral material culture of the beach, particularly in Melbourne before World War II. Their significance is enhanced by their provenance to a particular user, Margaret Daws (nee Perrin), and the existence of photographs of her and her family at the beach during the time the water wings were worn.

Beach holidays were an important part of the annual calendar for many Melbourne families. The water wings come from a time when family holidays sometimes went no further than across town, by car to a beach house or on a train to a beach-side camp.

Weston Bate says that 'Long Beach' from Mordialloc to Carrum (including Aspendale) saw summer holiday-makers set up camp along the narrow strip of land between the rail / road and the beach. He suggested that Long Beach had 'much in common' with the working class beaches in the west such as Williamstown and Altona. Rail electrification in the 1920s made the eastern beaches even more accessible, as well as opening up the bayside suburbs to suburban development. The Daws' family tells another story, however: they enjoyed the privilege of a rented home by the beach in Aspendale, and drove to it in their family car, leaving their reluctant maid behind.

The water wings are also significant as a survivor of beach/water safety equipment. Although probably rudimentary in their effectiveness, they represent an acknowledgement of the dangers of water, and document commercial attempts to address water safety concerns.
Acquisition Information:
Donation from Margaret Daws, 2008
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 227 mm (Height), 650 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: beaches, leisure, safety equipment, swimming
Themes this item is part of: Childhood & Youth Collection, Clothing & Textiles Collection, Leisure Collection
Primary Classification: RECREATION & TOURISM
Secondary Classification: Beaches
Tertiary Classification: accessories
Inscriptions: Printed in black on front, together with line drawing of 'Neptune': 'FATHER / NEPTUNE'S / SAFE-FLOAT.' / Manufactured in London, England. / Protected in Great Britain and the principal Colonies. / ?'
'Directions for Use. - Read Carefully. / Soak the "Safe Float thoroughly in water, taking care that the material throughout is / wet. Then blow up through the valve. If you find it is not holding the air, wet again. When blown up to the full extent and the air escapes at the seams, press just below valve to close in. / The "Safe-Float" is now ready for use. Place the narrow band under the stomach or the / back (not the arm pit), allowing the bladders to rise each side of the body / ?'
Similar inscription on back.
Place Manufactured: London, England, Great Britain
User: Margaret Daws, Mordialloc, Victoria, Australia, circa 1930

Also used at Aspendale
References: An image of Ayvad's Water Wings - a very similar product - appears in the (British) 1907 Army and Navy Stores Catalogue, p.323.


david bancroft Posted on 21 Mar 2013 6:45 AM
i have just come across one of these float aids among my late fathers possessions in great condition no stains and all readable printing oh happy days
Karen Douglas Posted on 31 Mar 2013 11:10 PM
We have just come across one of these float-safes in our Historical Society collection but the picture is slightly different. The instructions read the same.

Add your comment

  • Museum Victoria does not provide valuations, for more information please visit the valuation infosheet
  • Please note that Museum Victoria staff will not normally respond to comments posted on our website.


This item is part of the following themes:

Similar items

Yes No