Similar items over time

Staircase Model - Heinrich Munzel, Brazilwood, Brazil, 1835-1850 Object Reg. No: HT 25442

Model double spiral staircase crafted by Heinrich (Henry) Munzel from Brazilwood, made in Pernambuco, Brazil between 1835 and 1850. Henry brought the model with him when he migrated from Brazil, and entered it in the 1866 Inter-Colonial Exhibition held in Melbourne, where it was awarded an Honourable Mention.

Heinrich Munzel was a master craftsman from Hanover. He married Anna Semmelback in Hamburg in 1835, and soon after sailed to Pernambuco, Brazil, where Hanover artisans were in high demand. The couple had three children while living in Brazil, where they remained until the political unrest of the Praieira Revolt in 1849 caused them to flee to Australia. They arrived in Sydney on 6 March 1850, where Heinrich established a business crafting billiard tables, and changed his name to Henry. In 1853 they moved to the Sandhurst (Bendigo) gold diggings, where Henry established an artisan workshop and crafted staircases and furnishings for the new buildings of Bendigo. He trained his son Edward, and his grandsons Heinrich and Charles, in the use of Redgum hardwood, and the extended family became involved in the gathering and crafting of Murray River hardwoods from the Gunbower and Barmah forests.

The Intercolonial Exhibition was held from 23 October 1866 until 23 February 1867 in a new exhibition area at the rear of the Public Library. Seen as 'a temple of industry' it celebrated the wealth created from Victoria's goldfields and the colony's growing confidence in its manufacturing and industrial future. Nearly 3,000 exhibits were on display and it attracted almost 100,000 visitors. Five days after its closure exhibitors were invited to contribute objects to form the nucleus for the Industrial and Technological Museum which was established in 1870.

The model is constructed from Brazilwood, Caesalpinia Echinata (Leguminosae), which was highly sought after in Europe for its capacity for carving and twisting. It was also a valuable source of red dye and hard-wood for construction. Excessive exploitation led to a steep decrease in the number of brazilwood trees in the 18th century, causing the collapse of this industry. The species is now listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and it is cited in the official list of endangered flora of Brazil.

The model has a hidden drawer at the rear which is spring activated.
Double spiral staircase model made from brazilwood. The model is housed in a glass case with a frame carved from brazilwood, the top of the case opens up allowing the viewer to look on the staircase from above.
Statement Of Significance:
Although made in Brazil this model reflects the aspirations of a young, wealthy colony, and its progress toward refinement and self sufficiency. It also celebrates the master craftsmen who were attracted to settle in Australia, and whose skills would help create and give form to a prosperous Victoria.
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 1040 mm (Height), 430 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: german communities, german immigration, immigration, woodworking, gold rushes, exhibitions melbourne intercolonial australasian 1866-1867, goldfields
Themes this item is part of: Migration Collection, Public Life & Institutions Collection, Sustainable Futures Collection, Working Life & Trades Collection, Heinrich Munzel's Double Spiral Staircase Model, Heinrich Munzel, German Migrant & Master Woodworker, 1850, Munzel Collection
Primary Classification: ECONOMIC BOTANY
Secondary Classification: Timbers
Tertiary Classification: leguminosae
Maker: Mr Heinrich Munzel, Pernambuco, Brazil, 1835-1850
Date of Event: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1866

Entered in the Inter-Colonial Exhibition held in Melbourne in 1866 in the Sandhurst Division. It was awarded an Honourable Mention.
References: Munzel Story feature - ABC Central Victoria 20 Oct 2011

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.
Yes No