Teapot - Silver, Trophy, Miss Newcomb, 1857.
Image: Jo Ely
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: Can you please explain why the Silver Teapot Trophy in your History & Technology Collections Online is tagged as part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Collection?
Answer: The object you have enquired about, the Silver Teapot Trophy awarded to Miss Caroline Elizabeth Newcomb in 1857 (Registration No. HT 8115), is actually part of many different Museum Victoria collections, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Collection.
The teapot is part of this particular collection because Miss Newcomb, a Victorian pioneer pastoralist, became friends, and later partners, with fellow pioneer pastoralist Anne Drysdale.
This case, and the relationship between the two women, is often cited as an example of a 19th century lesbian relationship, although there is not anything that constitutes decisive evidence of their sexual relationship, they certainly shared a committed relationship. It’s very tricky ground in the 19th century to be proscriptive either way, when social labelling and forms of public and private behaviour differ so much from our own. The teapot is now a part of a Museum Victoria collection documenting the material culture of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities in Victoria. In 2005, the Museum joined with the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives and the State Library of Victoria to conduct a survey of GLBT material culture in public and private collections in Victoria.