Inside the Collection

Cool Tartan

Two tin cooler bricks with Tartan pattern text reads " Willow - Cooler Brick - Especially made for use with the Willow cooler"
Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Recently I stopped to look at a Highland Pipe Band who were playing in the Corso at Manly. It was a hot and sticky Sydney summer day and the heavy tartan kilts looked out of place although the band members were wearing short sleeved shirts and did not have jackets. It brought to mind these cooler bricks in our collection.

…cooler bricks, along with eskies and barbecues, reflect the evolution of Australian leisure activities. The cooler bricks can be used to illustrate the increasing popularity of picnics, barbecues, camping and caravanning that resulted from the increased mobility made possible as the motor car became more affordable. These cooler bricks document a technological and commercial response to the need to keep food and drinks cold while travelling.

Tartan remains a popular theme for picnic accessories. In the 1960s when these bricks were made they would have matched the tartan esky and of course the still essential tartan picnic rug. This image is from Arthur H Gillott Pty Ltd transport archive, 1919 – 1998 and shows Mr and Mrs Arthur E. Gillott at a staff picnic in Middle Harbour, Sydney c.1980s – tartan blanket in hand.

Photograph of a man and woman with cowboy hats at a park
Arthur H Gillorr archive. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

I’m sure the band members were looking forward to a cool drink and perhaps a lie down in the shade on a comfy tartan rug!

One response to “Cool Tartan

  • Lynn,

    I’m fairly sure that my family owned not merely a tartan picnic rug and tartan cooler bricks but also a tartan Esky. Can this be true, or am I imagining the tartan Esky?

    What was it with the tartan, anyway?

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