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99/4/83 Billycart, wood/ metal/ rubber, maker unknown, Australia, 1950-1970. Click to enlarge.

Billycart

Made
Australian 'billycarts' were used as early as the 1880s. They were either literally drawn by a billygoat - hence the Australian name 'billycart'- or small two wheeled hand carts for which the name billycart had already become a generic term.

The term billycart is an Australian variation of the English goat cart which, like the dog cart, was originally an 18th and 19th century form of animal-propelled baby carriage. A later development - the mail cart - was a two wheeled vehicle based upon the postal delivery cart but designed to be pulled by children as a play thing. The British firm Simpson, Fawcett and Co advertised these in 1870 emphasising their exercise value. Harnessed goats were also used in a variation of this two wheeled cart - again using the term goat cart or 'go-cart'. These could still be seen providing rides on English beaches in the 1930s. The mail cart, which could hold a young child, was also a precursor to the modern pram (Jack Hampshire, 'Prams, Mail Carts and Bassinets', 1980, pp.24,34).

Anthony Hordern and Sons Ltd was advertising billycarts in Australia in the 1920s - these were essentially the two wheeled mailcarts of the late 19th century. However it was around this time or a little later that the 'modern' billycart developed as a fruit box with wheels or the more sophisticated H-shaped frame with rope controlled steering. These were probably home-made versions of commercially produced - and hence relatively expensive - pedal cars, trolley cars or flivvers (a 3 wheeled version of the hand-propelled trolley car). In the absence of pedals or hand cranks, these were pushed or ridden down hill.

In his 1952 memoir, Sydney bookseller James Tyrrell remembered as a boy using a 'billycart', or what was probably a form of mailcart cart/goat cart without the goat, to deliver books for Angus and Robertson (J.R Tyrrell, 'Old Books, old friends, old Sydney').

Summary

Object No.

99/4/83

Object Statement

Billycart, wood/ metal/ rubber, maker unknown, Australia, 1950-1970

Physical Description

Billycart, wood/metal/rubber, Australia, 1950-1970.

The chassis of this billycart is made from wood. A plank forms the central axis. A wooden crate, cut down to four sides, forms the cabin and seat. A brown hessian bag has been draped over the back of this crate. Stuck on the left side of the crate is a piece of paper with the inscription; '3" 162 S/G FILE/H'. At the rear is a black metal number plate 'AB 48'. The front and rear metal axles are attached to wooden planks. The rear is fixed the front pivoted with a bolt to enable steering. A length of 'steering' rope has been attached to this front wooden axle plank. There are four metal rimmed spoked wheels. The front wheels have solid rubber tyres, the rear wheels have no tyres.

Dimensions

Height

370 mm

Width

530 mm

Production

Made

Notes

Commercial variations of the home-made 'fruit box' billy cart appeared by the late 1960s, early 1970s - Raleigh produced a commercial billy cart in the 1970s called a 'Hi Speed Billy Cart Rail'. The term 'go-cart' now tends to refer to a motorised cart.

This billycart is typical of the H-shaped chassis cart with simple pivot steering. Like many home-made billycarts it is constructed from pre-used materials - a wooden box, scrap timber and pram or shopping trolley type wheels.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of the National Trust of Australia, NSW, 1999

Acquisition Date

11 January 1999

Cite this Object

Harvard

Billycart 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 October 2020, <https://ma.as/167251>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/167251 |title=Billycart |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}