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K1406 Coolgardie safe, galvanised iron, made and or used in [Qld], Australia, 1900 - 1910. Click to enlarge.

Coolgardie safe, 1900-1910

The Coolgardie safe was a piece of domestic equipment widely used in Australia before refrigeration to preserve perishable food in summer. It was an Australian invention used especially in country areas from the 1890s until the mid 20th century.

Coolgardie safes were manufactured both commercially and home-made. They worked on the principle of capillary siphoning and cooling due to evaporation. They usually comprised a timber-framed Hessian-covered cabinet which had one or more internal …


Object No.


Object Statement

Coolgardie safe, galvanised iron, made and or used in [Qld], Australia, 1900 - 1910

Physical Description

Safe, Coolgardie, galvanised iron, rectangular on 4 legged tray, 2nd tray inserted in top as cover, metal meshing on collapsible sides & door, interior supported by iron cross bracket, [Qld], Australia, 1900 - 1910



697 mm


508 mm


436 mm




The Coolgardie safe was said to have been invented in the dry and arid Western Australian gold-mining town of Coolgardie in the 1890s by Arthur Patrick (Paddy) McCormick, who later became mayor of Coolgardie.



Coolgardie safes could have been made at home from simple and easily procurable materials. The New Settlers' League of Australia advised in their 1924 publication, "Makeshitfts and Other Home-made Furniture and Kitchen Utensils", that "to make a Coolgardie safe, build a frame from strong packing cases, and put a shelf about 2 feet from the ground, and another on top 5 feet from the ground. Cover the frame with Hessian, putting a door on one side. On top, place a kerosene tin cut in half lengthwise. Keep this filled with water, and, hanging from it over the sides of the safe, put strips of Hessian, towelling or flannel. Make gutters of pieces of tin to go around the bottom of the safe, making them all slope toward one corner. Here let the water drip into a tin underneath. This water may be used again. Keep in a breezy place."

A Coolgardie safe is described in Randolph Stow's 1965 Australian novel, "The Merry-Go-Round and the Sea": "Once, one hot day at Sandalwood, he and his cousin Didi had got into the big Coolgardie safe on the back veranda and closed the door. It was very cool in there, water seeping continually down the clinker-packed walls. They shared the safe with half a sheep, and amused themselves by swinging the meat back and forth on its hook like a punching bag".


Credit Line

Purchased 1984

Acquisition Date

15 November 1984

Cite this Object


Coolgardie safe, 1900-1910 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 16 October 2021, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Coolgardie safe, 1900-1910 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=16 October 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}