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'Splendidly stuffed'

By: Vanessa Finney, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 24 Jun 2011

The Australian Museum purchased three crocodiles in 1879. The first came to the Museum in July from showman William Cash.

William Cash to Edward Ramsay 1879

 © Courtesy of Australian Museum

Cash had been displaying the crocodile to crowds in George St, raising an astonishing £10 in one night from enthralled visitors. However, finding the crocodile transportation costs too much, Cash and his business partner decided to sell the crocodile to the Museum. Here is the transcript of his letter to Edward Ramsay, Museum Curator:

July 30th 1879

Sir,

Your letter I received quite safe stating you had seen the Crocodile and you thought it would have to be restuffed. I think that you would find that it will not require that. I bought it off a man in "?' about six months ago, and I and my partner gave £20 for it he said it cost him £15 to get it stuffed there. I have always understood that it was splendidly stuffed as we have met two or three naturalists in our travels that said so! ...

We spend (sic) two Saturdays in George St with it and the first night we took £10. We would not sell it only it is so large that the expenses for travelling we found were too much and so concluded to sell it! However, if you don't think it is quite the thing we must advertise it to sell it that way. I have about half a dozen of the teeth and a painting that goes with it if that is any use.

Yours Truly, William Cash

We don't have any other records of the negotiation process, but by July 31 Ramsay had signed a Purchase Order for £3 and declared the croc 'cheap at the price'. The crocodile was probably sent to the International Exhibition in Calcutta in 1888 as it is no longer held in the Museum's collections.

Next post: Crocodile case is on the move

Previously: Yet more on the crocodile case restoration