Collection: Macquarie University History Museum

Billy Can

Accession # AHM004183
Period late 19th century
Provenance Australia
Material/s Metal
Dimensions 14.7cm (l) x 10.6cm (w)
Collection Macquarie University History Museum
Source AHM, Macquarie University
Classification Vessel
Click here to inspect 3d item.
The Billy Can, or Tin, has become an iconic symbol of Australian national identity and bush culture. Interestingly the origin of the billy is said to be at the goldfields, where miners used the empty food-tins over a campfire to heat or cook their food and tea. This then evolved into the popular billy can with a lid that served as a cup. The item from our collection is a black billy with two handles (double metal rings) at one side and another wire loop at the top for hanging over a camp fire. The lid lifts out as a cup, also with two handles. In 1859 W. Burrows described the billy as a “tin vessel, something between a saucepan and a kettle, always black outside from being constantly on the fire, and looking brown inside from the quantity of tea that is generally to be seen in it.”

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Macquarie University History Museum (2020). Billy Can, AHM004183. // (accessed on: 14 June 2020).

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