Summary

Gentleman's black cotton frock coat, six-button, double-breasted with peaked lapels. No manufacturer or retailer's label.

This coat is purported to have belonged to Rev. George Tait (1844-1934) who wore it to the opening of Federal Parliament at the Exhibition Buildings, Carlton, in May 1901. Tait was ordained in 1870 and after spending a decade in rural pastorates, moved quickly through the Presbyterian Church, being appointed as a junior clerk of the Church's Victorian Assembly, convenor of the business committee (1883), home mission superintendent (1889), then senior clerk (1891-1933). As moderator of the Victorian Assembly between 1900-01, Tait attended the inaugural General Assembly of Australia, serving as its clerk until 1933.

Rev. G. Tait and his wife are listed as invited guests to the opening of the First Parliament on 9 May 1901, giving credibility to the claim that this coat was worn by Tait on that occasion. Two days later, on Saturday 11 May 1901, Rev. Tait presided over a service held at Scots' Church in Collins Street, Melbourne, in celebration of the opening of Federal Parliament the following day.

The donor recalls that the coat was reused for a very different purpose over half a century later, when it was worn by a member of the choir of the West Hawthorn Presbyterian congregation for a play put on by the parish circa 1957-58.

Physical Description

Gentleman's black cotton frock coat, six-button, double-breasted with peaked lapels. Missing upper left button, with five remaining on front. Lined internally with black fabric, and cream-coloured pin-stripe lining downs sleeves. There are loose surface accretions throughout the fabric, and in places the exterior fabric has faded in colour. There are several holes in the front and the rear, some of which have been previously repaired. A large loss on the rear left side appears to be the result of insect damage. There are holes under the arm from use and the fabric is burnished from wear.

Significance

This coat has particular significance to the REB, having purportedly been worn by the moderator of the Victorian Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, Rev. G. Tait, at the opening ceremony of Federal Parliament at the Exhibition Buildings in May 1901. Tait is recorded as one of the invited guests at the opening, giving credibility to this item's provenance. It is typical of the style of formal male dress frock coat at the turn of the twentieth century that would have been worn to such occasions.

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