Sterling silver cigar box given by Dame Nellie Melba to her father David Mitchell in 1902. It is inscribed: 'To Papa from Nellie 1902'.

David Mitchell (1829-1916), builder, contractor and businessman, was born in 1829 in Forfarshire, Scotland. A mason, in 1846 he migrated to Melbourne. His famous daughter Helen Porter Mitchell was born in 1861 and went on to become Dame Nellie Melba. Mitchell would become responsible for the building of many Melbourne landmarks including the Exhibition Building (1880). He and his daughter had a close and affectionate relationship; he was a significant influence in her life, having supported her career, given her a head for business and a pride in her Scottish and Australian heritage. This item provides a tangible representation of that relationship in one of the most significant years in her life - 1902, when she returned triumphant to Australia after an absence of 16 years.

Physical Description

Sterling silver box in plain rectangular form, opening to reveal a gilded interior with cedar lining, underside lined with maroon morocco leather. Inscribed at top left corner.


Dame Nellie Melba is one of Australia's most famous cultural icons and exports. Her operatic achievements were acknowledged both nationally and internationally and her World War I fundraising efforts earned her Dame Commander of the British Empire. Born Helen Porter Mitchell in Melbourne in 1861, Melba would maintain a constant affection and connection to her homeland and in particular Melbourne and the Yarra Valley where she would establish her Australian home, Coombe Cottage, from 1909. Melba was also a tireless fundraiser, both during World War I, but also for numerous local causes, from hospitals to conservatoriums.

This collection represents Melba as citizen, resident, fundraiser and community participant. They bring together direct connections to Melba with rich stories significant to Melba's broader narrative and to the Museum's collecting areas - such as her World War I fundraising activities, her deeply personal connection to her father David Mitchell, builder of the 1880 Exhibition Building, her attachment to homeland, and her involvement in many local cultural and social activities.

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