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Upper plate

Date: Before 1857
Overall: 11 x 63 x 38 mm, 0.098 kg
Display Dimensions: 11 x 63 x 38 mm
Medium: Gold and silver
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of the Andrew Thyne Reid Trust
Object Name: Denture
Object No: 00025254
Related Place:South Head,

User Terms

    An upper denture made from gold and silver. Manufacturers details and date of production are unknown. The denture features brackets that can accommodate false teeth and a single silver stud on the left. Part of the material from the historic shipwreck DUNBAR.
    The DUNBAR Collection was retrieved under the auspices of an amnesty enacted through the jurisdiction of the Historic Shipwrecks Act, 1976.
    SignificanceThis denture plate tells part of the story of early dentistry in both England and Sydney. It is a highly personal item that also shows the level of wealth that was aboard the DUNBAR when she sank and in the burgeoning colony of Sydney
    History"In 1820, a Westminster silversmith and goldsmith named Claudius Ash (some say Samuel Stockton) was asked to craft new and improved dentures. At the time, most false teeth were still made from ivory (which was prone to discoloring) or from human teeth. The real teeth were extracted from soldiers' corpses or executed criminals, procured by grave-robbers, or even obtained from direct sale by the desperately impoverished... Claudius Ash mounted porcelain on 18-karat gold plates, with gold springs and swivels. These new dentures were superior both aesthetically and functionally to the older models. Still improving, from the 1850s onward, dentures were made of Vulcanite, a form of hardened rubber into which porcelain teeth were set. Claudius Ash’s company was the leading European manufacturer of dental Vulcanite. In the 20th century, acrylic resin and other plastics became materials of choice."
    On the night of Thursday 20 August 1857, the clipper DUNBAR approached the heads of Sydney Harbour after a voyage of 81 days.
    Launched in 1853, the vessel was owned by Duncan Dunbar, and was the sister ship of the PHOEBE DUNBAR, the DUNBAR CASTLE and the DUNCAN DUNBAR.
    Under the command of Captain Green, the DUNBAR was on its second voyage to Sydney. Despite the treacherous weather conditions on the night, Captain Green and his crew attempted to enter Sydney Harbour that evening, rather than wait until morning.
    The DUNBAR was driven into the reef at the foot of South Head and began to break up immediately. In the hours that followed, all but one of the passengers and crew perished. The survivor, Able Seaman James Johnson clung to a ledge on the cliff face until he was rescued on the morning of 22 August, some 36 hours after the DUNBAR ran aground.
    When news of the wreck reached Sydney the following day, it immediately captured the attention of the public. In the days following, the media provided extensive coverage of the search for survivors and victims, and daily chronicled the progress of the inquest.
    Residents were drawn to the scene for the morbid task of identifying friends, relatives and business associates. Still only a relatively small town, Sydney was staggered by the enormity and proximity of the tragedy.
    A mass funeral for those who died and who, in most cases, could not be identified was held on 24 September. The interments took place at St. Stephen's Cemetery, Camperdown where there is still a monument to the victims.

    Related Sites South Head

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