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Gold fob watch with gold chain, shark's tooth charm and key presented to Captain William Arthur Banner

Date: c 1871
Dimensions:
Overall: 14 x 245 x 45 mm, 0.1 kg
Medium: Gold, metal, shark's tooth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Kangaroo Island Community Club
Object Name: Fob watch
Object No: 00000421

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    Description
    This gold fob watch with gold chain, shark's tooth charm and key was presented to Captain William Arthur Banner by Messrs J & W Merriman from Banner's company Merriman and Co on 24 February 1871.

    The watch face reads: W EHRHARDT / London / 2044.

    Engraved under the back cover reads: Presented to Capt William Arthur Banner by Messrs Jas & Wm Merriman, as a token of esteem Feb 24 1871.

    Banner discovered the rich Warrior Reef pearl beds in 1868, earning a fortune for his employers J & W Merriman of Sydney.
    SignificanceCaptain Banner was the 'father' of the pearling industry in Torres Strait in the early years of the 19th century, having fished the first pealshell in the Torres Strait in 1868 from Warrior Reef. Given to Captain Banner from his employers, this fob watch is an important reminder of his role in the developement of the pearling industry in Australia.
    HistoryPearling has been a major industry in Northern Australia since the late 1860s. It was initially a practice of the local Aboriginal population who traded pearls with neighbouring islanders including Macassan traders.

    Pearl seekers started to operate in Torres Strait's waters by the early 1860s with the Indigenous population at first largely not welcoming their presence. The first pearling station was set up in 1868 by Captain Banner and by 1883 there were 33 licensed stations operating in the Torres Strait. Pearl shell was a valuable material before the days of plastic and was used to make buckles, buttons, jewellery and cutlery. Shells from the Torres Strait were popular with the English and American clothing industry of the time for the manufacture of buttons and buckles.

    In 1859 maritime entrepreneaur James Paddon decided to send the 100-ton brig JULIA PERCY with a party to test the potential for new enterprises in the Torres Strait, particularly to see if they could establish beche-de-mere stations. Under the command of William Banner, one of Paddon's most experienced masters, the JULIA PERCY set out from Eromanga on 16 July 1860 and established a base at Lizard Island. For three months the JULIA PERCY sailed the coast in search of sandalwood and beche-de-mere.

    When Banner arrived back in Sydney, he found that Paddon had died while the JULIA PERCY was at sea, and with that the project collapsed. In 1864 Paddon's partner, Charles Edwards, established the first beche-de-mere station in Torres Strait at Erub. By that time Edwards had formed a new association with the merchant-ship-owner Robert Towns, and from then to the early 1870s theirs was the most substantial investment of any of the Sydney merchant-ship-owners involved in the Torres Strait maritime industries.

    In July 1865 William Banner returned to the Queensland coast and in May 1866 he obtained the financial backing of the Sydney firm James Merriman and son, and with the TELEGRAPH and METARIS set off for the beche-de-mer fishery.

    In 1868 Banner was in command of the brig JULIA PERCY, and sailed to the Torres Strait in search for the lucrative beche-de-mer (sea-slug or sea-cucumber). Venturing north toward New Guinea, Banner reached the Warrior Reefs and Island, where European beche-de-mere fisherman had not yet been. Banner and his crew negotiated with the islanders to allow them to stay for some time.

    While on shore, Banner soon found that he had stumbled upon the richest pearl-beds then known. He arranged for the peoples of Warrior Island to collect the shell for him in exchange for axes, tomahawks and scrap iron - a small price to pay for the shells which were worth £150 a ton in Sydney. News leaked of the rich find and it was not long before other pearlers were fishing the beds - resulting in hostilities with the islanders of the reef. Five years after the arrival of William Banner more than 100 pearling vessels were working in the strait. Banner retired to the island in 1869, and died there in 1871.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Gold fob watch with gold chain, shark's tooth charm and key presented to Captain William Arthur Banner

    Assigned title: Gold fob watch with gold chain, shark's tooth charm and key presented to Captain William Arthur Banner

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