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William Kerr

William Kerr (1838-1896) was a leading watchmaker, jeweller and silversmith in Sydney during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Born in Northern Ireland, Kerr came to the colony of New South Wales with his family as a child on board the New York Packet in 1841. Trained as a watchmaker, he established a small jewellery business with his two older brothers in Palmer Street, Sydney circa. 1857. In 1863, following the death of his brothers, William Kerr set up a business at 68 William Street in partnership with Frederick Morris. Between 1864 and 1875, he worked for Hardy Bros. before establishing his first shop at 574 George Street, opposite St Andrew's Cathedral. In 1882, Kerr opened a second shop in King Street and in 1883, his principal business was relocated to 544 George Street, Sydney opposite the Town Hall. William Kerr obtained many important commissions for commemorative items, often from the Sydney City Council.

Today, Kerr is mostly remembered for his distinctive silver trophies, three of them receiving an award (Highly Commended) at Sydney's International Exhibition of 1879. Designed in the form of a table centrepiece, or epergne, this impressive trophy standing 72 centimetres in height, was made to celebrate the success of the first all white Australian cricket team to tour Britain in 1878. (At the time it was thought by some to be the first Australian cricket team to tour England, however a team of Indigenous Australian cricketers had previously toured England, in 1868). It depicts a cricket match taking place under a large Australian native tree fern, surmounted with a glass comport below a tapered glass flower vase. The scene is flanked by two small palm trees each supporting a silver-mounted emu egg with a smaller flower vase on the top.

Kerr centrepieces decorated with native motifs are rare in Australian 19th century silver sporting trophies. In the colonies the most popular sports were firmly rooted in British culture, and designs for sporting trophies mostly emulated English models. Although in the form of a presentation trophy, this centrepiece was never presented. It is thought that it stood as a display piece in the window of Kerr's George Street shop as it was donated to the museum by the Kerr family when the shop closed in 1938.

Although William Kerr, himself, had long since died by the time the Australian Navy was seeking to convert 1000 Mexican Silver Dollars into commemorative medals, his family business was still operational and it is likely that it was continuing to operate under his name.