Lake Macquarie History

Teenage regional female taxidermist

Nineteenth century museums often featured lifelike displays of stuffed birds and animals. These were a revolutionary new way of helping visitors to understand the natural world. The Australian Museum was established in 1827 in Sydney to collect and display natural history specimens.

Maggie Johnston was a prolific taxidermist. She reportedly added more than 100 stuffed birds to her parent's hotel, Johnston's. It became known as the Museum Hotel. The hotel was in the busiest part of West Wallsend on the corner of Wilson and Laidley Streets. It had accommodation upstairs for visitors and boarders. Her display of birds at the head of the staircase is still remembered in Westy.

Maggie was the star of the 1890 Minmi Show, winning first place for a case of stuffed birds in a field dominated by men. She also placed first for her fancy woolwork, paper flowers and three categories of needlework. Born in 1870, she must have been practicing these skills through her teens to dominate the show.

John Humphrey was sent from Scotland to install machinery into the local colliery. He stayed at the Museum Hotel. Maggie and John married in 1893. Their daughter was born in Sydney in 1894. Maggie gave her daughter her mother's name: Mary Mounter.

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