Posts Tagged ‘Port Melbourne

16
Nov
16

Australia in the first decade of the 20th century

November 2016

 

 

I have spent hours digitally cleaning these stereocards that I borrowed from my friend Ellie Young and undertaking the research for this posting. And the hours were well worth it. These 3D photographs really give you a feeling of what it would have been like to live in Australia in the first decade of the 20th century, the spectacle of the country. I also love the colour postcards, with their depictions of kangaroos and Australia surrounded by the red of China and the United States – vulnerable and all on her own!

George Rose (1861-1942), was a Melbourne photographer started his photographic career around 1880 producing three-dimensional images. He called his business ‘The Rose Stereograph Company’. He toured the world with his 3-D camera, producing stereographs for the home and overseas markets. Most notable in this posting are the stereocards of the visit of the American Fleet, also known as the Great White Fleet, to Australia in 1908. The visit included the U.S.S. Ohio, U.S.S. Wisconsin, U.S.S. Louisiana, U.S.S. Kansas, U.S.S. Vermont, U.S.S. Kearsarge and U.S.S. Kentucky amongst others. The sixteen warships were painted white to denote peace. The flagship of the fleet was the U.S.S. Connecticut. As detailed below, the visit caused quite a stir in the relationship between nascent Australian nationalism and the mother country Great Britain, as no British battleship, let alone a modern fleet, had ever entered Australasian waters.

In these stereocards it is interesting to observe:

  1. How few Australian flags are flying (the Australian flag was only created following Federation in 1901), the British flag in prominence at the reviews in Centennial Park, Sydney and Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne. An Australian flag can be observed at the very bottom of the Children’s Flag Drill, Public Schools’ Demonstration, Sydney, 1908 photograph and flying alternatively between the American flag in the review at Flemington Racecourse.
  2. How militarised the society seems to be, with huge turn out of spectators to the parades and reviews – just look at the crowds in Marines Marching through Martin Place, Sydney, 1908 and packing the stands at Flemington in Military Review, Flemington. The Admiral, the Governor, the Prime Minister, &c., (1908). It comes as a surprise, then, that just eight and nine years later, at the height of the First World War, two referendums were held in which compulsory conscription was defeated by popular vote.
  3. How many people – men, women and children – are all wearing hats. Royal Visit to Melbourne, May 1901 (detail below) is almost a bourgeois Dickensian scene of merriment, with all the men and women wearing de rigueur hats. The four women at the front are especially impressive. The crowd is pressed up against the barrier and stacked high behind to get the best view, causing a flattening of the picture plane, the bodies and attitudes of “the people” almost becoming a picture puzzle.

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Other points of interest include:

  • A comparison between the horizontal point of view of 2nd Victorian Contingent. Horses Going Aboard (1900, below) replete with geometric shapes and forms; and the structure of Steigltiz’s The Steerage, 1907 with its closer cropping, stronger geometric elements and split horizontal and downward gaze.
  • Also notice the photographer in cap up a very narrow ladder at left in Jack Tars at the Military Review, on the Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (1908, detail), just about to be passed a dark slide for his plate camera that is mounted on top of the ladder.
  • The Jack Tars make an interesting group of men, marching along with their rifles. I wonder what they thought of Australia at the turn of the century?

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Please make sure you enlarge the photographs to see all of the details.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to Ellie Young for lending me the stereocards in this posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Rose's Stereoscopic Views. '2nd Victorian Contingent. Horses Going Aboard.' Melbourne, Boer War, 1899-1900

 

Rose’s Stereoscopic Views
George Rose
 (Publisher), Windsor, Melbourne
2nd Victorian Contingent. Horses Going Aboard
Melbourne, Boer War embarkation, 1900
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

1900-01-13. ONLOOKERS WATCH THE HORSES OF THE 2ND VICTORIAN CONTINGENT TO THE BOER WAR BEING PUT ABOARD THE STEAMSHIP “EURYALUS”, BOUND FOR SOUTH AFRICA. THE SECOND VICTORIAN CONTINGENT CONSISTED ENTIRELY OF MOUNTED RIFLES.

Departed Melbourne: SS Euryalus 13 January 1900.

Raised predominantly on the Mounted Rifle Regiment, formed by Lt-Col Tom Price in 1885, and Victorian Rangers, Militia including the battalions of the Infantry Brigade and some from the Royal Australian Artillery. Colonel Price was initially made CO of the Hanover Road Field Force, including one battalion of Lancashire Militia, two companies of Prince Albert’s Guards and Tasmanians. Price was the only Australian Colonial Officer placed in command of British units during the Boer War.

A seminal moment in the Boer War was the capture of Pretoria in 1900 by British commander, Lord Roberts. The Victorian 2nd (Mounted Rifles) Contingent was the first unit to enter the city. A large number of this unit were invalided back to Victoria, having experienced starvation and extreme exhaustion on some treks.

Strength: 265
Service period: Feb 1900 – Dec 1900.

Text from the Defending Victoria website

 

As part of the British Empire, the Australian colonies offered troops for the war in South Africa. Australians served in contingents raised by the six colonies or, from 1901, by the new Australian Commonwealth. For a variety of reasons many Australians also joined British or South African colonial units in South Africa: some were already in South Africa when the war broke out; others either made their own way to the Cape or joined local units after their enlistment in an Australian contingent ended. Recruiting was also done in Australia for units which already existed in South Africa, such as the Scottish Horse.

Australians served mostly in mounted units formed in each colony before despatch, or in South Africa itself. The Australian contribution took the form of five “waves”. The first were the contingents raised by the Australian colonies in response to the outbreak of war in 1899, which often drew heavily on the men in the militia of the colonial forces. The second were the “bushmen” contingents, which were recruited from more diverse sources and paid for by public subscription or the military philanthropy of wealthy individuals. The third were the “imperial bushmen” contingents, which were raised in ways similar to the preceding contingents, but paid for by the imperial government in London. Then were then the “draft contingents”, which were raised by the state governments after Federation on behalf of the new Commonwealth government, which was as yet unable to do so. Finally, after Federation, and close to the end of the war, the Australian Commonwealth Horse contingents were raised by the new Federal government. These contingents fought in both the British counter-offensive of 1900, which resulted in the capture of the Boer capitals, and in the long, weary guerrilla phases of the war which lasted until 1902. Colonial troops were valued for their ability to “shoot and ride”, and in many ways performed well in the open war on the veldt. There were significant problems, however, with the relatively poor training of Australian officers, with contingents generally arriving without having undergone much training and being sent on campaign immediately. These and other problems faced many of the hastily raised contingents sent from around the empire, however, and were by no means restricted to those from Australia…

The Australians at home initially supported the war, but became disenchanted as the conflict dragged on, especially as the effects on Boer civilians became known…

Conditions for both soldiers and horses were harsh. Without time to acclimatise to the severe environment and in an army with a greatly over-strained logistic system, the horses fared badly. Many died, not just in battle but of disease, while others succumbed to exhaustion and starvation on the long treks across the veld. Quarantine regulations in Australia ensured that even those which did survive could not return home. In the early stages of the war Australian soldier losses were so high through illness that components of the first and second contingents ceased to exist as viable units after a few months of service.

Extract of text from “Australia and the Boer War, 1899-1902” on the Australian War Memorial website

 

Rose's Stereoscopic Views. '2nd Victorian Contingent. Horses Going Aboard.' Melbourne, Boer War, 1899-1900 (detail)

 

Rose’s Stereoscopic Views
George Ross
 (Publisher), Windsor, Melbourne
2nd Victorian Contingent. Horses Going Aboard (detail)
Melbourne, Boer War embarkation, 1899-1900
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Columbia Stereoscopic Company. 'Royal Visit to Melbourne, May 1901'

 

Columbia Stereoscopic Company
Royal Visit to Melbourne, May 1901
1901
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Columbia Stereoscopic Company. 'Royal Visit to Melbourne, May 1901' (detail)

 

Columbia Stereoscopic Company
Royal Visit to Melbourne, May 1901 (detail)
1901
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Columbia Stereoscopic Company. 'Royal Visit to Melbourne, May 1901' (detail)

 

Columbia Stereoscopic Company
Royal Visit to Melbourne, May 1901 (detail)
1901
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

The visit to Australia by the Duke of York in 1901 was the first by a British heir-apparent, and it was the occasion of a frenzy of social activity, in which the Duke and Duchess were feted in parades, reviews, balls, dinners, concerts and a range of ceremonies. The royal visit became, in the minds of many, a much larger event than that which was the purpose of the visit; namely, the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament.

Members of the royal party travelled to Australia on the royal yacht Ophir, which departed from Portsmouth on 16 March. They formally arrived in Melbourne on St Kilda pier at 2.00pm on 6 May, and immediately afterwards took part in a grand procession which travelled along St Kilda Road to the centre of Melbourne, past the front of Parliament House, and to Government House. Mounted troops from all Australian states and New Zealand participated in the procession, which was almost two kilometres long and took two hours to pass some points of the seven kilometre route.

The streets of Melbourne were lined with half a million spectators, many of whom had bought tickets to sit in wooden stands erected two or three stories high. People spilled from every window, step and vantage-point, waving flags and cheering. Thirty-five thousand school children waved union jacks and sang ‘God save the King’ and ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ from the slopes of the Domain.

Text from “The Royal Visit: Opening of the First Parliament” 9th May 1901 on the Parliament of Australia exhibitions website

 

Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, May 1901 National Library of Australia

 

Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, May 1901
National Library of Australia

Souvenir card of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York with moveable ribbon with printed numbers

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'In Sydney Harbour. A view from the heights overlooking Neutral Bay' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
In Sydney Harbour. A view from the heights overlooking Neutral Bay
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

The fleet was given a tremendous welcome. Thursday 20 August 1908 was a public holiday and a week long celebration followed. Fleet Week celebrations and entertainments included the Official Landing and Public Reception, a review at Centennial Park, parades, luncheons, dinners, balls, concerts, theatre parties, sporting events such as boxing, football and baseball matches, a gymkhana including a tug-of-war and a regatta. Buildings and streets were decorated and illuminated at night. There were daylight and night time fireworks displays. Excursions were arranged for the Americans to visit Manly, Parramatta, Newcastle, The National Park, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains. The fleet stayed in Sydney until its departure for Melbourne on 27 August 1908. (Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website)

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'In Sydney Harbour. A view from the heights overlooking Neutral Bay' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
In Sydney Harbour. A view from the heights overlooking Neutral Bay (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Three fine U.S. battleships in Sydney Harbour, viewed from Cremorne Heights' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Three fine U.S. battleships in Sydney Harbour, viewed from Cremorne Heights
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

"Hail Columbia" Australia Greets her American Cousins

 

“Hail Columbia”
Australia Greets her American Cousins
In God We Trust
1908
Postcard

 

Harry T. Weston (publisher) 'Souvenir of the American Fleet's Visit to the Commonwealth of Australia. 1908' 1908

 

Harry T. Weston (publisher)
Souvenir of the American Fleet’s Visit to the Commonwealth of Australia. 1908
1908
Postcard

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'The U.S.S. Georgia at anchor off Bradley's Head, Sydney Harbour' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
The U.S.S. Georgia at anchor off Bradley’s Head, Sydney Harbour
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'The U.S.S. Georgia at anchor off Bradley's Head, Sydney Harbour' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
The U.S.S. Georgia at anchor off Bradley’s Head, Sydney Harbour (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

“On 20 August 1908 well over half a million Sydneysiders turned out to watch the arrival of the United States (US) Navy’s ‘Great White Fleet’. For a city population of around 600,000 this was no mean achievement. The largest gathering yet seen in Australia, it far exceeded the numbers that had celebrated the foundation of the Commonwealth just seven years before. Indeed, the warm reception accorded the crews of the 16 white-painted battleships during ‘Fleet Week’, was generally regarded as the most overwhelming of any of the ports visited during the 14 month and 45,000 mile global circumnavigation. The NSW Government declared two public holidays, business came to a standstill and the unbroken succession of civic events and all pervading carnival spirit encountered in Sydney (followed by Melbourne and Albany) severely tested the endurance of the American sailors…

One man undoubtedly well pleased with the visit’s success was Australia’s then Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, who had not only initiated the invitation to US President Theodore Roosevelt, but had persisted in the face of resistance from both the British Admiralty and the Foreign Office. By making his initial request directly to American diplomats rather than through imperial authorities Deakin had defied protocol, but he was also taking one of the first steps in asserting Australia’s post-colonial independence. His motives for doing so were complex. He was, after all, a strong advocate for the British Empire and Australia’s place within it, but he also wished to send a clear message to Whitehall that Australians were unhappy with Britain’s apparent strategic neglect.

The security of the nascent Commonwealth might still ultimately depend on the Royal Navy’s global reach, but the ships of the small, rarely seen and somewhat obsolescent Imperial Squadron based in Sydney did not inspire confidence. As an officer in the US flagship, observed during the visit: ‘These vessels were, with the exception of the Powerful [the British flagship], small and unimportant …Among British Officers this is known as the Society Station and by tacit consent little work is done’…

Feeling both isolated and vulnerable, it was easy for the small Australian population to believe that Britain was ignoring its antipodean responsibilities. The 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance (renewed in 1905), which had allowed the Royal Navy to reduce its Pacific presence, did little to alleviate these fears. Remote from the British Empire’s European centre, Australians had no confidence that their interests, and in particular their determination to prevent Asiatic settlement, would be accommodated in imperial foreign policy. Japan’s evident desire for territorial expansion, its decisive naval victory over the Russians at Tsushima in 1905, and its natural expectation of equal treatment for its citizens all seemed to reinforce the need for Australia to explore alternative security strategies.

Staunchly Anglophile, Deakin was not necessarily seeking to establish direct defence ties with the United States, but more than a few elements in Australian society were prepared to see in America the obvious replacement for Britain’s waning regional power. A new and evidently growing presence in the Pacific, the United States possessed a similar cultural heritage and traditions, and as even Deakin took care to note in his letter of invitation: ‘No other Federation in the world possesses so many features [in common with] the United States as does the Commonwealth of Australia’…

No British battleship, let alone a modern fleet, had ever entered Australasian waters. So with the arrival of the American vessels locals were treated to the greatest display of sea power they had even seen. While the public admired the spectacle’s grandeur, for those interested in defence and naval affairs it was an inspiration. This too was a part of Deakin’s plan, for although he was a firm believer in Australia’s maritime destiny, where defence was concerned national priorities still tended towards the completion of land rather than maritime protection. The Prime Minister’s own scheme for an effective local navy was making slow progress, and like Roosevelt he recognised the need to rouse popular support.

In this, the visit of the Great White Fleet played a crucial role, for it necessarily brought broader issues of naval defence to the fore, and made very plain the links between sea power and national development. Americans clearly had a real sense of patriotism and national mission. Having been tested and hardened in a long and bitter civil war they were confident that the United States was predestined to play a great part in the world. Australians, on the other hand, still saw Federation as a novelty and their first allegiance as state-based. One English traveller captured well the prevailing mood. ‘Australia’, he wrote, ‘presents a paradox. There is a breezy buoyant Imperial spirit. But the national spirit, as it is understood elsewhere, is practically non-existent’.

Extracts from Dr David Stevens. “The Great White Fleet’s 1908 Visit To Australia,” on the Royal Australian Navy website [Online] Cited 11/11/2106

 

Sydney, Australia 20 August 1908 28 August 1908
Melbourne, Australia 29 August 1908 5 September 1908
Albany, Australia 11 September 1908 18 September 1908

 

The Fleet, First Squadron, and First Division were commanded by Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry. First Division consisted of Connecticut, the Fleet’s flagship, Captain Hugo Osterhaus, Kansas, Captain Charles E. Vreeland, Minnesota, Captain John Hubbard, and Vermont, Captain William P. Potter.

Second Division consisted of Georgia, the Division flagship, Captain Edward F. Qualtrough, Nebraska, Captain Reginald F. Nicholson, New Jersey, Captain William H.H. Southerland, and Rhode Island, Captain Joseph B. Murdock.

The Second Squadron and Third Division were commanded by Rear Admiral William H. Emory. Third Division consisted of Louisiana, the Squadron flagship, Captain Kossuth Niles, Virginia, Captain Alexander Sharp, Missouri, Captain Robert M. Doyle, and Ohio, Captain Thomas B. Howard.

Fourth Division was commanded by Rear Admiral Seaton Schroeder. Fourth Division consisted of Wisconsin, the Division flagship, Captain Frank E. Beatty, Illinois, Captain John M. Bowyer, Kearsarge, Captain Hamilton Hutchins, and Kentucky, Captain Walter C. Cowles.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

F.H. Boone & Co., 'Untitled [Wicker chair supplied to the American Fleet during their visit]' 1908

 

F.H. Boone & Co
Untitled [Wicker chair supplied to the American Fleet during their visit]
1908
NRS 905, Chief Secretary, Letters Received, 1908 [5/6990]

 

Note the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes on the back of the chair.

 

Police Department, Inspector General's Office, Sydney "URGENT MATTER" 8th September, 1908

 

Police Department, Inspector General’s Office, Sydney
“URGENT MATTER”
8th September, 1908
NRS 905, Chief Secretary, Letters Received, 1908 [5/6995]

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'A magnificent view of the fine battleship U.S.S. Ohio' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
A magnificent view of the fine battleship U.S.S. Ohio
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'A magnificent view of the fine battleship U.S.S. Ohio' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
A magnificent view of the fine battleship U.S.S. Ohio (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Semco Series. 'American Fleet Souvenir Post Card' (front) 1908

Semco Series American Fleet Souvenir Post Card (verso) 1908

 

Semco Series
American Fleet Souvenir Post Card (front and verso)
1908
Postcard

 

C.B & Co. S. 'Australia Welcomes The American Fleet' 1908

 

C.B & Co. S
Australia Welcomes The American Fleet
1908
Postcard

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'The March Past of the Navy at the Review, Centennial Park, Sydney' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
The March Past of the Navy at the Review, Centennial Park, Sydney
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'The March Past of the Navy at the Review, Centennial Park, Sydney' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
The March Past of the Navy at the Review, Centennial Park, Sydney (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'New South Wales mounted infantry at the review, Centennial Park, Sydney' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
New South Wales mounted infantry at the review,  Centennial Park, Sydney
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'New South Wales mounted infantry at the review, Centennial Park, Sydney' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
New South Wales mounted infantry at the review,  Centennial Park, Sydney (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Procession of Metropolitan and Country Fire Brigades, Sydney' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Procession of Metropolitan and Country Fire Brigades, Sydney
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Procession of Metropolitan and Country Fire Brigades, Sydney' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Procession of Metropolitan and Country Fire Brigades, Sydney (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Marines Marching through Martin Place' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Marines Marching through Martin Place, Sydney
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Marines Marching through Martin Place, Sydney' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Marines Marching through Martin Place, Sydney (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Great Naval Parade of American Sailors at Sydney, Australia, August 23, 1908

 

The Great Naval Parade of American Sailors at Sydney, Australia, August 23, 1908
1908
Postcard

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Procession in Sydney' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Procession in Sydney. The Admiral’s Carriage turning out of Martin Place
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Procession in Sydney' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Procession in Sydney. The Admiral’s Carriage turning out of Martin Place (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Children's Flag Drill' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Children’s Flag Drill, Public Schools’ Demonstration, Sydney
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Children's Flag Drill' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Children’s Flag Drill, Public Schools’ Demonstration, Sydney (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Inside Port Phillip Heads, en route to Hobson's Bay, Victoria' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Inside Port Phillip Heads, en route to Hobson’s Bay, Victoria
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

“Victoria pulled out all the stops for ‘Fleet Week’, and records held at Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) show the scale and scope of the welcome: newspaper reporters waxing lyrical about the ‘Turner-esque’ picture of the ships steaming past Dromana; sixteen thousand copies of maps, guide books, railway schedules and souvenir programs printed and distributed to the ships’ crews to guide them around Australia’s biggest city; hundreds of thousands of extra train travellers swarming into Williamstown to see the Fleet, and into Melbourne to meet the sailors; young cadets marching five days from Ballarat to take part in the welcome parade; and of course sailors ‘with a girl on each arm’.

Melburnians laid out the red, white and blue welcome mat for the new Pacific sea power. The records describe months of preparations by state and city officials to celebrate the visit. Suppliers of bunting and decorations rushed to offer their wares, and scores of Victorian town councils, as well as public and private clubs and societies, wrote to beg the State Cabinet American Fleet Reception Committee to consider them when scheduling the official program of events. The Victorian Railways offered cheap excursion trains from country centres, and free travel to the sailors, and carried record numbers of passengers during Fleet Week. Victorians and Americans mingled, as thousands visited the Royal Agricultural Show, where they saw dumbbell and wand exercises by state school students, and flocked to the racing at Flemington, where the Washington Steeplechase and Fleet Trotting Cup were run. The Zoo, the Aquarium and ‘Glacarium’ all offered free entry to visiting sailors.

While country Victoria travelled into the city to meet the sailors, the sailors journeyed out to see the country. At the invitation of a local American citizen, some sailors made the long trip to Mirboo North in East Gippsland, where they saw wood chopping and ‘Aboriginal boomerang throwing’ and took part in foot races (a handsome silver-mounted emu-egg trophy was carried home by the victor) and a tug-of-war. Others travelled to Bendigo and to Ballarat, watching Australian Rules Football and visiting the mines.

In such a flurry of welcome and activity, there were problems, both comic and tragic. The failure of an American officer to pass on an invitation meant that only seven sailors turned up to a reception and dinner at the Exhibition Buildings, where catering had been laid on for 2,800. Two sailors died in train-related accidents, with newspapers quoting a comrade as saying ‘we lose a few in every port’. Spruiking of the state’s liveability was also in evidence. Visitors were proudly told that, in Victoria, ‘All railways … and supplies of water are state-owned’ and that we had ‘Factories Acts and Wage Boards, Pure Food Laws, Compulsory Vaccinations’ and ‘Manhood Suffrage’ – the Fleet had arrived just three months shy of Victoria awarding the vote to women.

This combination of attractions no doubt contributed to the sailors’ view that Melbourne was the ‘best port of call’ in their 14-month, 20-port call, round-the-world voyage. So convinced were the visitors of Victoria’s, and Australia’s, attractions that 221 deserters jumped ship in Melbourne. The USS Kansas stayed on for a number of days after the rest of the Fleet departed for Albany, Western Australia, in part to wait for a mail steamer, but also to collect stragglers. A reward of $10 was advertised for the successful return of each deserter to his ship, but the conditions of the reward were so difficult to meet that no money was ever paid. By the time the Kansas finally weighed anchor and bade farewell to Melbourne, more than half the deserters had been recovered, but about a hundred men remained behind to start a new life.”

Text “Great White Fleet – 105 years on” from the PROV website

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Inside Port Phillip Heads, en route to Hobson's Bay, Victoria' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Inside Port Phillip Heads, en route to Hobson’s Bay, Victoria (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Steaming up Port Phillip Bay, in the direction of Port Melbourne' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Steaming up Port Phillip Bay, in the direction of Port Melbourne
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Steaming up Port Phillip Bay, in the direction of Port Melbourne' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Steaming up Port Phillip Bay, in the direction of Port Melbourne (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

'The People of the Southern Cross Offer Greetings to their Kinsmen of the Stars & Stripes' 1908

 

Wellman & Co., St Kilda (Publisher)
The People of the Southern Cross Offer Greetings to their Kinsmen of the Stars & Stripes
1908
Postcard

 

Visit of the United States Fleet To Melbourne Australia, Sep 1908

 

Visit of the United States Fleet To Melbourne Australia, Sep 1908
1908
Postcard

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'The two 12-inch guns, 'Ben' and 'Jim,' on the U.S. battleship Louisiana' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
The two 12-inch guns, ‘Ben’ and ‘Jim,’ on the U.S. battleship Louisiana
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'The two 12-inch guns, 'Ben' and 'Jim,' on the U.S. battleship Louisiana' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
The two 12-inch guns, ‘Ben’ and ‘Jim,’ on the U.S. battleship Louisiana
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Rear-Admiral Sperry at St. Kilda Pier. Inspection of Naval Brigade' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Rear-Admiral Sperry at St. Kilda Pier. Inspection of Naval Brigade
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Rear-Admiral Sperry at St. Kilda Pier. Inspection of Naval Brigade' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Rear-Admiral Sperry at St. Kilda Pier. Inspection of Naval Brigade (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Military Review, Flemington' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Military Review, Flemington. The Admiral, the Governor, the Prime Minister, &c.
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Military Review, Flemington' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Military Review, Flemington. The Admiral, the Governor, the Prime Minister, &c. (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Souvenir and Official Programme of the visit of the Great White Fleet to Victoria 1908

 

Proprietors of “Punch”, Melbourne Australia (publishers)
Souvenir and Official Programme, American Fleet Reception, Victoria 1908
1908

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Jack Tars at the Military Review, on the Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne' 1908

 

The Rose Stereographs
Jack Tars at the Military Review, on the Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Jack Tars at the Military Review, on the Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Jack Tars at the Military Review, on the Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Jack Tar

Jack Tar (also JacktarJack-tar or Tar) was a common English term originally used to refer to seamen of the Merchant or Royal Navy, particularly during the period of the British Empire. By World War I the term was used as a nickname for those in the U.S. Navy. Both members of the public, and seafarers themselves, made use of the name in identifying those who went to sea. It was not used as a pejorative and sailors were happy to use the term to label themselves. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

The Rose Stereographs. 'Jack Tars at the Military Review, on the Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne' 1908 (detail)

 

The Rose Stereographs
Jack Tars at the Military Review, on the Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (detail)
1908
From the series The American Fleet in Australia
Stereocard
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

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30
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Greatest Wonder of the World’ at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 23rd Feb 2013 – 12th May 2013

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Another fascinating posting, this time featuring Australian colonial photography. In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. All negatives have now been scanned at high resolution and for the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss (from the American & Australasian Photographic Company) photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity. “Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world.”

What I find particularly interesting is the familiarity of all photographs of goldfields from around the world, whether it be Californian or Victorian – the working class men, the pictures of diggings, etc… but also the particular Australian vernacular that these photographs possess. The photographs could be taken no where else but Australia. Observe the abject poverty of some of the shopkeepers – draper, blacksmith, bootmaker and undertaker (who also acted as carpenter, joiner, builder and cabinet maker) – the timber clad facade of their buildings failing to conceal the bark structure behind (see Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong, 1872 below). And yet in their poverty they still thought it important to spend money on advertising with wonderful examples of distinctive typography that I have highlighted in detail – on the photographers, bakers and tent makers shops, on the undertakers facade replete with horses and funeral carriage, and on the painters and sign writers bark clad establishment. Contemporary typographers could have a field day studying these photographs for new typefaces!

Notice in the detail wonderful things:

The roughness of a man’s hand as they stand in front of their loot, the gold specimens;
The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town;
The riding crop tucked under the arm of one of the detectives;
The flour that covers the bakers shoes;
The decorative wallpaper hanging outside the painter and signwriters shack, the word ‘Sacred’ on top of the mirror, and his name ‘J.H. Osborne Painter No.2’ emblazoned on the side of his ladder.

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Of particular poignancy is the way the undertaker William Lewis leans in the entrance of his establishment. Propped up against the door (to stop himself from moving during the exposure), his hands stiffly by his side, his eyes stare straight ahead as though he is in a trance. In the photograph he has almost become the corpse that it is his business to bury. We must also acknowledge the temporary nature of these gold field towns, their unsubstantial character and the transitory life of the people that lived and died in them. Bootmaker William Holmes’ wife passed away a few months after the photograph of her family was taken. It was a tough life living on a frontier town. We can also note how desolate the major cities seem, as can be seen in photographs of Sandridge [Port Melbourne] and Pall Mall, Bendigo, with the odd carriage on the street and a single man standing on a street corner.

This is such a rich photographic collection and to have all the negatives digitised and available online is such a pleasure, such a treasure for Australian photographers, historians, researchers and the general public who, with an inquiring mind, can begin to understand the colonisation and conquest of this never empty country.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the State Library of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

“The State Library of NSW’s world-renowned photographic archive, the Holtermann collection, will be officially included on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register at a ceremony in May 2013… The Australian UNESCO Memory of the World program is part of an international initiative, which aims to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity and recognise the significance of all heritage materials… Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world. The campaign was funded by German-born entrepreneur, Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, who made his fortune from mining in Hill End. For the first time 100 amazing large format prints from the Holtermann collection are on show [until 12 May] in the State Library’s free exhibition, The Greatest Wonder of the World.”

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Beaufoy Merlin. 'Short Street, Hill End' 1872

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Beaufoy Merlin
Short Street, Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 5/No. 18504

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Hill End in 1872 was a gold town at its peak. According to the Empire 7 June 1872, “The streets were thronged by a motley crowd; the stores and places of business crowded with customers; the little theatre so densely packed by an admiring audience, that there was not what is facetiously called ‘standing room,’ and even the public-houses, whose name is legion, were crammed. Yet I saw less, far less, drunkenness than can be met with in any street in the metropolis after 10 o’clock at night. There were very few inebriates, no filthy dishevelled women, no crouching loafers, no abject vice. The general aspect of the crowds of decently dressed folk who thronged ‘The Hill’ was that of respectability – rough indeed in many respects, and loud and noisy too, in some instances, but not disreputable, and altogether good-humoured.”

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American & Australasian. 'Photographic Company Hawkins Hill 'Golden Quarter Mile'' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. C

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This panorama of Hawkins Hill was taken by Beaufoy Merlin, who erected his camera in a tree more than a kilometre away across a gully nearly 300 metres deep. In the centre of the image is Krohmann’s mine, with the twin buildings and two storied structure of Beyers and Holtermann’s immediately to the left of it. These two mines contributed to the 12.4 tonnes of gold extracted from Hawkins Hill, but such are the vagaries of goldmining, that Rapp’s, on the extreme right, returned little to its investors, despite digging to a depth of over 380 feet [115 metres]. An almost identical view of the Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’ taken by Merlin appeared as an engraving in the Australian Town and Country Journal 18 May 1872.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

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A month before discovery of the 286 kg Holtermann “nugget” [estimated to hold around 93kg of gold], Bernhardt Holtermann (second from left) Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Louis Beyers (fourth from left) posed with 3,663 ozs [114 kg] of gold specimens from their claim. The specimens were described in The Sydney Morning Herald 28 September 1872 ; “To say they were good would be to say but little – they were almost without rival – magnificent – the talk of this town, where specimens are not unknown.” Holtermann took the best to the Sydney Mint for smelting, “as being clotted with gold it would be almost impossible to crush it in the ordinary way.” The item of clothing on the floor to the right is Beyer’s waistcoat.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'A domestic miner [Hill End]' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
A domestic miner [Hill End]
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 10/No. 70154

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Thomas Browne (better known as Rolf Boldrewood) was Gold Commissioner in Gulgong, during the period of Merlin and Bayliss’s photographs. Although this photograph was taken in Hill End, Boldrewood’s description of the domestic miner in his novel The Miners Right seems universal. “The thrifty miner who possesses the treasure, not less common on Australian goldfields than in other places, of a cleanly managing wife, is enabled to surround himself with rural privileges. A plot of garden ground, well fenced, grows not only vegetables but flowers, which a generation since were only to be found in conservatories… the domestic miner is often seen surrounded by his children, hoeing up his potatoes or cauliflowers, or training the climbing rose which beautifies his rude but by no means despicable dwelling.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

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The American and Australasian Photographic Company established a studio in Tambaroora Street, Hill End in 1872. Beaufoy Merlin’s assistant Charles Bayliss stands, hands in pockets, in the doorway, with studio operator James Clinton behind him. Beside the door is a frame containing large photographic views of Sydney, including the General Post Office and harbour.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Blacksmith William Jenkyns' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Blacksmith William Jenkyns
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 7/No. 18715

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William Jenkyns’ blacksmith and shoeing forge was situated in Clarke Street, Hill End. The condition of roads around Hill End ensured Jenkyns was busy. A correspondent to The Sydney Morning Herald 23 May 1872 wrote of the road between Bathurst and Hill End, “For miles at a stretch there is nothing to indicate that any money has been spent upon the road for years, and it is doubtful whether any portion of it has ever been properly made.” On 3 December 1872 another wrote, “I think I have travelled the worst of roads; for the sake of humanity, I hope there are none worse than those I have travelled.” Despite a superficial resemblance, the man on the right is not B.O. Holtermann.

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Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?] 'Holtermann's Life Preserving Drops' 1872

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Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?]
Holtermann’s Life Preserving Drops
1872
Poster

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There is no doubt that Bernhardt Otto Holtermann understood the importance and value of maintaining his association with the world’s largest specimen of reef gold. Unable to purchase the monster quartz and gold specimen when it was extracted from the Star of Hope mine in Tambaroora in 1872, he commissioned the American and Australasian Photographic Company to produce a photographic montage of him standing beside it. Photographers Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss seem to have carried out this assignment on more than one occasion, as Holtermann wears different clothing in the several known examples of the image.

Obviously pleased with the result, Holtermann used the montage on his business card and on the label to a patent medicine bearing his name. As an advertising ploy, the image of Holtermann resting his hand on the world’s largest hunk of gold can only have been interpreted as a symbol of success and a guarantee of the worth of his product. (Alan Davies author)

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B.O.-Holtermann-with-the-Holtermann-Nugget-WEB

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
B.O. Holtermann with the Holtermann Nugget, North Sydney
1874-1876?

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During the 1870’s goldrush in central New South Wales, Bernard Holtermann, his partners and miners brought the largest agglomeration of gold to the surface. It was not a nugget of pure gold but he was instantly rich! An even larger gold find was broken up when it came to the surface in late January-early February 1873 but it was not photographed. With his wealth Holtermann financed the photography of the goldfields, a collection of international significance showing the ordinary people from all over the world with their houses and businesses on the goldfields. This composite photograph was put together later to give the appearance of Holtermann with the gold on the veranda of his new mansion at North Sydney, now the site of Shore Grammar School.

Three photographs were used to create this image of Holtermann, (supposedly holding the worlds’ largest accumulation of rock and gold ever brought to the surface in one piece). He was posed in the studio with his hand on a headclamp, the nugget was inserted and both placed on a photograph of the verandah of his mansion, built from the proceeds of his goldmine. The “nugget” was found in Hill End, New South Wales on 19th October 1872. More than half of the 630 lbs weight was pure gold, value 12,000 pounds ($24,000). With gold worth say $1400 per ounce, the value today would be over $A7,000,000. Amazingly Holtermann’s mine had already made him rich before the discovery of this boulder and there was reputed to be an even larger aggregate in the mine!

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“In 1872, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Henry Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss, of the American and Australasian (A&A) Photographic Company, to photograph gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. These images provide the most comprehensive and detailed record of nineteenth century goldfields life and, with the commissioned photographs, now form the Library’s Holtermann archive of 3500 wet plate negatives. The Greatest Wonder of the World features this extraordinary collection of nineteenth century documentary images. Through enlargements, digital images and a selection of vintage prints and wet plate negatives, the exhibition tells the remarkable story of the A&A Photographic Company and the philanthropy and vision of Bernhardt Holtermann.

In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. The photographers responsible for the images were Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss of the American and Australasian Photographic Company, who had travelled to the town of Hill End in 1872 to record the rush. From there, they also recorded the burgeoning Gulgong and Mudgee goldfields.

In October 1872, the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, known as the Holtermann nugget, was unearthed at nearby Hawkins Hill and Merlin and Bayliss were there to record it. In an extraordinary act of patronage, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Merlin and Bayliss to photograph other gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. Proud of his own success, he believed that his travelling exposition would encourage immigration to Australia.  Merlin and Bayliss’s documentation was slow, with long exposures and the difficulty of processing one photograph at a time. Their wet plate negatives captured exceptional detail, but copies made in the twentieth century failed to reveal the wealth of information hidden within.

In 2008, plans were made to digitally scan the Holtermann Collection at very high resolution and this became reality through the generous assistance of the Graham and Charlene Bradley Foundation; Simon and Catriona Mordant; Geoffrey and Rachel O’Conor; Morningstar and numerous other benefactors. For the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity.”

Press release from the State Library of New South Wales website

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante', Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]' Aug 1873

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship ‘Atalante’, Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]
Aug 1873

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This photograph of the French warship Atalante in Fitzroy Dock on Cockatoo Island, with Balmain in the background, was taken in August 1873. Built in 1865, the iron clad Atalante had a protruding brass bow for ramming lesser vessels. It had taken part in the Franco Prussian War in 1870 and at the time of this photograph was the flagship of the Pacific Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Baron Roussin. Beaufoy Merlin was particularly pleased with his photographs of the Atalante and wrote about them in the Town and Country Journal.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante' at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]' 1873

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship ‘Atalante’ at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]
1873

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“… One of the solar pictures which I took on the occasion of my last visit to the Atalante, of which an engraving accompanies the present pen-and-ink sketch, is taken  from the rocks to the north-west, and shows her “ram,” with its massive projecting extremity of solid brass, her swelling sides, portholes, section of the dock, and men at work. The steps to the bottom of the basin as well as [its depth], are fairly indicated. Probably there is no one more difficult to please in procuring a picture of this kind than the landscape photographer himself. I may therefore be permitted to say in behalf of the one referred to, that it gave me satisfaction.”

Sadly, these images of Atalante were among the last photographs taken by Merlin. He contracted pneumonia and died, age 43, in September 1873.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[Merlin's photographic cart ?] and Mitchell's London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]' 1870-1875

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[Merlin’s photographic cart?] and Mitchell’s London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]
1870-1875

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes' Chemist Shop, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes’ Chemist Shop, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18242

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The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town has been captured in this view of Herbert Street, Gulgong. According to the Empire 28 May 1872 “The streets – so to call the dusty avenues between the rows of shops and Inns – are thronged in the daytime, by much about the same number, though not, apparently by the same sort of persons, as the streets in Sydney. There is not the same bustling activity about them… There are also fewer women amongst them, and fewer well dressed men. The yellow, clay-stained fustian trousers which have never made and never will make acquaintance with the wash-tub, invest the lower extremities of every two men out of three…”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18160

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The Medical Hall of Charles Bird Jnr was situated at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets, Gulgong. Charles Bird Snr. conducted another shop at the corner of Mayne and Herbert Streets, until the Medical Hall was sold and converted into a hotel in 1879. The Gulgong Guardian 20 November 1872 noted that Charles Bird had received a new disinfectant “which will be invaluable during the summer months to all who are unfortunate enough to live in those parts of town where stenches are pungent and plentiful.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett's store, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18314

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This timber clad facade fails to conceal the bark structure behind and the poverty of its inhabitants. This is Gulgong bootmaker William Holmes and his family outside their shop in Mayne Street west. His wife Emily, in the doorway, died a few months after the photograph was taken. The town’s short-term architecture was described in The Sydney Morning Herald 30 September 1872. “Gulgong is not singular in its buildings. The followers of alluvial rushes have ere this found that business is fleeting. As leads work out so does business tide away. Hence have we buildings of a temporary nature; and, although the town of Gulgong may be reckoned three years old, yet not a single brick building stands on its site…”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

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These are detectives Charles Powell and Robert Hannan, outside their Gulgong office. They had plenty to do. In a letter to the editor of the Maitland Mercury 16 May 1872, William Collins stated “The people (except the bankers and storekeepers), are in general a rough and ready set, occasionally a fight is to be seen, but the very diligent police speedily settle such hostile engagements, by marching the pugilists to a place called the town cage, from which place they are brought in the morning before the magistrate, who has often heard of mercy, but does not know what it means…” Powell and Hannan arrested 14 Chinese for gambling in January 1872 and the Empire 20 January 1872 noted, “In all these cases the lawyers reap a rich harvest, and it was somewhat amusing to witness their actively and interest within ten minutes of the time of arrest.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

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American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

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The establishment of William Thomas Lewis, Undertaker and Carpenter at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets was primitive, but his funerals were said to be carried out ‘with his usual taste and completeness’. In 1871, Gulgong lacked a suitable place for burials and the Gulgong Guardian commented several times on the growing outcry for a cemetery. The locals had a valid complaint, particularly because of the considerable mortality rate among the young. In April 1871 alone, nine children died in a fortnight. Even Thomas De Courcy Brown, editor of the Guardian, lost his daughter Rose, age 7 months, in December that year. In January 1872, there were 37 deaths in Gulgong, (including 21 children under 5 years) and 17 births. The newspaper complained that the new cemetery was still unfenced.

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American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

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J.H. Osborne, painter & signwriter of Gulgong also supplied decorative wallpaper. It seems he painted faux marble headstones as well. Osborne’s bark clad establishment was located at 2 Medley Street, at the sparsely populated northern end of town, which explains the prominent display of his sign writing skill. The Empire 28 May 1872 commented on the temporary nature of buildings in Gulgong. “The shops and public-houses are, for the most part, of a very temporary and unsubstantial character, considered as buildings. A large proportion of them are capable of being removed, piecemeal, and set up again on a new diggings in the event of Gulgong declining in prosperity, and a rush taking place to another field within a day or two’s journey.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

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“A meeting between gold miner Bernard Otto Holtermann and photographer Beaufoy Merlin in Hill End in 1872 resulted in one of the most astonishing photographic documentations ever undertaken. Holtermann had been associated with the recent discovery of the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, weighing 145 kilograms, extracted from the Star of Hope mine at nearby Tambaroora. Merlin, an itinerant photographer, had just opened a temporary studio in Hill End. In January 1873, the two announced their plans for Holtermann’s great International Travelling Exposition, which would publicise the potential of their adopted country to the world through photography.
Merlin and his assistant Charles Bayliss had already photographed some of the gold producing towns of the colony and Holtermann’s patronage enabled them to continue the undertaking, using a larger camera.

Merlin had begun his photographic career in Victoria in 1866 and within a few years had developed a unique style of outdoor photography. Charles Bayliss joined American & Australasian Photographic Company in Melbourne and the pair headed north into New South Wales, photographing towns along the way. When Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss arrived in Sydney in September 1870, they had already completed an extraordinary documentation of “almost every house in Melbourne, and the other towns in Victoria.” They were aware that their venture was unusual and contemporary advertising by the American & Australasian Photographic Company reflects a considered understanding of the photographic medium and an intellectual approach to their work.

“The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of the Company’s style of work, is the introduction of figures into the photograph – the most complete and life-like portraits of individuals who happen, or may choose to stand outside, being incorporated in the picture. The A&A Photographic Company desire further to remind the public that these negatives are not taken for the mere immediate object of sale, but that being registered, copies can at all times be had by or of those parties residing in any part of the colonies wherever the Company’s operations have extended, thus forming a novel means of social and commercial intercourse.”

Nevertheless, it is not surprising that Merlin and Bayliss headed west in 1872 with the new gold rushes. The cry “Rush-O!” meant money for businesses, including photographers. A studio for the A&A Photographic Company was built on land owned by Holtermann in Hill End and excursions were made to surrounding areas by horse drawn caravan. The photographic process of the day required the photographer coat each plate just before use and develop it immediately before it lost sensitivity. For the itinerant photographer, this meant taking a portable darkroom wherever he went. Despite the difficulty of the wet plate process, the comprehensive goldfields photography of Merlin and Bayliss has provided a unique documentation of frontier life.

Merlin fell ill and died from pneumonia in 1873, leaving his assistant the task of documenting towns for Holtermann’s Exposition. Consequently, Bayliss toured Victoria the following year, but returned to Sydney in 1875 and began making giant panoramas of the city from Holtermann’s house in North Sydney. The venture was to cost Holtermann over ₤4000, but resulted in the production of the world’s largest wet-plate negatives and several panoramas. One, measuring 10 metres long, astonished audiences overseas and received the Bronze award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and a Silver Medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle Internationale in 1878. Only a small percentage of the A&A Photographic Company’s output has survived, but 3,500 small format wet plates negatives (including extensive coverage of the towns of Hill End and Gulgong) and the world’s largest wet plate negatives, measuring a massive 1 x 1.5 metres, are held by the Library.”

Text from The Holtermann Collection website

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Charles Bayliss. 'The beginning of Home Rule' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
The beginning of Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18278

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Home Rule, 11 km south-east of Gulgong, was only two months old when Charles Bayliss took this photograph. A reporter from the Gulgong Guardian was also in town and wrote on 13 July 1872, “During the past fortnight there has been a great improvement for the better in the appearance of the township at the Home Rule. Large and costly buildings are springing up in every direction and being fitted up for almost every trade. In hotels there is a great change for the better, as in several of them notably Messrs Wright, Moss, and Oliver, the accommodation is almost equal to any on Gulgong; so visitors need not fear that they will suffer hunger or thirst.”

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Charles Bayliss. 'Tent city, Home Rule' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
Tent city, Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18285

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In the early days of gold rushes, miners usually lived in tents. Here tentmaker J. Booth has confidently set up his canvas shop in Home Rule. The burgeoning new field was described in the Sydney Morning Herald 22 May 1872, “On Friday last there must have been fully fifteen hundred persons upon the ground, and tents and habitations of every description were springing, apparently Iike mushrooms, from the ground, and such is the rapidity with which a gold-fields town is formed, I shall not be surprised to see the place well supplied with stores, and, of course, hotels, when I again visit the place about a fortnight hence.”

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Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
John Davey, baker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

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With his shoes covered in flour, John Davey steps outside his bakery in the main street of Canadian Lead. Bread cost 6d a 2lb [5 cents per 900g] loaf. The woman and children to the right also appear outside Ruth Beck’s North Star Hotel, three doors away. The rush to Canadian Lead began in early 1872 and the Maitland Mercury 6 April 1872 was able to state “the Canadian Lead, where a month ago some four hundred people were, can now boast of a couple of thousands…” Not everyone was law-abiding. The Maitland Mercury 24 August 1872 related the story of Mrs Beck dropping a purse containing £21 [$42, worth about $2000 today], which was picked up by her little boy, but taken from him by two men claiming that it was theirs. The miscreants were arrested in Mudgee two days later, drinking the profits.

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Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872 (detail)

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Charles Bayliss
John Davey, baker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

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Beaufoy Merlin. 'Circular Quay from Dawes Battery' 1873

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Beaufoy Merlin
Circular Quay from Dawes Battery
1873
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 58/No. 285

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In mid 1873, Beaufoy Merlin returned to Sydney to continue photographing the city for Holtermann. The Sydney Morning Herald 2 August 1873 noted, “Mr. Beaufoy Merlin has taken a considerable number of photographic views of Sydney for the first section of ‘Holtermann’s Intercolonial Exposition.'” This image from Dawes Battery, past Campbell’s Wharf to Circular Quay can be dated to early September 1873, as the Haddon Hall (r) from London, is loading for San Francisco at Campbell’s wharf. Behind it is Aviemore and the ship in background in front of Customs House is La Hogue. Both Aviemore and La Hogue left for London on 13 September 1873.

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Charles Bayliss [American & Australasian Photographic Company]. 'Pall Mall, Bendigo' 1874

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Charles Bayliss [American & Australasian Photographic Company]
Pall Mall, Bendigo
1874
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 78/No. 2

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After the death of Beaufoy Merlin in 1873, Bernhardt Holtermann engaged Merlin’s assistant, 24 year-old Charles Bayliss, to continue taking photographs for his planned Exposition. This view of Pall Mall from Hadley’s City Family Hotel, Sandhurst [Bendigo, Victoria] was taken in April 1874. Bayliss photographed the town using the Exposition’s standard 10 x 12 inch [25 x 30cm] glass negatives, but for this image used a mammoth camera specially imported by Holtermann which took glass plates measuring 18 x 22 inches [46 x 56cm]. Bayliss also photographed Ballarat in June 1874, using the mammoth camera to produce a panorama from the town hall clock tower.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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