First NZ Exhibition 1865

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Recent donations to the Hocken Library include three of the most significant images to come into the Photographs Collection over the last decade. They are interior views of New Zealand’s first international exhibition held in Dunedin in 1865. The sight of the main exhibition building which afterwards became the central block of the Dunedin Hospital has long formed a useful marker for dating early photographs of Dunedin city but modern researchers will delight in these views of the exhibits themselves.

Gifted by a descendant of Alfred Eccles, the main organiser of the exhibition and his son of the same name who wrote an account of the venture in 1925, the glass plate negatives came with labelled wrappings in the son’s hand and are obviously early twentieth century copies of original albumen prints. A fourth glass plate (figure 1) of the exterior of the main building, which was reproduced in the 1925 publication, bears the name of the photographer, J.W. Allen.

Figure 1

Figure 2 was taken just inside the main entrance and shows clocks and pianos in the Otago Court. These were mostly imported goods but the display did include the work of Dunedin inventor, Arthur Beverley, who won praise from the exhibition jurors for his ‘highly ingenious self-winding atmospheric clock’ (Eccles, p. 9) – nowadays on show in the Physics Department of the University of Otago and possibly to be seen here in the far corner in a slightly different case. Unfortunately the photograph does not include a view of the 21-feet high gilded obelisk which first greeted visitors, representing the 1,749,511 ounces of gold that had been exported from the colony up to the end of 1864 (Eccles, p.8).

Figure 2

Figure 3 is of the Furniture Court looking toward the Museum section on the Gallery Floor. The paper hangings offer a valuable sample of wallpaper designs that were fashionable at the time. The museum, organised by Provincial Geologist James Hector, included ‘Rock, minerals, fossils, birds, woods, dried plants, plans, sections, drawings and other objects arranged principally to illustrate the Geology and Natural History of Otago in 15 cases and a wall shelf’ (exhibition catalogue, p.56).

Figure 3

Figure 4 was labelled the Hawkes Bay Court but the display of Maori taonga does not correspond with the list of items in the published catalogue. While Ngati Kahungunu chiefs Karaitiana and Tareha and Pakeha collectors including Donald McLean contributed objects like taiaha and a waka named ‘Takitumu’, the three mere pounamu and hat described in the catalogue as ‘1 Native Mourning Head Dress’ answer only to Sir George Grey’s collection represented in the Auckland Court. High up on the wall samples of Grey’s fern collection may also be visible though again, there were others who contributed similar items for the display.

Figure 4

These newly acquired glass plate negatives add to the archival record of the 1865 exhibition already held in the Hocken and may now be used to illustrate future accounts of this historic event.

Post prepared by Assistant Curator of Photographs, Anna Petersen June 2011

Curious letterheads and billheads #1

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 | Anna Blackman | 1 Comment

Every now and then, often in an obscure part of the archives collections, I come across one of those ornate old letterheads or billheads so many businesses used to have. These often show the printers’ great artistry and skill, and intriguingly encapsulate the identities of businesses in a way that might now be considered to be branding.

Here’s one of my favourites. Dated 31 May 1898, it’s for W. Evans & Co. and depicts the mills which produced ‘Crown’ brand flour in Dunedin and ‘Atlas’ brand flour in Timaru. The design and engraving work by Dunedin firm Fergusson & Mitchell is elaborate. Sheaves of wheat curl around to form an imaginative border, and the perspectives of the buildings have a wonderful naivety to them. The address for telegrams is given (‘Evans’) and the Timaru mill has the easy-to-remember telephone number ‘5’. In front of the Dunedin building are horses and carts loaded with bags of flour. The Timaru mill was next to the railway line, so an engine and wagons can be seen.

These were roller mills, then a recent development in New Zealand, which used cylindrical rollers for grinding rather than traditional grindstones. Timaru’s Atlas mill, designed for Evans & Co. by Dunedin architect James Hislop, opened with this latest equipment in 1888. Dunedin’s Crown mill had been built for Anderson & Mowat in 1867 and converted to a roller mill for R. Anderson & Co. in 1891. Additions to the buildings at this time were also designed by Hislop. This mill was taken over by Evans & Co. in 1896. The managing director, William Evans, had begun his career in New Zealand as a storekeeper on the goldfields, having arrived from Victoria with the rush to Gabriel’s Gully in 1861.

Both mill buildings, although they no longer produce flour, remain prominent landmarks in Timaru and Dunedin.

Blog post prepared by David Murray, Assistant Archivist. Billhead found in Preston family papers (MS-0615/004).