Letters of antifascist and biochemist Marianne Angermann to her parents published

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Marianne Bielschowsky, photographed in Brussels, 1939. MS-1493/036, Bielschowsky papers.

On this blog we last met Marianne Bielschowsky (nee Angermann) as the author of a delicious cake recipe in this post by Ali Clarke.

On the day that the cake was made and served to Hocken staff I was unfortunately a little late to morning tea and missed out, all I could do was scrape some of the scrummy custard butter cream filling from the plate!

So today it is especially sweet to say I’m delighted that thanks to the efforts of our colleagues in the Languages and Cultures Programme that some of Marianne’s letters to her parents are now easily available online for researchers to access and that more will be available soon in subsequent issues of the journal.

The letters have been transcribed from old German script (Deutsche Schrift or Kurrentschrift) to modern script and then translated from German to English. The first tranche of the letters are published in issue 29 of the open journal Otago German Studies.

At least these transcriptions and translations will last longer than the cake!

The work has been completed by Dr Peter Barton in collaboration with Dr August Obermayer.

The story of Marianne and her husband Franz Bielschowsky’s lives as biochemical and cancer researchers parallels the upheavals and difficulties of the early 20th century Europe.

A detailed biographical introduction and detailed annotations have been provided with the translations to provide historical context. Briefly Marianne was born and trained as a biochemist in Germany at a time when it was unusual for women to study science at University. After graduating she worked in Germany, and then traveled to Spain in early 1936.  There she was reunited with her soon to be husband Franz Bielschowsky who had left Germany in 1933 as persecution of Jewish people escalated. Franz and Marianne had positions at the University of Madrid but were soon caught up in the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War. After three years they left Spain for Sheffield in England, and in 1948 came to Dunedin where Franz had been appointed Director of Cancer Research.

 

Secret business: Cablegram codes

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and written by Dr Ali Clarke, Archives Collections Assistant.

The installation of a submarine cable between Wakapuaka (near Nelson) and New South Wales in 1876 brought a new world of communication to New Zealand. People had already been able to send telegraph messages for a few years within the country. The first telegraph line appeared in 1862, linking Lyttelton and Christchurch, and in 1866 a cable went in under Cook Strait, linking the South and North Islands. Auckland was connected to points south by 1872. Once the new line to Australia opened, New Zealanders could send cablegrams around the world across an extensive network of overland wires and undersea cables.

Specimen messages from Bentley’s Complete Phrase Code, 7th reprint of 1st edition (London: E.L. Bentley, 1921). From Briscoe & Co Ltd archives, MS-3300/117

This new form of communication was taken up with alacrity by government, news agencies and business. Meteorology services were important early users which had promoted the installation of the trans-Tasman cable – the cabling of weather data enabled more accurate weather forecasts. International news arrived in New Zealand more promptly. Before 1876 it had been cabled to Australia, then sent on to New Zealand by ship. For businesses involved in imports and exports, and the many with head offices or branches in other countries, the new speedy communication improved efficiency.

The route taken by a cablegram from London to Auckland, from Clutha Leader, 9 March 1876. Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

There were a couple of drawbacks to the use of cablegrams. First, they were expensive – the initial cost of a cable to Britain was 15 shillings per word (equivalent to about $120 in today’s money), though the price came down over time. Second, there were issues with confidentiality. Messages were seen by telegraph operators at both sending and receiving ends, as they translated the words and numbers into the dots and dashes of Morse code. Worse, messages might be intercepted en route: for instance, during the US Civil War of the 1860s, both Union and Confederate sides tapped each other’s telegraph messages.

People soon developed various encryption methods, which helped overcome both these disadvantages. Phrases could be made into a single word, making messages shorter and cheaper. Coding systems also made messages more secure. I became interested in these codes while working with some of the business archives at the Hocken – several of these include code books.

A generic code book such as Bentley’s Complete Phrase Code could be used for phrases or entire messages that weren’t highly sensitive. First published in London in 1907, Bentley’s converted phrases or individual words into 5-letter codes. Two of the 5-letter codes could then be combined into 10-letter ‘words’ to reduce the total words and make the message even cheaper to send. For example, the message “Market dull with downward tendency. Political complications disturbing business” could be sent with two ‘words’: jykacofklo enzdebienc. We hold a 1921 copy in the archives of Briscoe & Co Ltd. Another similar system was Kendall’s Verbatim and Phrase Code. We hold a copy of this in the archives of NMA Co of NZ Ltd.

Part of the introduction to Kendall’s Phrase and Verbatim Code (1921). From the archives of NMA Company of New Zealand Ltd, MS-4856/126.

Codes like Bentley’s and Kendall’s used letter combinations that looked like gobbledegook, but others used real words. Their code books had alphabetical lists of words, matched to the terms to be coded. We have several examples of these in our archives and published collections – they are all codes specifically designed for particular businesses. Businesses developed private codes to replace or supplement the published code systems, in order to increase relevance and confidentiality. Examples of those using real words are Dunedin sharebrokers’ Sievwright Bros codes relating to investment and mining stocks, the New Zealand Railways code for messages between railway offices; and Shaw, Savill & Albion Co’s private telegraphic code for its shipping business.

From Sievwright Bros. & Co. Stock and Sharebrokers, Dunedin, Telegraphic Code for Investment & Mining Stocks (Dunedin: Mills, Dick & Co, c.1905).

Because the private codes were specific to a particular business, they were able to include long phrases in just one word. For example, in Shaw, Savill & Albion’s code, ‘pained’ translated as ‘At what price can you purchase Live Cattle of prime quality, suitable for freezing?’. In railway code, ‘briar’ stood for ‘Two-berth cabin for man and wife; if not available, reserve two seats together in first-class non-smoker. Will not accept berths in separate cabins.’ At Sievwright Bros, ‘ace’ meant ‘Buy for me when you think the market has bottomed’.

Codes for vessels’ destinations in Shaw, Savill & Albion Company, Limited, Private Telegraphic Code – No. 2. (London, 1890), from NMA Company of New Zealand Ltd records, MS-4856/124.

Some businesses went further with their private codes, so a single letter meant something. Their messages had a fixed format. A good example is the Dunedin importing company F. Meredith and Co. Ltd, which had individual codes for many different overseas firms. The illustrations below show the code they used for communicating with Messrs Vishram Khimji,  Bombay. A lot of information could thus be conveyed with just one ‘word’. Note that they mixed this private code with one of the standard codes for messaging prices.

The private code used between importers F. Meredith & Co Ltd, Dunedin and exporter Messrs Vishram Khimji, Bombay. From F. Meredith & Co Ltd records, AG-265-13/002.

Page 2 private code used between importers F. Meredith & Co Ltd, Dunedin and exporter Messrs Vishram Khimji, Bombay. From F. Meredith & Co Ltd records, AG-265-13/002.

Another feature was the ‘condensor’, which converted 13 numbers, each with a specific meaning according to a private code, into 10 letters, or one cablegram ‘word’. Again, there are some good examples of this in the F. Meredith and Co. archives.

Of course secret codes could be useful for dubious as well as legal business, and reports appeared from time to time in local newspapers about discoveries of these, from Russian railway thieves with insiders informing them of valuable consignments with a special telegraphic code[1] (1909) to international drug dealers operating out of Shanghai with their own code[2] (1925). In 1912 a court case revealed that English suffragettes had their own telegraphic code where cabinet ministers and others were coded as trees and plants, and protest plans as birds.[3]

Whatever code was used, care needed to be taken to get it correct. Mistakes could be disastrous. In 1926 an unnamed New Zealand firm ordered from Calcutta 5000 bales of 50 woolpacks, when they intended to order 5000 woolpacks. They ended up with 50 years worth of supply, and other businesses had difficulty getting freight space from Asia because of the ‘exceptional cargo of woolpacks’.[4]

Thanks to Fletcher Trust Archives for permission to share items from the archives of NMA Company of New Zealand Ltd held in the Hocken Collections.

Notes

[1] Wairarapa Age, 21 July 1909.

[2] Waikato Times, 29 June 1925.

[3] Clutha Leader, 3 May 1912.

[4] Press, 5 July 1926.

References

Edward H. Freeman, ‘The telegraph and personal privacy: a historical and legal perspective’, EDP Audit, Control and Security Newsletter, 46: 6 (2012), 9-20.

A.C. Wilson, ‘Telecommunications – Early telegraphy and telegrams’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 2010. https://teara.govt.nz/en/telecommunications/page-1

A.C. Wilson Wire and Wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987 (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1997).

National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

 

Stirring up the stacks #4 – a “delicious cake from better times”

Sunday, May 19th, 2019 | Hocken Collections | 2 Comments

Post cooked up by Ali Clarke, Collections Assistant, Archives

When we started this challenge of testing recipes we had found in the Hocken stacks, I immediately thought of the archives of scientists Franz and Marianne Bielschowsky, whose lives took several unexpected paths. Marianne’s recipe books – some handwritten, some full of clippings and some published – are mostly in German, so that added to the challenge! My German language skills are pretty basic, but with the help of a good dictionary and a fluent German speaker I was able to figure out the technical instructions in my chosen recipe.

The cover of Marianne Bielschowsky’s book, ‘Ein Bilder-Koch-Buch’ (an illustrated cook book), compiled c.1946, MS-1493/027, Bielschowsky papers.

 My attention was grabbed by Marianne Bielschowsky’s handwritten heading “Leckere Kuchen aus besseren Zeiten!” for some printed recipes she pasted into one of her recipe clippings books. This translates as “Delicious cakes from better times!” That has a poignancy which reflects the times – the clippings book was probably compiled about 1946, when she was living in England. A cake like this, featuring butter, sugar and 6 eggs, would have been beyond the capacity of most people during rationing – when an adult’s weekly rations were 2oz of butter, 8oz of sugar and 1 egg. No doubt this distinctly German recipe also served as a reminder of a happy childhood there.

Recipe for Frankfurter Kranz, pasted into ‘Ein Bilder-Koch-Buch’, MS-1493/027, Bielschowsky papers.

I’ve written about the Bielschowskys previously, in a post about the Spanish Civil War for the University of Otago 150 years history blog. Franz Bielschowsky (1902-1965), the son of a distinguished German neurologist, was dismissed from his position as a medical researcher in Dusseldorf early in 1933 because he was Jewish, and fled to Amsterdam. In 1934 he relocated to Madrid, where he became a lecturer in the medical faculty; in 1935 he was appointed director of the biochemistry department of the new Institute for Experimental Medicine at the Central University of Madrid.

Marianne Bielschowsky, photographed in Brussels, 1939. MS-1493/036, Bielschowsky papers.

Marianne Angermann (1904-1977), a German biochemist who had worked with Franz Bielschowsky in Dusseldorf, joined him at the Institute in Madrid late in 1935; they were to marry in 1937. Angermann was born in Dresden. She was not Jewish herself, and her family appears to have been in comfortable circumstances; her father was at one time the Burgermeister (Mayor) of a small town. She studied in Koln (Cologne), Bonn and Freiburg im Breisgau, where she obtained her PhD. Marianne described herself and her parents as ‘Antifaschisten’ – opposed to fascism.

Angermann and Bielschowsky refused offers to leave Spain when the civil war began there in 1936, but as the siege of Madrid lengthened, research became impossible. Franz joined the republican medical service and worked at a military hospital in Madrid. They fled Spain early in 1939, as Franco’s forces prepared to enter the capital. They were now refugees for a second time, and as war took over Europe they ended up in England. Both worked at the University of Sheffield until 1948, when they arrived in Otago, where Franz had been appointed director of the cancer research laboratory; Marianne worked alongside him. She was especially known for her development of various special strains of mice, used worldwide for medical research.

My first attempt at the cake was a hit with my family.

An English translation of Marianne Bielschowsky’s recipe:

Frankfurt Wreath

For the cake:

4 eggs

200g sugar

100g potato flour

100g wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 packet vanilla sugar (I substituted 2 tsp vanilla essence)

Whip the egg whites until stiff (“like snow”). Mix together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Add to egg whites alternately with the sifted flours and baking powder to make a soft dough. Beat well. Bake for 1 hour in a greased and floured ring tin. When the wreath is cold, cut it through twice [making 3 layers]. Fill with the following cream, then spread cream over the outside and sprinkle with the almonds.

For the cream:

2 eggs

100g sugar

3 heaped tbsp flour

½ litre skimmed milk

125g butter

toasted chopped almonds

Mix the eggs, 3 tbsp of the sugar, the flour and milk together well [in a pot]. Heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to the boil. Remove from heat and continue stirring until it is cold. Mix the remaining sugar and softened butter together and stir into the custard mixture.

Hints

I couldn’t find potato flour in my usual supermarkets, but it is available in health food stores and Asian grocery stores.

No oven temperature is given – I found it took just 30-40 minutes in a moderate oven (180°C).

I made the cake twice. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the consistency of the cake in my first test run, so I changed the method a little on my second try. Instead of adding the yolks/sugar/vanilla to the egg whites, I slowly folded the whipped egg whites into the well beaten yolks/sugar/vanilla mixture, then added the flours/baking powder – this worked better and made a lovely light sponge.

The cream was more successful on my first attempt – it curdled slightly on my second go when I added the butter/sugar. I recommend making sure the butter/sugar mixture is really well creamed, and cold, before stirring it into the cold custard.

The secret to any custard is stirring to prevent lumps – I use a hand whisk to stir the entire time it is cooking. This recipe recommends stirring while it cools as well – I put the pot into a sink of cold water to speed that process.

I used whole almonds I had chopped into big chunks, then toasted in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes.

The second attempt disappeared quickly from the Hocken staffroom!

Results

This cake was a big hit with the tasters both times I made it! It isn’t strongly flavoured, but the contrast in textures between the fluffy cake, smooth cream and crunchy almonds is delicious, as many commented. There was universal approval from the Hocken staff: “those ‘better times’ must have been amazing”, suggested one. The delicious custard/nuts made it “quite different to most of my modern cake experiences”, wrote one reviewer, with others also noting its distinctly Germanic style. A warning – it’s messy to eat, as one reviewer pointed out!

I searched online for modern versions of this recipe – the English-language versions, such as this one translate the name as Frankfurt Crown Cake. They add jam to the filling between the layers, coat the almonds in caramel, and include cherries and other fancy decorations so the cake resembles a jewelled crown. They also use packets of vanilla pudding instead of making the custard from scratch! The older version I tried is less extravagant, but still delicious, and I encourage you to try it at home. We don’t know if Marianne Bielschowsky made this cake once she had settled in Dunedin, but in any case it has been a pleasure to make it as a tribute to her.

 

What else have we cooked up?

Stirring up the stacks #3: Bycroft party starters

Stirring up the stacks #2 The parfait on the blackboard

Stirring up the stacks #1 Variety salad in tomato aspic

 

Louise Menzies: In an orange my mother was eating (16 February – 30 March 2019)

Monday, April 1st, 2019 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and written by Nick Austin, a General Assistant at the Hocken. He was the 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellow and presented the exhibition The Liquid Dossier (16 February – 13 April 2013) at the Hocken Gallery.

Sitting and reading. These verbs take on a vocational significance at the Hocken; users of our material are called ‘readers’, after all. Louise Menzies’ exhibition at the Hocken gallery, called In an orange my mother was eating turned aspects of her research activity, as the 2018 Frances Hodgkins Fellow, into a ‘family’ of related artworks. Some of these works are paper-based, and most have text in them. Every one, though, is a kind of ‘material meditation’ variously on artists and their legacies – and other items of ephemera – some of which she encountered over the twelve months she lived in Dunedin and read at the Hocken.

In the main gallery, a sky-blue shelf ran the full length of the longest wall. On its ledge,  24 individual sheets of paper, hand-made by Menzies. Adhered to each of these sheets is a risographed facsimile of one of two intimately related texts. One of these is a colouring-in book called The Lone Goose by the artist Joanna Margaret Paul (1945 – 2003). Published in 1979 by Dunedin-based McIndoe Press, it is an elliptical sort of story about the imagined friends of a goose waddling around our city’s Southern Cemetery. Paul complements her text with suitably – and wonderfully – provisional line drawings.

Louise Menzies, The Lone Goose (detail) 2019 Inkjet and risograph prints set in handmade paper Book pages: The Lone Goose by Joanna Margaret Paul, (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1979). With thanks to the Joanna Margaret Paul estate; Correspondence relating to The Lone Goose: MS-3187/058, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Louise Menzies, The Lone Goose (installation view) 2019, Inkjet and risograph prints set in handmade paper

While researching Hocken’s holdings of Paul material (we have quite a lot[i]), Menzies mistakenly requested a manuscript from our archives stack. Serendipitously, it contained correspondence between various players on the subject of The Lone Goose’s distribution. This cache of letters is the second text in Menzies’ work. On one hand, representatives from McIndoe’s distributors, Reed, just do not ‘get’ Paul’s book: “I fear the reps are going to be laughed out of the shops if they try and sell it.” But in response, Brian Turner (yes, the poet) in his capacity as Paul’s editor, is clearly peeved: “… I guess we [at McIndoe] do not move in the real world, as your reps do, and can hide our embarrassment at being ‘arty’.” While the letters present a bleakly familiar story of an artwork’s failure to lift-off in the marketplace (that the book is not exactly an artwork, does not really matter here), Menzies’ work is not depressing – it represents a significant new generation of Paul admirers.

Louise Menzies, The Lone Goose (detail) 2019 Inkjet and risograph prints set in handmade paper

It is easy to sense Paul’s importance to Menzies. (The title of the exhibition is a line from a Paul poem.) Both artists use language as a material to give form to thought. The way Paul’s work – her drawing, painting, film-making, writing – absorbs and reflects the places, people, things around her, is of high interest to Menzies. Paul was a Frances Hodgkins Fellow in 1983 so there is a kind of genealogical thread that connects them, too.

Frances Hodgkins. Given the reflexivity of this exhibition, it was sort of a no-brainer for Menzies to use Hodgkins (1869 – 1947) as a subject. It is surprising, though, how she did it. In one of the gallery’s side rooms sat three chairs: one a type you would see in halls and meeting rooms, dating from possibly the 1980s; one, a three-legged stool from about the 1960s; the other a contemporary type of adjustable office chair, with the brand name Studio on the rear of its back. This furniture shares the same provenance – all three were relocated from the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship studio, which is just across the road from the Hocken – and Menzies re-upholstered them in identical fabric.

Louise Menzies, Untitled (textile design no. II), 1925 (installation view) 2018 Digital print on textile

Louise Menzies, Untitled (textile design no. II), 1925 (detail) 2018 Digital print on textile

In the 1920s, Hodgkins was actively considering her return to NZ when, after years of struggle, she was offered a financial reprieve: a job in Manchester as a textile designer. While there are few extant examples of actual Hodgkins textiles (a silk handkerchief is held at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery), several of her gouache sketches are held at Te Papa. Menzies has printed the chairs’ fabric with one of these (digitally adapted) designs. Her work is named after its source, Untitled (textile design no. II), 1925. While the chairs serve as a memorial to the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship’s titular artist, they’re also a reminder of the stationary fact that every artist needs to make a buck somehow.[ii]

One thing that is different for an artist’s viability in the 21stCentury is the sheer number of residencies available to them. While the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago remains one of the most generous offered in NZ (12 months on a Lecturer’s salary; free studio), this country’s artists frequently travel the world to participate in residency programs. In 2014, Menzies was invited to do a residency and exhibition at the University of Connecticut Art Gallery. During her six-week visit, she worked with the Alternative Press Collection (one of the largest collections of its type in the USA) within the Thomas J. Dodd’s Research Center. Over a much longer period, a resultant publication gestated. In fact, Menzies used the first part of her Hodgkins Fellowship to complete it.

Image: (publication cover) design by Narrow Gauge, images courtesy of Allan Smith, George Watson, Alternative Press Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library.

Time to think like a mountain, the finished book, was a segue into a publication-project that marked Menzies’ time as the Hodgkins Fellow. Coinciding with her Hocken exhibition and the end of her residency, Menzies and designer Matthew Galloway produced a calendar with source material from the Hocken’s Ephemera Collection. Each of Menzies’ calendar’s pages features an image of a calendar page from a past year whose dates fell on the same days as the present month’s. In yet another reflexive nod, Menzies’ calendar runs from February 2019 to January 2020 (the chronology of months over which the Fellowship takes place)… but the elegance of the idea is better explained with images:

Louise Menzies 2019 (detail) 2018 12-page calendar

Louise Menzies 2019 (detail) 2018 12-page calendar

Louise Menzies 2019 (detail) 2018 12-page calendar

It is fascinating how Menzies rematerialised different sources from the Hocken Collections as art; how she used her Fellowship as a subject; how she shows that time is not linear.

A video work that shares its title with the exhibition’s the video has many, intriguingly related, parts: an image of Paul’s son, Pascal, sitting for the camera; a soundtrack of the Ornette Colman song, The Empty Foxhole, featuring his then-10-year old son on drums; intertitles that contain a transcript of the complete Paul poem from which the exhibition took its name; an anecdote involving Menzies’ daughter…

Louise Menzies In an orange my mother was eating (installation view) 2019 Digital video, 3 min 21 sec

All photography unless otherwise credited: Iain Frengley

[i] We have nearly five hundred Paul items, including her paintings, drawings and sketchbooks.

[ii] Or, as another expatriate NZ artist has put it, “The artist has to live like everybody else.”

 

Joining the dots: the charm of primary sources

Thursday, February 28th, 2019 | Hocken Collections | 1 Comment

Post researched and written by Jennie Henderson, Hocken Collections Assistant  – Publications

As a researcher, the promise of what might be hiding in a primary source can be irresistible.  Primary sources can convey a sense of time, place, and personality like nothing else. There is a great satisfaction that comes from connecting the dots between sources and watching a narrative rise up from your research.

Recently, some staff members at the Hocken were invited to take part in a research project. The aim? To hone our research skills and to learn about topics and sources that were unfamiliar to us. My chosen topic was ‘Surveyors and surveying’ – an area with a massive range of possibilities.[1] After I had spent some time floundering about in the worthy deeds of New Zealand’s pioneer surveyors, one of our knowledgeable archivists pointed me towards the John Reid and Sons collection.

In the 1870s and 1880s, when suburban growth in Dunedin was expanding rapidly, surveying and civil engineering firms flourished. One such firm was Reid and Duncans, established in 1876 by engineer George Smith Duncan, his brother James Duncan, and John Reid. Reid was a farmer and storekeeper who had also worked as a draughtsman under John Turnbull Thomson in the Survey Department in Dunedin. G.S. Duncan had trained as an engineer, and worked for another Dunedin firm before going into partnership with his brother and Reid. Duncan was particularly well-known for his work on the Roslyn and Mornington cable tramways. The Duncan brothers moved to Melbourne to work for the Melbourne Tramway Trust in the mid-1880s, and John Reid’s son Henry William Reid joined the company in their place. The firm changed its name to John Reid and Son, and when Edward Herbert Reid joined the firm three years later it became John Reid and Sons.[2]

Their collection (ARC-0704) is a mixture of business records – contracts, diaries, plans, and correspondence – some of which were purchased at auction, and some of which were donated. Knowing nothing about the firm, I requested the first diary on the list: Diary of John Cunningham.[3]

Cunningham was a Dunedin-born surveyor who worked for Reid and Duncans in the early 1880s. His diaries provide the bare bones of his day-to-day work: ‘In office took parcel up for Mr Duncan to Roslyn’; ‘Wet in morning in office levelling in afternoon’; ‘cleaning theodolites’.[4] And in the early stages of my research I noticed (to my amusement) that Cunningham’s particular style of handwriting made his many references to a ‘wet day’ look like ‘wet dog’, as on 4 April 1879:

Diary of John Cunningham, MS-3801/002, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Reading through his diaries gave me a sense of just how busy urban surveyors were – working on several jobs at a time, travelling considerable distances, juggling weather and the field/office requirements of their job. Cunningham refers to jobs in Opoho, Roslyn, Sawyers Bay, Otakia, Halfway Bush, Kaikorai, Blueskin, Glenleith, Princes Street, and Green Island. These men were often civil engineers and land and estate agents as well as surveyors.[5] They would not only survey blocks of land and the roads providing access to them, but work with the road boards and borough councils to select contractors for building the roads, and sell off the blocks of land they had subdivided for their clients.[6] Their work was checked for accuracy by the Chief Surveyor’s office, who would not hesitate to send plans back if they did not meet the standard.[7]

Cunningham made many references to working on the Roslyn tram project, which reflects the importance of the project to the firm, and particularly to the Duncans. He often worked with John Reid and George Duncan (as well as other staff members) which suggests the company’s partners remained actively involved with the business, in the field as well as in the office. But it was Cunningham’s references to working at Littlebourne which particularly caught my eye. Littlebourne, that grand house which sits in a back corner of Dunedin’s memory – what would Cunningham’s diaries reveal about its past?

Littlebourne was the name Charles Kettle, Otago’s first Chief Surveyor, gave to his hand-picked 20 acre property: Sections 1 and 2, Block 1, Upper Kaikorai. On some early maps, this area is called ‘Kettle’s Township’.

Wise’s New Zealand Directory map of the City of Dunedin, N.Z, 1875, Dunedin: Henry Wise & Co, 1875. Hocken Maps Collection, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Detail of Kettle’s Township.

Kettle settled there in 1860 and built a home on the land after several years of farming in South Otago. He died of typhoid in 1862, and parts of his estate were leased and sold off in the 1870s.[8] John Cunningham’s involvement began with the purchase of the property by local businessman J.M. Ritchie around 1880.[9] Ritchie planned to subdivide the land and engaged Reid and Duncans to survey the sections and mark out the roads. Cunningham’s first mention of working on the property is on 31 January, 1881. He refers to being in the field at Littlebourne, and ‘plotting and calculating Littlebourne’.[10] He mentions ‘...attending City Surveyor and Mayor to get there [sic] signatures attached to plan of Littlebourne’and ‘chaining ajoining [sic] boundarys [sic] to Littlebourne to see whether encroaching or not…’.[11] He also refers to taking levels for ‘Mr Ritchie’s propsed Township Moari [sic] Hill’, which suggests Ritchie had bought much more land in the area.[12]

The John Reid and Sons collection holds other diaries, and I was interested to see if I could match Cunningham’s experiences with the colleagues he mentions in his entries. Sure enough, A.J. Duncan’s diaries (George Smith Duncan’s younger brother Alfred John) are peppered with references to Kettle’s, Littlebourne, and Cunningham.[13] From the end of 1880, and right through into 1882, Duncan worked frequently at Littlebourne and in the Roslyn/Maori Hill area for Mr Ritchie: ‘Fine day. Up at Kettles with G.S.D. and J. Cunningham and J. Reid in the morning.’;[14]Up at Kettle’s for about 2 hours’; ‘Up at Kettle’s (Littlebourne Estate) with J.C. and J.R. all day’; ‘At Littleburn estate all day with JR and JC. Finished today’.[15] Even when the bulk of the field work was done, there were plans to be made in the office: ‘Calculations connected with Littlebourne estate all day’; ‘Fixing up litho. of Littlebourne Estate 3 hours’; and regular trips back up to the site for smaller details: ‘Up at Littlebourne for 2 hours defining line for contractor for wall on [?] section.’[16] Like Cunningham, Duncan also refers to working for Mr Ritchie on other jobs in the area: ‘Up at survey for Mr Ritchie Bk VIII Upper Kaikoarai [sic], part of sects 1 2 3 half day’; ‘At Mr Ritchie’s survey (Maori Hill) all day’; ‘Finished sketch plan to day and handed it to Mr Ritchie’s (2 hours).[17]

Slowly, a narrative was beginning to form: of urban surveyors working six days a week to meet the needs of an expanding city and its wealthiest citizens, of an area of town opening up to new construction, of the changing shape of Dunedin, of the influence of religious interest groups in deciding the layout of the town.[18] I wanted now to connect the dots of the human story underneath the blocks and sections as well, and helpfully the Hocken’s photograph collection provided an idea of what working on the Littlebourne site may have been like.

“Ferns in Littleburn Bush”, from album 114, W. M. Hodgkins “Dunedin & Otago”, page 09. Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago [S18-029a].

This image gives us an idea of the density of the bush in the Littlebourne area. It is undated, but photos of the Littlebourne bush in the same album are dated as 1865.[19] Although this is sixteen years before the subdivision, an 1875 etching of the area shows Kettle’s Littlebourne House still in semi-isolation, with only the Lunatic Asylum, the Otago Boys’ High School Rectory, and Cranmore Lodge in the area, so we can assume there was still plenty of native bush on the estate when Cunningham and Reid were working there.[20] An 1881 advertisement for the sale of the subdivisions emphasised how ‘clumps of native bush [had been] carefully preserved for thirty years.’[21]

Could I flesh out Cunningham’s and Duncan’s personal stories even more? Would we have any of the Reid and Duncans material to which they contributed? Yes! In the John Reid and Sons collection are plans relating to ‘Littleburn Estate’ and ‘Township of Cannington’ (c.1881).[22] These plans show road levels for the subdivision. A.J. Duncan specifically mentions ‘working at plans of Road through Littleburn Estate’ and being ‘up at Littlebourne Estate taking levels of part of road.’[23] Finding the actual plans that Duncan referenced in his diary provided another layer of substance to the surveyors’ experiences, and brought me a delightful moment of connecting the dots.

The Hocken Maps collection also held some treasures connected to the subdivision and the surveyors. Reid and Duncans’ finished ‘Plan of the Township of Littlebourne’ (1881) shows the Kettles’ house, and the Otago Boys High School Rectory.

Plan of The Township of Littlebourne: being subdivision of part 09 sections 1 & 2, Block 1, Upper Kaikorai. Reid & Duncan, Surveyors Hocken Maps Collection Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago [S18-519a] (For interest, compare this to George’s Key Map of Dunedin and suburbs with calendar for 1884, where the different parts of the subdivision and the eventual route of the extension of Stuart St through Albert St and up to Highgate can be clearly seen.[24])

Detail of George’s key map of Dunedin and Suburbs with calendar for 1884, Dunedin, Thos. George, 1884. Hocken Maps Collection; Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Another copy of this plan was used to advertise the sale of the subdivided sections in 1881, and Papers Past provides details of the auction and the buyers.[25] Successful businessman John Roberts, previously affirmed as a part-owner in 1874, purchased the house and section for £2700. Roberts had married Kettle’s daughter Louisa in 1870. Together, they built the world-famous-in-Dunedin Littlebourne House in 1890. Their mansion, gifted to Dunedin City after Roberts’ death in 1934, was demolished in 1949 to make room for the Stuart Street extension, and the remaining land made into sportsfields (just above Moana Pool).[26]

We can also flesh out our Littlebourne surveying story by taking a little time for J.M.Ritchie. At the time of his purchase of the Littlebourne block, Ritchie was a managing director of the National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand (N.M.A.). He was known as an astute and successful businessman, owning rural land worth £29,000 and urban land worth £9,000, which goes some way to explaining how he could finance such extensive land purchases and development.[27] The Hocken holds the N.M.A. records in a restricted collection, in which some of Ritchie’s private letter books are included.[28] Ritchie’s Cannington Estate Letter Book 1877-1885 provided several connect-the-dots moments with its frequent references to Littlebourne, including to Park and Bradshaw (buyers of sections 16 and 28 respectively in the auction). It made me smile to find, in the letter book, Ritchie’s 1882 ‘Rough Statement’ which included an unpaid account to Reid and Duncans – beautifully concrete evidence of their relationship in this business endeavour.[29]

Cannington Estate Letter Book 1877-1885, N.M.A. Company of New Zealand Limited : Records (c.1861-1960), Box 6, UN-028, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

And what of John Cunningham? It seems that he may have left Reid and Duncans soon after, because in the Stone’s Trade Directory for 1884, he is listed as an independent surveyor. Hocken Collections holds some maps attributed to him alone, the earliest being from 1885:

Plan shewing part of allotments 35 & 36, township of Hawthorndale, being part of original section 13, Block IV, Upper Kaikorai District, surveyed by J. Cunningham for Roslyn Borough Council. Instruction from Mr. Collinson at Haggitt Bro’s & Brent, Nov. 1885. Hocken Maps Collection. Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

I took particular joy in seeing Cunningham’s writing and hand-drawn plan here, especially as my research began with his references to a ‘wet dog’.[30] John had married Elizabeth McKay in 1880, and they had five children. He and his wife lived in the Wakari/Halfway Bush area for the rest of his life, and are buried together in Andersons Bay cemetery. In the course of falling down a genealogical rabbit hole at the very end of my research, I found this photo of him on Ancestry. The girl is simply named ‘Betty’, and I wonder if it was John’s granddaughter Mary Elizabeth Thomson (1919-2014).

John Cunningham with Betty, posted by mtate76 in the Furneaux family tree on Ancestry, accessed 1 March 2019. https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/17373132/person/28043342587/Gallery?_phtarg=yNA12

One of the biggest challenges with researching primary material is when to stop. There is always further digging to be done, and it feels as if the connection you are seeking could be just over the page. The matters touched on above would benefit from further investigation in the land records, contemporary newspapers, biographical details of the people involved, looking into the Road Boards and Roslyn/Maori Hill Borough Council Records, and of course, more trawling through Papers Past. There are also many more employee diaries in the John Reid and Sons archives, and plenty of scope for research into their work on Dunedin’s tramways. From the people perspective, there are many more personal stories to be told from these sources.

The unfinished lead from this research that has stayed with me the most is a reference from A.J. Duncan in November 1880. In the section of the diary that is used for ‘Remarks on the week’, Duncan wrote ‘Baby Betsy, splendid.’ It was the only truly personal reference in his diaries, and I felt certain that he was referring to the birth of a daughter, or perhaps the daughter of one of his 14(!) brothers and sisters. But after spending more time than I really ought to have tracking down his family members on genealogical sites, it seems unlikely that Betsy was a relative, unless he was referring to his sister Isabella’s daughter, Elsie Barbara (could her nickname have been Betsy?), who would have been turning one soon after that entry was made. Nor did John Cunningham have a daughter Betsy or Elizabeth. Perhaps Betsy was the daughter of another colleague whose diary I did not get to. But from this final piece of research I have had a taste of what draws genealogists back, again and again, to find their people: – the essence of past lives lived must be there, just around the corner, if only the researcher can pin it down. And that is the charm of primary sources: they promise to illuminate the human experiences beneath the ‘facts’ of history, if only the researcher is canny and determined enough to find them.

Diary of A.J. Duncan (1880), November 1880, MS-3801/004, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

To uncover your own narratives, join us at the Hocken Collections, Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm (Pictorial Collections open Monday-Friday, 1pm-4pm). Our staff members are impressive repositories of knowledge in their own right. Please feel free to ask for assistance or guidance.

[1] To save the researcher some time, brief biographies of 450 early surveyors can be found in Charles Lawn, The Pioneer Land Surveyors of New Zealand (Wellington: New Zealand Institute of Surveyors, 1977). Published more recently, Janet Holm’s Caught Mapping: the life and times of New Zealand early surveyors (Christchurch: Hazard Press, 2005) is another excellent source on the challenges of surveying New Zealand in the earliest days of Pākehā settlement. In September 1994, the Friends of the Hocken Collections published an extensive bibliography of the Hocken’s surveying sources as part of their regular bulletin. See Welcome to the Hocken: Friends of the Hocken Collections—bulletin (Dunedin, 1991), September 1994.

[2] ‘George Smith Duncan’, in Jane Thomson, ed., Southern People: a dictionary of Otago Southland biography (Dunedin: Longacre Press, 1998), 141; ‘John Reid and Sons’, The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Wellington: Cyclopedia, Co., 1897) 275-6.

[3] Diary of John Cunningham (1879), (1881), (1882), MS-3801/001-003, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

[4] Diary of John Cunningham (1879), 9 January 1879; 3 June 1879; 13 August 1879.

[5] Stone’s Directory for 1884 lists eleven civil engineers/civil engineering firms in Dunedin (including George S. Duncan of Reid and Duncans), and 32 surveyors. Ten of the individual surveyors were also listed as civil engineers. Four of the commission / estate agent firms listed also employed surveyors.

[6] For example, see the letter from the Maori Hill Town Clerk in a Reid and Duncans Inward Letter Book discussing the offer to form and metal roads in Sections I, II, III, Block VIII, Upper Kaikorai. Letters in this book are addressed to Reid and Duncan as ‘Engineers and Surveyors’ and ‘Land and Estate Agents’. Inward Letter Book (1879-1884), 2 February 1882 MS-3801/028, John Reid and Sons Limited, ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.  See also Reid and Duncans’ call for tenders ‘for construction and metalling of streets through the Littlebourne Estate’, Otago Daily Times (Dunedin, New Zealand), 10 February 1881, 1.  The tender was presumably won by road contractor James O’Connor, who, six weeks later, was advertising topsoil for sale from Littleburn Estate. Evening Star (Dunedin, New Zealand), 28 March 1881, 3.

[7] Inward Letter Book (1879-1884), 14 February 1882 MS-3801/028.

[8] There is more digging to be done in the Land Records on this matter, but in 1873, five 21-year leases on two-three acre sections were offered for auction. Otago Daily Times, 30 September 1873, 4. In 1874, Kettle’s widow Amelia, Edward Bowes Cargill, and John Roberts (husband of Kettle’s daughter, Louisa) applied to have their ownership confirmed under the Land Transfer Act of 1870. Otago Daily Times, 20 July 1874, 3. In 1875, an ad appeared in the paper offering a long lease of the house and 15 acres. Evening Star, 26 November 1875, 3. The property must have been bought eventually, as in 1878, Mr F. Wayne and three partners offered all or some of the property to the Anglican Church as a bishop’s residence or cathedral site ‘on the same terms as those on which they recently purchased it, viz., £400 per annum rental for three years from 1st March next, and £8000 purchase money on the 1st March 1881.’ Otago Witness (Dunedin, New Zealand), 2 March 1878, 4. Despite a report recommending the purchase, the proposal was voted down at a meeting of the members of the Church of England. Evening Star, 10 May 1878, 4.

[9] According to Neighbourhood guide: Melrose Street, Avon Street, 23-55 Littlebourne Road, 53 Garfield Avenue, 1-12 Wallace Street (Dunedin, 199?), 1, the Kettles retained around four acres when the property was sold to Ritchie. However, the long trail of newspaper advertisements offering the property for lease or rent, and an 1881 article regarding the sale of the subdivided Littlebourne sections show that the house and 3.5 acres were also for sale, and that John Roberts bought them at auction. See Otago Daily Times, 9 March 1881.

[10] Diary of John Cunningham (1881), 31 January 1881, 4 February 1881, 4 March 1881, MS-3801/002.

[11] Ibid., 23 May 1881, 25 May 1881.

[12] Ibid., 14 November 1881. Maori Hill had been proclaimed a borough in 1876, and Roslyn in 1877. Albert Green, ‘A necklace of jade: the Dunedin Town Belt 1848-1903 (M.A. thesis, University of Otago, 2003), 24.

[13] Duncan also refers to surveying the land for the Synagogue in Moray Place with J. Reid and J. Cunningham. Diary of A.J. Duncan (1880), MS-3801/004, 23 July 1880, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

[14] Ibid., 29 October 1880.

[15] Diary of A.J. Duncan (1881), MS-3801/005, 29 January 1881; 7 February 1881; 18 February 1881; 12 September 1881;

[16] Ibid., 28 February 1881; 8 March 1881; 12 September 1881.

[17] Ibid., 19-25 September 1881. Duncan also mentions working at a survey for Mrs Ritchie, although it seems this may have been at a property at Port Chalmers.

[18] While urban surveyors were instrumental in the growth and shape of the city, a substantial discussion of their role is noticeably missing from much of the dialogue about early surveying. As Ben Schrader notes, New Zealand’s urban landscape and the role of cities in our national development has been largely overlooked by New Zealand historians, who prefer to focus on the impact of rural lifestyles on the development of New Zealand’s national identity. See Ben Schrader, Big Smoke: New Zealand cities, 1840-1920 (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2016), 15-20. One could argue the same bias affects the study of surveying: surveying the wild, untamed landscape has been considered a more valuable contribution to the colonisation of New Zealand than the surveying of spaces already under Pākehā control.

[19] Two other Littleburn images can be seen here on Hocken’s site for digitised images: Hocken Snapshop.

[20] Etching reproduced in Neighbourhood guide, 2.

[21] Otago Daily Times, 29 January 1881, 4.

[22] Plans relating to ‘Littleburn Estate’ and ‘Township of Cannington’ (c.1881) MS-3968/001, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

[23] Diary of A.J. Duncan (1881), 3 February 1881; 2 April 1881, MS-3801/005.

[24] The Stuart St extension was built in 1949, and was one of the reasons for the demolition of Roberts’ Littlebourne House.

[25] See plan of the Township of Littlebourne, being Subdivision of Part of Sections 1 & 2, Block I, Upper Kaikorai, Dunedin: McLandress, Hepburn & Co., c.1881, Hocken Maps Collection, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. Advertisements for the sale emphasising the quality of the area, the access roads, and the proximity of the Roslyn Tramway can be found in Otago Daily Times, 29 January 1881, 4; 3 March 1881, 4; 9 March 1881, 2. Following the sale, calls for tenders for the erection of villas, gentleman’s residences and tennis-lawns at Littlebourne appeared in the paper. See ODT, 2 May 1881; 20 April 1882; 29 August 1882.

[26] See Hocken Snapshop’s image of Littlebourne House here.

[27] Jim McAloon, ‘Ritchie, John Macfarlane’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2r24/ritchie-john-mcfarlane (accessed 23 April 2018)

[28] N.M.A. Company of New Zealand Limited : Records (c.1861-1960), UN-028. Access to this collection requires the permission of the Fletcher Trust Archives, Wellington.

[29] Cannington Estate Letter Book 1877-1885, N.M.A. Company of New Zealand Limited: Records (c.1861-1960), Box 6, UN-028, Hocken Collections, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[30] See also Plan shewing subdivision of original section 23, Block IV, Upper Kaikorai District: the property of Presbyterian Church Trustees / John Cunningham, surveyor, Oct. 1887, Hocken Maps Collection, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. The land he surveyed in this map belonged to the Presbyterian Church Trust, whose land can be seen adjacent to the Littlebourne subdivision on the Reid and Duncans’ map. An 1874 amendment to The Presbyterian Church of Otago Lands Act, 1866, had made provision for the Presbyterian Church Trustees to sell Trust lands to the Crown and reinvest the proceeds for the Church’s benefit. The sale of Church Trust land was a factor in Dunedin’s increasing suburban spread in this period.

Mourning cards at the Hocken

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 | Hocken Collections | 2 Comments

Post researched and written by Ali Clarke, Collections Assistant (Archives).

One of the more poignant collections held in the Hocken archives is a small number of papers relating to the Kaitangata coal mine disaster (Misc-MS-0840). On 21 February 1879 a miner entered some old workings with a naked light and the firedamp (methane) within exploded. 34 men and boys underground died, some from the explosion and others from the afterdamp (the toxic gases left in a mine after a methane explosion, including nitrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide). It was, at the time, New Zealand’s largest mine disaster; sadly there have been larger ones since, at Brunner in 1896 and at Huntly in 1914.

The collection includes some newspaper clippings and photographs, but perhaps most interesting are the mourning cards for nine of the people who died in the disaster. These small cards (around 115 x 75mm) each bear the name and age of the person, along with a memorial verse; the verses vary slightly. Five of the cards are for members of the Beardsmore family: James Beardsmore senior, his sons Edward and James, his son-in-law Caleb, and his brother Joseph. Two other men in the family were also miners, but off work at the time of the accident. The Beardsmores had arrived in New Zealand as assisted migrants in an extended family group of 22 aboard the ship ‘Oamaru’ just two years before the disaster; they hailed from Lancashire. Four of the family were left widows with young children through the mine explosion.

James Spiers, who died in the mine disaster (left), his widow Elspeth Spiers (right), and mourning cards for their son James. Misc-MS-0840-1.

The Clutha Leader reported that, overall, the disaster left 25 widows and 105 fatherless children. Another of the men for whom we have a memorial card, and also a photograph, is James Spiers, who was a father of eight. His youngest was just a baby who died himself soon before his second birthday; the collection also includes memorial cards for that child. The community raised funds to support the families bereaved by the disaster, but it was not easy for a widow to support a family in an era before government social support payments. Many remarried fairly quickly. Joseph Beardsmore’s widow Caroline married Harry Denson later that year – he subsequently died in 1896 in the Brunner mine disaster.

The oldest mourning card identified at the Hocken. Ephemera collection.

Preston family papers, MS-1272/039.

The Hocken also has a wide variety of other mourning cards, or in memoriam cards as they were sometimes known. Some are in family papers and others are in our ephemera collection. The earliest I have located is dated 1859 and is for Hannah Longfellow, who died in Yorkshire. It has an elaborate cutout design and is mounted on velvet fabric for framing. The earliest card for a New Zealand death that I have located so far is a much simpler design, for John Edward Preston, who drowned in a creek on his family’s sheep station on the Maniototo in 1877.

Lyttelton Times, 1 December 1855.

Northern Advocate, 24 December 1898.

New Zealand Tablet, 19 August 1920. Clippings from PapersPast, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/, courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

Quertier family papers, MS-3001/062.

Quertier family papers, MS-3001/062.

From the Blue Spur House of Treasures photograph album no.1, AG-683/056.

Mourning cards were popular in Britain from the early 1800s, and there is advertising for them in New Zealand papers from the 1850s. The cards were imported into New Zealand, with local printers – often newspaper offices – supplying them and adding the personal details required. Embossed flat cards, like those from the Kaitangata disaster, were common at that time, but during the 1880s and 1890s small folded cards became more common, with decorative covers and personal details inside. Another style of card popular during the 1890s and early 1900s was a large flat card in black, with text and decorative features in gold. Some, like the Arthur Brook Quertier card shown, were manufactured in Australia by the Memorial Card Company; the personal details would have been added locally. Occasionally memorial cards included a photograph. A rather unusual one in our collection is a 1901 card for Fred Hancock of Lawrence, produced by Wellington photographer David Aldersley, with a photograph of Hancock and a flower border. Most cards carried some sort of imagery, and many were beautifully designed.

A selection of In Memoriam card covers from the H.S. Tily papers, MS-3153/005.

Frank Tod papers, MS-3290/114.

The messages on cards varied between people and through time; many carried religious messages such as Bible verses, hymns, or poems with a spiritual flavour reflecting on death and the afterlife. Twentieth-century Catholic memorial cards frequently included a prayer readers could offer for the deceased person. The simple verses on the cards for the Kaitangata mine disaster victims reflected the shock of their sudden deaths; they refer to their grieving wives, children and friends, and some referred to the hope “we’ll meet in heaven again”. Today, exactly 140 years after the mine disaster, we remember the victims and their families.

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A Brief Glimpse at Chinese Immigration to Otago

Monday, January 21st, 2019 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Emma Scott, Collections Assistant.

On 15 September 1865 a special meeting was held by the Otago Chamber of Commerce at the Athenaeum building to consider whether an invitation should be extended to the Chinese to immigrate to the Otago Province to work on the gold fields. Mr W.A. Tolmie began the discussion by stating that Otago was unlikely to retain the population as it currently stood and that his experience of the Chinese in Australia was that they were “valuable colonists; were a well behaved class, and produced large quantities of gold and were large consumers”. Mr Ewan moved “that a committee be appointed to wait upon the government to urge the Executive to give an official letter or notice to the effect that the lives and property of any Chinese coming into the Province will be protected”. The motion was carried with only one member of the meeting being opposed. [1]

At the Hocken Collections we hold the archival records for the Otago Chamber of Commerce, this collection includes some of the minutes of the annual meetings held by the Chamber. In the minutes for the meeting held on the 10th of October 1865 [2], Chinese immigration to the province was commented on further:

Minutes of annual meetings held 1862-1870, 1874, 1883, 1884, 10 October 1865, Otago Chamber of Commerce Records, UN-022, Hocken Collections / Uare Taoka o Hākena.

The “leading chinese merchant in Melbourne” appears to have been Lowe Kong Meng. [12] There is evidence of his deputy Ho A Mee arriving in Dunedin in December 1865 on the South Australian to inspect the mining districts of the province. [3] [13] Five days after the Otago Daily Times had reported Ho A Mee’s visit, five Chinese passengers were reported to arrive in Port Chalmers from Melbourne on the ship Otago. [4] In the meeting the following year, on 2 October 1866, the minutes state that “upwards of a hundred Chinese have settled in the gold districts, and are working harmoniously with the European population; and as it is understood they are satisfied with the prospects offered by this province.” [6].

Settling in Otago to work on the goldfields was hugely challenging for the Chinese immigrants. Many of the Chinese had “few material resources, no mining tradition in China, and poor education (if any), which meant few were able to speak and write English”. Initially the Chinese made a good impression with the European miners and excelled at working on the land that was often already worked over and abandoned, but “European ill-feeling” grew against the miners as gold deposits declined in the late 1870s. As gold became more scarce, more fortunate miners returned to China while others moved to more urban areas to take up other occupations. [5]

Some of the Chinese miners who moved to Dunedin joined the Chinese community established in the area of lower Walker (now Carroll), Stafford and Hope Streets. This area was known as “Tongyan Gai” or “Chinese street” to some of the Chinese who lived there. [7] This area was popular because the accommodation was cheap and was also a place of work where laundries, grocers, greengrocers and fruiterers were located. [8] This area also had “minimal facilities, dirt, gambling dens and brothels” and was called the “Devils Half Acre” by Europeans [9], unfortunately this led to some negative perceptions of the Chinese community.

In the block map below dated around 1888 you can see some of the Chinese merchants located in Walker and Hope streets, including Wy Yeck and Wong Sing Tobacco Factories, and Joe How Cabinet Makers. Stones Otago and Southland Directory also lists some other Chinese merchants located in Maclaggan Street, Rattray Street and in Farley’s Royal Arcade, located in the block between High Street and Maclaggan Street.

Detail from “City of Dunedin. No. 7 & no. 8, part of Block VI”. Robt. Baré, draughtsman. (Dunedin: Thos. George Lith, [1888?]) Hocken Maps Collection: H++ 885.927 [1888?] gbb

The Royal Arcade from High Street. Hocken Archives UN-029 box 190.

In Dunedin in the 1900s the three main occupations of the Chinese were: fruit and vegetable retailing, market gardening and laundering. All of these occupations required working long hours and could be very physically demanding. The market gardeners worked an average of nine hours a day in Winter and twelve hours a day in summer, seven days a week. By the 1890s and the 1900s Chinese market gardens were established in Sawyers Bay, North East Valley, Kaikorai Valley, Tainui, Forbury and in South Dunedin. [9]

The photograph below of St Kilda dated around 1905 shows some cultivated land where some of the gardens were located.

Hocken Snapshop (10th Jul 2012). 1054_01_023A.jpg. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 19th Apr 2018 11:40, from http://hockensnapshop.ac.nz/nodes/view/9802.

If you open this Hocken Snapshop link you can zoom in and see Chin Fooi’s laundry at 162 Rattray Street, which was established in the 1920s.

Advertisements and flyers for Chinese businesses are hard to come by, but in our posters collection we hold an advertisement for L. Gang & Co. Fruiterer that was located at 108 North Road on the corner of Chambers Street (where the Jumbo Dairy is now). According to the Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory, L. Gang & Co operated in this location from 1941 and continued to be listed there until 1945, from 1946 it became Wong & Co. Fruiterers. If you have any information about this business we would love to hear from you.

Gang & Co, Hocken Posters Collection.

Inviting the Chinese to immigrate to Otago had a significant impact on the region as the Chinese community played a “major role in the economic and cultural development of the province” and helped establish Otago as a commercial centre. [10] It is excellent to see some acknowledgement of the Chinese community with the Dunedin Chinese Garden opening in 2008 and a Rattray Street mural depicting businessman Chin Fooi painted in 2015. [11] The history of Chinese communities in Otago and Southland is a broad and fascinating topic, if you would like to learn more, I would highly recommend reading Dr James Ng’s set of books, Windows on a Chinese Past, which we hold at the Hocken amongst other fantastic resources on this subject.

References:

[1] “Chamber of Commerce,” Otago Daily Times, 16 September 1865. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18650916.2.16

[2] Minutes of annual meetings held 1862-1870, 1874, 1883, 1884, 10 October 1865, Otago Chamber of Commerce Records, UN-022, Hocken Archives.

[3] Evening Post (Wellington), 27 December 1865.
https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP18651227.2.6

[4] “Shipping”, Otago Daily Times, 25 December 1865.
https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18651225.2.5

[5] James Ng, “The Otago Chinese Goldminers: Factors that helped them survive”, in Rushing for Gold: live and commerce on the goldfields of New Zealand and Australia, ed. Lloyd Carpenter and Lyndon Fraser (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2016), 101-121.

[6] Minutes of annual meetings held 1862-1870, 1874, 1883, 1884, 2 October 1866, Otago Chamber of Commerce Records, UN-022, Hocken Archives.

[7] James Ng, “The Sojourner Experience: The Cantonese Goldseekers in New Zealand, 1865-1901”, in Unfolding History, Evolving Identity: the Chinese in New Zealand, ed. Manying Ip (Auckland, Auckland University Press, 2003), 12.

[8] J.M.A. Tuck, “The Devil’s Half-Acre: 1900-1910” (B.A. Hons diss., University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ, 1983) 10.

[9] Niti Pawakapan, “The Chinese in Dunedin between the 1920’s and the 1940’s” (M.A. diss., University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ, 1987) 10-58.

[10] David Fung, Turning stone into jade: the history of the New Zealand Chinese Association (Wellington: New Zealand Chinese Association, 2014), 109.

[11] “Artists still making their marks”, Otago Daily Times, 25 May 2015.
https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/artists-still-making-their-marks

[12] Paul Macgregor, “A Trade in Chinese Men and Supplies: Lowe Kong Meng and the organisation of the Chinese gold rush in Otago”, in Rushing for Gold: live and commerce on the goldfields of New Zealand and Australia, ed. Lloyd Carpenter and Lyndon Fraser (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2016), 133-147.

[13] Pauline Rule, “The Transformative Effect of Australian Experience on the Life of Ho A Mei, 1838-1901, Hong Kong Community Leader and Entrepreneur”, in Journal of Chinese Overseas, ed. Zhou Min and Liu Hong (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 107-134.

Influenza and the armistice celebrations of 1918

Sunday, November 11th, 2018 | Hocken Collections | 1 Comment

Post written and researched by David Murray, Archivist

This year marks one hundred years since the devastating influenza pandemic that claimed between 50 and 100 million deaths worldwide. It arrived in New Zealand not long before the armistice at the end of World War I. Soldiers returning on troopships were among those who unknowingly brought the flu here, particularly contributing to the highly infectious second wave of the virus. Influenza claimed the lives of 9,000 in New Zealand, and Māori suffered a death rate eight times that of the Pākeha population. The total was equal to about half the number of New Zealanders killed in the war, and over a period of just two months.

A striking aspect of the tragedy was the contrast between the jubilation of the armistice celebrations and the emerging horror of spreading disease and rising mortality. The armistice was declared on 11 November 1918, and widely celebrated in New Zealand on 12 November. By this time some emergency hospitals had opened, and authorities were taking steps to better treat patients and prevent the spread of the virus. The Chief Health Officer urged celebrations be postponed, and no excursion trains were allowed. Schools were closed, and large gatherings of children prohibited in the North Island. Mass celebrations were banned in Auckland, but many cities and towns celebrated with large processions, brass bands, and public speeches. These events contributed to the spread of influenza.

Crowds, including children, at the armistice celebrations in Princes Street, Dunedin, on 12 November 1918. This photo by Guy Morris was originally published in the Otago Witness, 20 November 1918. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena.

Despite a warning from District Health Officer Dr Irwin Faris, crowds thronged the streets of Dunedin. A letter in the Hocken Collections paints a vivid picture of the scene here. Nan Drennan wrote to her mother on 17 November 1918:

Well! Peace has come at last! My first thought, when I heard the bells, was, “What would I not give to be at home today”? However, that is not possible, so here goes – I think it was last Monday I finished off my letter to you & on Tuesday morning, just as we were performing our ablutions the bells & whistles began, & after that it was pandemonium. Murray went down to work in the forenoon, but came home early, & after dinner we set out in the car, with flags waving, & decorated with red white & blue rosettes. We called in on Mrs Gowland as I knew she would not be able to walk much, so she was highly delighted, & we continued down town, the streets were simply packed with people & vehicles, & a procession was going through the streets. Mrs Throp & the family were hanging out the windows of her husband’s rooms, so they waved to us to come up, which we did, & found tea being dispensed, so we all had a cup, & got an excellent view of the proceedings, then Mrs Gowland insisted on our going up there to tea, so we got into the car again, & went along Princes St. as well as we could for crowds of people, & so up the hill […] Since then, things have been real quiet, as influenza is so rampant that all the picture-houses, theatres, churches, & every place where folk gather, have been closed for a week, even the shops were shut for 3 days, to get fumigated. I expect Tuesday’s proceedings were responsible for many new cases, the crowds were so dense, but the health authorities have been very wise in taking drastic measures at once. It was perfectly dreadful in Auckland a short time ago, & a severe type, but now it is abating there. There are some bad cases here, but, as I say, the health people are wide awake. [Hocken Archives Misc-MS-1308/001]

As Nan described, further closures of places of entertainment and gathering followed the celebrations. Geoffrey Rice, in his authoritative account of the influenza pandemic’s effects in New Zealand, calculated that the peak of mortality in New Zealand was on 23 November. By December the worst was over, and the country began its recovery from the trauma of both war and disease. Large-scale peace celebrations were held in July 1919, following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

The ‘Central Bureau’ for influenza relief in the old post office buildings at the corner of Princes and Liverpool streets, Dunedin. The signs on the loaned cars read ‘Medical Aid’. Guy Morris photo, Otago Witness, 4 December 1918. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena.

Out of the box: the Blackie family collection

Thursday, January 11th, 2018 | Hocken Collections | 12 Comments

Post researched and written by Ali Clarke, Hocken Collections Assistant

An undated photograph of the Blackie family farmhouse near Kaitangata. The farm was named Pendreich. MS-4443/149.

In the Blackie family farmhouse, beside the Matau branch of the Clutha River, near Kaitangata, was a large table. Into a drawer in that table went all sorts of pieces of paper, from tickets and receipts to letters and notebooks. Over more than a century and three generations, the oldest items were pushed to the back of the drawer as new items were added; a collection of fascinating items detailing the life of the farm, the family and the district accumulated.

Those papers form one part of a wonderful collection of Blackie family papers and photographs, donated to the Hocken by Judith Robinson over the past few years. We have recently completed full arrangement and description of the collection, which is now listed on our online catalogue, Hākena (reference ARC-0329).

The Blackie family, originally from Dundee, began its connection with Otago in 1848, when James Blackie arrived in Dunedin on the ‘Philip Laing’ as first school master of the Otago Free Church colony. He started a school in Dunedin, but became ill with tuberculosis; he went to Sydney late in 1850 and died there early in 1851. He had bought land for a farm near Kaitangata and, after various legal complications, his brother Davidson Blackie, plus wife Margaret Pandrich and four children, migrated to take up the land, arriving at Kaitangata in 1860. Three generations of Blackies ran the farm, while some family members branched out. Davidson Blackie’s son James was an early student of the University of Otago and the first graduate of the local Theological Hall – he served as a Presbyterian minister in Cromwell and Lumsden and large surrounding districts until his early death. His widow, Jeanetta Blackie, was first principal of the Presbyterian Women’s Training Institute (later known as Deaconess College), and one of his daughters, Agnes Blackie, was a long-serving physics lecturer at the university. Davidson’s son Alexander worked on the family farm, talking a couple of years off in the late 1870s for an extensive world tour. Alexander’s daughter Nell was a physical education teacher and inspector, while his daughter Rhoda completed a home science degree and had a long career at Southland Technical College. Nell and Rhoda both retired back to the farm, where they lived with their brother Davidson and sister Pansie. Another part of the family was in North Otago. Margaret Blackie (Rev. James and Alexander’s sister) married William Dewar; they farmed near Maheno and had a large family. Two of their sons, Alexander and Davidson, were killed in World War I.

The collection is wonderfully rich and it is only possible to highlight a few of its treasures here. There are many letters between family members and friends in New Zealand and Scotland, and also cousins in the USA, describing life in those places. There is an unusually full set of papers relating to Davidson and Margaret Blackie and children’s migration from Dundee to Otago, including their tickets, and some older items they brought with them (music, old family ledgers, school books). There are many accounts and receipts for farms and households. The papers of individual family members vary according to their work and interests. Among the items relating to the University of Otago are Rev. James Blackie’s 1870s student notebooks, Rhoda Blackie’s 1910s home science essays and Agnes Blackie’s reminiscences of her life as a student and then lecturer of physics from the 1910s to the 1950s. There are many items relating to World War I, including letters from various family members and friends on active service. A large collection of photographs ranges from 1840s and 1850s daguerreotypes to twentieth century studio portraits and informal snapshots.

We are very grateful to Judith Robinson, whose late husband Keith Robinson was a grandson of Rev. James and Jeanetta Blackie, for the donation of this collection.

Among the oldest items in the collection are these three manuscript books of music. One is named Alex Laing; there are dates in the 1810s next to some tunes. They include many traditional Scottish tunes – below is a close-up of another page from the one named Alex Laing. At first we wondered if they were for the bagpipes, but now suspect they may be for the violin. We welcome any further thoughts on that! MS-4456/180.

A receipt for two heifers, purchased by James Blackie in Dunedin in 1849, and another for two cows, a calf and a chestnut mare, which John Salmond was to take charge of for Blackie the following year. The ailing Blackie travelled to Sydney, but died there a few months later. MS-4456/126.

This is one of several letters written by Rev. Thomas Burns, religious leader of the Otago colony, to the Blackie family in Scotland about the estate of James Blackie. There is also a power of attorney for Burns to manage the estate. MS-4456/125.

A ticket for the Blackie family’s voyage from Liverpool to Auckland in 1859. They travelled from Dundee to Glasgow by train, then by steamer to Liverpool, on the ‘Shooting Star’ to Auckland, then by coastal ship to Dunedin. MS-4456/184.

During his trip to Australia, North America, Asia and Europe in 1878-1879, Alexander Blackie kept a journal. This page shows his impressions of Gallipoli: ‘This is not a large place by any means but from the amount of interest & remarks made about it both during the Crimean & Turko Russian War it is evidently a place of considerable Importance Possibly from its situation on the straits & the difficulty of forcing a passage it it once was in the hands of Russia’. MS-4456/111.

The first page of James Blackie’s notebook for zoology lectures at the University of Otago in 1879. MS-4465/006.

Some receipts relating to Rev. James Blackie’s death and funeral, 1897. He had travelled to Dunedin for medical treatment. MS-4443/082.

While there are many World War I letters in the collection, this is something rarer: letters from the South African War. James McDonald was a ploughman for the Blackies. He headed to war as a bugler with New Zealand’s 5th contingent to South Africa, writing home to his employer, Alexander Blackie. MS-4456/074.

Davidson Blackie was one of several family members to serve in World War I – these are his identification tags. He was ‘a reluctant soldier’, noted Judith Robinson; ‘When we cleared out the house in 1982/3 after cousin Rhoda died, we found his army pack, just as he left it on returning home – dirty sox, half used (cake) toothpaste etc., programmes for shipboard concerts etc’. MS-4462/047.

Perhaps the oldest photograph in the collection is this daguerrotype, dating from around the 1840s or 1850s. It is thought to be of Alexander Blackie (1788-1874), father of James and Davidson Blackie, and his second wife, Mary Henderson. MS-4443/217.

Another 1840s-1850s daguerrotype, of an unidentified man, has a beautiful case. MS-4443/212.

Agnes Blackie with her first car, ‘Matilda’, purchased in 1930. MS-4443/126.

Lel, Father Christmas, and ‘The Sun’s Babies’

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017 | Hocken Collections | 2 Comments

Post researched and written by David Murray, Archivist

One of the cutest Christmas messages in the Hocken Collections is found on a postcard in the papers of Dunedin poet and editor Charles Brasch.

The front of the postcard shows the picturesque St John’s Anglican Church, Waikouaiti. The message on the reverse reads:

Mr Father Christmas
D.I.C.
Dunedin.

Dec 3rd

Dear Farther Christmas.
please will you give me these things
the “Suns Babys” and a doll.
love from Lesley Brasch
adress is 99 London St.
Dunedin

Lesley Brasch, known in her family as ‘Lel’, was Charles’s younger sister. Their father was the lawyer Hyam Brasch, and their mother Helene (née Fels) was related to the Hallensteins, a prominent Jewish family associated with the New Zealand Clothing Company and other businesses.

Born in 1911, Lel lived with her parents and brother at ‘Bankton’. Originally the home of Rev. Thomas Burns, and later of Sir Robert Stout, its address was 99 London Street when the postcard was used. The property was later subdivided and other houses have since been built in front of it. Its address is now 4 Stoutgate.

Lesley with her brother Charles at ‘Manono’, London Street, the property of their grandparents, Willi and Sara Fels. Bankton was a little further up the street, on the opposite side. E.A. Phillips photographer. Ref: Hocken Collections MS-0996-012/100.

We don’t know what year Lel wrote her request, but it was when she was a little girl in the 1910s.  She addressed it to Father Christmas at the D.I.C., or to give it its complete mouthful of a name, the Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand Limited. Her own great-grandfather, Bendix Hallenstein, established the business some thirty years or so before.

The Dunedin department store was a logical place to send a message to the jolly red-suited man. From 1902 children could visit him every afternoon before Christmas, and in the 1910s the company advertised: ‘Father Christmas is at Home at the D.I.C.’. In 1917, the store advertised ’20 big busy departments full of Xmas gifts’, and a Toyland for Children. It invited parents to bring their children to see Father Christmas in his quaint old chimney corner. Admission was sixpence and children were given a present. Seventy years later children still visited the D.I.C. to see Santa. Its later attractions included Pixie Town, now on display at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. The D.I.C.’s Dunedin store closed in 1991, after the company was taken over by Arthur Barnett.

Advertisement from the Otago Daily Times, 15 December 1917 p.2. Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand: https://goo.gl/nCBBvo.

Lel asked Father Christmas for a popular and particularly beautiful children’s book, The Sun’s Babies by Edith Howes. Even at a young age the Braschs were supporting New Zealand writers! Born in London in 1872, Howes came to New Zealand with her family when still an infant, and became known as a teacher, writer, and educationalist. She lived in a variety of places around the country, including Ashburton, Wanganui, Makarewa, Gore, Wellington, and Christchurch. In later life she lived in Dunedin, where she died in 1954.

The Sun’s Babies, published in 1910, is set in a mythical fairy world. It includes stories and poems about plants, animals and fairies in the different seasons of the year, incorporating life lessons. The first of Howes’s children’s books, it met with both critical acclaim and popular success. Hocken holds three editions of the book, including Cassell & Co’s original 1910 edition and the 1913 edition shown here. The illustrations are by the English artist Frank Watkins (1863-1929).

Howes, Edith. The Sun’s Babies. London: Cassell and Company, 1913. Hocken Publications, Bliss YO How.s.

Illustration by Frank Watkins from The Sun’s Babies. The caption reads: ‘When she saw Tinyboy she hid her face shyly in her curls’.

Did Lesley get her book and doll? We don’t know but like to think so. Perhaps the answer awaits discovery in the Brasch papers,

There are thousands of postcards in the papers and they are less studied than many other parts of the collection. This particular card can be found in the item: ‘Envelope labelled “Loose postcards” including postcards from family and de Beer, Fels, Hallenstein and Brasch families’ (Charles Brasch papers, Hocken Archives, Uare Taoka o Hākena, MS-0996-012/521).

Merry Christmas from the Hocken Collections.