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

 

Miscreant Mollusks: A look into the relationship between Bluff Oysters and Typhoid Fever with reference to the Muttonbirding Industry.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

The second of our series from Practising History (HIST 353) students, this is Shinay Singh’s response to an Otago Preventive Medicine dissertation. An invaluable primary source of New Zealand medical and social history, the Preventive Medicine dissertation collection comprises more than three thousand public health projects written by fifth-year medical students from the 1920s to the late 1970s. Topics range from studies on current health issues, such as asthma, to health surveys of various occupational groups and of New Zealand towns and Maori. Permission is required to access the dissertations. An index to the dissertations is available.

Typhoid fever was and still is a serious illness for anyone to contract. In 1932 two fifth year medical students, L.P. Clark and R.J. McGill, conducted a public health survey of the Bluff township looking at the sanitary standards of industries associated with Bluff, specifically the oyster industry.

In 1929 news articles of six cases of typhoid fever outbreaks in Christchurch were suggested to link back to the consumption of Bluff oysters. The Bluff oyster industry was about to go international with refrigerated live and canned oysters. This potentially serious health risk, therefore, needed to be examined more closely.

Public Response

Strong denial was the response to the accusation that the source of the outbreak lay in the consumption of Bluff oysters. An Invercargill man called it all ‘bunkum’, that it was the housewives who “often keep them a week and expect them to remain good.”[1] The fact that the oysters were “kept in good salt-water”[2] at the wharves in Bluff Harbour was used to suggest they were healthy. Professor Hardman and Professor Boyce had done research into disease and oysters in 1899 and found that oysters could carry bacteria for up to 10 days. The lifespan of the bacteria could apparently be inhibited by pouring salt-water over them or storing them in pure water.[3] The fact that sewage contaminated the Harbour may have increased the likelihood of contamination.

Oyster Harvesting

The oyster season occurred from February 1st to September 30th. The students Clark and McGill were able to go on board the ‘Wetere’ oyster boat to observe the oyster harvesting process. An average of 80 sacks were yielded a day with each sack containing about 70 dozen oysters. The oysters were dredged up from the Foveaux Strait oyster beds and piled onto the deck of the boat. Clark and McGill noted the men standing all over the pile of oysters as a potential contamination point. The oysters were then brought back to Bluff Harbour and stored below the wharves in a pile for transportation to the local cannery or to buyers who wanted fresh oysters.

Oyster boat with fishermen standing on pile of oysters. ODT Collection. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin, https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/11281.

 

Canning Process

Oysters were brought in from the wharf on carts to the cannery. They were opened by employees, then sent to be washed in a kauri tub. They were then canned in half pound tins that held around 18 oysters per tin. In the tin they were sent through a hot box with steam pipes that both sterilised, and partially cooked the oysters. The tins were stored in an incubation room at 38°C. Clark and McGill noted that this was the most sanitary way of shipping oysters. Any water contamination was prevented by the high heat of the hot box steam pipes.

Muttonbirding

Muttonbird harvesting was and still is restricted to Māori who have claims to the industry. The season began on March 18th of every year and everyone must be off the islands by the end of May. Oyster boats took them to the Muttonbird Islands to harvest. In exchange for this, the captains of the oyster boats received a kit of muttonbirds. Each kit could hold about 3 dozen muttonbirds. They packed the birds into kits, inside these kits were kelp bags. The oils of the birds filled the bag, acting as a preservative. Clark and McGill were highly suspicious of contamination, but there was no evidence that anyone had been contaminated by muttonbirds. Thousands of muttonbirds were collected in the season. The kits were sent around New Zealand in cheese wagons to go to shops or individuals for sale.

 

Materials used in packing kits of mutton birds for marketing: kelp blades blown up to form bags, protecting the kits when full, 1927. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin, https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/16790.

Medical Students Findings

Clark and McGill found that sewage was being disposed of into Bluff Harbour at low tide. The high tide took the sewage by the flood tide to the Foveaux Strait oyster beds. Oysters are filter feeders and so they would consume the small particles of faeces and those who ate the oysters raw were at risk of getting infected with disease as this was how it was spread. The sewage of Bluff residents coming from the flood tide created a volatile combination that could potentially have allowed for the spread of typhoid.

Bluff Harbour. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin, https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/2155.

Medical Students Suggestions

Clark and McGill suggested holding the sewage for 13 days until diseased bacteria died. They also suggested heating the sewage to 65°C to sterilise it. They argued for some sort of sewage treatment before being released into the ocean. Diseases could survive in salt-water for 11-25 days. By treating the sewage this could be reduced to 3-5 days. Bacteria could survive in unsterilised seawater for 3 weeks and could survive in an oyster for 5-6 days.

The students suggested a water carrying system that would go to a pumping station located in the Ocean Beach neighbourhood to remove the town sewage. Then it could be pumped into Foveaux Strait well away from the Harbour. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1960s that Bluff would have a sewage pumping system that would do just as Clark and McGill suggested.[4] And it was much later, in the 1990s, that the sewage being released was treated.[5]

The Oyster Industry Today

There are higher sanitary standards in the Bluff oyster industry today. It is now the oysters themselves that are at risk of disease. Bonamia exitiosa is a waterborne parasite that was found in the Foveaux Strait in 1986. Between 1986 and 1992, 89% of the oyster population was killed.[6] The population was closed off in 1993 to let them repopulate and was opened again in 1996.[7] Since 2016 Bonamia infection levels have been low and oyster populations have been recovering with close monitoring by the Ministry of Fisheries.[8]

 

[1] “All Bunkum”, Evening Post, 17 October 1929.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Oysters and Disease”, Evening Star, 3 June 1899.

[4] “Sewage treatment and disposal”. Invercargill City Council, accessed 3 August 2019, https://icc.govt.nz/infrastructure/sewage-treatment-and-disposal/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] H.J. Cranfield, A. Dunn, I. J. Doonan, K.P. Michael, “Bonamia exitiosa epizootic in Ostrea chilensis from Foveaux Strait, southern New Zealand between 1986 and 1992”, Journal of Marine Science 62, no.1 (2005): 3.

[7] K. P. Michael, J. Forman, D. Hulston, D. Fu, “The status of infection by bonamia (Bonamia exitiosa) in Foveaux Strait oysters (Ostrea chilensis), changes in the distributions and densities of recruit, pre-recruit, and small oysters in February 2010, and projections of disease mortality,” New Zealand Fisheries Assessment Report 2011/5, (2011): 5.

[8] K.P. Michael, J. Bilewitch, J. Forman, D. Hulston, J. Sutherland, G. Moss, K. Large, “A survey of the Foveaux Strait oyster (Ostrea chilensis) population (OYU 5) in commercial fishery areas and the status of Bonamia (Bonamia exitiosa) in February 2018,” New Zealand Fisheries Assessment Report 2019/02, (2019): 2.

 

Bibliography

“All Bunkum”. Evening Post. 17 October 1929.

Clark, L.P. and McGill, R.J.  “A public health survey of the Bluff with special reference to the Oyster industry” (5th Year Medical Diss. The University of Otago. 1932).

Conn, Ailsa. “The Importance of Norovirus and Cadmium in Shellfish and Implications to Human Health”. (MA. Thes. University of Canterbury, 2010).

Cranfield, H.J.  Dunn, A. Doonan, I. J. Michael,K.P. “Bonamia exitiosa epizootic in Ostrea chilensis from Foveaux Strait, southern New Zealand between 1986 and 1992”. Journal of Marine Science 62, no.1 (2005) 3-13.

“Oysters and Disease”. Evening Star. 3 June 1899.

“Sewage treatment and disposal”. Invercargill City Council. Accessed 3 August 2019. https://icc.govt.nz/infrastructure/sewage-treatment-and-disposal/.

Michael, K.P. Bilewitch, J. Forman, J. Hulston, D. Sutherland, J. Moss, G. Large, K.

“A survey of the Foveaux Strait oyster (Ostrea chilensis) population (OYU 5) in commercial fishery areas and the status of Bonamia (Bonamia exitiosa) in February  2018,” New Zealand Fisheries Assessment Report 2019/02, (2019).

Michael, K. P. Forman, J. Hulston, D. Fu, D. “The status of infection by bonamia (Bonamia exitiosa) in Foveaux Strait oysters (Ostrea chilensis), changes in the distributions and densities of recruit, pre-recruit, and small oysters in February 2010, and projections of disease mortality.” New Zealand Fisheries Assessment Report 2011/5. (2011).

Images

Oyster boat, ODT Collection. Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin,

https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/11281.

 

Oyster boats, Bluff, Southland, 1935. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New

Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/records/30657435.

 

Materials used in packing kits of mutton birds for Marketing: Kelp leaves blown up to

form bags, protecting the kits when full, 1927. Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin, https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/16790.

 

Bluff Harbour. Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin, https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/2155.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

International Archives Day 2017

Friday, June 9th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Today (9 June) is International Archives Day. Created in 2008 to raise awareness of the importance of archives, and of what archivists do, the date was chosen to commemorate the establishment of the International Council of Archives (ICA) on 9 June 1948.

Archives and archivists across the world use the day as an opportunity to promote what they do, and to promote the use of archives.

I thought I would take the opportunity to write about an interesting archival volume I looked at recently. This volume encapsulates for me what is so interesting about working with archives and how researching the stories documented in archival items can lead us down many different narrative pathways.

The volume originally caught my attention on the Hākena catalogue because the name in the title was clearly unusual and to my eye looked just wrong! A spelling mistake maybe? Making sure the description of archives is correct or as correct as it can be is one of my responsibilities here so I decided to have a look at it.

Port Moeraki day book, Misc-MS-1513, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena

The title was “[Tubinanini], Robert George : Port Moeraki Day Book (1858 – 1873)”. The titles of archival collections are constructed with the name of the creator of the collection first, and then a brief descriptive title. This is in accordance with the standards set by the ICA.

So in this case the archivist had (not unreasonably) taken the most obvious name that they could find on the volume, and decided to use that as the creator portion of the title. They had enclosed this portion in square brackets to show that they were unsure of the correct spelling and that this was their interpretation of the hand writing.

It is a tall 19th century volume bound in white velum, looking a bit like Harry Potter might have doodled in it with some odd notes and diagrams in one section. Some pages have been cut out towards the end of the volume.

The front of the volume, note how carefully the words Day Book have been drawn, along with the image of waves at sea.

It clearly started life in October 1858 as a day book (sometimes called a cashbook) – a book that records financial transactions in date order. The front of the volume seemed to have been labelled in a couple of different hands and at different times. The words included “Trigonometry”, “Day Book”, “Robert Geo. Tubmanini” (my reading of the problem name), “Port Moeraki”, what looks like the initials “B. F.” and a doodle of waves. Perhaps the doodler spent a lot of time at sea?

“Tubman” with the letters “ini” seemingly added later in darker ink.

Despite being acquired in 1974 the volume was not catalogued until 1998 when it was added to the online catalogue Hakena, things have changed since then and it is a lot easier to quickly research names and places by a quick “googling”.

I started with the name Robert George Tubinanini – the reason I have noticed the record on Hākena in the first place.

My googling quickly told me that a Robert George Tubman was the Head Master of the Moeraki School between 1890-1895 and that he died serving in the Boer War. There is a nice biography of Robert available from the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand website, that includes a photo of his family’s gravestone in Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery. http://www.cemeteries.org.nz/stories/tubmanrobert181012.pdf

Robert Tubman’s trigonometry notes?

It seems likely that he is the Robert Geo. Tubmanini named on the cover of the volume and that the  Harry Potter doodles are his trigonometry notes. What is not clear is why his name has the extra “ini” on the end (another idle doodle perhaps?) and why he had the day book and used it as a notebook.

Typical entries in the volume, note Hertstel shipping 3 boat loads of timber for [North Otago?]

Back to the daybook portion of the volume. This is a particularly detailed example of a day book, and list transactions in date order, with the person’s surname, the goods purchased, shipped or received and the cost. I noticed that there were regular entries under particular names, clearly the store was a key institution in this community. Some names were European but there many Maori names as well. A keen researcher of Moeraki history is sure to find much of interest.

The luxuries of life in the Moeraki in 1857

The names Wi Te Pa, Pokuku, Riruha, Pita, Hokopa, Rawiri, Ohua, Karauria all appear regularly but there are many others. European names include McGlashan, Haberfield, Hastie, Hopkinson, Adam, Thomas, Mason, Tom and more.

Several entries under local Maori names

One name that stood out was Hertslet, it is unusual and cropped up almost daily. This time I headed straight to Papers Past, the National Library website which has revolutionised access to the myriad information contained in early NZ newspapers. I found that Henry Charles Hertslet regularly advertised the services of his store at Moeraki as well as other business ventures. He was also a Justice of the Peace for a time. An entry in the Otago and Southland volume of the 1904 Cyclopedia of NZ which revealed that Hertslet had a background in the “Public Records Department London” in the early 19th century before migrating to NZ. This was a nice serendipity as the Public Records Department is now known as the Public Records Office, and is the national archives of the UK. I guess you could say he had worked as an archivist, like me!

From what I found online, Mr Hertslet clearly had a long and varied career as an early settler in several parts of NZ but is mainly associated with Oamaru, Moeraki and Naseby. According to C.W.S. Moore’s book, Northern Approaches, and Gavin McLean’s Moeraki 150 years of Net and Plough Share H.C. Hertslet was landing agent for Moeraki from 1851, and later purchased a schooner, Queen, to run a service between Moeraki and Oamaru employing Maori from Moeraki to man the boats.

Wages paid to Fitzgerald in 1867

At the back of the book are further dated lists of payments but these appears to be wages paid to a number of workers including Fitzgerald, Frederick Cockerill and Joe. Thompson. The work done was activities like delivering firewood, ploughing, harrowing and draying.

To sum up, this volume is a record of the transactions of the Moeraki store kept by either Mr Hertslet himself or one of his employees, sometime later it came into the hands of Robert Tubman, who seems to have taken advantage of some blank pages to write up his trigonometry notes. Later again it was acquired by the Hampden Historical Society which donated this volume to the Hocken along with around 40 others when the Society was wound up in 1974. In archivists jargon it has multiple provenance, it was created and used by more than one creator but is all the richer a source of history for that. It leads us to several narratives – the lives of Henry Charles Hertslet, and Robert Tubman, and to the broader social and economic history of Moeraki in the mid 19th century. Family historians may be interested to find references to the day to day dealings of their ancestors.

… But most of all, it’s fashion!

Friday, March 24th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Amanda Mills, Curator of Music and AV

It’s iD fashion week here in Dunedin, and an opportunity to highlight an interesting piece of fashion-related audiovisual material in Hocken’s collections. The song It’s Fashion by Jack Roberts and Ian Couldrey was created as the theme for Ross and Glendining’s  fashion show.

Credit It’s Fashion. 1961. Lyrics by Ian Couldrey, and music by Jack Roberts. Hocken Sound Recordings Rec-S 3362

The company Ross and Glendining (founded by John Ross and Robert Glendining) was established in Dunedin in 1862, when they bought a local Dunedin retail drapery business. Changing to an import and warehousing business within three years, they sold imported fashion goods, though some of the most popular goods sold included blankets, and hosiery. To create woollens, they built the Roslyn Woolen Mill in 1879 for production of consumables like yarn, blankets and flannels, and several years later, they introduced knitting machines to produce hosiery and clothing. While expanding their clothing manufacturing business throughout New Zealand, Dunedin was still their main centre, opening a clothing factory in 1883 to manufacture men’s and boy’s clothing (under the Roslyn label), a hat factory in 1901, and also manufacturing footwear  from 1908, and neckwear from 1957. The list of brands Ross and Glendining manufactured was large, and included Mayfair Shoes, Roslyn Blankets and Rugs, Osti Lingerie, Glenross Millinery, Aotea Knitting Wool, and Sacony Fashions.

Mimosa Lingerie.[1959]. Ross and Glendining: Records, Hocken Collections AG-512/066 S09-529g.

Originally a staid manufacturer of wool, and an importer of garments, Ross and Glendining did not enter the world of fashion until the late 1950s and “stunned trade buyers with an innovative fashion show in Auckland at which they displayed their latest… creations” (Jones, 2010, p. 341). The show (held at the Winter Garden of the Great Northern Hotel) ran for 106 minutes, and used a three-piece orchestra and 10 models (eight adults and two children). The idea for this show came from Ian Couldrey, the company’s sales controller, well known in national publicity circles (Jones, 2010, p 341). The show had three successful nights before moving on to Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, and a film was made of the shows to feature in smaller centres. This was promised to be the first of many fashion events for the company.

Unfortunately, the motion picture of this 1960 show is not part of Hocken’s large collection of Ross and Glendining records; in fact, no copies seem to exist. This is a significant gap in the collection, and, if found, would be a fantastic addition to our records of the company.

It’s Fashion is stated as being written for Ross and Glendining’s 1961 fashion show, but the annual reports and records don’t document any event that year, so the date may have been incorrectly attributed – perhaps the song was written for the 1960 show. It’s Fashion was written  for the event by Roberts and Couldrey. The song is in the popular genre of the day – a charming piano-driven mid-tempo, melodic pop-ballad, sung in the style of Doris Day (sadly, there is no mention of the female vocalist’s name). The performance is sweet, and appropriate for the show, which while innovative at the time, would likely not be cutting-edge by today’s standards. Regardless, this lovely song is one of few recorded specifically for a fashion show and an interesting, and modern, approach for Ross and Glendining to take to advertise their fashion lines.

It’s Fashion.

 

References:

Jones, S.R.H. (2010). Doing well and doing good: Ross and Glendining Scottish enterprise in New Zealand. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press.

Rope and more : Work completed on Donaghys collection

Monday, April 15th, 2013 | Anna Blackman | 1 Comment

Among our largest collections of business archives are the records of rope makers Donaghys Industries, who began operations in Dunedin way back in 1876. They are still in this trade 136 years later, but have also widely diversified into the rural, industrial, marine and aquaculture markets. In the 1990s the company moved its head office to Christchurch but it maintains offices in Dunedin and Melbourne.

Hocken’s relationship with Donaghys goes back to the 1980s when we received most of the current collection. In 2010 staff were invited to the company’s Bradshaw Street premises where we collected further financial records, photographs, administrative files, photographs, ephemera, and other records, some dating back over a century. Arrangement and description work was completed in 2011, increasing the size of the collection by over 50 percent to 45 shelf metres (that’s 2,500 individual items). More recently, the entire collection was entered onto our Hakena archives and manuscripts catalogue which has made the collection much easier to search and access.

Shown here are some label illustrations (MS-3560/0560) and 1960s photographs taken by Campbell Studios in Dunedin (MS-3560/0633). Two show rope manufacture processes, an in one a worker can be seen in the famous 380-metre ‘rope walk’. Another shows a bale of rope bigger than a Mini.

We are delighted that Donaghys Industries have ensured the preservation of their historic records, and are always interested in hearing from other local businesses.

David Murray

 

 

Curious billhead #2 – Briscoes before the Briscoes lady

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Watching TV’s ‘Briscoes Lady’ promoting another birthday sale, few would be aware that the birth of the Briscoes company dates to the eighteenth century.

It was probably William Briscoe who established the firm in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, sometime around 1750. One reference mentions a balance sheet dating from 1756 and another gives the establishment date as about 1768. In 1781 members of the Briscoe family signed a partnership agreement. Headquarters eventually moved to London, with branches established in the West Indies and South America. A Melbourne offshoot was established in about 1854, and New Zealand operations opened in Dunedin as Arthur Briscoe & Co. in 1863. In New Zealand the company operated primarily as wholesale ironmongers and hardware merchants, but with some retail trade.

Arthur Briscoe, one of the company partners in England, probably never visited New Zealand. The founding manager in Dunedin was Hugh MacNeil, who had begun his working life as an ironmonger in Glasgow before managing Briscoes in Melbourne. He became a partner in the firm in 1880 and gained managerial control of both the New Zealand and Australian operations.

Arthur Briscoe & Co billhead, from MS-0989/058

The lithographed billhead here, dated 14 July 1886, shows that different parts of the organisation were styled in different ways: Wm Briscoe & Son (Wolverhampton and London), Briscoe & Co. (Melbourne), Briscoe, Drysdale & Co. (Sydney), Briscoe Bros (Jamaica), and Arthur Briscoe & Co. (Dunedin). In the 1890s branches were established in Wellington and Auckland as Briscoe, MacNeil & Co.

The billhead features the company’s buildings on the corner of Princes and Jetty streets, which were designed by R.A. Lawson and opened in 1872.  An Otago Daily Times report from that year describes a company importing directly from Europe and America, with an average of 100 tonnes of goods unloaded at Port Chalmers every week. Stock included such diverse items as kitchen stoves, umbrella stands, lamps, and lawn mowers (‘a wonderful little machine of recent invention’).  Some goods, such as enamel kitchenware and cooking utensils, were similar to items sold in Briscoes stores today, but linen and soft furnishings have only become staples in recent decades. Much business was directed towards the building trade, and at a separate iron yard in Bond Street there was much in the way of iron bars, piping, and sheet iron, with a supply of up to 150 tonnes of nails in stock at any one time. The company also imported tea for many years.

Briscoes moved to new premises in Crawford Street in the 1900s and the old building was later occupied by T. & G. Life. They demolished it in the 1950s to put up the building now known as Upstart House. Briscoes’ head office moved from London to Melbourne in 1958, and then to New Zealand in 1970. The parent company was purchased by Merbank Corporation of Australia in 1973 and transformed from a wholesaler of imported goods to a general merchandise retailer. Briscoes Group Ltd was purchased by the R.A. Duke Trust (of New Zealand) in 1990 and became a public company in 2001. As of 2011 it has 54 Homeware stores and 32 Rebel Sport sporting goods stores throughout New Zealand.

Hocken holds some financial and other records of Briscoe & Co., 1865-1970, under the reference number MS-3300. The billhead is from the Preston family papers (MS-0989/058).

Blog post written by David Murray, Archivist (Arrangement and Description)

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).

Doing Well and Doing Good : Ross and Glendining : Scottish Enterprise in New Zealand

Thursday, July 29th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | 3 Comments

The Hocken Collections recently hosted a book launch for the long awaited (by Hocken staff anyway) book by Stephen Jones, Doing Well and Doing Good : Ross and Glendining: Scottish Enterprise in New Zealand, published by OU Press.

Steve has been a regular visitor to the Hocken through several “generations” of archivists and reference desk staff. For many years he made an annual pilgrimage to Dunedin from his Scottish home in Dundee to complete the next phase of research on the records of Ross and Glendining held in the Hocken Collections.  Tips on finding material in the collection and Steve’s interests in Ross and Glendining were passed on from archivist to archivist as it became known that exemplary service could result in a free lunch! Reams of photocopied pages were dispatched to Dundee, but they only seemed to encourage him to travel back to NZ with further questions to be answered by interrogation of the original records!
Business communications from an 1877 Ross and Glendining letterbook, the paper is translucent and thin as tissue and difficult to photocopy from.
We admired his passion for lists of obscurely written financial reports and the analysis of the business data he copied from the records and wondered what the result would be. My own interest in the progress of the project was further stimulated by attending an excellent presentation in the School of Business by Steve on his research findings. The quarterly financial reports had been analysed, the columns of handwritten numbers in pounds shilllings and pence totted up and made meaningful and Steve described the role of Ross and Glendining in the fabric of NZ life. I’m looking forward to reading the book and  reviews are very positive. The Hocken staff are really pleased to see the work finished and published but we will miss Steve and his visits.
A handwritten financial activity report for the six months prior to January 1894 from the Ross and Glendining archives. Stephen read hundreds of pages such as this during his research.