Autograph books: from simple charm to simply stunning

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Blog post researched and written by Kate Guthrie, Collections Assistant – Archives

Remember autograph books?

For those of us old enough to have had one back in the day, they were the Facebook of the pre-internet age; a little album to collect the thoughts and witticisms of your friends, family and occasionally even the famous. Sometimes kept and treasured for many years after the last entries were written in them, autograph books could become memory-holders too, for friends the album-keeper had lost touch with and older family members who’d passed away.

An autograph book tended to arrive sometime around the pre-teen/early teenage years – perhaps in a Christmas stocking – and the first autographs to grace the new album might well be the ‘rellies’ gathered for Christmas lunch. Everyone had a favourite verse or two they carefully wrote in – and the tricky part was coming up with something no-one else had written before you. It was a good idea to get in early, as Nelson Stockbridge’s father did back in 1945…

By Hook or by Crook,
I’ll be first in this Book
                Dad, Xmas 1945

Stockbridge, Nelson: Autograph book (1945-1949), Misc-MS-2072

Nelson’s Auntie Ruby had some sage advice a few years later…

 All the people o’er our town
Are always running people down
So let us turn to the Loving Cup
And do a little running up

Stockbridge, Nelson : Autograph book (1945-1949), Misc-MS-2072

Another personal favourite from Nelson’s album is this one from J. Hurn, dated 1946:

Mary had a little watch
She swallowed it one day
And now she’s taking castor oil
To pass the time away.

Stockbridge, Nelson : Autograph book (1945-1949), Misc-MS-2072

We don’t know much about Nelson Stockbridge, but there are one or two clues in the autograph book itself and in its provenance. The album was found in the loft of the hall of All Saints’ Anglican Church, Dunedin and donated to the Hocken by the All Saints’ vicar in 2009. It includes references to Terrace End School and Brooklyn School, suggesting Nelson lived in Palmerston North and Wellington as a boy.

Time to hit the search engines…

Births must have occurred more than one hundred years ago to be searchable on the Births, Deaths and Marriages historical database. Deaths, however, can be searched right up until the present day and often reveal a birth date or age as well. If you’re interested in family history research, it’s something worth remembering.

Nelson Stockbridge is a less-common name, which also makes a quick search worthwhile. And there’s a promising hit: Nelson William Stockbridge died in 2009 (coincidentally the year his autograph book came to light), and his date of birth is given as 23 January 1935, meaning he was soon to turn eleven when he was given that Christmas autograph book.

And how did that book make its way to All Saints Anglican in Dunedin? That faithful workhorse Google uncovers a document that lists Rev. Nelson William Stockbridge as a Methodist minister, revealing a likely clergical link in Nelson’s adult years.

Nelson’s autograph book is one of many in the Hocken archival collection – and some of them are stunning. A stroll through the collections (or a search on Hākena) shows there was much more to autograph books than witty rhyming ditties, particularly if we step back a little earlier in their history.

So how long have autograph books been around? At a guess, I’d have said a century or so.

I’d have been wrong.

Autograph books originated in the mid-sixteenth century in Europe when travelling university students carried these small, leather-bound albums and collected the sentiments and comments of their patrons, mentors and companions – a bit like a pre-internet LinkedIn. In those times when only male offspring were deemed worth educating at universities, collecting autographs would have been a male-only occupation.

The first true autograph books appeared in German and Dutch linguistic regions, possibly originating in Wittenberg. (Thank you, Wikipedia).

Known as an album amicorum (‘book of friends’) or stammbuch (‘friendship book’), the oldest autograph book on record is that of Claude de Senarclens, an associate of John Calvin, and dates back to 1545. By the end of the century, they were common among students and scholars throughout Germany.

The Germans and Dutch may have invented the autograph book. But, from the evidence I’ve seen in the Hocken’s own autograph book collection, it was the women of Victorian and Edwardian times who took autograph collecting to a whole new artistic level.

Simon, Margaret : Autograph and sketch book (1905-c.1910), MS-3564

Margaret Simon, or Peggy as she was known, was one of eight children of James and Ellen Simon. The family owned a business, Simon Brothers, which imported and manufactured footwear, and their home was in Mornington, Dunedin.

A beautiful autograph and sketchbook was kept by Peggy Simon from 1905 until around the time of her marriage to Rudolph Wark in 1910. Peggy and Rudolph settled in Christchurch after their marriage and the autograph book, along with a family photograph, was donated to the Hocken in 2010 by Peggy’s nephew, Herbert William Tennet.

The Simon family. Peggy is pictured standing back left. Simon, Margaret : Autograph and sketch book (1905-c.1910), MS-3564

Autographers (is that even a word?) put a lot of time, skill and thought into creating their small piece of posterity in a friend’s autograph book. Just look at the illlustrations in these examples from Peggy Simon’s album.

Simon, Margaret : Autograph and sketch book (1905-c.1910), MS-3564

Definition of a friend
A friend – one human being whom we can
Trust always, who knows the best and the
worst of us, and who loves us in spite of
our faults
23-9-07                 Jep Cameron, Dunedin

Simon, Margaret : Autograph and sketch book (1905-c.1910), MS-3564

I’ll not deny women are foolish
God Almighty made them so
To match the men.

T.C. 1907
Trot Cameron

Simon, Margaret : Autograph and sketch book (1905-c.1910), MS-3564

Flowers often appear in autograph illustrations and pansies seem to be a favourite. At first, I wondered why pansies, rather than forget-me-nots or rosemary (for remembrance). Was it because pansies are pretty, colourful and fun to paint?

A contributor to Isabella Blair’s autograph book revealed the answer – a phrase linked to Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Tily, Isabella : Autograph book (1909-1951), Misc-MS-0915

There is pansies, that’s for thoughts…

Another contributor to Isabella’s album had a slightly different version of the same sentiment…

Tily, Isabella : Autograph book (1909-1951), Misc-MS-0915

Dusky pansies, let them be for memory
Anne D. Craig
O.U.
Dunedin

And of course, forget-me-nots do make the occasional appearance in these floral tributes.

Tily, Isabella : Autograph book (1909-1951), Misc-MS-0915

Men are often capable of greater things
than they perform. They are sent into
the world with bills of credit, and
seldom draw to their full extent

Isabella Blair (later to be Isabella Tily) was a student of Dunedin Teachers’ College and Otago University and many of the contributors to her autograph album have added the abbreviations OU or TC after their names. Like many others of the Victorian/Edwardian period, the album is a reflection of Isabella’s early adult life. One friend has even sketched what seems to be a portrait of Isabella at that time.

Tily, Isabella : Autograph book (1909-1951) Misc-MS-0915

Compare the sketch with this photograph of Isabella Tily in later years, when she and husband Harry Tily were keen members of the Dunedin Naturalists’ Field Club and Isabella wrote regular articles on birds for Dunedin’s Evening Star. (The bird in the photograph is a kererū fledgling which she raised after finding it fallen from its nest.)

Isabella Tily with kererū chick (Originals P97-155/4)

After completing her teacher training, Isabella went on to teach at Green Island School, just as the First World War was ending. She took her autograph book with her and collected the autographs, photographs and thoughts of her fellow teachers in 1918.

Tily, Isabella : Autograph book (1909-1951) Misc-MS-0915

A few years later, Dunedin schoolboy Jack Smith was also a keen collector of autographs. Jack was an Otago Boys High School first eleven cricketer and avid sports fan. Picture a schoolboy, pen and autograph book in hand, racing across the playing field, collecting the signatures of his heroes at the end of the game. But Jack was more than an autograph collector. He also illustrated his album pages with schoolboy enthusiasm.

Smith, Jack : Autograph Book (c.1920-1947), Misc-MS-1879

Smith, Jack : Autograph Book (c.1920-1947), Misc-MS-1879

Smith, Jack : Autograph Book (c.1920-1947), Misc-MS-1879

Jack’s album not only provides a glimpse of the sporting highlights of that period. He was also there on the spot when Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition set forth from Dunedin in 1930.

Smith, Jack : Autograph Book (c.1920-1947), Misc-MS-1879

Smith, Jack : Autograph Book (c.1920-1947), Misc-MS-1879

Finally, there’s one more autograph album that absolutely deserves a mention. It’s perhaps my personal favourite and dates back to that late Victorian period when young ladies – or at least those of upper/middle-class upbringing – had time for leisurely pursuits like autograph-collecting and an education that included skills in sketching and the use of watercolours.

Kathleen Creagh. Album 174 Creagh family : Portraits

Kathleen Creagh was one such young woman. Born in Oamaru in 1882, she compiled her autograph album during her young adult years and, from the similar style of many of the sketches, seems to have illustrated many of the pages herself after collecting the autographs and thoughts of friends and family.

Middleditch, Mary : Autograph book of Kathleen Creagh (1897-1934), Misc-MS-0826

Middleditch, Mary : Autograph book of Kathleen Creagh (1897-1934), Misc-MS-0826

Take a closer look at the detail in some of Kathleen’s sketches. These illustrations are tiny – only a couple of centimetres square. It’s interesting to note they also have a somewhat ‘English’ feel to them, given that Kathleen herself was born and raised in Oamaru.

Middleditch, Mary : Autograph book of Kathleen Creagh (1897-1934), Misc-MS-0826

Not all Kathleen’s illustrations were romantic country scenes, however. A Halloween-esque verse shows she also had a keen sense of fun.

Middleditch, Mary : Autograph book of Kathleen Creagh (1897-1934), Misc-MS-0826

Kathleen went on to marry Charles Napier in 1906 and the couple had a daughter, Mary, who was also a talented artist. Mary Napier specialised in mosaics and worked as a theatre producer. She married sculptor John Middleditch and, in later years, donated both her mother’s autograph album and a Creagh family photograph album to the Hocken, along with papers relating to the Middleditchs themselves.

Charles Napier (2nd left) and Kathleen Creagh (on his right). Moeraki, 1906. Album 174 Creagh family : Portraits

So not only did Kathleen keep the autograph book of her youth for her own lifetime; it later became a treasured possession of her daughter, ultimately being entrusted to the care of Hocken. It illustrates a longevity in autograph books that far outlasts the modern-day postings made on Facebook.

Maybe it’s time to revive that autograph book tradition, so that others in the future can catch a glimpse of our own modern-day social lives. A Christmas stocking-stuffer perhaps?

Middleditch, Mary : Autograph book of Kathleen Creagh (1897-1934), Misc-MS-0826

 

With the New Zealand Footballers

Thursday, November 8th, 2018 | Hocken Collections | 1 Comment

Post researched and written by Sarah Hibbs, Collections Assistant – Researcher Services

Housed in our archives collection is a group of scrapbooks lovingly assembled by the All Black legend, John William ‘Billy’ Stead (1877-1958). They contain newspaper articles, cartoon clippings, postcards, photographs, telegrams and ephemera which outline his involvement in and passion for all levels of New Zealand rugby.

The cover of one of Stead’s scrapbooks (MS-1205/04). The collection contains three more scrapbooks, a folder of victory telegrams and a publication.

Scrapbooks can be a rich source of information. Upon opening the cover of a scrapbook a researcher can immediately sense the importance the material held to the compiler. They provide a fantastic record of people’s memories and experiences and as a result offer insight into society at the particular time the material was collated. Stead’s scrapbooks are no exception: they cover his whole career and in the process illustrate rugby’s launch into New Zealand popular culture.

Stead was born in Invercargill on 21 September 1877. He started his rugby career in 1896 when he played for the Star Club and was subsequently chosen for the Southland and South Island representative teams. He went on to tour Australia with the New Zealand side, and in 1903 and 1904 captained the team against the visiting British squad.[1] In 1905 Stead was named vice-captain of the Originals on the first official tour of the United Kingdom by a fully representative New Zealand team. This tour saw the side famously win a staggering 31 out of 32 games, scoring 830 points against only 39.[2]

A photograph of Stead in an unreferenced newspaper article covering the Originals win over Northumberland. This dates the photograph to c. late November, early December 1905. (MS-1205/03)

The first team photograph of the Originals was taken by a local photographer in Newton Abbot, Devon, before New Zealand’s opening match on tour. The team’s departure in 1905 had been met with little excitement from the New Zealand public but once the Originals began to defeat a personification of the colonial power at their own game and on their own turf, this started to change. Within hours of the photograph being printed, it went on sale as a postcard and subsequently become incredibly popular with the public. Thousands of copies were distributed throughout the country and many were sent with messages back to family and friends in New Zealand.[3]

The photograph features in postcard form in one of Stead’s scrapbooks. (MS-1205/04)

Businesses also took advantage of the team’s success and used the photograph for promotional purposes as seen in this Huntly & Palmers Biscuits advertisement. (MS-1205/03)

The tour was supposed to have reinforced strong bonds within the British Empire but instead New Zealand was emerging with its own national identity as the home-land of unconquerable heroes.[4] The nation’s character was now defined by the ability to perform amazingly well on foreign soil after travelling for weeks at sea. This showed the Originals were capable of adapting, handling huge pressure and working together as a team.[5] These were relatable qualities to the general population of New Zealand, as displayed a few generations earlier when the first settlers were faced with their own challenges in an unfamiliar land.

This cartoon is titled ‘Wanted – a giant killer’ and its illustration of various representatives from the British Isles as feeble competitors compared to the New Zealand giant perfectly depicts how the New Zealand spirit was being personified. It was originally published in Free Lance, Volume XI, Issue 283, 2 December 1905. (MS-1205/03)

The government back home took advantage of the Originals success by placing advertisements in British newspapers encouraging new migrants to New Zealand by calling upon the newly appointed characteristics of this impressive population. On 1 January 1906 the Christchurch Press reported ‘Apart from the effect of the campaign upon the game, both at Home and in the colony, it has been one of the greatest advertisements the colony has ever had, and has probably done more to “bloom” New Zealand with the British public than did the dispatch of our Contingents to South Africa, or all Mr. Seddon’s quaint efforts to attract attention to these islands.’[6]

The only game the side lost was against Wales (0-3)  – which happened to be the only game of the tour Stead did not play. However, Stead was not only a talented player, he was also very perceptive and had the ability to turn what he was observing into the written word. Before the team had left New Zealand, the Southland Times asked Stead to write a diary of the tour. His accounts, titled With the New Zealand Footballers, were predominately about the team’s journey at sea and the experiences of a New Zealander visiting Britain for the first time, as opposed to rugby. He outlined his surroundings and brought the whole experience to life for the average New Zealander.

In his last diary submission, printed on 14 March 1906, the reader can sense the emotion, pride and gratitude of Stead and his team mates. ‘In conclusion, as a team we feel that from now onward we cease to exist; friendships have sprung up in our travels that will be lifelong, and the many incidents and good-natured banter which have been part of our life will be constantly in the sweet thoughts of memory, and I think I may say that the 1905 team, the account of whose travels it has been a pleasure to me to record to you in these columns, has been a credit to New Zealand from every point of view.’[7]

Stead also co-authored one of the classics of rugby book publishing, The complete rugby footballer on the New Zealand system, with Captain Dave Gallaher. It was completed within a very short timeframe but over 322 pages Stead and Gallaher managed to trace the development of rugby in New Zealand. Through text, photographs and diagrams they covered captaincy, coaching, tactics, equipment, training and how they prepared for the tour.

In the Stead papers we hold Stead’s very own, well used, copy of The complete rugby footballer. (MS-1205/06)

Here at Hocken we hold two copies of The complete rugby footballer on the New Zealand system – one in the published collection and one with Stead’s papers. We also hold two compilations of his columns from the Southland TimesWith the New Zealand footballers: [excerpts from the columns of the Southland Times concerning the New Zealand Rugby Tour of Great Britain, 1905-1906] and Billy’s trip home: the remarkable diary of an All Black on tour.

Due to the success of this tour, the fascination with New Zealand’s triumph and the embodiment of the New Zealand spirit in players such as Stead, rugby became a national passion and obsession throughout New Zealand. For the first time, rugby was entering the realm of literature, widespread newspaper coverage and pictorial representation. As a result, the Originals were projected into popular culture and to this day, New Zealander’s still draw upon this legendary tour as the beginning of our nation’s reputation as unbeatable in the rugby arena.

This cartoon was originally printed in The Auckland Weekly News, 8 March, 1906 and features in one of Stead’s scrapbooks (MS-1205/02). Its caption reads ‘The above picture, which was specially drawn for The Weekly News, conveys some idea of the widespread enthusiasm attending the return of the famous “All Blacks”. The record of the team is really wonderful. Out of a series of 32 matches, played in Britain, including four internationals, the team was only beaten once and scored 830 points to 39 points scored against.’ The use of the silver fern motif and the team name “All Blacks” were first adopted during this famous tour.

This cartoon was originally printed in The Auckland Weekly News, 8 March, 1906 and features in one of Stead’s scrapbooks (MS-1205/02). Its caption reads ‘Haeremai! Haeremai! Haeremai! Our artist had depicted the return of the victorious New Zealand footballers to a typical Maoriland welcome.’ The victorious team are shown riding astride a moa while an English lion bearing the union jack is hung from the rear. Their quiet, nondescript departure is compared with a joyous crowd of celebrators on their return.

If you are interested in finding out more about this legendary tour the Hocken publications collection holds a large amount of material pertaining to it and our ephemera collection contains many programmes for All Black matches that continue to reference the Originals’ success years later. We are also home to an additional set of scrapbooks (SER-09625) complied by another All Black, Jack McNab, covering the period 1948-1966 which continue this illustration of All Black supremacy through newspaper clippings and cartoons.

The ongoing tradition of international rugby tours can be celebrated this weekend when the All Blacks take on England. At a time when travel is swift and sporting results are communicated around the world instantly, perhaps we can try to imagine how different the experience was for the Originals and for fans back home in 1905.

[1] Thomson, Jane. Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography. Dunedin, N.Z: Longacre Press in association with the Dunedin City Council, 1998.

[2] Stead, W. J. Billy’s trip home: the remarkable diary of an All Black on tour. Dunedin N.Z.: New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, 2005.

[3] Howitt, Bob and Dianne Haworth. 1905 Originals: the remarkable story of the team that went away as the Colonials and came back as the All Blacks. Auckland, N.Z.: HarperSports, 2005.

[4] Ryan, Greg. 1905, legend and legacy. Christchurch, N.Z.: Canterbury History Foundation, 2005.

[5] Tobin, Christopher. The original All Blacks: 1905-06. Auckland, N.Z.: Hodder Moa Beckett, 2005.

[6] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP19060101.2.21?end_date=01-01-1906&phrase=0&query=football&start_date=01-01-1906&title=CHP&type=ARTICLE

[7] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ST19060314.2.43?end_date=14-03-1906&phrase=0&query=stead&start_date=14-03-1906&title=ST&type=ARTICLE

Ruck It! How Otago Shaped Rugby History

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

What do Sir Peter Buck, Chris Laidlaw, Vic Cavanagh and Greg McGee have in common? Yes – rubgy for one but you’ll have to visit the Hocken Library find out the full answer!

In collaboration with Hidden Dunedin, and the University’s Design Studies Department the Hocken has put on a display that examines the contributions made by Otago people to the development of rugby by showcasing a sample of this rich history. Drawn from the Hocken’s own collections, the show features rugby memorabilia, early rugby publications, official team photographs and personal scrapbooks. A version of the display will also be installed from 17 September in The Link next to the Central Library of the University.

Highlights of the display at the Hocken include:
Tom Ellison’s The Art of Rugby Football (1902). Ellison is known as one of the game’s great innovators and was introduced to rugby by his Taiaroa cousins at Otakou around 1881. He was a prominent member of the New Zealand Native Football Team, which toured Great Britain and Australia in 1888 and captained the 1893 New Zealand team on their tour of Australia. It was his suggestion that the New Zealand team should adopt Native team uniform of the black jerseys with a silver ferns. The 2-3-2 scrum formation that he developed for his Poneke club team in Wellington became the dominant style of All Black play until the 1930s.
Billy Stead had an enduring influence on Maori and All Black rugby. Stead was a member of the first official New Zealand tour of Britain and France in 1905-06. He was the team’s vice-captain and chief tactician. He wrote regular columns for the Southland Times and at the end of the tour, combined with captain David Gallaher to write one of the earliest rugby classics, The Complete Rugby Footballer. He played 32 games for the All Blacks, 12 as captain, he was part of the first Maori team and was later a referee, coach and manager. On display are a photo of the team, victory telegrams, and a copy of his book.
Ned Parata, from Puketeraki, Karitane, is widely regarded as the father of Maori rugby. The parallel development of Māori rugby was one of the defining characteristics of New Zealand rugby. Wiremu Teihoka (Ned) Parata organised the first Māori team in 1910 and persuaded Billy Stead to come out of retirement to play for it. Parata, who underwrote the cost of touring from the profits of his motor car business, continued to organise Māori rugby for the next 20 years, climaxing in the 40-match tour of Europe and Canada over the summer of 1926-27. An visual display features a selection of images from his scrapbook; it contains photographs, letters and newspaper clippings relating to the tour.
J W Stewart’s album features the celebrated Maori rugby tour of France, Britain and Canada led by Ned Parata and contains photographs, newspaper clippings and ephemera relating to the New Zealand Maori rugby tour of Great Britain, France and Canada, 1926-1927. It also has photographs of Palmerston, North Otago and South Island Maori teams. J. Stewart appears in many of these photographs and has been attributed as the creator of the album.

Still wondering the answer to the question at the start of this post? A hint is that the display contains a selection of team photos from the Otago University Rugby Football teams over the years.

To hear Dunedin sports historian Ron Palenski on Otago and the ruck listen to this interview with Jim Moira.

To see some of the display content and hear yours truely on my favourite items watch this clip from Channel 9.

The exhibition team comprised Dr. Noel Waite, Senior Lecturer; Michael Findlay, Professional Practice Fellow; Ryan Gallagher and Jon Thom, students, all of the Department of Applied Sciences and Sharon Dell, Hocken Librarian, working with Mark Sharma, Studio 3, Dunedin and Ron Palenski, external advisor, NZ Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin.