W F Gordon’s Taranaki land war photographs

57th Regt. Captain Schomberg, Captain Woodall, Major Butler, Lieutenant Thompson, Dr McKinnon, circa 1870, Wanganui. Thomas Tuffin. Purchased 1916.

Early last century, New Plymouth man William Gordon assembled a photographic record of people (both Māori and European) who served in the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s. The Dominion Museum (Te Papa’s second predecessor) purchased the photographs in 1916 as part of the Gordon Collection.

Recently, I have been working on improving the documentation of the photographs by checking the prints and recording information written on them onto the catalogue records on the database. This has included making sure the names of the people in the photographs are spelt correctly so that anyone searching for images of their ancestors can find them through a simple search of their name.

Gordon’s collection includes some unusual examples of studio portraiture in New Zealand during the 1860s. For example, the photograph of Sub-Inspector Rowan and his ‘servant’ taken in Wanganui by ‘Photo Artist’, David Thompson on 7 January 1869, and the image of the wounded Colonel Lyon, taken in Auckland by Hartley Webster.

Sub-Inspector Rowan & servant, 07.01.1869, Wanganui. David Thompson. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Sub-Inspector Rowan & servant, 07.01.1869, Wanganui. David Thompson. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Colonel Lyon, circa 1860, Auckland. Hartley Webster. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Colonel Lyon, circa 1860, Auckland. Hartley Webster. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

After obtaining a photograph, Gordon often attached a handwritten label detailing the subject’s name and information about their military service – when and where they died or whether they obtained an honour. Gordon then duplicated the original albumen print by taking a photograph of it and making a glass-plate negative. He then printed more copies from the new negative.

These are copies of images taken in the 1860s and 1870s, but made from photographic materials invented in the late 19th century – in this case silver gelatin photographic paper. A good example is this photograph of Captain Utterton taken by New Plymouth photographer George Hoby.

Captain Utterton, circa 1860, Taranaki. G, Hoby. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Captain Utterton, circa 1860, Taranaki. G, Hoby. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Captain Utterton, circa 1900, New Zealand. W. F. Gordon. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Captain Utterton, circa 1900, New Zealand. W. F. Gordon. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Other photographs in Gordon’s collection feature survivors photographed in later life. These include Solomon Black, who obtained the New Zealand Cross, and the splendidly turned out General Manley displaying an abundance of medals, including the Victoria Cross.

Solomon Black N.Z.C. Severely wounded Otauto March 1869, circa 1900, Scotland. Sharp Studios. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Solomon Black N.Z.C. Severely wounded Otauto March 1869, circa 1900, Scotland. Sharp Studios. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Surgeon General W. G. N. Manley, V.C. C.B. circa 1890, United Kingdom. Waite & Pettitt. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Surgeon General W. G. N. Manley, V.C. C.B. circa 1890, United Kingdom. Waite & Pettitt. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

The collection gives some insight into the people who came to New Zealand from the United Kingdom in the 1860s to fight Māori on behalf of Queen Victoria. The image of George Goode, taken by the Metropolitan Photographic Company of Dublin about 1860, shows a hesitant young man on his university graduation. There is no record of his fate. The photograph of Captain Hamilton, taken on the Isle of Wight by Jabez Hughes in June 1863, shows a proud, if unsure, man in uniform. He died at Gate Pā a year later.

George Goode M.B.T.C. circa 1860, Dublin. Metropolitan Photographic Co. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

George Goode M.B.T.C. circa 1860, Dublin. Metropolitan Photographic Co. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Captain J. F. C. Hamilton, H.M.S. Esk, killed Gate Pa Apl 1864, June 1863, Isle of Wight. Jabez Hughes. Purchased 1916. Te Papa

Captain J. F. C. Hamilton, H.M.S. Esk, killed Gate Pa Apl 1864, June 1863, Isle of Wight. Jabez Hughes. Purchased 1916. Te Papa


5 Responses

  1. Paul Brobbel

    That’s it, I always recalled the guy with the bandage.

    Reply
  2. Paul Brobbel

    I recall one of Gordon’s copies depicted a group of five visibly and recently wounded men around a table

    Reply
  3. Ron Brownson

    The David Thompson portrait of Inspector Rowan and his ‘servant’ is a rare instance of 19th century photography of the wounded. There was not here such a tradition or, arguably, the means to document wounded in the way that this occured in the American Civil War.

    Yet, if the portrait was taken on 1 January 1869, is it connected with any battle? The man may not have an injury connected with the military

    Reply
    • Lissa Mitchell

      Thanks for your comment Ron. I have been having a look around especially on Papers Past and have found some further information relating to the context of this photograph.

      Rowan (seated with the bandage) was severely wounded in the “attack on Raururu” in Sept 1868 (the battle where von Tempsky was killed). Newspaper reports from February & March 1869 report that he had not recovered from these injuries at that point. In fact he is commended for attending the scene of the White Cliffs massacre in Feb ’69 in his condition.

      Titokowaru’s War (June 1868-March 1869) was happening within a short distance from Wanganui from late ’68 through to its conclusion. So while not straight from the front the photograph does document the wounded in relation to the campaign which was still running but there is certainly less urgency to the image due to the delayed capture.

      National Library hold the negative (Ref: 1/4-004383-G) of the image which they indirectly credit to William Harding’s studio. While the negative does not have the information that the carte holds enabling attribution, I wonder if Thompson’s negative (much like other early photographers) was taken over by the later Harding studio?

      Btw – Rowan’s wife (from 1873) was an Australian artist – Ellis Rowan (1848-1922).

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