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.
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.
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.
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.