Picturing the Cook Islands – George Crummer (Cook Islands Language week 2013)


Kia orana e kia manuia tatou katoatoa,

In this third blogpost of Te Epetoma o te Reo Māori Kuki Airani – Cook Islands Māori Language week, Grace Hutton (Collection Manager Pacific Cultures) shares with us some wonderful images taken by George Crummer, a photographer who worked in the Cook Islands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Grateful thanks to Jan O’Brien, a great great granddaughter of George and Upokotio for this information.

George Robson Crummer was born in Auckland on 14 June 1868. His parents George and Mary Jane Crummer (nee McElwain) migrated to Auckland from Ireland, on the ship the Mary Shepherd in 1866. His sister Mary Louisa was born in 1873.

In 1890 with a number of business partners, George Robson invested in a topsail schooner called “Jessie Niccol”. The schooner was employed to sail between the Cook Islands and Auckland bringing fruit, copra, pearl shell, and fungus from the islands and returning with general cargo.

On May 4 1892 he married Upokotio Tangiiau in the Cook Islands Christian Church, at Turangi, Ngatangiia, Cook Islands. Upokotio was the daughter of Tangaiia Mataiapo, a high chief of Takitumu.  George and Upokotio had seven children.

Along with the shipping business George also built up a business taking portraits of Cook Islanders and general scene photographs in Rarotonga, Aituaki and Mangaia.

Some of the images taken by George are in a photograph album that belonged to Reverend J. J. K. Hutchin and is now in the Photography collection, Te Papa.

George Robson Crummer died on 17 May 1953. The well known New Zealand based singers Annie Crummer and her father Will Crummer are also direct descendants.





8 Responses

  1. margaert ann crummer

    I too am a direct descendant. My late Father was James Crummer who married an Arorangi lady Tiraa Tamaiva . Willie and James were brothers. James and Tiraa had 8 children together. This would explain my interest in photographer Thanks.

    • Sean Mallon

      Thank you Margaret for reading the blog and commenting. It’s great to see these photographs bringing out the family connections.

  2. Helene Peyroux

    Meitaki ma’ata Sean for putting this up. He’s also my direct descendant, through my Grandmother Louisa Crummer.

    • Sean Mallon

      Thank you for your comment, you are welcome…it’s great to make another family connection through these wonderful images.

  3. Tereapii Muriwai

    Kia orana Grace, Thank you very much for these photos. I am particularly interested in the photos from Mangaia. Can they be viewed on line? It would be great for the local Mangaian people back home to be able to view them & perhaps identity any of their tupuna. So will wait to hear from you.

  4. Ron Brownson

    This selection of George Crummer’s portraits is a big reveal for me. Has any attempt been made to date them? They look as if they may be from the early part of the first quarter of the 20th century, using quarter or half plate glass negatives.

    Has anyone sent these images to Jean Watson at the Cook Islands Library? I reckon there is a real opportunity here for local Cook Islands feedback!

    • tepapamuseum

      Kia orana Ron,

      Yes you’re right, the majority of the images are from that
      time period and they are glass plate negatives. Some of the negatives
      have dates written on them which is a tremendous help for the record.

      The Cook Islands Library and Museum also have a number of Crummer glass
      plates negatives and some are duplicates of Te Papa’s collection. Jean
      Mason is aware of these images but it would be wonderful if Cook
      Islanders were able to identify their descendants from the images and
      sent us their names. We could then add this to the database.

      Meitaki ma’ata,

      Grace, Collection Manager Pacific Cultures

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)