There was a high level of interest in my last blog about photographs from Te Papa’s collection that require more information. So here are some more where we need your sleuthing skills:
What happened to the Kakahi Falls, on the Whanganui River, not far downstream of Taumaranui? This photograph appears in many a nineteenth album, features in the NZ tourism book ‘Wonderland of the World’ of 1890, and was made into a postcard in the early twentieth century, but you never hear of the waterfall now. Waterfalls are just as popular tourist sights today as they were in the nineteenth century but search online for this one and nothing else comes up (except a namesake claimed to be the highest hot water falls near Rotorua). Did the falls vanish not long after Alfred Burton photographed them in 1885? Or were they going for much longer, or even still today? But if so, why, oh why, no photos?
Know your Yeomen from your Hussars?
How good are you at distinguishing the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry from the North Otago Hussars? Both were present at an annual training camp at the A&P Show Grounds at Oamaru in 1887. You can zoom in on amazing detail in the top photo by clicking through to Collections Online and then selecting the ‘plus’ button. Then you will see that the tunic of three of the men has an unusual series of flaps all the way down the front; that there is a tantalising glimpse into their tent, showing a decent sized table within; and the insignia on their chest straps looks to be a lion standing on a crown. The men in the photo below taken at the same camp seem to be wearing quite different uniforms (apologies for the low resolution scan), so which photo shows the Yeomanry Cavalry, and which the Hussars?
[Cavalry encampment, Oamaru], 1887 by the Burton Brothers studio, black and white glass negative. Te Papa.These were volunteer military outfits, but there was some criticism about the cost of such a camp. In response to an article in the Oamaru Mail suggesting that a certain Major-General Drury-Lowe from the UK would be visiting, ‘Indignant’ wrote in to complain about the cost: ‘Is he another ornamental officer foisted on the over-burdened country by an extravagant Government?’ The editor had to apologise that the newspaper’s ‘Gentle, simple minded reporter…has, we fear, been made the victim of a practical joke, perpetrated by some unfeeling wag in the cavalry camp.’
A Job that Needs a Trench Coat?Staff photograph, by Gordon H Burt studio, black and white negative. Te Papa.
This is a tricky one. I’d date it late 1930s going by the clothes, but maybe it is into the 1940s. But why are two men wearing trench coats indoors for what looks like a staff photograph? Are they drivers, sales reps, or undercover agents? If it is a staff photo, it seems a bit haphazard. What are the man at centre and second from left looking at? Is the older, distinguished-looking man the boss? Why isn’t he posed in the centre then? Or does the handkerchief in the chest pocket of the centre man signify seniority?
Coming or Going?
Here is one that might be dateable by clothes and cars. Could it be just after WWII? Although only glimpses of the cars are provided, someone with the right knowledge would probably be able to tell what they are immediately. The Pakeha-looking woman at right seems to be wearing a very fashionable outfit, so this should be datable too. And is the man at left wearing a returned serviceman’s badge on his lapel, or is that just a blob on the negative? But mainly, who are these people? They feature in other shots at the Te Poho-o-Rawiri marae in Gisborne, posing in front of the meeting house and singing in front of the dining hall. What was the event? And who is leaving by train or arriving in this photograph? So many questions, but someone out there must know the answers.
Been to the Beach Recently?
Tail end of the holiday season should be a good time to ask if anyone recognises the location of these two scenes. The top one looks like it could be around the East Cape/Bay of Plenty area, but that is purely a guess. The one below is tricky, depending on whether that is a distant coastline, or just a cloud bank on the horizon. Any dating info on the cars would also be appreciated (click through to zoom in on them).
Backyard Antics in 3DMargery, Leo, Jeffrey – comic, by FR Lamb, early 1960s, colour transparency. Purchased 2009. Te Papa.
Te Papa has a collection of home-made View-Master discs made by FR Lamb. When placed in a View-Master viewer they appear in 3D, as each shot was made as a stereo pair. Most discs are commercially made and consist of cartoon images from popular series, famous overseas scenic wonders and monuments, stills from popular films or TV series, etc. But New Zealander FR Lamb bought the special stereo camera sold in the 1950s or early 1960s to make his own discs. The trouble is, not much seems recorded about him. Newspaper records show he was entering photographs and winning prizes in photographic competitions in the 1930s. Looking at business directories and electoral rolls it seems he may be Frank Royle Lamb, mechanic, living in Christchurch from at least 1927 until the mid-1970s. But we know little more. Nor, indeed, anything about this comical photograph (sorry we can’t show it to you in 3D). Who was Lamb, and who are Margery, Leo and Terry? Oh, and what did they think they were doing?
Any information or leads gratefully received.
And if these have you stumped, try some more in my next blog.
− Athol McCredie, Curator of Photography