More Help Wanted: Photo-Detective #2

More Help Wanted: Photo-Detective #2

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:

Disappearing Waterfall?

Kakahi Fall near Tawhata – Wanganui (sic) River, by Alfred Burton, Burton Brothers studio, 1885, gelatin silver print. Te Papa.

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?

Cavalry encampment, Oamaru, October 1887, by Burton Brothers studio, black and white glass negative. Te Papa.

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?

Group of people at Gisborne railway station; 1935-1955, by William Hall Raine, black and white negative. Te Papa.

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?

Untitled (pohutukawa fringed beach), by National Publicity Studios, c.1965, hand-coloured gelatin silver print. Te Papa.

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).

Untitled (cars at an ocean beach), by National Publicity Studios, c.1965, hand-coloured gelatin silver print. Te Papa.

Backyard Antics in 3D

Margery, Leo, Jeffrey – comic, by FR Lamb, early 1960s, colour transparency. Purchased 2009. Te Papa.
Sawyer's View-Master, 1955-1961, PE.000044 . Te Papa.
Sawyer’s View-Master, 1955-1961, PE.000044. 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


  1. From what I found in “ancestry”, the only Frank Royle Lamb (but there’s spelling mistakes in his first name as “Prank”, & his middle name as “Royale”) was born in October 1892 & died in 1969 in Christchurch.

    And from “family tree circles” I found this – Mary Riach married Frank Royle LAMB in 1930.

    Then there was this in The Chch Star in Papers Past –——-100-TS-1—-2frank+lamb–
    Frank is not a mechanic here, but he’d have been about 26 years old & was perhaps working to become one. It mentions Riccarton as his home suburb.

    Hopefully I can find out more – like any children, etc, etc.

    1. Author

      Thank you for this. There is conflicting information with BDM online, which gives 1971 as his death date. Birth dates agree though.

  2. The military officers are the Commanding Officer and three of his Lieutenants of the North Otago Hussars plus the cavalry instructor. The second picture is a group of other ranks of the same unit

  3. Not sure if I can help but there may be some photos from my grandfather J V Garvitch. He was a professional photographer and took numerous photographs from 1920 to 1980. Many are with Alexander Turnbull library or Dowse (Settlers).

  4. A Job that Needs a Trench Coat? It is 1920s, judging by the baggy shapeless dresses and the necklines. But why are there only two women (typists?) for a lot of smart-suited men? I can picture delivery men wearing unbelted fawn coats, but not these smart trench coats.

    Coming or Going? Late 1940s from the shoes of the smart woman on the right.

  5. On the Coming or Going photo, the car to the right is identifiable as a 1946-48 Ford V-8 Coupe. That is definite. I believe the car to the left is a Chevrolet of the same vintage.

    1. The Ford coupe is definately a 1946. The 1947 & 1948 models although the same shape had revised stainless steel trim.The coupe in the photo has the 1946 type trim.

  6. Thank you. So we can say that the photo was taken some time after 1960?
    My inclination would be 1961+, but allow for the possibility of 1960. Definitely not 1950s.
    Triumph Herald coupe at the right – the Herald was introduced 1959 according to Wikipedia.
    The car in the 4 Square trucks photo 33189 is a 1938 or 1939 Ford V8.

    1. Yes the Herald was introduced in 1959 – but that example in the photo is actually a Triumph Herald Coupe which I think was not released in NZ until a year or two later. That would need to be verified. At left is a Mk 2 Zephyr, but that may well pre-date the Herald. The Herald appears to be the newest car in the photo.

    2. The Herald Coupe appears to be a ‘1200’ model (white rear bumpers), which means it’s 1961 or later. The pale blue car partly obscured by Toi-tois looks like it’s a Morris or Austin 1100, and the copper-coloured car to the right appears to be a Hillman Hunter or possibly it’s near cousin the Humber Sceptre. I’d say this is a 1966 or 1967 photo? How long did the ‘hand-colouring’ phase last, that might narrow it?

    3. Author

      Thanks for that. We seem to be narrowing down on the cars, but I really don’t know how long hand-colouring lasted. I would guess until the mid-1960s, but it could have been later. With some more photos containing date-able items like cars we could work this out. Unfortunately Te Papa doesn’t have any such images in its collection.

  7. Yes, it is a 1939 Ford V8 sedan .

  8. Out of curiosity, what is the size of the ‘cars at an ocean beach’ print? It doesn’t say. Detailing the cars & people would seem to need the finest of brushes and a magnifying glass!

    1. Author

      295 x 370 mm, just a bit smaller than an A3 sheet of paper, so reasonably large. Hand-colouring was a highly skilled job. It was usually undertaken by women, who were probably working for fairly low rates of pay.

  9. The Kakahi Falls on the Whanganui River near Tawhata are/were down near where the Ohura River joins the Whanganui. The town of Kakahi is on the other side of Taumarunui in the upper reaches of the Whanganui. There is another photograph by Burton in the Turnbull Collection of Hemi Topine Te Mamaku at Tawhata.
    I’ve been down this part of the river but have no recollection of these beautiful falls.

    1. Author

      Ah, indeed, downstream from Taumaranui. A little up river from Tawhata and then from the Ohura River. Photographer Alfred Burton’s diary records photographing the falls on 18 May: “Today I secured the gloriously beautiful waterfall Kakahi, a little above Tawhata.” Kakahi Stream is visible entering the Whanganui on NZ Topo 250 at 39 degrees 01’35” S; 175 degrees 04’41” E (-39.026385; 175.077996). But no marking of any waterfall on this map. Given that canoeists are passing by there all the time why are there no modern day photographs of the falls?

  10. Untitled (cars at an ocean beach)
    The brownish red car at centre is a Mark 2 Ford Zephyr or Zodiac. They were produced 1956-1962. The arrowed end to the chrome strip on the front fender was on the later years of the series, possibly 1960, but more likely from 1961.
    The blue car at right is a Triumph Herald convertible from roughly the same era.

    1. Author

      Thank you. So we can say that the photo was taken some time after 1960?

    2. The problem with the Zephyr Terry is that it may be a Zodiac, which had yje chrome arrow from the start of the Mk 2 model in 1956/7.

  11. Regarding your photo at Gisborne Railway Station number A004837, it is definately post WW2. The Coupe on the right is a 1946 Ford V8. The car on the left is a 1946 Chevrolet. Hope this helps,.

    1. Author

      Great, that’s exactly the sort of info I was hoping someone would come up with. Thank you.

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