You Can Play Photo-Detective #3

You Can Play Photo-Detective #3

I’ve written two blogs, Help Wanted and More Help Wanted, about photographs from Te Papa’s collection that need more information. Here are some more puzzlers you may be able to help with:

Dream Car

Gordon H. Burt Ltd, Chevrolet car advertisement, circa 1931, black and white glass negative. Te Papa.

It would be good to pin down the year for this photograph by dating the cars. We think it is a Chevrolet advert, but it may not be. The date could be any time from the late 1920s to mid 1930s. I think it was taken at Manthel Motors, in a building that still stands on the corner of Wellington’s Taranaki and Wakefield St. The flooring has probably long gone, and the interior is apparently soon to be gutted and a multi-story office block built within the façade.

Tramping the Track

Burton Brothers studio, Head of Lake Te Anau, April 1895, gelatin silver glass negative, C.017344. Te Papa.
Burton Brothers studio, Head of Lake Te Anau, April 1895, gelatin silver glass negative, C.017344. Te Papa.

Donald Sutherland cut a track from Milford Sound to the Sutherland Falls in 1888, and Quintin McKinnon cut one later in the year from Lake Te Anau to join up with Sutherland’s, so creating New Zealand’s world-famous Milford Track. By 1895 guided walks, with supplies laid on ahead, were being offered to the more adventurous tourists. Women were not uncommon on these trips, though not all may have abandoned skirts for the controversial but more practical breeches like these women. The question is, which hut is this, if it is at the head of Lake Te Anau as titled? Is it the Clinton hut? I can’t find any historic photos of this. It’s not the Pompolona, as that looked different and is further up the valley.

Fields of France?

Unknown photographer, Rugby match, 1919, gelatin silver print. Te Papa.

This photograph is pasted into an album that includes other rugby matches, team photos and boxers. It appears to have been compiled by a NZ soldier in the UK following WWI. Various bits of evidence point to it being a NZ combined services team playing in France. Any rugby historians out there who could confirm or otherwise?

Shipping News

B.026994 Akaroa at Moturoa Wharf
William Oakley, Akaroa at Moturoa Wharf, 1930s, black and white glass negative, B.026994. Gift of Frederick B Butler, 1971. Te Papa.

The MS Akaroa depicted here at New Plymouth was formerly the Euripides and renamed and refitted by Shaw, Saville & Albion line in 1932 to continue on the United Kingdom to New Zealand and Australia route. It appears that locals are having a general look over the ship, suggesting that this may be her maiden voyage under the new name. The Press noted that the ship was to depart London on 30 December 1932 for New Zealand. And the Evening Post reported the governor general inspecting the ship when it was in Wellington on 14 Feb 1933. Unfortunately Taranaki newspapers have not been digitised to that date, so I can’t easily check the shipping news for that region to see if the Akaroa called in to New Plymouth on that voyage. I suspect so, but it would be good to confirm.

The refit created a very modern vessel. It was a one-class ship, so passengers paying less for lower deck cabins were not restricted in enjoying all the amenities on board, including a swimming pool and gymnasium. The latter, proclaimed the Press, was equipped with ‘rowing machines [and] stationary bicycles on which opponents may race, their speed being shown by a clock indicator. There are punch balls, electric vibrators and grips, dumb bells, and Indian clubs, and an electric horse. On this last one may, by pressing one of three buttons, obtain the motion of trotting, cantering, or galloping.’ (28 Jan 1933, p. 13)

Which Bridge and When – Te Aroha?

Burton Brothers studio, Te Aroha, Thames [Waihou] River, c.1884, gelatin silver negative. Te Papa.
Is this a bridge about to be constructed on the far bank? I have conflicting information on when, and what sort of bridge was built. Perhaps there were two, and who knows if either were at this spot. One history of the area says a swing bridge was built in 1882 that could be deflected to allow ships through. Perhaps this was out of shot and unable to take a stagecoach? A newspaper report of September 1884 said that completion of a railway bridge was 3 months away. In July 1885 it was agreed to make the railway bridge available for general traffic. Confirmation that this occurred comes in the form of  reported complaints that the ‘new and costly’ road and rail bridge (described as a combined drawbridge in another newspaper report) had still not been painted in 1886. So… is this a bridge site? And if so, which one, and what does that say about the date of the photograph (which could be a year or so either side of 1884).

An Easy One

Eric Lee-Johnson, Pohutukawa tree at coastal locality, 35mm colour transparency. Te Papa.

Now someone must know where this is. It may be in the Coromandel area, or Northland. I’m picking 1970s going by the cars, but any opinions on date are also welcome.

Any information or leads gratefully received. Substantiating your views is useful, as we need to be confident of our source when we change information on our collection database.

− Athol McCredie, Curator of Photography


  1. Hi Atholl,
    Curiosity got the better of me. I have done some more investigating.

    I can’t answer your question about the nature of ice-axes, although I think that is what they are they do look rather blunt like you say. They would have needed ice axes as the accounts of the trip which I have found (linked below) indicate there was heavy snow on MacKinnon Pass, and confirms that members of the party did other side trips to climb peaks including Mount Balloon as noted by John Hall-Jones, and an attempt on Tutuko. The Milford Track was not the well formed tourist track that it is today as it was only in its seventh year.

    There are two relevant pictures in Hocken Snapshot that help to identify Forrestina Ross (nee Grant, wife of Malcolm Ross) as the lady with the spectacles in your photograh. One of these photos is taken on the same Milford Track trip. The information with it lists six participants of their expedition as being “A Kenneth, Malcolm and John Ross, Forrestina (Bessie) Ross, TC (Tom) Fyfe, and WJP Hodgkins (brother of Frances)”. Frances Hodgkins had four brothers and a sister. Kenneth and John Ross are Malcolm’s brothers.

    There are some newspaper articles I have found about the expedition that also list participants, including: Mr ET Luke (co-organiser with Malcolm Ross), Malcolm Ross, Kenneth Ross, another Ross brother, TC Fyfe, W Hodgkins, Mrs Ross, a Dr Roberts, and Mr C Ziele.
    Otago Witness, 25 April 1895, p.13.–100–1—-0Malcolm+Ross–

    Otago Daily Times, 14 May 1895, p.7.–100–1—-0Malcolm+Ross–

    The Australian, 7 December 1895, p. 24.

    One of the articles (14 May 1895) notes Malcolm Ross expressing indebtedness to locals who assisted with the trip, including: Mr and Mrs Snodgrass and Captain [Melville] Duncan of Te Anau [artist], and Messrs Murrell and Dore of Manapouri [who provided accommodation, boat transport and guiding].

    The account of the trip in the Australian (linked) also refers to a party of three English tourists and their guide, and the participation of Richard Henry in the trip as friend and guide – they collected him form Te Anau Downs Station.

    Both refer to travelling up the lake by boat, the article in the Australian naming it as The Ripple.

    A series of further articles by Malcolm Ross recounting the expedition with more detail was published in the Otago Daily Times on 20 July, 3 August, 10 August, 17 August, 24 August, and 29 August (repeated in the Otago Witness). They can be found by searching in Papers Past using the words “Leader” “Expedition” “Ross” and confining the search to the year of 1895 between April and September.

    The first of these states the expedition comprised of ten participants, and refers to two women who do the cooking on their first night “the doctor’s wife and the poetess”.

    The second instalment notes twelve participants including: three Ross Brothers, the wife of one, Fyfe, Hodgkins and Ziele, ‘the artist’ (possibly E T Luke a named organiser of the expedition, or Captain Melville Duncan of Te Anau), ‘the doctor and his wife’ (Dr & Mrs Roberts). It also refers to ‘the guide’ waiting at Milford Sound for them to arrive on the government steamer Hinemoa (their original plan which was foiled). This list doesn’t account for Richard Henry as a member of the party but he might be the twelfth.

    The sixth instalment notes that on the return journey they were accompanied by Donald Ross (Milford Track guide) and ‘a young fellow named Mackenzie, a relative of the Sutherlands’.

    All of this means that beyond those people in the photograph that I indicated names for in the previous post the others could be any combination of the expedition participants, the party of three English tourists and guide, the people acknowledged by Malcolm Ross (with the exception of Mrs Snodgrass, perhaps), and the skipper and ‘engineer’ of the boat that took them up the lake.

    Captain T M Broderick was likely the skipper as he operated The Ripple at this time and both he and his wife are acknowledged in another news article about the expedition (Otago Witness, 2 May, 1895, p.21). George Halstead Kennett was possibly the Engineer (refer to Yvonne Dore, Dore to Manapouri, p.34).

    Further digging into photographs of these characters might reveal who is who. The second woman must be the wife of Dr Roberts.

    Unfortunately a large section of the article in the Australian is unreadable. The New Zealand papers refer to the trip being recounted in the Age and the Leader in Australia, but neither of these papers is available on Trove for that time period. There was also the book “Fiordland” that arose from the expedition which might reveal more information.

    Forrestina Ross (nee Grant) was quite a lady, as can be seen by this article in Te Ara. A mountaineer in her own right, she was the first woman member of the NZ Alpine Club, and also a journalist, writer, artist and teacher. Malcolm was a founding member of the NZ Alpine Club. It is likely that the NZ Alpine Club Journal includes accounts of their adventures (possibly this one). There is certainly an obituary for Malcolm Ross in that journal.

    A Dr Roberts had earlier pioneered a route to Caswell Sound from the Southwest Arm of middle Fiord on Lake Te Anau via the Doon River (Susanne and John Hill, Richard Henry of Resolution Island, p. 102). He also visited and photographed Richard Henry on Pigeon Island, Dusky Sound in February 1900 (Hill & Hill, p. 250.) The article in the Australian has some sections authored by D.R. which may be Dr Roberts.

    In response to the other poster of comments:….
    The box with holes was probably for carrier pigeons. Ross’s Newspaper series recounts one being released near Sutherland Falls and another at Lake Hankinson. They belonged to Bertie Hodgkins, presumably brother of WJP Hodgkins, so possibly it is he who is holding the box.

    And regarding camera… the newspaper accounts indicate the Ross party carried no less than five cameras!

    Finally I don’t think that Tom Fyfe is carrying a sack, I think that is just his jacket over the top of his back pack.


  2. Hi Atholl,
    Regarding the Milford Track image:
    You should check out p.43 of John Hall-Jones, Milford Sound, An Illustrated History of the Sound, the Track and the Road. It includes a copy of the image you have a question about, and another image of the same hut taken from further away. It is possible to identify the trees in the backgroun to confirm it is the same hut in both photos. Hall-Jones correctly locates this on the true right/west bank of the Clinton River, overlooking lake Te Anau. I did quite a bit of research on the early history of the Milford Track some years ago, and there is reference to this hut in this location in primary sources – I don’t have my notes handy so cannot give you details right now. There is no hut at that location now. The ‘Clinton Hut’ of modern times (the freedom walkers hut built in 1960s) is much further up the valley, and is now on its second site – the first site was eroded badly by the river and had to be abandoned.
    Hall-Jones names some of the party:
    Tom Fyfe standing on the extreme left, who the year before led the first ascent of Mt Cook.
    Siting below him, Malcolm Ross, another climber. He says that together they tried to climb Mount Baloon but were forced back by bad weather.
    By looking at Sutherland’s archive material at Hocken it might be possible to name the whole party.
    I would love to know who those staunch women are! I’m sure I have seen the one with glasses in another photograph in online collections.

    1. Author

      Thanks, that is really helpful, meaty stuff. I think I had noted the Hall-Jones book at the Wellington Public Library a while back but couldn’t find it on the shelf. Will try again. Here is another question if you know something about climbing. The woman at left is resting against what appear to be a collection of ice-axes, but on close inspection their heads seem quite blunt and heavy, not at all like the one held by the seated man. Admittedly it is a bit hard to tell given the limited resolution of the negative at this point. In other respects they look like ice-axes of the day, but I was wondering if they were light weight picks for clearing the track of something. And I guess the other question is why would one need an ice axe to walk the Milford Track, unless it was winter. So maybe that is not where they are headed then? Or is it spring or autumn and maybe an axe would be handy? – I haven’t been down there, but the snow on the mountains in the background looks lower than I imagine it would be in summer.

  3. Regarding the car showroom – am sure it dates a little later than 1931. The couple’s clothing dates from 1933 when short hair and French berets were the rage. They are a little more “relaxed” in style – her hemline for instance than a few years earlier.

  4. CAR almost certainly a Chev., from the look of the coupe at rear. A friend had a Chev coupe like this. Looks very like it. NOT a Ford – different radiator.
    YEAR Either 1930 or 1931 – definitely no later – or earlier either.

    Liner AKAROA:
    Savill has NO ‘E’ at the end (client of mine).

    Beach scene:
    Looks very like a bay near Whitianga, linked to Capt. Cook (not Mercury Bay). Yes – it’s name is Cook’s Beach.

    1. Author

      Thanks, yes looks like you are right about Cooks Beach. Be good if someone has a photo from approx. the same spot so we can check the line of hills to confirm. I can’t see anything under Google images.

      Apologies about ‘e’ on Savill. It was actually Shaw, Savill and Albion Line at the time of the Akaroa. I shortened it, as that’s certainly what the company seemed to be known as in later years (the Southern Cross and Northern Star era), but I’m not sure if that was official or not.

    2. Looking at the book Monstrous American Car Spotters Guide 1920-1980 the cars are either 1930 or 31 model Chevrolets.

  5. For the car suggest you try Southwards Car Museum for info.

    Didn’t Manthel Motors or someone have a car showroom in Courtenay Place? They certainly did in the early 70’s. I think where Reading Cinema is now.

    1. Author

      I think there were a couple of showrooms there. Todd Motors certainly had one about where Reading is now. I think there were workshops at the back that ran through to Wakefield St.

  6. From my car enthusiast brother-in-law: It looks like an American car because of the way the spare wheel is in the mudguard, in England and Europe only big flash cars had this feature.The car in picture is small for USA, I had a 1935 Ford which had same type of wheels, but was a bigger car. I would say about 1934/3. Can’t tell make, maybe find out what dealership Manthel Moters had in the mid 1930’s. Otherwise try a vintage car club.

  7. Love the tramping one those women look tough…, what is in the sack, and whats in the box with air holes, and is that a canon camera?

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