New Zealand Edwardian Photo Album – part two

In my earlier post I said that I liked the Read family album (1905/6) for its casual shots – a picnic, paddling in the sea, ‘crossing a brook’ in the bush – and wondered if this was unusual for an album of that time.

I’ve since done a little more research, by searching the National Library of New Zealand catalogue. I haven’t looked at any albums so most of this research relates to images that are available online or described, so it wasn’t a comprehensive search, but gives some comparisons with the Read family album. I probably have to conclude that by 1905 when Sid Small took the casual photographs in the Read album, it wasn’t such unusual subject matter after all.

Picnics are reasonably commonly depicted in the late 1800s and early 1900s.Picnic 1871

There are at least 20 catalogued in the National Library collection from the 1800s and one even dates from 1871 (above). As the Read family album doesn’t come up in my search for picnics, I’m sure there are more in albums in the collection that aren’t separately catalogued either. This is just a small sampling:

Photographs of people paddling in the water may be more uncommon, although it could also be that they are not catalogued as such. There was this lovely image from 1891 of Edith Emily Fell (nee Atkinson) and her daughter Sylvia paddling at the edge of the sea. Photographed by Charles Yates Fell January 1891.

Paddling in the sea

I also came across the record of an album, which sounds a bit similar to the Read family album: Family photographs New Zealand ca1900s; Date: ca1900-ca1914; Ref: PA1-o-780; Mackay family: “Mainly record an Edwardian New Zealand family living in the country, or in a small country town. There are views of the sea shore, ships going by, paddling and sitting on the sand. There are pictures of father driving the gig, in the back yard with the children and feeding the goat. The children are dressed up as adults, or are playing with their mother. There are the houses they lived in and photos of pastureland and cows. Other photos are of more conventional scenic views.” (PaColl-2646)

To try to find images similar to the one in the Read album called ‘Crossing the Brook’ I first searched for ‘walking in the bush’ and found this delightful image of five women near Eastbourne, Wellington in 1900.  However there were surprisingly few photographs under this search; there were more watercolours and sketches from the earlier nineteenth century. (A search on ‘walking in the forest’ was similar).

In the bush 1900

When I searched under ‘people crossing a stream’, again I got surprisingly few images, but I did find three albums from almost the same year as the Read family album (again, the Read family album doesn’t come up in any of these searches!)

  • The Salmon album. “Photographs taken by Charles Tenison Salmon about 1906 to 1909. Images include views of the Ohakune/Horopito Road, a Christmas camp in the bush at Ohakune, the volcanic eruption of Mount Ngauruhoe in April 1909, and views taken when traversing the Tongariro National Park. Some photographs show Charles and Marie Salmon in the bush, and one shows three climbers… Views on the Ohakune-Horopito Road show a team of horses pulling an empty dray, and one of a group of people waiting while their carriage crosses a ford on the Mangatoetoenui River.” (Ref: PA1-o-455)
  • Wairakei album – “Album of photographs relating to a trip taken by a group travelling on the first “Motor Reliability Contest” in 1906; …The contest involved ten cars (4 Daracqs, 2 Cadillacs, and 1 Rover, 1 steam car, 1 Oldsmobile and 1 Leyland) travelling 400 miles from Auckland to Taupo and back.” (Ref: PA1-o-509)
  • Ring album 2, 1906 By: Ring, James Claude. The whole album consists of views of a state visit to the West Coast area by Premier Richard John Seddon in 1906, and includes views of his arrival on the first train for the opening of the extension to Lake Mahinapua of the Hokitika-Ross Railway Line in January 1906, with large gatherings of people, and a view of Seddon delivering his address… (Ref: PA1-o-436)

I also searched newspapers online for references to cameras and found that the amateur camera club of Wanganui (where the Read family lived) had its first exhibition in 1895:

… “The scenic exhibits will serve to place before patrons a faithful representation of the beauties of the country in which they live, portraying as they do our cities, towns and suburbs, our mountains, hill and dales and the multitude of delightful nooks into which man has been able to penetrate with the Kodak.”[1]

The Nelson Camera Club was holding an annual exhibition at least as early as 1893.[2] Also in 1893 a dramatic production new in the colony was to open that night – called ‘Wilful Murder’ the article (helpfully?) reveals the whole plot, including the part that science plays in bringing the villain to justice, “for his picture is taken by a Kodak camera wielded by a travelling artist named Joffkins…”[3]

The Wellington Camera Club held an exhibition in 1894 and it was said that “photography has of late deservedly become an exceedingly popular hobby throughout the colony”.[4]

Advertisements for the Kodak pocket camera first appear in New Zealand papers from January 1896:Advert for Kodak camera


[1] EXHIBITION OF AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPY. Wanganui Chronicle, Issue 12120, 19 June 1895, Page 2

[2] NELSON CAMERA CLUB. New Zealand Herald, Volume XXX, Issue 9108, 27 January 1893, Page 5

[3] COLLET DOBSON DRAMATIC COMPANY. Taranaki Herald, Volume XLII, Issue 9619, 9 February 1893, Page 2

[4] PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION. Evening Post, Volume XLVII, Issue 133, 7 June 1894, Page 2


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