Thursday, 25 December 2014

‘May Christmas Mirth Wed New Year Joy’

A hand painted Christmas card almost certainly inspired by Louis Prang, sent in 1908
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection
The first Christmas card which wished its recipient a merry Christmas and a happy New Year was sent in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Sir Henry was overwhelmed by the task of sending handwritten Christmas greetings to all his friends and family. He commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to paint a card and had the Christmas wish printed on it. The card which depicted two acts of charity was a reminder to his wealthy friends to be generous to those less fortunate at this time of year.

The rise in popularity of the Christmas card was rapid and by the 1880s famous artists and writers were being enticed by substantial prize money to design artwork and compose poems for the Christmas card publishers of the day. However a serious challenger to the card emerged during the 1890s in the form of the Christmas postcard. The postcard was less expensive to send, costing only a penny to post in America.

Christmas postcard, printed in Germany for B.B., London & New York
Handwritten on reverse: ‘From Jessie to Mary with Love,’
Addressed to ‘Mary Stewart, Wharf Street, Tauranga,’ date unknown
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection
The Tauranga Heritage Collection has an interesting Christmas card collection with approximately 150 cards that date from the 1870s. Included amongst the publishers of these cards are Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd, Ernest Nister and Louis Prang who is credited with being the father of the modern Christmas card in America.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Furious Riding and Threatening Language: Crime on the Strand

The Strand, Tauranga, looking south, c. 1910s, showing two of the three hotels (the Commercial and the Masonic)
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 99-70
On 16 October 2007, the Bay of Plenty Times reported that the Tauranga City Council was preparing a night management plan to curb brawling and drunkenness on the Strand. In the 19th century also, the typical Strand crime was being drunk and disorderly: as there were three pubs in less than 300 metres, this can be no surprise. In the 1870s the long-suffering Constable Thomas Whelan dealt with an endless string of drunks, who were brought before the magistrate and fined five shillings plus costs for a first offence, or 24 hours in Tauranga jail if they failed to pay up. For subsequent offences they would be stung for ten shillings (or 48 hours in jail). This was the fine paid by Eliza Rudd of Greerton, when she was caught for the second time in less than a month in 1878.

The use of obscene language was usually punished more sharply, though Joseph Faulkner in 1877 was let off with a nominal fine of one shilling. Not so Tuwhiti, a Maori, who in the same year had to pay a whole pound plus 15 shillings costs or endure seven days’ hard labour.

The Strand c. 1883, with a number of ‘loafers’
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 04-250
Maori names were conspicuous among the drinkers, and there were sanctimonious comments about this from Pakeha. ‘We are sorry to see so much drunkenness among the natives now in Tauranga; it is almost impossible to walk along the Strand at any hour without meeting one or two intoxicated aborigines’ (Bay of Plenty Times, 21 August 1878). The impact of alcohol on Maori communities was already serious in the 1870s (1), and Maori leaders expressed concerned about it. But since drinking dulled the pain caused by loss of land and mana, it was difficult to stop – especially when there were so many pubs.

Other offences were reported: thefts and assaults; exploding dynamite in the harbour; and traffic violations, such as riding a horse too fast or on the footpath. Te Kani was fined five shillings and costs for ‘furious riding’ in June 1877. In November of the same year, George Grant was charged with a curious breach of the Municipal Police Act, i.e. tying a rope across the Strand near Wharf Street. He denied the charge, which was dismissed.

Commercial Hotel c 1912, before it burned down in 1916
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 99-723
Although most crime on the Strand was at the lower end of the scale, there was one sad exception. In February 1892 Duncan Munro was found wandering there half-naked, singing hymns and covered in blood, after bludgeoning his wife and children to death. Munro had shown evidence of mental disturbance for some time and was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. He was taken to the Whau Lunatic Asylum in Auckland.

Excessive strolling along the Strand, although not a crime, was deplored by the Bay of Plenty Times. It was the mark of the unemployed, who were advised in 1876 to stop ‘loafing about the Strand’ and go up to Poripori to prospect for gold; or of the lazy, like those members of the Jockey Club who allegedly spent their time ‘talking horse and smoking infamous cigars’ instead of setting up a racecourse. Captain Hannibal Marks the harbour master, also frequently seen on the Strand, was in October 1878 accused of similar neglect of his duties. This is probably what led a few days later to Pascoe Spriddle Marks’ being charged with using threatening language (‘to wit, “I’ll give that d-----d little skunk of an Editor a b-----y good thrashing”’) to Alfred Stewart Rathbone, Editor of the Bay of Plenty Times. The threat was uttered on the Strand, where the editor must have spent quite a bit of time himself.

Being threatened with violence on the Strand seems to have been an occupational hazard for editors of the Times. John Chadwick was charged with using threatening and abusive language to E. M. Edgcumbe in 1876 when the latter was editor. Mr Chadwick apparently said, ‘”You low-looking blackguard, I’ll teach you to put my name in the paper; I’ll make Tauranga so hot for you you’ll have to clear out”’, and ‘”You b-----y wretch, I’ll warm you yet”’ – this last being said ‘in a low hissing sort of voice, with the defendant’s fist lifted towards [Mr Edgcumbe’s] face’. In January 1877 Henry Sheldon used obscene language, lit matches and threw them about, ‘and threatened to punch the head of the Editor of the Bay of Plenty Times’: ten shillings’ fine plus costs of 6s 6d. The newspaper’s more recent editors may feel themselves lucky to have escaped such dramas – but then they probably spend less time on the Strand than their predecessors did.

(1) Megan Cook. 'Māori smoking, alcohol and drugs – tūpeka, waipiro me te tarukino - Māori use of alcohol', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Jun-14

Friday, 12 December 2014

44 Brown Street, The Camp

44 Brown Street, Tauranga, home of William Walmsley, Tauranga's first librarian, c. 2007
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 08-001
This house built in about 1873 is another timber villa that has survived in central Tauranga.  It is a substantial two bay villa, clad with rusticated weatherboards in a design taken probably from an American pattern book. The roof is corrugated iron, with three chimneys and verandahs on two sides with decorative fretwork. Originally there were five bedrooms but the function of the house has changed over the years and modifications must have been made. It is a significant landmark and has been well maintained. When the house was built the area was known as The Camp.

William Cowan Walmsley
First Librarian Tauranga, 1870-1884, died Auckland 16th April 1913, 84 years
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 01-388
William Walmsley, who lived in the house with his family from the late 1880s, came from an English family but grew up in Newfoundland. He was living in Melbourne by 1857 from where he was recruited and joined the 1st Waikato Regiment as a private. The government raised four regiments of militia to keep order in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. Walmsley received the New Zealand War medal as he was able to prove he had come under fire in battle.  In 1872 he was appointed librarian at the Mechanics Institute, the forerunner of the Tauranga Public Library. Mrs Sarah Ann Walmsley died in the house in 1901 and her husband died in Auckland in 1913.

The house is now the offices of MacKenzie Elvin, lawyers. In the 1940s it was a private and maternity hospital called Waimarie. Miss R Gallagher was the midwife and from 1951 Dr Mark took surgical patients. In 1960 it reverted to a private dwelling and was subdivided into flats. For a period prior to the law offices the building housed the Bottle Museum.

Moore, Barbara, William Walmsley; Tauranga’s first librarian, in Historical Review Bay of Plenty Journal of History, May 2007.
Matthews & Matthews, Rorke, Jinty et al. Central Tauranga Heritage Study (draft) 2007

Friday, 5 December 2014

Oleographs in Brain-Watkins House

Oleograph, Brain Watkins House
An oleograph was the precursor to the modern mass production of colour reproductions, and was the most popular method of colour reproduction until the end of the nineteenth century, when more efficient methods of colour multiple reprints were devised. It was invented by Alois Senefelder in Germany in 1798.

The technique was in use in England the 1830s, but was not used commercially until thirty years later. A chromolithograph was prepared by hand and colour applied; it was then printed on to cloth, to imitate an oil painting. A stone for each colour required was prepared, and  one colour over another was applied, sometimes using up to thirty stones for a single print. (1)

Oleograph, Brain Watkins House
There are two examples of Oleographs in the parlour at Brain-Watkins House, one on either side of the fireplace. Each depicts a man and a woman dressed in garments of circa 1874, and are possibly the oldest pictures in the House collection. They were valued in 1979 at $250.00.

When first invented, oleographs sold for under $10.00 American, and were advertised as ‘the democracy art for Middle class families.” Louis Prang of Boston became a very successful publisher of oleographs after the American Civil war. He produced still life, landscapes and classical subjects, and he also copied famous paintings, which were well received. He also commissioned artists to do work for him, and the product of their labour was sold from door to door. The most valuable oleographs were those specially commissioned and if in their original frames, are still reasonably valuable.

Oleographs can be identified by the publishers label pasted on the back of the picture. The labels on the ones owned by the Tauranga Historical Society have been covered by layers of paper pasted over them to protect the picture, and should be revealed when the works are able to be restored and reframed in their original frames. Today, oleographs have been forgotten, but they are  interesting prints and give us a glimpse into the culture of the late nineteenth century.

(1) Encyclopaedia Britannica