Friday, July 15, 2011

Unknown Gentleman of Dunedin, Hokitika or Greymouth circa 1866

Here is another of the mysterious unknown gentlemen from New Zealand.  The dark halo around the subject suggests that this is a copy of an earlier photo.  Photographers did a lot of copying as part of their business.

The photo was taken by the Tait Brothers, with a printed logo on the back suggesting they operated in Dunedin, Hokitika and Greymouth.  Where this one was taken is anyone's guess.  Maybe not even in New Zealand.

What I can deduce from the photo is that the fellow is wearing a good quality woollen suit coat, which looks clean and newish.  He is a bit of a dude, wearing a very fashionable roll curl on top of his head, and maintaining a good length of curl over his ears. 

He is rather gaunt-looking, with hollowed-out cheeks, possibly from hard physical labour - or perhaps he had been ill.  He has light-coloured eyes, and appears to be aged in mid to late thirties.

Early Canterbury Photographers has a lot of information about the Tait Bros operation, but there is no example of the same style of printed mountboard, so that doesn't help with a date.  The man's hair-style and fashion, though, places the portrait date in the mid to late 1860s.

Again, if you are able to identify this man, please get in touch.

J R Wright of the Melbourne Hotel, Hokitika

James R Wright, mentioned previously at the Victoria Hotel, would appear to be a hotel and entertainment proprietor.    Was he from Melbourne himself, or did he purchase the hotel which had that name already?  Probably the latter.

Does anyone know anything of this James R Wright?  I'm wondering if he could be the Unknown Gentleman of Hokitika - not that I think he is wearing a hotel-keeping outfit, but you never know.

This advertisement appeared in the the West Coast Times from 14 December 1866, page 1.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

George Griffith piano tuning in Melbourne, 1876

July to Sep 1876


Beg to inform their musical friends and the public
that they have now in their employ the
The staff consisting
Of whom nothing need be said, his name being a suffi-
cient guarantee for excellence of work.
A most excellent and finished tuner, for five years with Erard,
several years with Broadwood, for the
last five years constantly engaged in Melbourne.
A most careful and painstaking tuner.
In securing the very best men for this important branch of their
business, Nicholson and Ascherberg again prove that it is
their endeavour to have the best that can be had in every
department, and they hope that this will be duly estimated by
their numerous
friends and the public
The tuning of a piano is one of the main things to be thought
of by owners, as many a good instrument is spoiled by the
tuning being entrusted to inferior men.
Nicholson and Ascherberg therefore assure the public that
all tuning entrusted to them will receive every justice at their hands,
combined with punctuality and moderate charge.
Pianoforte Gallery
(Opposite W. H. Rocke and Co ),
The Argus 3 June 1876

A few months later Nicholson and Ascherberg advertised a string and brass orchestra.  It is tempting to think that George was a part of that orchestra.  Perhaps he was, but the only story about him that I have heard that has been handed down was that he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis in his  hands, and that he had to have his hands massaged before he could play.  I have wondered whether he was still able to play. 

(String and Brass Instruments) 
has long been known as the first orchestra for
dance music in the colony.
The BAND Consists of 80 MEN.
Conducted by the well-known Herr PLOCK,
possessing the largest and most choice repertoire
of music of any band this side of the equator.  
Any number from one to 80 can be engaged. 
Engagements may be made and all particulars ob-
tained at Nicholson and Ascherberg's. 
Quadrille pianist, Herr Plock.


Have in their employ the   
The staff consisting of   
In the tuning of pianos many a good instrument is
spoiled by the work being entrusted to inferior work-
men, Messrs. N. and A. assure the public that all
orders given them will be faithfully executed with
punctuality, and at moderate charges.
The Argus 9 September 1876

After this date Nicholson and Ascherberg continued to advertise the best piano tuners in Melbourne, but they no longer advertised their names, concentrating on different aspects of their music business on which to spend their advertising pounds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When did George Griffith return to Melbourne?

I have been hunting for definite evidence of George Griffith's return to Melbourne after his appearance in Hokitika in the 1867 West Coast Times.  The Sands & McDougall Directory lists George in 1869.  Generally directories are about a year behind what they are reporting by the time they are printed, so we can probably take that to mean that he was back in town by 1868.   

The only other thing I can locate in this general period is the appearance of 'Geo Griffiths' in a program for the 'London Music Hall' in Bourke Street.   It is not certainly my ancestor, but while there are quite a few other George Griffiths' around, I haven't come upon another musician of that name. Of course, this could be the exception that proves the rule, but on balance, I think this is likely to be my ancestor.


The following artists are already engaged :
Johnny Cowan,
Mr. J. J. Daniels,
John Black,
Mr. Lelifield,
Mr. Lloyd,
Mr. Leotard,
Harry Santley,
Mr. J. Munyard, Mr. Cullimore,
Mr. Geo Griffiths,
Mr. Fritz,
Miss Milly Parker.
Commence every evening at 8 o'clock sharp.
I. COLEMAN, Proprietor.

LONDON MUSIC-HALL.-Come and see Mr. J. J.
DANIELS, great descriptive singer.

LONDON MUSIC HALL, Bourke-street East.
Come and see Mr. J. J. DANIELS, great descriptive singer.

The Argus 25 April 1871

Isaac Coleman, the proprietor of the London Music Hall, can best be described as a 'colourful character' - his name was frequently mentioned in The Argus at the time, and also in many courtrooms.  After a string of advertisements like the above in April 1871 mentioning George Griffiths (sic), it wasn't long before Coleman was back in court facing a hearing on his licence.  In June 1871 he forfeited his licence, and by February 1872 he was undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.    Thus was George prevented from becoming a sensation in the Melbourne music hall scene.  It was quite some years before his name reappeared in The Argus.

When did George Griffith leave Melbourne for New Zealand?

In this post I will examine the available Victorian directories for entries from George Griffith and see if I can establish approximately when he was absent from Victoria. 

 1857 Ovens,   Griffith, George, Professor of Music, Woolshed, Beechworth
1866 Sands & McDougall, Griffith, Geo, 16 Little Latrobe-street, east
1868 -
1869 Sands & McDougall, Griffith, Geo, Prof of Music, 10 Budd St, East Collingwood
1870 Sands & McDougall, Griffith, Geo, Prof of Music, 10 Budd St, East Collingwood
1871 Sands & McDougall, Griffith, Geo, Prof of Music, 10 Budd St, East Collingwood
1871 Sands & McDougall, Trade & Prof, Prof's & Teachers, Griffith, George (music),        Budd St, E C.
1871/72  Bailleire's, Victoria, Griffith, G, Prof of Music, East Collingwood
1872 -
1873 -
1874  Sands & McDougall, Griffiths, George, 75 Fitzroy St, Fitzroy
1875  Sands & McDougall, Griffiths, George, 75 Fitzroy St, Fitzroy
1876  Sands & McDougall, Griffiths, George, 75 Fitzroy St, Fitzroy
1876  Sands & McDougall, Griffiths, George, 1 Lit Marion St, Fitzroy
1877  Sands & McDougall, Griffiths, George, 123 Moor St, Fitzroy
1878  Sands & McDougall, Griffiths, George, Lit George St, Fitzroy
1879  Sands & McDougall, Griffiths, George, 49 Lit George St, Fitzroy

George died on 31 December 1878.  From 1880 his wife was listed in the directories.

Two things stand out here - firstly, that there are two apparent gaps in the record, which may indicate two periods of absence.  This requires a more detailed examination.  We know from the previous post on the West Coast Times advertisements that he was in Hokitika, New Zealand, in 1867, which matches with one of the years in which George was absent from the directories.

Secondly, that George's main occupation, where it is recorded, is as a teacher, or Professor of Music.  After the second period of absence, from 1874, it is not so clear how he was employed.  In the 1867 ads he is a piano tuner and repairer, which is quite a change from 'musician'.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hokitika in the 1870s

Hokitika in the 1870s photographed by James Ring. Source: Photographic 
Archive, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.

I was interested to see what Hokitika looked like around the time George Griffith was there, and found this interesting photo in the National Library NZ on The Commons' photostream.  

It is evident from the closeness of the timber dwellings that a fire could easily take hold and wipe out several buildings, as happened in Revell Street in 1869, mentioned in the Early Canterbury Photographers blog.  

A Piano Tuner in Hokitika, 1867

I've been having a very close look at the Papers Past collection to see if I could find some evidence that George Griffith was ever in New Zealand, and I think I have found it, in the above advertisement for:
"Pianos.  G Griffith from Melbourne, pianoforte Tuner and Repairer, Address - R Wright, Victoria Hotel, Revell street, [Hokitika]", followed by "Music provided for Balls and Parties, Violin and Piano always at command.  J R Wright, Victoria Hotel."

A series of advertisements was placed in the West Coast Times from 8 October 1867 to December 1867.    George seems to have some form of business relationship with J R Wright of Hokitika.  I feel he is likely to have been the "violin on command". 

Mr Wright appears as a supporter of various candidates for the Provincial Council from 1866, so he had perhaps been in town a little longer than Griffith.

I'm pleased to have been able to spot him somewhere, at least.  And of course if you are a connection of J R Wright, I would love to heard from you.  Maybe one of my unknown gentlemen is J R Wright.

Unknown Gentleman of Hokitika, circa 1868

This full length portrait was taken in the London Portrait Rooms studio of Rudolph Haigh & Co.

I haven't had to look far to discover something about Rudolph Haigh's operation, because an excellent vignette of Haigh is contained on the Early Canterbury Photographers blog.

This reveals that Haigh had advertised removing to the premises of the London Portrait Rooms in August 1868, and that the building burnt down in July 1869, which beautifully narrows down the time-frame for this image.   The very simple printed business name on the back, compared with others on the Canterbury website suggests it was produced very early in the life of Haigh's business at this address, so I take it to have been an 1868 image.

Again, I know nothing about the gentleman in the photo beyond what I can see.  He seems to be aged about 30.  He is dressed in fresh, fairly new I think, clean and fashionable clothing.  The cap in his hand, and the whip in the other, seems to suggest to me some sort of official uniform.  A postman?  A coachdriver? An inspector?

The colourist took note of blue eyes and a ruddy complexion.

If anyone recognises the man or the uniform, I would love to know about it.  Please get in touch.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coal Creek Gardens

Left: the gentleman standing proprietorially at the forefront of the photo is probably Mr E Nelson.

A few stories and advertisements about the Coal Creek Gardens in the Grey River Argus describes in interesting detail the sophisticated business plan of Mr E Nelson, the proprietor.  Leading up to Christmas in 1866, an advertorial extolled the virtues of the place:

In the way of pic-nics, Mr Nelson of the Coal Creek gardens has made great preparations, and from a recent visit we have paid to his gardens we can afford to award him great praise for his exertions to provide for the recreation of the citizens of Greymouth. He has cleared a huge enclosure as a playground, and opened up several pretty walks and arbors, where conveniences for pic-nic parties have been placed in the shape of forms and tables. Swings and other means of amusement are also provided, and no doubt Mr. Nelson will find his reward in extensive public patronage. Two "Art Unions" as they are termed, are also announced, which will afford an opportunity for those to choose to run the chance of drawing a rich prize.
Grey River Argus, Volume III, Issue 148, 22 December 1866, Page 2
On Christmas Day he catered for a community which probably  had little in the way of extended family with whom to celebrate the Christmas festival, and all were invited to participate in Christmas Sports:

CHRISTMAS SPORTS. COAL CREEK GARDENS. GRAND MUSICAL FETE. Al Fresco Ball on the Green Sward. Arbours, Grottoes, and Summerseats, for Pic Nics. Sylvan Shades for Romantic Lovers ! Swings for Children. THE ALLIANCE BAND. PROFESSOR SAMPSON, M C.  The Proprietor of the Coal Creek Gardens has provided the above for his Greymouth Friends during the Christmas Week, commencing THIS DAY, AT 2 O'CLOCK. As there is no charge for admission, visitors are requested not to destroy any of the plants or shrubs. Boats every five minutes. E. NELSON, Proprietor
Grey River Argus, Volume III, Issue 149, 25 December 1866, Page 3
 Before Christmas the following year, it would appear that a flood had damaged the gardens:

COAL CREEK GARDENS. The Proprietor begs to announce that having made good all the damage occasioned  by the late flood, these Beautiful Gardens are again open to the public for Pic-Nics, Tea Parties, &c, &c. Boquets and Vegetables| always ready. E NELSON.
Grey River Argus , Issue 304, 24 December 1867, Page 1
Again, floods occurred in January 1868:
Mr Nelson's gardens were flooded several feet deep, and all the families on the agricultural sections on the flat had to betake themselves to boats. Great loss has .been occasioned through the destruction of the growing crops of vegetables, and the out of potatoes.
Wellington Independent, 16 Kohitātea [January] 1868, Page 5

The following ad reveals that in addition to teas and picnics, the Gardens catered for more serious drinkers:
WANTED, a Female General Servant, and to assist in the bar occasionally. Apply Coal Creek Gardens.
Grey River Argus, Volume VI, Issue 391, 16 July 1868, Page 3
Levinski was able to turn the floods in Greymouth to advantage, when he advertised:
Flood. Flood.  Flood. PORTRAITS of the late Floods of the principal parts of the town can be had, highly finished, AT LEVINSKI'S PORTRAIT ROOMS, Boundary street ; or, J. BASCH, TOBACCONIST.
Grey River Argus, Volume VI, Issue 431, 17 October 1868, Page 3

THE CALEDONIAN SPORTS, Which were to have been held on Christmas Day  at COAL CREEK GARDENS, And which were put off, will now come off  On NEW YEAR' S DAY, And will be held with great eclat, as the Beautiful grounds will now be  in fine condition for them.  Grey River Argus, Volume VII, Issue 463, 1 January 1869, Page 3

By January 1870 it appears that Mr Nelson had departed and Charley Boase was the new proprietor:
RECREATION FOR ALL. Now that the Holidays are over, and that every one may have a chance of enjoyment, CHARLEY BOASE, Of the COAL CREEK GARDENS, Intends to give A GRAND PICNIC, On TUESDAY NEXT, the 11th INSTANT, To commence at 10 a.m. sharp. The Greymouth Brass Band will be in attendance for dancing parties, which will be conducted by an efficient M.C. Tickets, 3s each, the holders of which will be entitled to a free passage to and from the Gardens. Children under 10, accompanied by their parents, Free. Boats leave and arrive opposite Middleton's Wharf Hotel. Tickets to be had at the Steps. Grey River Argus, Volume IX, Issue 620, 8 January 1870, Page 3
I'm interested to see the references to music being performed at the Gardens.  Perhaps George Griffith, a musician, played there one or twice.  I'm not clear as to how far out of the main town centre the gardens were, but clearly far enough to warrant a boat trip.

Unknown gentleman of Greymouth, circa 1868

Here is the first of my unknown New Zealand Portraits.  I don't know anything about him, so have to rely on what there is to see in the picture.  Firstly, he would appear to be in the vicinity of forty years of age, possibly slightly younger. His middle has expanded with the approach of middle age.  He is young enough to be vain about his hair.  It is a good head of hair, well-kempt, with the stylish roll-curls over the ears that were the fashion in the 1860s.

His clothes look very warm (winter?), and clean, but lived in.  Not lately pressed. He is wearing the suit of a working man of the 1860s with the single button at the top, modelled on the working man's smock.

His expression is care-worn.  He has had to work hard to make his way in the world.  He seems to have brown eyes, or dark-coloured irises.

That exhausts what I can deduce from the image.

The photographer was A S Levinski, identified as Abraham Solomon Levinski on the Early Canterbury Photographers blog.

Newspapers on the Papers Past website yield a few clues about Levinski's career.  He appears to have been working as a hairdresser with a sideline in real estate rentals in George Street, Dunedin (opposite the Royal George Hotel) in 1864. 

By 1866, however, he had relocated to Greymouth and was again advertising his services as a hairdresser:

IF you wish-to have your hair cut properly for One Shilling go to LEVINSKI'S HAIRCUTTING SALOON, Boundary street, Two doors from  "Grey River Argus" Office, (Late of George street, Dunedin), Where you can rely on good workmanship.
Grey River Argus , 26 July 1866, Page 3.
Levinski may already have been operating a photographer's business as a sideline while he learnt how to do it adequately.  By August 1867, however, he had made the plunge, and announced his London Portrait Rooms in Boundary Road, in what appears to be his former hairdressing establishment:

PHOTOGRAPHY. — The LONDON PORTRAIT ROOMS, conducted by A. S. LEVINSKI,  Photographer, Boundary street (two doors from "Grey River Argus" office). Portraits can be taken in any weather for Carte de Visites, Brooches, Lockets, Pins, Rings, Views, etc., on the shortest notice. N.B. — All orders punctually attended to.
Grey River Argus, Volume IV, Issue 255, 31 August 1867, Page 3.
In February 1868 another Greymouth photographer, John Low, announces that he is taking over the London Portrait Rooms; but at the end of June 1868 Levinski announces that he is resuming business at the Boundary Road premises.  The Early Canterbury Photographers website says that the London Portrait Rooms were partly destroyed by fire in early 1870.

The portrait above, then, would appear to be no earlier than 1867, and no later than 1870.  If anything, I would lean towards the earlier date, as mountboards and men's jackets were changing by 1870.

If anyone can identify this man, I would be very interested to learn further details about him.

The reference in the last advertisement to "Views" is interesting - it could be that it was Levinski who took the photo of the Coal Creek Gardens, though there was another photographer operating in Greymouth at the same time, John Low, and he might equally well have been the photographer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coal Creek Gardens, Greymouth, 1860s

This is a very interesting and very early outdoors photograph.  The caption on the back reads "Coal Creek Gardens, Greymouth".  What does the photo reveal?  It shows a steep bank, perched at the top of which is a small and fairly new-looking building with a corrugated-iron roof and vertical boards for walls. It appears to have a verandah all round.  To the left end of the building appears to be a sign or hoarding, and above the roof is a flagpole and flag, suggesting a store or trading post.   The sign presumably faces the road, and the road leads onto a bridge.  The photographer appears to be perched up high on the opposite bank of the creek.  Behind the building is a steep bluff.

There are a number of tree-ferns along the side of the building we can see, which give the appearance of having been planted for a garden - two of them form a gateway at the top of the timber stairs leading up from the creek.  They presumably form part of the "gardens" noted on the back of the photo.

There are quite a few people posing for the photo. There are three men standing at the left end of the verandah; there is a small girl and another two men standing on the stairs.  Further to the right is a man in a jacket and boater, behind him with his back to the camera is another man, and there is a woman seated at the back of the building.  To the left of the last tree-fern is another man with his back to the camera.   He is wearing no jacket.  There are two other shadowy figures further to the right which suggest that the man without the jacket failed to stand still for the camera.  Ten people in all (not counting the extra two shadowy figures).

All of them appear to be well dressed and clean, which suggests to me that this is a Sunday, the day of rest.  

The number of small row-boats tied up at the foot of the stairs is impressive.  Are they boats for hire - pleasure boats?  Or are they the run-abouts for the locals further up the creek who have come down for Church (somewhere nearby, perhaps?) and re-stocking the pantry?  Perhaps they are used to get to larger vessels standing further out?  I am not much of a boat-person, so if anyone can shed light on the boats that would be helpful.

As to the date of the photo - the card on which the photo is mounted suggests a date in the 1860s, as do the men's jackets with the single button at the top, and the little girl's crinoline frock.    A key thing to know would be when the bridge at Coal Creek was built.  (Anyone?)  Also the store.

West Coast Times , Issue 26, 29 July 1865, Page 2
Great inconvenience is felt at the want of a bridge across the lagoon which divides tho new town from the old settlement called Blaketown ; but I hear that the Government have set men on cutting timber for this much needed roadway, for as it is, a distressing tax is laid on the people by having to pay Is for crossing, oils 6d for crossing the lagoon and the return trip.

Perhaps the the bridge mentioned in the West Coast Times is the one in the photo, but as I don't know the geography of Greymouth I cannot say.

In a new gold-rush community you would expect to see numbers of young men, and that is what we see in this picture.  Not many brought their families with them.  The woman and child in the photo, and probably the man at the centre and front of the picture are possibly associated with the store.

This photo appeared in George Griffith's eldest daughter's photo album.  Did he send it to her?  Did he bring it home with him?  Is it his writing on the back?  Well, I'm short of a signature for comparison.  with a bit of luck one will turn up one day.  The photo may have been taken before George ever set foot in New Zealand.  It may have been a "tourist" photo sold in the local stores, or by the local photographer.

If anyone would like to comment on the foregoing, please feel free.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Adventure Begins

My great, great grandfather, George Griffith, clearly had the lust for gold.  He emigrated to Victoria by 1854, where he formed a relationship with a young girl from Surrey called Susan Rochester.  They did not marry, but had a large family together, several of them born in Victorian goldrush towns before the family returned to the Melbourne suburbs.

George died in Fitzroy on 31 Dec 1878 aged 54. His death certificate revealed a previously unsuspected adventure. His daughter Mary Jane, the informant, answered the following question: "Where born and how long in the Australian Colonies, stating which" with, "Liverpool, England.  In New Zealand and Victoria, periods not known".

The conundrum of *when* he was in New Zealand  took many more years, and many more records becoming available before this could be answered - though not with precision. There was also the intriguing presence of a number of photos taken in New Zealand in a photo album which had belonged to his daughter Mary Jane.

The question arises as to who are the men in the album - relatives, perhaps, or diggers he met in New Zealand?

The purpose of this blog is to try and find out more about those photos, and to find out more about George's period in New Zealand. Where did he go, what did he do, and whom did he meet?

He seems not to have taken his family with him. It appears that they remained behind in Melbourne, but this will also be up for examination.

If anyone can identify any of the photos, or make any comments about them, or suggest places I might look to follow George's adventures in New Zealand, I would be very grateful indeed. I will start off by posting some of the New Zealand photos.