Victorian Album

Victorian Album

My latest find on TradeMe was this Victorian album. The seller gave no information about its origins, so we are left to wonder about its history.  Sadly, the album is now in pretty bad shape. The covering on the spine is partly missing and many of the pages and photo frames are torn. And worse still, someone tried to fix these with sellotape which only makes the damage worse and that much more difficult to repair. 

It's so sad to see how this beautiful album has been treated. It is such a shame that whoever removed the photos didn't take a little more care not to damage the frames. Other than the damage caused by someone inserting and removing pictures from the slots roughly, the inside of the album is actually in really good condition and still looks almost new. 

Still, my real reason for purchasing the album, was not so much for the album but rather the three photographs left in it.

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We can only wonder why these photographs and the greeting card were left behind. Was it by accident or out of spite or indifference? I had hoped there would be a message written on the back of the greeting card that might give some clues, but alas, it was blank. 

Interestingly though, each of the photographs had a business card attached to the back of them, which tells us these were not family photographs but calling cards and may explain why they were discarded with the album. 

I had guessed the album and photographs were probably from the 1890s but thanks to the attached business cards, I was able to determine that they're all much older, dating to around the mid 1870s! We'll never know who the subjects in these three photographs were, but thanks to the Internet we have a bit more information about the photographers.

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Mrs Williams - is not the lady in the first photo, but the photographer! Mrs Williams was a female photographer who ran a successful photography studio in Wolverhampton, England from around 1870 to 1890. So we know that the woman in this photograph would have been born and living in England at the time the photograph was taken. Perhaps she later moved to New Zealand or maybe she visited, or maybe she never came to New Zealand at all, but posted her calling card to the owner of the album. Perhaps even along with the greeting card? Since many New Zealanders have English ancestors, its no surprise that many of Mrs Williams' photographs made their way here and the National Library has a few in their collection. They are also relatively common on eBay, so Mrs Williams really must have been THE photographer of that region back in the day.

The other two photographs are from New Zealand photographers of the time. The photography studio, Hemus and Hanna, that took the photo of the gentleman, was well-known at the time and seems to have done well, operating between 1875 and 1885. The national library has a large collection of their photographs and calling cards

Richard Redfern was another Auckland photographer from the time who appears to have then merged his business with another photographer to be become Taylor and Redfern.

Posted: Mon 19 Apr 2021

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