Monday, 4 August 2008

A group of schoolboys in 19th Century New Zealand, possibly Dunedin

I acquired this carte de visite with a small group on TradeMe, the local version of eBay.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The group of 27 young boys, all aged about eight or nine, is unfortunately not identified. They are seated and standing in front of a wooden building with weatherboard cladding, which may or may not be a school house. There appear to be some other wooden structures and a bare earth bank behind or to the side of the building.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The reverse of the card mount has a stamp of a scroll with the name of the studio, the American Photographic Company. Unfortunately it does not provide a location and there were several studios of this name in existence at this time. I am presuming, of course, that the photograph was taken in New Zealand. The provenance and the housing style gives some justification for this assumption. The Auckland Library's Photographer's Database gives details of the following possible candidates:

- American Photographic Company, 194 Queen Street (cnr of Wellesley Street East), Auckland Central, c1869-1876
- American Photographic Company, 168 George Street, Dunedin, 1883-1884
- American Photo Company, Next door to the Commercial Hotel, Lawrence, 1897
- American Photo Co, Farley's Hall, Princes Street & Georges Street, Dunedin, 1890-1899
- American Photo Co, Manners Street, Wellington, 1902

The clothes worn by the boys, and the style of design on the reverse, suggest to me a possible date of some time in the 1880s. If I am correct, then the most likely candidate studio is the one at 168 George Street in Dunedin, which operated from 1883 to 1884.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Another carte de visite in the same group purchased together is a view of what appears to be a recently built house on a leveled terrace in front of a high bank, with buildings at the back and on either side. A woman stands in front of the fence and a small carriage is parked on the right hand side of the house. The woman's clothing also appears to correlate with an 1880s date. I'm not at all familiar with the topography of Dunedin, but perhaps a reader could let us know whether the photographs could come from there.

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