Showing posts from 2013

Hydrographic heritage

During the Auckland Tall Ships Festival earlier this year the Auckland Libraries heritage and research collections organised a popular display which included letters, maps, magazine covers and photographs. Of particular interest to many visitors were the hydrographic charts.

These charts are fascinating examples of early mapping and are wonderfully detailed, with volcanic cones sometimes looking like puffs of smoke. They are accessible via the Heritage Images database and copies of the charts are available to be purchased from Sir George Grey Special Collections.

In 1848, Captain John Lort Stokescommanded the paddle-steamer Acheron, and began the first official hydrographic survey of the New Zealand coastline. Starting on Auckland's North Shore, the Acheron then traveled to Banks Peninsula, Otago, Wellington and Fiordland. In 1851, the Acheron was replaced by the smaller vessel Pandora under Commander Byron Drury. Over the next four years Drury and his officers diligently filled i…

Christmas cheer

Well that time of year is nearly upon us and what better way to celebrate than to look back at Christmases past, through the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries. The clothes and hairstyles and locations might have changed a bit but we are still enjoying the same things at Christmas such as picnics at the beach and taking family photographs.

Heritage et AL will be taking a break over the festive period but will be back on 20th January with more heritage stories and taonga (treasures) from the Auckland Libraries collections. Enjoy your Christmas an New Year holiday!

Christmas cards:

You can see more heritage Christmas cards in the online exhibition from the Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Getting ready for the holidays:

Boccaccio anniversary

2013 is the 700th anniversary of the birth of the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) - poet, biographer, prose writer, lecturer, book collector, biographer of Dante and Petrarch, humanist.  

Boccaccio’s best known work is the 'Decameron', written between 1348 and 1352. It is a collection of 100 tales told by a group of young noble men and women who flee to the countryside to escape the Plague. Over 10 days they tell each other stories to distract and amuse themselves. The 'Decameron'’s combination of “realism, cheer and disorderliness” and its reputation as a book banned for its erotic content have ensured that it has remained popular through the centuries. It has been translated into many languages, turned into verse, and inspired other books, films, and electronic media.
The copy in Italian (shown above) was printed in the 1750s. The second book (shown below) was published in America. The verse is translated into English from a French verse translation ma…

Heady Heights and Haystacks

Driving in the outskirts of Auckland at this time of year you are bound to notice those large rolls of hay perched on hillsides, or perhaps the smaller oblong bales dispatched along the length of a recently chopped field.

In the past the making of haystacks was an activity which provided a way of connecting the local farming communities and local families with one another. Before the advent of hay-balers these giant piles of hay required far more labour, tenacity and skill to create.

The stack in the photograph above was made up of hay from fields 10 acres in extent and was estimated at 60 tons in weight. Reg Wyman is on top of the stack and Geoff Mellsop on the ledge halfway down.

Celebrating Flowers

At this time of year, summer definitely feels like it is underway and so too are the beautiful array of plants in our gardens, parks and the landscapes that make up the Auckland region. With this blog post we celebrate the beauty of the natural world through the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries.

You can search for images yourself by browsing through the heritage databases including Kura and Heritage Images, by using keywords such as flowers and plants.
 Portraits with flowers:

West Auckland history: family connections, Pt 3

Marge Harre, as featured in book ' 'Roadhouse Days: an account of a family, a house and a restaurant' by Drew Harré and David Harré (2009) and covered in blog posts on the 4 and 9 December, is part of a network of families in West Auckland, linking the Gardner and Clark families. These connections are explained in the 'The Clark Family History: the descendants of Josiah Clark & Ann (nee Rose) Clark of Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England' by Athol Miller (1989), which adds further background to Marge’s story.

(Rice) Owen Clark I (1816-1896), Marge’s great grandfather, immigrated to New Zealand from England in 1841. In 1854 he bought some land in Hobsonville and “[i]n 1862 he established the field tile industry [used for drainage in agriculture], which under his guidance and that of his son R O Clark II and grandsons Thomas Edwin, and latterly under his great grandsons Malcolm and Thomas Edwin II, was to grown into the firm known as Ceramco" (p.20, '…

Family History, Local History: Marge Harré, the early years, Pt 2

The blog post on the 4 December 2013 introduced Marge Harré and her family's involvement with the Roadhouse restaurant in Oratia. The Clark and Gardner families with whom Marge was related, played a leading role in the growth of West Auckland’s brick and clay industry. 'The sons of Louisa (Clark) and John Gardner made bricks in New Lynn. Between 1922 and1925 they made nearly 21 million' (p.15, 'Roadhouse Days').
Louisa (Gan) Clark/Gardner (Marge's grandmother) lived at the Gardner house at Glorit until some of the family moved down to New Lynn in 1898. The house, named Mataia Homestead,  is located on the Kaipara Coast Highway. Gan moved down there a little later, probably around the early 1900s. The photo below is from the early 1930s, when Gan went back to visit the house.

Marge’s mother, Ellen (Gardner) Miller died 11 months after Marge was born. Ellen’s parents were Louisa (Gan) and John Gardner. As a child, Marge received a limited education due to health …

Bicycling Auckland

In 1869, Mr Cousins of the carriage-makers Cousins and Atkin Ltd, rode the first bicycle in Auckland down Grey Street. Reportedly Mr Cousins wobbled down the road on a rattly sounding number with wooden wheels and iron tyres. No surprise then that the earliest bikes or 'velocipedes' were called 'boneshakers', and were perhaps not so easy to ride. "Messrs. Cousins and Atkin have offered a very handsome premium to any of their employees who could first bring it [the bicycle] safely along Queen-street without a 'spill'' (Daily Southern Cross, 26 Aug 1869, via Papers Past).
Bikes may have been tricky to ride, but the craze had begun. Velos morphed into high-wheeled penny farthings - popular for a few years among wealthy young men. Then came the 'safety bicycle' – much easier for everyone to ride - men and women, and were more like what we ride today.

Marge Harré: an enterprising woman, a restaurant & a West Auckland family, Pt 1

Marge Harré’s story is one of an enterprising and, by all accounts she was an extremely engaging and unique character. She left behind a lasting legacy - one that connects, a house, a community, her wider family history, and the history of West Auckland. Her most enduring legacy has been provided in the book, 'Roadhouse Days: an account of a family, a house and a restaurant' by Drew Harré and David Harré (2009).

'Roadhouse Days' tells the story of Marge and her family’s involvement in the Town and Country Roadhouse Restaurant (1949 to c.1968) in Oratia, West Auckland. Written by Marge’s son, Dave Harré and Dave’s nephew, Drew Harré, this book contains entertaining anecdotes, recollections as well as accounts based on historical records. Many of Marge’s recipes are also included at the end of the book.

The original Roadhouse restaurant partners were Trude Bethell, Iibbie Woodward/Wheeler, Marge Harré and Jim Wakeling. The family trees of the 3 women link to prominent fa…

Porky Pies

Highly adaptive, intelligent and capable of eating pretty much anything, pigs are one of the real survivors of the animal kingdom. Pigs have long been domesticated by humans and this close relationship is evident in the number of sayings in the English language, which relate to pigs - most of which are not very flattering to the poor pig! These idioms, many of which are seen as clichés, include: 'fat as a pig', 'making a pig of oneself', 'pig in a poke', 'happy as a pig in mud', 'road hog', 'porky pies'. Expressions about pigs are also found in other countries around the world including Europe and Africa.

In NZ, early explorers brought with them a range of new food sources including pigs. Pigs became an important food for Māori and were often gifted to other iwi. Pigs and baskets of potatoes were also used as a form of currency. Further, feral pigs along with seals, goats, shellfish and roots were an important food source for shipwrecked…

Auckland Botanic Gardens

In May 1967 the Auckland Regional Authority (ARA which was succeeded by the Auckland Regional Council, ARC) and the Manukau City Council purchased land in Manurewa for the purpose of creating a regional botanic garden. Proposals for a garden had been discussed over many years, with Auckland sites having first been investigated as early as 1926. During the 1960s, sites were investigated at Cornwall Park, Tamaki and Cascades Park.

The ARA was formed in 1963, and in 1964 was approached by a number of organisations to consider purchase of the 82 hectare Nathan Farm at Manurewa prior to it being subdivided. The ARA ended up purchasing 42 hectares, with the Manukau City Council purchasing the remaining 40 hectares, half of which was set aside for open space, and the other half for a planned housing development. The photograph below shows Nathan Farm (to the right of the motorway), before to the purchase.

Pacific Islanders in the First World War

Updated 18 November 2016

On 23 April earlier this year members of the local Niuean community unveiled a unique war memorial in Mt Roskill’s War Memorial Park. This was the Niue Island World War I Roll of Honour: a polished black granite tablet listing the names of men from Niue Island who served in the New Zealand armed forces during the First World War: 150 men who served in the 3rd Māori Contingent and seven who served in other sections of the NZEF.

Why did so many men from a tiny and remote Pacific island volunteer to serve in a war which overtly had little to do with them? Well, New Zealand had annexed both the Cook Islands and Niue in 1901. After war broke out in 1914, many local men from both protectorates were eager to enlist, some of them motivated by patriotism, most of them impelled by a sense of adventure, and the colonial administrators on the spot were keen to facilitate their recruitment. The New Zealand military authorities back home initially welcomed only volunteers…

History of the Santa parade

Christmas parades have been held in the main centres of New Zealand since the early 1900s, usually sponsored by department stores to promote the arrival of “in-store” Santas, which attracted customers into their stores. Santa made his first commercial appearance in Auckland in 1903 at the DSC store (later John Court Ltd).

Farmers Department Store in Auckland first hosted the parade in 1934. The following year local competitor George Court paraded Santa. Farmers later became the main department store to host the Santa Parade in Auckland.

On Saturday 20 November1937, Farmers had their Santa parachute into the Auckland Domain to distribute toys to waiting children. This stunt almost went wrong as well-known parachutist George Sellars narrowly escaped serious injury when he swung his parachute away from the glass roof of the Winter Gardens. Sellars jumped from only 1,000 feet up to give the children “an additional thrill”. He was blown towards the Winter Gardens by a strong south-west…

Pa Sites at the Gateway to Manukau

As you drive along Puhinui Road from the airport towards Papatoetoe and Manukau City Centre, you’ll pass some of Papatoetoe’s oldest historic places.

These are pa sites that today guard this gateway to Manukau. The major site here is the Papatoetoe Pa (NZAA reference number: R11/59).  The pa was formed on a headland near the upper reaches of the Waokauri Creek, where it controlled the Papatoetoe portage. Papatoetoe Pa was protected on its landward side by a ditch and bank originally about 50 metres long. The pa was about 105 metres in length, 60 metres wide at its broadest point; reducing to 25 metres wide at its tip.

 The photo below looks down at a branch of the Waokauri Creek from the pa entrenchment.

Reasons for Insane Asylum admissions in the Victorian era

Imaginary female trouble, nymphomania and bad whiskey are three reasons patients gave when being admitted to an American insane asylum in the late 19th Century. Reading the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane’s log book reveals many surprising conditions such as menstrual deranged, female disease, venereal excesses and even novel reading.

The parameters around insanity, and how to treat it, changed considerably in the United States of America thanks to social reformer Dorothea Dix - described as one of the rare cases in history where a social movement of such proportions can be attributed to the work of a single individual.

Up until then, treatment for an insane person often meant being hidden by family in attics or sheds or even holes in the ground. Those without family or friends to support them were kept in prison.

Dorothea Dix’s commitment to improving care for mentally ill people began when she visited a jail in 1841 and saw mentally ill inmates chained naked to stone walls, i…

Government gardens in South Auckland

70 years ago the Patumahoe State Gardens were established in the Franklin District. Bountiful supplies of vegetables were to be grown there for the remainder of the war years.

From the early to mid 1940s parts of the NZ countryside were acquisitioned by the Department of Agriculture and used for the purpose of increasing large scale vegetable production. The department implemented its Services Vegetable Production Scheme in 1942. These farms were established to address the need to feed US troops stationed here during WW2. The gardens became known as 'State Farms' or 'Government Gardens'. Within six months the NZ government had established 7 state farms totalling 663 acres; the total later grew to 27 farms covering 5,200 acres. A significant number of these were based in the South Auckland region from Mangere to Pukekohe and Waiuku. By the end of 1945 all of state farms had closed down.

New additions to Footprints database

South Auckland Research Centre has recently added almost 500 photographs and descriptions to its image database Footprints. The database already contains a selection 5000 of historical photographs and other images relating to South Auckland.

The latest additions include a collection of black & white images from Southmall in Manurewa. The images cover the 1950s through to April 1972 and have been supplied courtesy of the Manurewa Historical Society. They include aerial shots of the shopping mall, but the bulk of the collection shows the variety of competitions and performances held at the newly opened Southmall centre during the late 1960s and early 70s, such as beauty pageants and baby competitions.

Large crowds attended the jazz, pop-folk and other performance after the opening of the Southmall centre. In the photo below, well-known organist Reg Morgan demonstrates his skill to an admiring crowd on 24 February 1970.

A telegram from Mussolini

Cataloguing and preservation tasks can lead librarians working in heritage collections to come across items which may not have been accessed for some time. These encounters provide an opportunity to explore the lives of historical figures, both locally and internationally, who are connected to the objects.

A recent 'rediscovery', which sparked a conversation in the Sir George Grey Special Collections workroom, was a telegram sent in 1933 under instructions from the Italian leader, Mussolini.

The cat's whiskers

Agile, regal, playful and revered as sacred animals in ancient Egypt, cats are different from man's best friend. They are inclined to be more aloof and independent and are skilled hunters. But they still make great pets.

Stroll through the selection of cat photographs below from from the Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland Libraries and enjoy a feline stroll back in time.

Cats as companions:

Indian newspapers in NZ

In recent years, the rapidly growing Indian community in New Zealand has established its own newspaper titles. The earliest such home-grown title I’ve traced so far is the New Zealand Indian Times published in Mangere from September 1993 to October 1994. This included content in four languages: English, Hindi, Gujurati and Urdu.

The Christchurch based Kiwi Indian, began publication in November 2001, but also lasted little more than a year. By contrast, the Auckland based Indian Newslink was established in November 1999, and is New Zealand’s longest-lasting Indian newspaper (issue 461 came out on 1 July 2020).

The Indian Times, published in Otahuhu monthly from September 2003 to June 2004, included mostly English content, with a small Hindi language section. It offered local, Indian, Fijian and world news as well as Bollywood and a sports sections.

Kuk Punjabi Samachar Punjabi (styled the “1st Indian community newspaper in Punjabi language”) has been produced fortnightly from a small of…

Halloween & fancy dress

Halloween is a time of ghosts, witches and ghouls; of dressing up and trick or treating and pranks. It is one of the most popular costume or fancy dress events of the year in western society. Whilst the contemporary celebration of Halloween is often seen to have its roots in American culture, the origins of this festival actually go back to Celtic times. The Celts believed that 31 October represented a liminal time when the line between the living and the dead became distorted. Condemned souls were thought to come back on this night and cause havoc. To protect themselves, the Celts would dress up in scary costumes to frighten the evil spirits away.

Fancy dress has a long tradition for a variety of different occasions, not just Halloween - such as birthdays, stag parties, New Year parties. Enjoy this stroll through the fancy dress outfits from yesteryear, drawn from the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries.

Individuals in fancy dress:

Sir George Grey & Kawau Island

Politician, linguist, collector, soldier and explorer, Sir George Grey is an important figure in New Zealand history. He was the most influential of New Zealand’s governors, serving in the role from1845 -1853 and again in1861 - 1868.

Grey started off as an army officer in Ireland before leading an exploring expedition in Western Australia in the late 1830s. His established himself as a very able colonial politician during his governorship of South Australia from 1840-1845. This helped him secure the position of Governor of New Zealand. Between his two terms in New Zealand he was also Governor of the Cape Colony in South Africa from 1854-1861.

Despite his successes, he is seen by some as a controversial figure. Historian James Belich called him "a strange, complicated man, whose real charisma and genius almost matched his flaws”. He was however a great benefactor to the Auckland Free Public Library, gifting some 14,000 items to the library in 1887. This remarkable gift formed t…

Robert Burns

Three long lost Robert Burns (1759-1796) manuscripts including letters from the well loved Scottish poet and his friends were discovered earlier this year. Chris Rollie, a researcher discovered the manuscripts inside an Extra Illustrated W. Scott Douglas edition of 'The Works of Robert Burns', from 1877-79. This edition belonged to Burns's publisher, William Paterson.

One of the discovered letters is from 'Clarinda' the pseudomny for Agnes McLehose. Burns was in love with Agnes and she was the subject of several of his poems including: 'Clarinda (Mistress of My Soul' and 'To Clarinda'. After Burns' death in 1796, Agnes had requested that the intimate letters she had written to Burns be returned to her by Burns' friend and doctor William Maxwell.

South Auckland's special constables

October 2013 is the centenary of the Great Strike, a wave of industrial unrest that affected the whole of New Zealand. The strike - or lockout - began on the Wellington wharves on 22 October 1913. By 28 October the trouble had spread to Auckland.

The Reform government under Prime Minister William Ferguson Massey had proposed the use of the military to occupy the wharves, maintain essential services and protect strike-breakers, but ultimately decided to use civilian 'special constables' instead. In the Auckland area, enrolment of special constables began on 29 October. The New Zealand Farmers' Union - concerned with keeping the wharves free and export trade moving - actively sought out volunteers in rural districts.

Camps for gathering volunteers were set up at Hamilton, Helensville, Kawakawa, Dargaville, Whangarei and Matamata. On 5 November the first batch of mounted farmers arrived at a camp set up on the Otahuhu showgrounds, where they were formally enrolled as 'spe…

'Our boys, our families' research guide

As part of the build up to the First World War centenary commemorations within NZ and around the world, Auckland Libraries, Auckland Council Heritage Unit and Auckland Council Archives have developed an A5 research guide. 'Our boys, our families' outlines the First World War resources available at Auckland Libraries and Auckland Council Archives. This includes: Rolls of Honour, cemetery records, memorials, books and photographs from the Schmidt Collection and supplement to the Auckland Weekly News.

The research guide is intended to assist you with your own research into family members or people who took part in the war. This could be a soldier on the front line, a nurse on a hospital ship or a person on the home front including conscientious objectors. There are a selection of handy research prompts tucked into the back pocket of the guide and a page dedicated to good research practices to help you get started with your research.

Revised versions of the research guide, includi…