Mary Grant Bruce – children’s author

Mary Grant BruceThe publication of Mary Grant Bruce‘s first book, The Little Bush Maid was reported in The Traralgon Record on 14 October 1910.  The following excerpt is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography‘s listing on Bruce.

A Little Bush Maid - review

Australian Dictionary of Biography

Although she wrote many books, her most famous were the Billabong series, begun when she was writing weekly stories for the children’s pages of the Leader, where A Little Bush Maid first appeared in serial form. The story proved so successful that the Linton family was launched. At her editor’s suggestion she posted the completed novel to Ward, Lock & Co. in London where it was published in 1910 under the authorship ‘Mary‘, regarded as more marketable than ‘Minnie’.

On the centenary of Mary Grant Bruce’s birth, The Australian Women’s Weekly published a tribute article, making reference to the last of Bruce’s books – Billabong Riders published in 1942. The photograph shows Bruce on the left with a friend around 1900 when she was 22 years old.

Mary Grant Bruce’s books are very collectible.  The International League of Antiquarian Bookstores has some notes here about collecting her works, including first editions.

Mary Grant Bruce - bicycleLast book MGB


early Australian Daguerreotypes

These days we take for granted our ability to record images of anything and everything with the click of a shutter or touch of a smart phone. In the mid-19th century, the Daguerreotype Process, with long exposures and complex processing, enabled the creation of still photographs where miniatures had traditionally been an accessible way, for those of some means, to have a portrait of a family member.

For technically savvy readers, there’s an impressive and comprehensive description (including visuals) of the process at Sussex PhotoHistory.

Mr George Goodman began promoting his new “means and appliances” creating likenesses that were revealed by “the sacred radiance of the sun” in Sydney.  The item continues here in The Australian – 6 February 1843.

Mr Goodman

And in The Sydney Morning Herald – 14 January 1845

THE DAGUERREOTYPE – Nearly three years ago, the daguerreotype portrait system was introduced into Sydney by Mr Goodman, who erected a temporary laboratory on the leads of the Royal Hotel. Mr Goodman had no reason at that time to complain of the amount of patronage he received ; but there was a want of life in the portraits, and a sameness in all, which made many prefer the ordinary miniature painting.

Recently, however, the improvements which have been made in the system in Paris and at  home, have been effected by Mr. Goodman here, and the dagerreotypes are now all that could be desired. Various specimens may be seen at establishments in George-street and other places – portraits such as Dr Bland’s, Dr. Bennett’s, Mr Mort, and others well-known to most of the inhabitants of the city, which will prove how superior the system now adopted is to that which two years ago excited their astonishment. Another advantage is, that the sitter is not now exposed, as under the old system, to a trial of his nerves in a purple glass case, on a burning lead roof – a trial which was too great for many. Those who can, in these times, afford a guinea for a lasting memorial, will readily do so when they have seen the specimens we have alluded to.

This is the a link to a Daguerreotype image of Dr William Bland photographed by George Goodman.  It is in the collection of the State Library of New South Wales who hold reproduction rights. The catalogue record indicates that this is the earliest known surviving photograph taken in Australia.  Bland was a naval surgeon who, in 1813, mortally wounded the purser of the ship Hesper and found himself transported to Australia as a convict. Dr Bland proved himself to be somewhat of a renaissance man – inventor, politician and philanthropist.  The link will take you to the Australian Dictionary of Biography for more of his story.  Goodman is credited with being Australia’s second photographer.

In some cases, the portraits became a lasting memory of a son or daughter.  This photo (again per the State Library of New South Wales and unable to be reproduced here without permission) of Eleanor Elizabeth Stephen was taken when she was around 15 years old.  At the age of 21, she died of gastric fever. The loss was such a great shock to her maternal grandmother that she herself expired within an hour of Eleanor’s death.

By way of example, with an out of copyright image per the State Library of Victoria, this Daguerreotype of Mrs John King with her son Philip Gidley King was made circa 1855 (photographer not credited).

Mrs John King


19th century advertising posters – Troedel & Co

Image - Wikipedia

Image – Wikipedia

This is Charles Troedel, a German lithographic printer who set up business in Melbourne in 1863 (150 years ago).  In the early days, Troedel employed the artist Arthur Streeton as an apprentice lithographer.  You can find a history of the company here at Troedel’s website.  In 1968, Troedel & Co donated its archive to the State Library of Victoria.

The four images below are part of that archive – late nineteenth century advertising posters for wine, furniture, horse and cattle liniment and bowler hats.  All are out of copyright and can be found on the State Library of Victoria site via the links under each of the images. Trove’s  Pictures, Photos and Objects section is a gateway to images in libraries and other repositories across Australia.


Who in Australian history was Jean Ross?

As Australia’s “first bloke”, Tim Mathieson doesn’t have anyone to follow in terms of how it’s done.  I guess it was the same for the partner of Edmund Barton, Australia’s first Prime Minister.

There’s not much written about Lady Barton (nee Jean Ross).  We know she was a patient woman, waiting five years between her engagement and her marriage to Barton.

Her obituary provides only a few clues about the life she lead.  

Sydney Morning Herald – 24 March 1938


Thomas Fiaschi – doctor, soldier, wine maker

This is Il Porcellino, a replica of a Florentine wild boar sculpture.  Located outside the Sydney Hospital, it commemorates the lives of Dr Thomas Fiaschi and his son Dr Piero Fiaschi.  Interested in the medicinal quality of wine, he first planted vines at Sackville Reach in the Hawkesbury region in 1882 on acreage that was to become Tizzana Winery.

The Il Porcellino photograph is from the GPS location marking site Waymarking.  The presentation of this portrait of Dr Fiaschi was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 July 1926.




Bert Bailey – more than the Dad in “Dad and Dave”

Theatrical all-rounder Bert Bailey was born in New Zealand and came to Australia with his mother as a small child.  He is most well known for his portrayal of “Dad” on stage and screen in Steele Rudd‘s On Our Selection.

The Mercury of 6 Nov 1937

POPULAR REVIVAL

AUSTRALIANS at the moment are very “Dad and Dave”- minded, and it is undoubtedly this fact that has led Associated B.E.F. to the decision to reissue “On Our Selection,” Australia’s first talkie produced by Cinesound some five years ago, with Bert Bailey heading the original stage cast.  “On Our Selection” will probably be released at all metropolitan theatres and there is little doubt that it will be well received.

Twenty-five years ago, in May 1912, “On Our Selection” was first presented as a stage play at the Palace, Sydney, and today, more than a quarter of a century later, the story of  “Dad,” “Dave,” and all the rest of the famous Rudd family is still popular.

When he died this item appeared in The Advertiser – 1 April 1953.  His papers are available as a research resource at the National Library of Australia.

Note:  Leo McKern and Geoffrey Rush played Dad and Dave in the 1995 version of On Our Selection..

Dad and Dave Come to Town poster image courtesy of moviem.com.