Marking time

Marking time

Friday 27 May 2016

Christopher Hume Moore, photographer

Back in the year two thousand and two, as I started to take a more serious interest in the few old photographs I owned, I up­loaded a web gal­lery of cartes-de-visite by Queensland pho­to­graphers. By early 2003 there were 18 photographs on display there, representing the work of ten studios.

Portrait of an unidentified couple​—​front and back of a carte-de-visite by C H Moore, Kent Street, Maryborough, Queensland.

I have just uploaded this carte-de-visite by C H Moore. It is the 120th item added to the gallery, so I’ll mark the occasion by giv­ing it special at­ten­tion here. Like all of these little pictures it has more than one story behind it.

When I began this project my essential reference was Alan Davies’ and Peter Stanbury’s book The mechanical eye in Aus­tralia: photography 1841-1900 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1985). The book includes a detailed list, with dates and places, of professional pho­to­graphers who worked in Australia before 1900, and amateurs before 1880. The list was compiled by researchers who extracted much of the information from historical newspapers on microfilm.

Since the National Library of Australia’s wonderful Trove di­git­ised newspapers project came online I have been able to do my own newspaper research, in a less-tedious way, and without leaving my desk.

The front of the carte-de-visite.

In C H Moore’s photograph the two subjects are well dressed and carefully posed in a conventional arrangement. The image is sharply focussed, there is no sign of movement blur, head-clamps (if they were used) have been skillfully hidden, and the drapery on the left is an attempt to signify a certain style. But an error in aiming the camera has cropped off the stylish curtain, and re­vealed that the picture was probably shot on a verandah dressed up with a backdrop and a piece of linoleum. I im­me­di­ately guess that this is the work of an itinerant photographer who carted his equipment from place to place, rather than doing steady business in a well-set-up studio. C H Moore’s entry in The mechanical eye has travelling photographer at the bottom, which fits.

A quick search of Queensland newspapers, via Trove, told me more about Christopher Hume Moore’s practice as a pho­to­grapher. He comes across as an energetic fellow who was willing to adapt and to follow opportunities​—​important qualities for a photographer in Queen Victoria’s time.

Moore’s name first shows up in the Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Adver­tiser of 18 May 1867, where he ad­vert­ised that he had bought the photographic business of Ash­bury Bright​—​a business that had operated in Maryborough for the previous four years.

On 11 September 1867 the Chronicle included this advertorial piece:

Our Photographic Artist, Mr Moore, has lately made several additions to the apparatus of his studio; amongst other things a very large camera for taking large portraits and views. Yesterday we had the pleasure of seeing some specimens of the production of this new instrument, amongst others of a view of the Commercial Bank, which is admirably taken, as they all are​—​the picture being sharp and clearly defined, and artisticallv placed with a view to effect. We recommend persons who wish to perpetuate the flitting image of themselves, or of their abodes as they appear to-day, to avail themselves of the aid which Mr Moore proffers them.

In January 1868 Moore ran big advertisements in the Chronicle urging readers to come to his studio to have their portraits taken without delay, since he was planning to be away for two months taking photographs around the gold diggings. By early February he had engaged another photographer and was offering pho­to­graphic services in Nashville (the place we now call Gympie) as well as in Maryborough.

Perhaps he over-extended himself, and ran into cash-flow problems​—​still a pitfall for expanding small businesses. The Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette of 20 Feb­ru­ary 1869 printed this:

A deed of composition has been re­gistered, whereby C H Moore, Photographic artist of Mary­bor­ough, covenants to pay his creditors two instalments in the £ the first forthwith, and the second on the 23rd July.

Things were going better for him in September 1869 when the governor of Queensland, Colonel Sir Samuel Blackall, while on a visit to Maryborough, stopped at Moore’s studio to be pho­to­graphed. A few days later the photo­grapher advertised veritable portraits of His Excellency the Governor at a shilling each for cartes-de-visite, two shillings and sixpence for whole plate prints, and seven shillings and sixpence for prints Mounted in hand­somely polished Cedar Frames.

Perhaps the story of Governor Blackall’s visit to Moore’s studio in Mary­bor­ough, jotted in a researcher’s notes, was mis­in­ter­preted and turned into the statement in The mechanical eye that Moore was based at Blackall (the town) in 1869. I could not find any mention of Moore in the Blackall district in the con­tem­por­ary newspapers that are searchable in Trove.

It appears that Christopher Moore maintained a connection with Ashbury Bright, from whom he bought the photographic business in Maryborough. The Chronicle carried this advertorial piece on 17 September 1868:

Our photographist, Mr Moore, has purchased of Mr A Bright his splendid set of negatives of views taken on the several stations of the Wide Bay and Burnett. Having also taken some very fine views himself, Mr Moore intends pub­lish­ing a set of photo­graphs of scenes in town and country, which may be bound in albums or kept in port­fo­lios, and which will form one of the most appropriate and handsome presents that could be made by anyone living in the district to a distant friend. Mr Moore ought to be well patronised, and we hope will be, for his enter­prise and skill.

The Chronicle of 28 December 1871 reported news from the town of Gayndah, including this:

Messrs Moore and Harris, photographers, from Mary­bor­ough, have arrived in town, and have taken up their quar­ters at the Gayndah Hotel. Mr Moore is well known in Gayndah, and well liked, and it is hoped that he and his partner will do as well as Mr Moore did on his previous visit to us. They visit Mount Perry before returning to Maryborough.

In April 1872 C H Moore had been in Mount Perry, the site of a newly-established copper mine and smelter, as the Chronicle reported:

We have seen some very pretty views of Mount Perry and its neighbourhood, taken by Mr C H Moore, photographer, late of this town. They convey a most pleasing idea of the romantic scenery of that locality, which from all we can learn, abounds in attractions to the lover of the pic­tur­esque. The representations of the township, smelting works, &c., in their present primitive condition, are, per­haps, not equally gratifying to the eye, but they are in­ter­est­ing as illustrations of the rude beginnings from which an interest of vast magnitude is even now springing, and will, in years to come possess an historical value which will always secure for them a brisk demand.

In the same article it was mentioned that Thomas Mathewson, Photographic Artist, was coming to Maryborough to take portraits. Photography was a competitive business.

Small advertisements in the Chronicle in December 1874 announced that C H Moore had taken over the studio in Kent Street, Maryborough, lately occupied by Mr E H Forster. In the same paper, Forster ran larger advertisements announcing his new premises in Adelaide Street.

My final quote is from the Chronicle, 19 October 1875:

It is with deep regret that we have to report the sudden death of Mr C H Moore, the photographer. Friday morning he was in the enjoyment of his usual health, and embanked on board the steamer Effie with a number of excursionists to attend the tea-meeting at the Mary River Saw-mills. While going up the river he complained of being unwell, and mentioned that he believed that one of his bilious attacks’ was coming on. Shortly after complaining he became worse, and had to lie down. He had lost all consciousness before he reached the landing place. It is not pleasant to record that the invalid was carried to a house to which he was refused admittance, the charitable inmate fearing lest the sick man should bring infection with him. Finally the residence of a good Samaritan was found, and here poor Moore for a while found shelter. However, he never rallied. He was conveyed back to town by the steamer, and died at about seven o’clock the same evening. Death doubtless resulted from heart disease, from which the deceased had long been a sufferer He was only 30 years of age, and leaves a wife and four young children entirely unprovided for.

In November 1875 the Chronicle included an invitation to an amateur concert in aid of C H Moore’s widow and family, and a series of advertisements for his photographic equipment and stock.

Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 16 November 1875.

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Tuesday 3 May 2016

Steamship ‘Normanby’

I have added a photograph of the RMS Normanby to my little stash of steamship carte-de-visite photos with ac­com­mod­a­tion plans on the back. The photo of the Normanby joins the ones of Hibernian and Denmark which I have already mentioned here.

The Normanby has a special interest for me because of its con­nec­tion with Queensland, and the colonial government’s efforts to develop the northern shipping route that linked the colony to Asia and Europe through the Torres Strait. Before this route was opened, most ships from overseas arrived in Queensland only after calling at the southern colonies. The government built port facilities, dredged rivers, erected lighthouses, and offered prof­it­able contracts to shipping companies to carry mail along this route.

The first of these contracts was awarded to the Eastern & Aus­tralian Mail Steam Co, a company formed in 1873 to operate a four-weekly mail and passenger service from Sydney to Bris­bane, Batavia (now Jakarta), Singapore and Hong Kong. One of the first ships in the company’s fleet was the RMS Normanby, built in Glasgow and launched in 1874. The prefix RMS stood for Royal Mail Ship, a mark of quality and reliability.

The front of the carte-de-visite, with an albumen copy print of a painting of the SS Normanby. It is a conventional ship portrait that nicely shows the features of the vessel​—​the clipper bow, the single funnel, and the small two-masted schooner rig. Each mast carries a gaff sail, at least one stay sail, and a square-rigged topsail. This rig would have saved coal when winds were favourable, made the motion of the ship more com­fort­able in a sea, and propelled the ship if the engine broke down.

When the newly-built Normanby arrived Queenslanders were keen to know about the ship, and its promise of faster com­mu­nic­a­tion with the old country. Local newspapers fanned that in­terest. Here is the Brisbane Courier’s description of the first and second-class passengers’ accommodation​—​see the plan on the back of the carte-de-visite, below:

Below, the accommodation is very comfortable. The saloon is aft, and of considerable length, with state rooms on both sides. The panelling is of varnished teak, picked out with white and gold, and looks very handsome. Over the tables punkahs are hung, so as to fan the passengers while at meals, but, as a matter of fact, during the voyage from Singapore hardly a meal was eaten below, the skylight lids on deck being made to project so as to admit of passengers sitting at them conveniently. On these the meals were served, and all the advantage of additional coolness and fresher breezes secured. There is a spacious ladies’ cabin with a bath-room and other conveniences attached, and a passage opening forward from the main saloon leads to a series of offices, including several bath-rooms, &c, an ice-room capable of storing about two tons, a surgery, lamp-room, steward’s pantry, mail-room &c. This passage eventually opens into the quarters for Chinese passengers, which occupy a complete section of the ship on the same level as the saloon, from side to side. A very neat ar­range­ment permits of the berths here being built in a few minutes, or stowed away according to the number of passengers. The place is ventilated by a number of round port-holes, and is nice and airy but in these round openings are fitted in large square ports of great size, which can be opened in fine weather, and will make discomfort from confined air an impossibility. Further on, but only accessible from the deck, is the second cabin accommodation, also very airy and good, and opening from it is a cabin for females, stretching right across the width of the ship, and thus securing a thorough draught from the opposite port-holes. This is a capital cabin of its class, and will con­tain nine per­sons without invading a couple of sofa seats, which can, if necessary, be made into additional berths. There are separate cooking places for Europeans and Chinese. The former are served from a regular ship’s galley, whose door is a neat tesselated pavement, while the latter have a fireplace sheltered outwardly, but open to the deck near the bows. A very large staff of stewards, cooks, &c., are kept. These are for the most part Chinese, and appear a docile and very cleanly set of servants. The head steward and second steward are Europeans, The ship is steered from the bridge, which is well forward, so that the steers­man can command a perfect view ahead. On the bridge, also, is a neat chart room, nicely fitted with cushioned seats, for the officers, and a very cool and breezy spot at all times. Double awnings protect the after-deck from the heat of the sun, being arranged like a tent and fly.

—​from ‘The Torres Strait mail steamer Normanby’, Brisbane Courier, 14 December 1874

The back of the card, with a plan of the first and second-class ac­com­mod­a­tion. The lower-deck facilities are left to the imagination. The card has been trimmed with scissors to about the size of a standard carte-de-visite, perhaps to make it fit in an album. Note the name of the litho­graphic printer at the bottom​—​Riddle & Couchman of London.

in 1877 the Normanby, steaming north, hit an uncharted rock near Pine Islet. The hull was damaged and the ship started to take in water. Immediate action by the captain and crew saved the ship, its passengers and crew. Here is the story as told by a Sydney newspaper:

Stranding of the steamship Normanby at Percy Island, wood engraving published in the Sydney Mail and New South Wales advertiser, 1 Sep­tem­ber 1877.

The picture on the first page of our supplement shows the position of the steamship Normanby on Percy Island. This group is about sixty miles off the coast of Queensland, in about the latitude of Cape Palmerston. The steamer, on a northward trip, left Moreton Bay on August 11, at 10 p.m., immediately after receiving her mails. Made a good run to Keppel Bay, and, after a detention of two hours, resumed her passage thence at 10 a.m. on Monday, 13th. Had a light fair breeze all day, keeping up about ten knots. At half-past 9 p.m. she suddenly struck a rock. The pilot in charge being at his post on the bridge, Captain Reddell at once took command on deck, singing out, ‘Boat stations,’ and at once every officer and man was at his allotted station, the boat-falls were cleared and half lowered, and the momentary confusion ceased. Meanwhile, it having been found that the forehold had made four feet of water in some three minutes, the ship was steered at full speed directly for the nearest available beach, which was reached in about twenty minutes, the distance being about two miles. By the time she grounded on the beach the ship was very much down by the head from the weight of water accumulating in the fore compartments, and it would seem probable that on the rapid execution of this manoeuvre depended the safety of the ship and passengers, as in a short time more she would have refused to steer, the water would have burst into the engine-room, and the ship gone down by the head. However, having got her nose on the beach, the donkey-engine managed to pump the after-compartment clear of what water leaked through the joints of the fore-compartments, and the ship was in comparative safety for the time. The view in our supplement was sketched by Mr. B. Barker, and shows the position of the Normanby as seen from the steamship Brisbane. She was about one mile from the shore, her stern up clear, her head down. On the low foreshore of the island are the tents and huts of the crew and passengers. Above and beyond are a series of green hills partly covered with brushwood. Round the point to the right of the picture is a fine little creek.

—​from ‘Stranding of the steamer Normanby’, Sydney Mail and New South Wales advertiser, 1 September 1877.

Nobody was hurt during this mishap. Temporary repairs were made and the ship was taken to Brisbane where a Marine Board enquiry decided that no blame is to be attributed to the master, but that on the other hand great credit is due to him for the energy he displayed and the methods he adopted to enable the vessel to be brought to this port in safety. Next, the Normanby was properly repaired in Sydney, at Mort’s Dock, and returned to service.

In 1880 the Normanby was sold to Catts Brothers of Singapore then, in 1892, to the Ocean Steamship Co and transferred to the Dutch flag. On 5 December 1896 the Normanby was wrecked near Pulau Bintang while on passage from Manila to Singapore.

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Wednesday 20 April 2016

The Bellevue demolition

Lest we forget. On this day in 1979 the Queens­land govern­ment demolished the Bellevue Hotel in Brisbane​—​an act that has be­come a symbol of callous disregard for the com­munity’s interest in its cultural heritage.

Part of a 2004 ABC TV Rewind program presenting the background to the demolition. In it, then National Party minister Bob Katter admits We did act in a callous disregard to their interests, because we saw them as self-in­dul­gent​—​you know​—​citified sort of people that would be concerned about ridiculous things like that when people were going hungry.

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Saturday 26 March 2016

Collapse of the campanile

Since I wrote the piece about St Mark’s Square I have added some old postcards to my collection, and discovered more about the events that lead to the collapse of the campanile in 1902.

These events were reported in detail by the Venice newspapers as they happened, and a modern journalist has compiled a de­tailed chronology.* Here is my summary​—​with ac­know­ledg­ments to Google Translate and to my daughter Sally for their help in trans­lat­ing from Italian.

Our story begins when water was seen leaking through the roof of the small loggia at the foot of the eastern side of the tower. The Office for the Pre­ser­va­tion of Venetian Monuments appointed the architect Do­me­ni­co Rupolo to direct repair work. In June 1902 workers began to replace the lead roof sheeting of the loggetta.

Venezia​—​La Loggetta del Sansovino prima del disastro (14 Luglio 1902)
[Venice​—​The Loggetta of Sansovino before the disaster (14 July 1902)]. The loggetta is an elaborate marble-faced verandah attached to the base of the bell tower, designed by the architect Jacopo Sansovino, and built after 1538.

Monday 7 July​—​Rupolo noticed a crack in the brick wall of the tower near the roof of the loggetta and immediately reported this to the Regional Office for the Preservation of Monu­ments.

Tuesday 8 July​—​Rupolo thought the crack was getting bigger.

Wednesday 9 July​—​when Rupulo and his assistant Antonio Mo­re­sco looked closely at the crack they saw it was even wider, and realised that the inside of the wall was crumbling; the crack was so big a person’s hand could fit into it. For the second time, Ru­po­lo reported to the regional office. He asked the authorities to order people out of the square.

Thursday 10 July​—​ the crack had travelled up the wall at the north side of the windows of the tower.

Friday 11 July​—​one of the keepers reported stones falling inside the tower. There was a flurry of letters to and from the Regional Office for the Preservation of Monuments.

Saturday 12 July​—​the cracks were now visible to everybody. They had extended up to the fifth window and were getting wider. By now the Prefect of Venice had appointed a committee of engineers to deal with the emergency.

The committee determined the source of the problem: an old crack caused by a lightning strike in 1747 and sub­sequently repaired. To keep the tower safe while final repairs were plan­ned, they decided to install temporary reinforcement of steel rods. A small wooden fence was built around the base of the tower to protect the many onlookers from falling rubble.

Sunday 13 July​—​the crack had reached the belfry. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon the committee made another inspection. They saw that all the glass tell-tales that had been fixed across the crack had broken​—​evidence that the crack was getting worse. At 4 o’clock the committee met the Prefect of Venice: they reported that the tower was in a serious condition. They did not think it would fall, but they did think there was a risk of a partial collapse in the following days.

The prefect ordered precautions: the tower was closed to the pub­lic and the ringing of the bells was stopped. An evening con­cert in the Piazza was cancelled.

Monday 14 July​—​at 5.30 am, Rupolo was already in the square, working out the details for the reinforcement. A new set of glass tell-tales, fixed across the crack that was repaired the day before, had all broken. The crack was getting bigger. When some rubble and larger stones fell near where he was standing, Rupolo sent the workers away.

The architect and engineer briefed the prefect who asked them how long the tower could stand; Rupolo thought a collapse was unlikely during the next four or five days. Meanwhile, in the Venice Arsenal, metal workers were making up steel cables to reinforce the corner of the tower.

Just after 9 am the committee arrived to inspect the tower, but the architect Rupolo advised them not to climb: he had seen the gap getting wider over the last three hours. The architect and his assistant could not convince the keeper of the tower, Pietro Ca­ron­ci­ni, that he should leave his quarters inside the tower. They had to drag him out. The fence was moved, to enlarge the bar­ri­caded area around the base of the campanile.

At about 9:30 a team of firemen brought a long ladder so that the crack could be examined closely. Once the ladder was put against the tower, stones and bits of debris started falling noisily on the ground. The fireman in charge sensed that the tower might col­lapse at any moment. He pulled the ladder away, and drove back the onlookers who had gathered around. He shouted the order to evacuate the square, which was deserted in a few minutes, and he placed guards on the entrances to isolate the area. Meanwhile the architects ran into the nearby shops and evacuated every­body there.

At about 9:40 there were only twelve people around the tower​—​five municipal guards, two guards of public safety, two workers, the architect Rupolo, his assistant Moresco, and the engineer Gaspari. After a few minutes they heard a deep rumble that seemed like a groan of pain: debris erupted from the crack. The dozen people dashed away. A huge two-metre boulder came away from the corner and crashed down, followed by a shower of stones and bricks. The crack widened suddenly, spewing stones. The capstone with the angel seemed to swing in the air, until it disappeared when the bell tower collapsed on itself.

A scream rose in unison from the crowd huddled under the Pro­cu­ra­tie Vecchie. The noise of the collapse was heard in many parts of Venice. The whole of the Piazza San Marco shook as if there had been an earthquake.

Venezia​—​Il crollo del Campanile di S. Marco (14 Luglio 1902)
[Venice​—​The collapse of the bell tower of St Mark (14 July 1902)]

A dense cloud of dust rose, obscuring the sun not just in the square but from everywhere in the city. People in the distance thought it was a storm coming. The dust fell on the roofs of houses and on the streets. A stampede of curious people came to watch the engineers and city officials.

A detail of the postcard above.

When the dust cleared the onlookers saw a conical pile of debris more than ten meters high and smelled gas gushing out from some street lamps knocked over in the square. Fortunately, be­cause the square had been evacuated just before before the col­lapse, nobody was killed.

The Basilica had survived unscathed: a stout column that stood in the square had blocked the pile of debris that would otherwise have damaged the delicate corner columns of the church.

Not so the Loggia of Sansovino that was buried by the collapsing masonry. The roof of the Sansovinian Library had collapsed, along with the first floor facade, so that the interior was visible from the square.

From the rubble two symbols of the campanile emerged:

The first was the golden angel that, since 1822, had stood on top of the tower where it rotated to show the direction of the wind. It ended up in front of the main door of the basilica, smashed into many pieces.

The second was one of the large bells, which survived the collapse undamaged.

Following the collapse the people of Venice mobilised to rebuild the tower, which is a story for another day.

Venezia​—​Le rovine del Campanile di S. Marco (14 Luglio 1902)
[Venice​—​The ruins of the bell tower of St Mark (14 July 1902)]

*The journalist Leopoldo Pie­tra­gno­li used those newspaper stories to compile a chronology, ‘Cronaca di una fine annunciata’ [Chronicle of an ex­pec­ted end], a chapter in the book Il Cam­pa­ni­le di San Marco: il crollo e la ri­co­stru­zio­ne [The Cam­pa­ni­le of San Marco: the collapse and re­con­struc­tion] (Ci­ni­sel­lo Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 1992). I did not have a copy of Pietragnoli’s book, but I have had access to Giandri’s web summary​—​Il cam­pa­nile di San Marco​—​Il crollo [The campanile of San Marco​—​the col­lapse].

VENEZIA​—​Le rovine del Campanile di S. Marco (14 Luglio 1902) [VENICE​—​The ruins of the bell tower of St Mark (14 July 1902)]

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Christopher Hume Moore, photographer
Steamship ‘Normanby’
The Bellevue demolition
Collapse of the campanile

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