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Sunday 25 March 2018

Making a wooden bucket

George Smithwick makes a wooden bucket, mean­while ex­plain­ing what he is doing, with a glimpse of the life of a family of coopers. Fascinating.

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Tuesday 27 February 2018

A lantern slide of the Old Museum Building

I have recently acquired five nineteenth-century lantern slides of Queensland subjects published by the Scottish firm of George Washington Wilson and Co Ltd.

My favourite is this one, of the Exhibition Buildings in Brisbane. It is the earliest good-quality photograph of the building I know of. I have just started work on updating the conservation man­age­ment plan for this building, so getting this photo is a treat.

Fred Hardie (photographer), Exhibition Buildings, Brisbane, a lantern slide produced by George Washington Wilson & Co Ltd​—​number 17 in a set of 54 slides of Queensland subjects. This image is a composite of re­flect­ive and transmissive scans, to show both the photograph and the mount.

The photo shows the building soon after it was completed for the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association. The architect G H M Addison’s design is shown off, with its con­trast­ing red and cream brickwork and its striking towers and domes. I am not sure who to blame for the plain wooden sheds that contain the entry turnstiles, but I doubt these were designed by Mr Addison.

The picture was taken on a whole-plate glass negative by the Scot­tish photographer Fred Hardie, who was sent to Australia in 1892 by the G W Wilson company to record the land­scapes, in­dus­tries, towns and people of the colonies. He took pho­to­graphs in Queens­land, New South Wales, Victoria, Tas­mania and South Australia which were sold in various printed formats as well as lantern slides. I am delighted that the original negative sur­vives in the University of Aberdeen’s George Washington Wilson Collection.

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Sunday 7 January 2018

Alexander Gordon in Africa

I have added one more to the list of lighthouses I would like to visit some time. It is the old Cape Point lighthouse near Cape Town, South Africa, first lit in 1859. There is a good chance I’ll get to see this one, unlike some of the others on my bucket list. I’ll enjoy com­par­ing it to the Australian lighthouses designed by the same engineer, Alexander Gordon.

Cape Point Light House, an albumen print from my collection.

Alexander Gordon (1902–1969), the British civil engineer, de­voted himself principally to the construction and management of lighthouses, especially in the colonies. I have already men­tioned him here. One of his great contributions to the field was his enthusiastic promotion of cast iron as a material for building lighthouse towers. In the 1840s, ’50s and ’60s he designed a series of cast iron lighthouses which were pre­fab­ric­ated in Eng­land and erected in distant parts of the British Empire​—​in the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

“Some of Mr Alexander Gordon’s lighthouses, most of the towers being of iron”, a fold-out plate included with Gordon’s pamplet Circular relating to lighthouses, lightships, buoys, and beacons (London, 1864). The Cape Point lighthouse is at the top right of the plate.

Gordon’s illustration includes four Australian lighthouses. I have had professional dealings with three of them: Cape Borda (1858), Breaksea Island (1858) and Cape Northumberland (1859). So my experience of Cape Point, if it happens, will resonate with these Australian examples.

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Sunday 31 December 2017

Preparing to visit Africa

It has has been quite a year. Let’s hope the new year brings more delights than the old one. 2018 is shaping up well, with some in­ter­est­ing travels on the program​—​including a couple of weeks in Africa, a continent I have not set foot on (apart from the time I stepped ashore at Suez in 1966). The prospect of a trip turns my mind to the question of what to bring.

Mr H M Stanley’s boat, the “Livingstone,” for crossing lakes and rivers in Africa, a wood engraving published in the Illustrated London news, 31 July 1875.

Which reminds me of Mr Stanley who also went to Africa. He carried with him…

… two different contrivances for crossing the lakes and rivers in that vast wilderness. One is of cedar, 40 ft long and 6 ft wide, divisible into portable sections, which was built for him by Mr J A Messenger, of Teddington, and which is the subject of two of our illustrations. The other is a raft, composed of inflatable indiarubber pontoon tubes, which rest transversely on three keels, with poles laid above the cylinders or tubes and lashed to the keels beneath; there is a triangular compartment fore and aft of the same depth, to form the bow and stern, This raft was made by Messrs J C Cording and Co, of Piccadilly, and is reported by Mr Stanley, in one of his published letters, to answer its pur­pose very well. It weighs altogether 300 lb, which can be divided into five loads of 60 lb each. The tubes are in­flated by means of a pair of bellows. Their material is a very strong kind of twill, which promises to endure any amount of wear; but if it should need mending Mr Stanley has wherewithal to make it good.

—​“Mr Stanley’s indiarubber pontoon raft,” Illustrated London news, 31 July 1875.

I hope I have sufficient wherewithal to enjoy my trip.

Mr H M Stanley’s boat, the “Livingstone,” carried overland in Africa, another wood engraving published in the Illustrated London news, 31 July 1875.

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Making a wooden bucket
A lantern slide of the Old Museum Building
Alexander Gordon in Africa
Preparing to visit Africa

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