Over 130 Years of Vintage Christmas Cards

The practice of exchanging greeting cards has a very long history, but the modern Christmas card tradition really got its start in the 1840s. Changes in postal services made it affordable for ordinary people to send each other cards, and developments in printing technologies gradually made it cheaper to produce cards commercially. Plus, Queen Victoria was doing it, which is how a surprising number of our modern Christmas traditions became popular. In Australia, it wasn’t until the 1880s that sending Christmas cards started to reach the heights of popularity. For most of Western Australia’s post-colonial history, people have been sending and receiving Christmas cards, and the State Library of Western Australia holds a surprisingly large number of them.

Early Western Australian Christmas cards

To modern eyes, early Christmas cards from Western Australia don’t seem all that Christmassy. One of the earliest dated cards in our collection was produced by the Perth Postal and Telegraph Company in 1887, and was part of a tradition of Postal Services around the world exchanging Christmas courtesies between themselves. The card features sketches of Perth and Fremantle, and also of a pearling fleet. The Western Mail at the time described the imagery as “suggestive of the youth and vigor of this young country.” This card is part of a larger collection of greeting cards collected by Emily Prinsep, and came to the library as part of the Prinsep family papers.

Others were more like picture postcards showing places or events throughout the year, with Christmas messages attached. These two examples show views of Mounts Bay Road and the Narrow with inserts of a cycling race from around 1896; and a view of Perth esplanade on June 20th 1897, with festivities for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. They may have been produced by early photographers as a way of advertising their services or reselling existing images, but from a modern perspective it can be hard to see the Christmas connection.

One early card that is more Christmassy features a setting of an original Christmas carol, estimated to date from about 1890. The lyrics are by Henry Ebenezer Clay, who was a notable but somewhat uncelebrated Western Australian poet. The music was written by Sir William Robinson, who served three times as Governor of Western Australia; from 1875 to 1877, 1880 to 1883, and 1890 to 1895. Robinson was quite a well-regarded composer, and a number of his songs were popular in Australia at the time.

Increasing variety of Christmas cards

By the early 20th Century, a wide range of consumer cards were available and being exchanged by Western Australians. In the collection of records from the Young Australia League is an album of Christmas cards and other greetings, mostly sent to the League’s founder J.J. Simons from around 1911 to 1914. This shows the diversity of cards which were being sent at the time, including items designed and printed in Western Australia. Much of the imagery was still about the place the card was sent from, or floral and springtime. In fact, some cards came with small packets of seeds for the plants which they represented.

Floral images were featured on the very first commercial Christmas cards produced in Australia, and local flowers remained a popular theme. Amongst others, this card produced by the WA State Government Printer in 1912 features a rich illustration of Western Australian wildflowers.

Businesses were getting in on the act, as well. Many corporate Christmas cards were fairly plain, not much more than calling cards, but there were creative solutions too. The property company Peet and Company was one. While they had their fair share of serious cards, in the 1920s the company produced a novelty cheque for the payment of “ten thousand good wishes for Christmas and the New Year” for their Christmas messages.

Handmade Christmas cards

While there was a rich marketplace of commercially-produced cards available in the early 20th Century, it was not uncommon to send handmade cards as well, particularly if you were of an artistic bent. The artist and illustrator Amy Heap made this delightful view of the Swan River for a Christmas card in 1913. It was found in the collection of Frank Allum, who was Chief Clerk and later Deputy Master of the Perth Mint. Both Heap and Allum were members of the West Australian Society of Arts, and it is likely that the card was exchanged in that context.

We also hold a substantial collection of handmade cards produced by the “Brierley girls” in the 1920s. These were probably the daughters of the Brierley family who settled at Balangup, on the Frankland River west of Mount Barker, in 1913. Many members of the family were skilful artists, and these handmade cards certainly demonstrate that. The images are heavily European, but then the family had only emigrated from England about ten years prior to making the cards. These cards were later sent en masse to William Elsey, the Bishop of Kalgoorlie, and it’s in the Elsey family papers that they came to the library. Elsey had first met the Brierley family as an itinerant Clergyman in the Diocese of Bunbury, and they remained family friends.

Celebration under adversity

Some of the more poignant cards in the State Library of Western Australia’s collection come from people celebrating under challenging circumstances. In the collection of Major A.E. Saggers are handmade Christmas cards exchanged between Australian soldiers who were prisoners of war in Singapore in 1943 and 1944. Saggers wrote a memoir of his experiences, and by 1944 his unit had already been captured in Singapore, sent to work building the Burma-Thailand railway, and been returned to Singapore after its completion. What’s striking about these cards is how good-natured they are, and how the senders managed to find positivity and even humour in trying conditions.

Modern Christmas cards

By the 1950s, what we would recognise as contemporary Christmas imagery was becoming established in Western Australian Christmas cards.

Percy Dix established the printing company Dix Print in the early 20th Century, and went on to make a tradition of producing humourous Christmas cards with his face on them every year. By the 1950s, these included familiar Christmas images such as wreaths and Santa Claus outfits.

Religious imagery seems less common that you might expect in the Christmas cards in the State Library’s collection. The exception, of course, is cards sent from religious organisations. This card was sent by the Parish of Williams, in the Western Australian wheatbelt, in 1952. It is part of a substantial collection of greeting cards collected by the Haynes family, who had farmed in the Williams and Quindanning districts since the late 19th Century.

The second half of the 20th Century also saw a flourishing of businesses sending Christmas cards. There are myriad examples, but some are found in the records of the Swan Brewery. These cards were sent in the 1960s, and feature images of various buildings that the brewery had operated from, including the art deco building on Mounts Bay Road which no longer exists today.

New Christmas cards

New Christmas cards are still being produced all the time, and the State Library regularly collects new cards. One recent example from the State Library’s collection is a series of cards commissioned by the William Street Collective in 2012. These feature local Western Australian artists such as Luisa Hansal, Anya Brock, Jen Garland, Martin E. Willis, The Yok and Lisa Max, and were available for free from various sites along William Street, just outside the State Library of Western Australia itself.

Much more to discover

In 1888, a Melbourne journalist predicted that “the Christmas card craze has reached its climax and will probably decline.”  In the 130 years since that prediction, Christmas cards certainly didn’t decline, and were created and exchanged in enormous numbers. At the State Library of Western Australia, Christmas cards can be found in our ephemera collections, in our pictorial collections, and spread throughout the private archives collections as items received or created by individuals and businesses. In writing this piece, it became apparent just how many Christmas cards the State Library holds, and we have only scratched the surface. There is so much more to discover, but then that’s true of all of our collections.

From Another View – Laverton and Ngaanyatjarra Lands 6 – 10 August 2018

Users are warned there may be words and descriptions (from historical texts) that may be culturally sensitive and which might not normally be used in certain public or community contexts.

Given the success of the Storylines session  the From Another View project team undertook on our previous visit, a follow up session at the Laverton Community Resource Centre was held. The session was another success with new insights into ways Aboriginal peoples lived, worked and moved throughout the Goldfields and Western Desert regions.

People attending the session were able to identify a number of  previously unidentified people in photographs on Storylines. For example, the image below had only identified Mr Lapten in the foreground. However, during the session Mr Noel Green in the background was identified.

24x36mm

Mr Lapten with hose near windmill at Cosmo Newbery Mission. https://storylines.slwa.wa.gov.au/archive-store/view/6/7594

Previous to the From Another View project there were no known photographs of Noel in the State Library collections but as a result of this engagement there are two images, which are now easily accessible to his family.

The image below, a  grindstone photographed in Warburton in the 1960s, started discussion about its traditional use. Community members informed us that grindstones are  used to grind seeds from plants like Mulga trees, wildflowers, grass and others to make flour for damper.

Ngaanyatjarra Lands 8 – 10 August

Warburton

John Forrest and the expedition team travelled north of where the Warburton Community is now located. During the travel they had interactions with Yarnangu people:

“11th [August]. Continued on to the water found ahead, and on our way saw some clay-holes with water and satisfied the horses. When near the spring, saw natives’ tracks, and shortly afterwards a fire with a whole kangaroo roasting in it. The natives had made off when they saw us, leaving their game cooking. Continuing on, and passing the native well, we reached the granite rocks, two miles from the spring, and camped. While having dinner we saw two natives about a quarter of a mile from us, watching us; we beckoned to them, and Windich and I approached them. As we neared them they began talking and moving off slowly; we could not get close to them, although they did not appear to be afraid of us. Some fine ranges are visible from here South-East.East.” 

– Forrest, J. Explorations in Australia. 1875 online at Project Gutenberg
http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks/e00051.html 

The project team visited the Wilurarra Creative youth arts centre and Warburton Arts to discuss the project. Wilurarra Creative undertake a number of projects in visual arts, music, audio visual and fashion including operating a hair salon. Warburton Art centre is an international art space and holds “the largest collection of Indigenous art in Australia that is held by Aboriginal people themselves”.

Blackstone

During the trek, Alexander Forrest collected plant specimens at locations north of Warburton and east of Wingellina community. Approximately half of the specimens collected have known ethnobotanical uses. The purpose of the visit to Blackstone was to identify plant specimens which were collected during the 1874 expedition, and learn about the traditional cultural knowledge of plants.

After an early drive from Warburton (to account for a change in time-zone) the project team met up with the Blackstone/Papulankutja Ranger group. The group took the project team to a place between Wingellina and Blackstone overlooking Mt Aloysius .

The group dug for maku (bardi/witchitcy grub) in the roots of Acacia bushes and prepared a bush tomato (Solanum) to eat. In the local Ngaanyatjarra and Pitjantjarra languages the maku bush is called wartakarra/warṯarka and the bush tomato kampurarrpa, karti-karti/kampuṟara.

blackstone ranges.jpg

The following photos are by State Library of Western Australia. Thank you to Blackstone Rangers and Ngaanyatjarra Council for giving permission to take and use photographs.

maku

bushtomato.jpg

Bush tomato plant, possibly Solanum chippendalei

bushtomato+eating.jpg

Preparing bush tomato for eating.

It was a cold day so the Storylines session was moved from the ’50 cent hall’ to the Women’s Centre. The session was well attended by the community including children, community elders and the Ranger group.

There were a lot of stories shared about life at the Warburton mission and people identified  photos of community members. Community members described the photo below as “ration time”. Those present explained “The first warden to the right (in police hat) is there to check on everyone and make sure there’s no trouble”.

The Community members also explained that the rock hole identified in the photo below, is a soak.  “When they dig out, they put grass on it, so the water can come up clean… Natural filter. This is a soak not a rock hole.”

diggingoutarockhole.jpg

Digging out a rock hole, Warburton Ranges, 1949 https://storylines.slwa.wa.gov.au/archive-store/view/6/2463

filteringrockhole

Filtering rockhole water with spinifex to clean it, Warburton Ranges, 1949 https://storylines.slwa.wa.gov.au/archive-store/view/6/2466

For more information about the From Another View Project, visit the website 

Storylines is an online archive managed and hosted by the State Library of Western Australia, with advice and guidance provided by an Aboriginal Reference Group with ongoing state-wide consultation. Storylines provides for the digital return of photos and other materials directly to Aboriginal families, communities and people. It is also helping to identify many of the photographs in the J.S. Battye Collection at the State Library.  Hundreds of photographs have been identified since 2013. To access Storylines go to: https://storylines.slwa.wa.gov.au

From Another View Project: Wiluna to the Carnegie Homestead, via the Canning Stock Route and Glenayle station 26 – 30 May 2018

2007_0219Number3MAY20180003.JPG

From 26-30 May, State Library staff, Bill Gannon and Rod Schlencker travelled from Wiluna via the Canning Stock Route to Windich Spring, Pierre Spring, the Weld Spring/Palatji and then via Glenayle Station to the Carnegie Homestead. The State Library recognise the right of Martu people to check images and content prior to posting online. Therefore, there will be a delay in posting information related to areas closer to the Canning Stock Route. Please check the Google Map for location details.

On 30 May 2018, the project team, Bill and Rod travelled to Mount Moore to view the cairn which John Forrest built at the eastern end of the peak.  During this trip, the project team worked closely with the Martu people from the Birriliburru Native Title area.  John and Alexander Forrest visited Mount Moore between 22 and 26 June 2018. John’s account in Explorations in Australia 1874 states that he visited on 22 June 1874. However, the published map contains the dates 25 and 26 June 1874, at Camp 50.  Mount Moore was named after Mr. W.D. Moore of Fremantle, a subscriber to the Expedition Fund.  On top of Mount Moore, Bill Gannon sketched the Timperley Range which John Forrest described in his diary:

Ascending the the hill we had an extensive view to the South-West, South and South-East. Fine grassy country all round and very little spinifex. To the south about nine miles we saw a lake, and farther off a remarkable red-faced range, which I named Timperley Range, after my friend Mr. W.H. Timperley, Inspector of Police, from whom I received a great deal of assistance before leaving Champion Bay. A remarkable peak, with a reddish top, bore South-South-East, which I named Mount Hosken, after Mr. M. Hosken, of Geraldton, a contributor to the expedition.  Forrrest, J. Explorations in Australia. 1875

To keep informed of project updates follow the From Another View project blog: https://fromanotherview.blog/

IMG_0162.JPGIMG_0143.JPG
IMG_0163.JPG

Forrest’s Exploration Diaries now online

Artist Bill Gannon and surveyor Rod Schlenker, visited the State Library to see the original diaries of John and Alexander Forrest’s 1874 expedition from Geraldton to Adelaide. The diaries, which are held in the State Library collections, are now accessible online through the catalogue.(ACC 1241A)

073_Forrest Diaries_16-5-18.jpg

From Another View Project Coordinator Tui Raven with Rod Schlenker and Bill Gannon as they look at the diaries. (C) State Library of Western Australia, 2018. 

This week Bill Gannon and a team from the State Library will embark on a on a trip to engage with Aboriginal communities and visit key locations along the 1874 trek route.  This artistic and community engagement is part of the ‘From Another View’ project, a collaboration between the State Library and Minderoo Foundation.  The project considers the trek ‘from another view’, or rather from many views, incorporating various creative and Aboriginal community perspectives.

Explore some of the camp locations referenced in John and Alexander Forrest’s diaries through the Google map.

056_Forrest Diaries_16-5-18.jpg

Forrest’s Expedition to Central Australia, State Library of Western Australia, ACC 1241A

For more information about the From Another View project go to: https://fromanotherview.blog/  Follow the From Another View blog to keep updated with the project.

 

Crime and Punishment

Many Western Australians have a convict or pensioner guard in their ancestral family. The State Library has digitised some items from our heritage collections relating to convicts, the police and the early criminal justice system.

Convicts slwa_b2462917_1

Convicts Tom the dealer, Davey Evans and Paddy Paternoster b2462917

Police Gazette of Western Australia, 1876-1900
The Police Gazettes include information under various headings including apprehensions (name of person arrested, arresting constable, charge and sentence), police appointments, tickets of leave, certificates of freedom, and conditional pardons issued to convicts. You may find physical descriptions of prisoners. Deserters from military service and escaped prisoners are sought. Mention is also made of expirees leaving the colony; inquests (where held, date, name and date of death of person, verdict); licences (publican, gallon, eating, boarding and lodging houses, railway refreshment rooms, wine and beer and spirit merchants, etc. giving name of licensee, name of hotel and town or district). There are listings for missing friends; prisoners discharged; people tried at Quarter Sessions (name, offence, district, verdict); and warrants issued. There are many reasons for a name to appear in the gazettes.

We thank the Friends of Battye Library and the Sholl Bequest, for supporting the digitising of the Police Gazettes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

A great resource for researching the broader experience of WA convicts is The convict system in Western Australia, 1850-1870 by Cherry Gertzel. This thesis explains the workings of the convict system, and explores the conditions under which the convicts lived and worked, their effect on the colony and, to some extent, the attitudes of colonists to the prisoners.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another valuable publication is Further correspondence on the subject of convict discipline and transportation. This comprises official documents relating to the transportation of convicts to Australia, covering the period 1810-1865, and is bound in 8 volumes.
This set from our rare book collection gives an excellent background to the subject for anyone researching convicts or convict guards, with individuals (very) occasionally being named.
The easiest way to access this wonderful resource is to type convict system under Title in our catalogue and select State Library Online from the drop-down box. Once you’ve selected a volume, you can browse through the pages by placing your cursor on the edge of a page and clicking. If you have the volume turned on, this makes a very satisfying page-turning noise! If you want to search for names, scroll down and select the Download button. You can then save a searchable PDF version to your PC. The files are fairly large so you may need to be patient.

Return of the number of wives and families of ticket-of-leave holders to be sent out to Western Australia 1859

Return of the number of wives and families of ticket-of-leave holders to be sent out to Western Australia 1859 From: Further correspondence on the subject of convict discipline and transportation, 1859-1865 p.65. [vol.8]

 There are several online diaries relating to convict voyages. The diary, including copies of letters home, of convict John Acton Wroth was kept during his transportation to Western Australia on the Mermaid in 1851 and for a while after his arrival. Wroth was only 17 years old at the time of his conviction. Apparently he was enamoured of a young woman and resorted to fraud in order to find the means to impress her. The diary spans 1851-1853 and it reveals one young man’s difficulty in finding himself far from the love and support of his family while accepting of the circumstance he has brought upon himself. Wroth subsequently settled in Toodyay and became a respected resident, raising a large family and running several businesses as well as acting for some time as local school master.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another interesting read is the transcript of the diary of John Gregg, carpenter on the convict ship York. This 1862 diary gives details of work each day, which was often difficult when the weather was foul and the carpenter sea-sick, and uncommon events such as attempts by convicts to escape –

“…the affair altogether must be admitted to reflect little credit on the military portion of the convict guard, for although the officer of the watch called loud and long for the guard, none were forthcoming until the prisoners were actually in custody.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Diary of John Gregg, carpenter on the convict ship ‘York’, with definitions of nautical terms, compiled by Juliet Ludbrook.

Picture1

 

 

 

A letter from a convict in Australia to a brother in England, originally published in the Cornhill Magazine, April 1866 contains insights into the experience of a more educated felon and some sharp observations on convict life as lived by him upon his arrival in Western Australia-

“…you can walk about and talk with your friends as you please. So long as there is no disturbance, there is no interference”

and

“…the bond class stand in the proportion of fully five-sevenths of the entire population, and are fully conscious of their power…”

Other miscellaneous convict -related items include:

Two posters listing convict runaways with details of their convictions and descriptions:
Return of convicts who have escaped from the colony, and whose absconding has been notified to this office between the 1st June, 1850, and the 31st of March, 1859
and
List of convicts who are supposed to have escaped the Colony (a broadsheet giving the name, number and description of 83 escaped convicts).


Parade state of the Enrolled Guard, 30 March 1887, on the occasion of the inspection of the guard by Sir Frederick Napier Broome, prior to disbandment.

Parade_state_of_the_Enrolled_Guard___b1936163_2017-10-11_1638

Parade state of the Enrolled Guard… b1936163

 

British Army pensioners came out to Western Australia as convict guards. This document gives the following details for those still serving in 1887:- rank, name, regiment, age, rate of pension, length of Army service, rank when pensioned, date of joining the Enrolled Guard, medals and clasps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scale of remission for English convicts sentenced to penal servitude subsequent to 1 July 1857  is a table showing how much time in good behaviour convicts needed to accrue in order to qualify for privileges.

Certificate of freedom, 1869 [Certificates of freedom of convict William Dore]

This is just a small sample of convict-related material in the State Library collections that you can explore online. You can also visit the Battye Library of West Australian History to research individual convicts, policemen, pensioner guards or others involved in the criminal justice system.

 

In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows

How can contemporary art lead to new discoveries about collections and ways of engaging with history?  Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry will discuss this idea drawing from the experience of creating Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved.

In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows
Thursday 27 April, 6pm
State Library Theatre.

April 4 Tableau Vivant Image_darkened_2

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is the culmination of the State Library’s inaugural J.S. Battye Creative Fellowship.  The Creative Fellowship aims to enhance engagement with the Library’s heritage collections and provide new experiences for the public.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved
visually questions how history is made, commemorated and forgotten. Through digital art installation, Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry expose the unobserved and manipulate our perception of the past.  Their work juxtaposes archival and contemporary imagery to create an interactive experience for the visitor where unobserved lives from the archive collide with the contemporary world. The installation is showing at the State Library until 12 May 2017.

For more information visit: http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved

April 4 Tableau Vivant Image_darkened_2.jpg

Still scene: Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved, 2016, Nicola Kaye, Stephen Terry.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved visually questions how history is made, commemorated and forgotten. Through digital art installation, Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry expose the unobserved and manipulate our perception of the past.  Their work juxtaposes archival and contemporary imagery to create an experience for the visitor where unobserved lives from the archive collide with the contemporary world.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is the culmination of the State Library’s inaugural J.S. Battye Creative Fellowship.  The Creative Fellowship aims to enhance engagement with the Library’s heritage collections and provide new experiences for the public.

Artists floor talk
Thursday 6 April, 6pm
Ground Floor Gallery, State Library of Western Australia.

Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry walk you through Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved

In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows
Thursday 27 April, 6pm
State Library Theatre.

How can contemporary art lead to new discoveries about collections and ways of engaging with history?  Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry will discuss this idea drawing from the experience of creating Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is showing at the State Library from 4 April – 12 May 2017.
For more information visit: www.slwa.wa.gov.au

Through the mirror-glass: Capture of artwork framed in glass.

 

State Library’s collection material that is selected for digitisation comes to the Digitisation team in a variety of forms. This blog describes capture of artwork that is framed and encased within glass.

So let’s see how the item is digitized.

14

Two large framed original artworks from the picture book Teacup written by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Matt Ottley posed some significant digitisation challenges.

When artwork from the Heritage collection is framed in glass, the glass acts like a mirror and without great care during the capture process, the glass can reflect whatever is in front of it, meaning that the photographer’s reflection (and the reflection of capture equipment) can obscure the artwork.

This post shows how we avoided this issue during the digitisation of two large framed paintings, Cover illustration for Teacup and also page 4-5 [PWC/255/01 ] and The way the whales called out to each other [PWC/255/09].

Though it is sometimes possible to remove the artwork from its housing, there are occasions when this is not suitable. In this example, the decision was made to not remove the artworks from behind glass as the Conservation staff assessed that it would be best if the works were not disturbed from their original housing.

PWC/255/01                                                         PWC/255/09

The most critical issue was to be in control of the light. Rearranging equipment in the workroom allowed for the artwork to face a black wall, a method used by photographers to eliminate reflections.

 

We used black plastic across the entrance of the workroom to eliminate all unwanted light.

6

The next challenge was to set up the camera. For this shoot we used our Hasselblad H3D11 (a 39 mega pixel with excellent colour fidelity).

 

Prior to capture, we gave the glass a good clean with an anti-static cloth. In the images below, you can clearly see the reflection caused by the mirror effect of the glass.

 

Since we don’t have a dedicated photographic studio we needed to be creative when introducing extra light to allow for the capture. Bouncing the light off a large white card prevented direct light from falling on the artwork and reduced a significant number of reflections. We also used a polarizing filter on the camera lens to reduce reflections even further.

11

Once every reflection was eliminated and the camera set square to the artwork, we could test colour balance and exposure.

In the image below, you can see that we made the camera look like ‘Ned Kelly’ to ensure any shiny metal from the camera body didn’t reflect in the glass. We used the camera’s computer controlled remote shutter function to further minimise any reflections in front of the glass.

12

 

The preservation file includes technically accurate colour and greyscale patches to allow for colour fidelity and a ruler for accurate scaling in future reproductions.

13

The preservation file and a cropped version for access were then ingested into the State Library’s digital repository. The repository allows for current access and future reproductions to be made.

From this post you can see the care and attention that goes into preservation digitisation, ‘Do it right, do it once’ is our motto.