Month: May 2015

Alternative Museums

Museums aren’t always filled to the brim with old furniture, important artworks, and certificates signed by various members of the Royal Family.  There are hundreds of thousands of Museums that have a very strict collecting criteria, and sometimes they focus on things we wouldn’t necessarily expect.

For example, there is a Chainsaw Museum in Woodville, a Paua Museum in Canterbury (previously an independent house, now in the Canterbury Museum), and a Clock Museum in Whangarei.

And of course, internationally there even more delights to be found: the International Banana Museum can be found in California, a Dog Collar Museum in Leeds, and a Ramen Noodle Museum in Japan.  Or if you happen to be strolling around New York be sure the check out some of the Museum’s mentioned in this article.

And if you’re more of an armchair traveler, Cowgirls, Cockroaches & Celebrity Lingerie: The World’s Most Unusual Museums is a great read which outlines many of the world’s oddest collections.  Read more about it here.

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Award for heroic conduct

Mick Hills displays the medal awarded to Fireman Thomas E Thompson in 1891.

Mick Hills displays the medal awarded to Fireman Thomas E Thompson in 1891.

Thomas E Thompson, known as Ted, was a hero.  In the early hours of March 25, 1890, Ted Thompson, volunteer fireman, was awakened by voices raised in alarm and the unmistakable sound of a fire in progress. The house next door was ablaze.

The Harrison St cottage, occupied by a Mr Thomas and his family, was an inferno by the time Fireman Thompson had donned his jacket and helmet and rushed to the scene.  He saw Mr Thomas, who had been beaten back by the flames, and learned there were two children, both boys, still inside the house.

Ignoring all warnings for his safety, he entered the house by the front door and reached the room where the boys were asleep in bed. He roused both of them by breaking a window and got them out of the house. On leaving the building he heard that there might still be a girl trapped in the building and set to work with his hatchet to cut into the room where she was supposed to be, only to find she had escaped safely.

“That he had been through the fire was evidenced by the scorching his face and hands received, and his singed hair, and blanket-coat (both front and back marked). In a few minutes Miss Hope, matron of the hospital, had bathed both face and hands in oil and lime water and carefully bandaged up the latter.” (Wanganui Herald)

Fireman Thompson’s burns were later dressed by Dr Earle, honorary surgeon to the Fire Brigade.

More than a year later, Fireman Ted Thompson was awarded the United Fire Brigades Association Medal for Valour, one of only three ever presented.  That medal now resides in the Whanganui Regional Museum and Mick Hills, museum volunteer and firefighter, proudly showed it to this reporter.

Award for heroic conduct IIThe decoration consists of a silver Maltese cross with a point in the centre of each arm and suspended by loops from a red ribbon. The obverse shows the fireman badge of the UFBA within a band inscribed UNITED FIRE BRIGADES ASSOCIATION. The details of the award and its recipient are engraved on the medal.

“He was severely burned in the fire,” says Mick, “and he never did any more firefighting, as far as we can make out from the records.”

A full account of the fire and Fireman Thompson’s role in the rescue are in the Wanganui Herald of March 25, 1890, and details of the presentation in the same paper, September 12, 1891.

A ‘Fireman Thompson’ is recorded as leaving Wanganui to live in Auckland in October 1907.

Gilberd’s – The Best Soap!

The J B Gilberd Soap Factory on Heads Road, Wanganui in 1955 (Ref: B-BS-178)

The J B Gilberd Soap Factory on Heads Road, Wanganui in 1955 (Ref: B-BS-178)

Castlecliff company J B Gilberd and Sons Soapworks was a much-loved household name for nearly 100 years – more if you count Gilberd’s earlier enterprises in Auckland and Napier. Opened on 6 February 1893, the first day’s work at the Heads Road business produced 130 boxes of ‘ordinary household’ soap. By 1897 the firm had increased its opening day output fourfold, and was trading to New Plymouth, Palmerston North and the West Coast. The following year, Gilberd’s employed 15 men to produce a wide range of soaps for home and industrial uses.

A tin of “Eureka” all-purpose household cleaner, made by J B Gilberd & Sons (TH.3680)

A tin of “Eureka” all-purpose household cleaner, made by J B Gilberd & Sons (TH.3680)

Born in Auckland in 1848, James Gilberd lived on goldfields in California and Australia as a child.  He was fourteen when his parents returned to New Zealand, originally to Thames, then Auckland.  James began making soap in his twenties using a 20-gallon copper. By 1877, he had established Saunders and Gilberd Soap and Candle Makers with his brother-in-law the Reverend James Saunders. The business started in Freeman’s Bay before relocating to Victoria Street in the central city.

By 1880 Saunders and Gilberd had doubled in size, with thirteen cooling sets in operation (up from an original three) and a further seven planned.  A new vat provided capacity for eight tonnes of boiling soap.  The Auckland premises soon needed to expand to meet demand, but this was not practicable for safety reasons as the area was now predominantly residential. Additional problems were caused by a shortage of tallow. The partners decided to sell up.

By 1884 Gilberd and Saunders had established a new business near Napier, where tallow from Hawkes Bay sheep farms was plentiful. Initially the company only made ordinary household soaps, but they soon diversified into carbolic, glycerine and transparent soaps as well.

"Suds” clothes cleaning soap chips manufactured by J B Gilberd & Sons. originally cost 35 cents. (TH.3624)

“Suds” laundry soap chips made by J B Gilberd & Sons. originally cost 35 cents. (TH.3624)

At Napier Gilberd made innovative use of steam as the only heating power throughout the entire facility, from hoisting tallow casks to cooling soap moulds. Steam was conducted by pipes from the boiler to all parts of the establishment. Gilberd discovered that steam was cleaner, more reliable, and more economical than fire, and he used steam exclusively at his Napier and Wanganui facilities.

A 10-horsepower horizontal engine was supplied with steam from a 15-horsepower multi-tubular boiler of the latest design. Factory floors were concrete for enhanced cleanliness, and the firm used a steam saw to make its own packing boxes, using nearly one kilometre of timber each month.

Common soap took five hours to make, from tallow to stamped and wrapped bars. Finer soaps required two to three days to boil, cool and set

The Napier business continued until Gilberd’s’ cousin Robert Sweetapple joined the firm, when it was sold to the New Zealand Soap and Candle Company.

Gilberd next moved to Wanganui, starting a boarding establishment in Guyton Street, followed by a large private hotel in Ridgway Street. He was still making soap, initially ‘back to basics’ with a 20-gallon copper.  By 1893 Gilberd had a new soap factory at Castlecliff on an eight hectare site. Reverend Saunders rejoined the firm and in 1898, when James’ son Edward turned 21, the firm became J B Gilberd and Sons.

Gilberd & Sons float in the 1902 Coronation Procession for King Edward VII (RO-ED7-001)

Gilberd & Sons float in the 1902 Coronation Procession for King Edward VII (RO-ED7-001)

A key factor in Gilberd’s move to Castlecliff was an issue with the railways. Despite a siding being directly adjacent to their Hawkes Bay facility, the railways would not allow trucks to stand for loading. The cost of carting from the nearest station back to the factory was the same as the cost of rail freight from the original terminal in Napier, and so carting was preferred.

By comparison, Castlecliff Railway Company readily allowed Gilberd’s to load soap directly from a staging onto trucks on a siding off the main line. Castlecliff also had a port and was close to markets in Palmerston North, Wellington, Napier and New Plymouth, as well as the West Coast by coastal steamer.

“Liberty” sand soap produced by J B Gilberd & Sons, originally cost 56 cents (TH.3625)

“Liberty” sand soap produced by J B Gilberd & Sons, originally cost 56 cents (TH.3625)

Gilberd’s soaps won 20 first prize certificates for excellence of manufacture. Products included Waxine, Stag Brand pumice, Waxine sand, liberty carbolic, liberty sand and pure soft soaps and Waxine soap powder. Soap ingredients included caustic soda, tallow, silicate of soda, rosin, salt, and borax extract.

By 1901 the company had diversified into bannister, hair, flue, dairy, horse, stove, shoe, bottle, flesh, and cobweb brushware. James’ son William was the company’s travelling salesman.

In 1904 a storm blew the top off the soapwork’s chimney, and in 1910 and 1913 the factory was destroyed by fire.  Both were national news. The only water supply was a nearby creek, and it took the fire brigade almost an hour to reach the blaze.

James Gilberd died in 1922, and William became Managing Director. William’s son Harvey succeeded William on his retirement. By 1969, Gilberd’s was Wanganui’s longest-running manufacturing operation. At its peak, the company exported to Australia, the Pacific, Britain and South Africa. But times change, and Gilberd’s closed in the early 1980s.

Making Soap

Gilberd’s soaps were made by combining soda-ash or quicklime with tallow (purified by boiling with lye), grease, palm oil, olive oil or coconut oil for hard soaps, or linseed or hempseed oils for soft soaps. Lye is soap leftover from previous boils. The fat and alkali were boiled together in a large vat to saponify (turn soapy) before chemicals were added and the liquid poured into moulds to cool. A secret method enabled Gilberd’s to turn out marketable soap more quickly than their competitors.

Gilberd’s manufactured a superior tallow themselves from butchers’ off-cuts, reserved for the finer soaps.

Once cooled, the soap was cut into bars and stored to season it before being stamped and sent to market.

About that pillbox …

Pam McDonald from Larsen’s Tanks got in touch after spotting the cylindrical pillbox in the coastal defence article. Pam says she could tell straight away this was a modified Larsen tank. “We used to sell tanks for killing sheds and garden sheds as well as for water tanks.  But I didn’t know we had made pillboxes as well!”

 

And a correction …

SS Port Bowen ran aground at Castlecliff in 1939 (not 1929).

Written by Karen Wrigglesworth

Prince Edward in Wanganui for one day in 1920

Invitation to a supper party held at the Sarjeant Gallery in honour of the Prince of Wales. Notice the date is for 30 April, the date originally scheduled for HRH’s visit to Wanganui. (1968.89.10)

Invitation to a supper party held at the Sarjeant Gallery in honour of the Prince of Wales. Notice the date is for 30 April, the date originally scheduled for HRH’s visit to Wanganui.
(1968.89.10)

A recent article in the Wanganui Chronicle develops a most interesting discussion of the formidable succession of royal visitors to Wanganui in past years.

Mayor Charles Mackay receives HRH the Prince of Wales in a public ceremony in Cooks Gardens on 4 May 1920. (RO.V.74)

Mayor Charles Mackay receives HRH the Prince of Wales in a public ceremony in Cooks Gardens on 4 May 1920. (RO.V.74)

Yet most surprisingly, the article omits all mention of HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII. On 4 May 1920, the Chronicle was not to be misled and devotes an entire page to the Prince’s visit to Wanganui. Perhaps the most striking column discusses a Citizens’ Loyal Address to the Prince, edited by the distinguished historian, T W Downes, and illustrated by twelve watercolour sketches of scenes in and about Wanganui by artists of the calibre of Charles Duncan Hay-Campbell.

 

The souvenir programme from the Wanganui RSA Reception and Concert to HRH the Prince of Wales. (2011.94)

The souvenir programme from the Wanganui RSA Reception and Concert to HRH the Prince of Wales. (2011.94)

Since no trace of this brilliant illustrated address has been discovered to date, I have been writing to possible libraries and art galleries in the UK in order to discover its present whereabouts. The most likely reply was sent to me in 2009 by Brigadier John Smedley,  Private Secretary to the Earl and Countess of Wessex: “I am sorry to say that no trace of the Loyal Address has been found in the Royal Archives or elsewhere although extensive searches have been undertaken. I understand that the moves and disruption during the Second World War resulted in many losses, and it is sad that the Wanganui Address is among them.”

HRH inspecting troops at the official welcome held at Cooks Gardens in Wanganui. Afterwards the Prince presented medals to a number of returned servicemen. (1970.23.2)

HRH inspecting troops at the official welcome held at Cooks Gardens in Wanganui. Afterwards the Prince presented medals to a number of returned servicemen. (1970.23.2)

Yet there has been some compensation in the fact that a collection of the intensely revealing letters written by the Prince to his mistress at the time, Freda Dudley Ward, has been recently purchased by the Alexander Turnbull Library. These letters were usually dashed off late at night and with utter frankness by Prince Edward, and reveal his spontaneous and at times peevish responses to the carefully planned events of the royal tour.

Thus, on 4 May, the Prince writes from the Imperial Hotel, Wanganui (at 1.00 am): “such a pompous address beloved, but it’s really a miserable hole;  no electric light & the hotel boilers elected to burst before dinner so no baths & a vewy nasty dinner!!  But we are all pretty peeved tonight as we’ve really had a desperately twying day…”.

The Imperial Hotel, Victoria Avenue in Wanganui, of which the Prince of Wales complained bitterly. (B-H-059)

The Imperial Hotel, Victoria Avenue in Wanganui, of which the Prince of Wales complained bitterly. (B-H-059)

A useful image of the Imperial Hotel, Victoria Avenue, survives in this photo by Frank Denton, dated 1913. Two motor cars flank the hotel. (Could they be a pair of Willys-Overland Roadsters in the 1910 model?)  Whatever the case, the hotel was already showing signs of decay and the Prince would have been conscious of this when he addressed the assembled crowd from the first floor balcony.

Saucer from the Imperial Hotel, Wanganui, taken by a waitress who served the monarch. (2011.94)

Saucer from the Imperial Hotel, Wanganui, taken by a waitress who served HRH. (2011.94)

Next day the Prince and his entourage moved on by car to Palmerston North, where HRH presented his own message to the ”Children of New Zealand”. A finely coloured leaflet was circulated among the children gathered at Palmerston North, and this survives in a number of libraries. He wanted them all to bear in mind that they should “never do or say a dishonest thing” and “always remember other people’s interests when pursuing your own” and “play for the side and play the game.”

Precepts 2 and 3 may seem ironic in the light of Edward’s later life and abdication.

Perhaps a more apt and indeed lyrical summation in 1990 in Philip Zeigler’s official biography, King Edward VIII is “Edward’s character was evanescent, bewildering, rippling and swirling like a mountain stream which is whipped by the wind and broken by the boulders in its path”!

 

By Ian Laurenson

Ian Laurenson was formerly Senior Lecturer in English at Monash University, Australia. He is now living in retirement, writing about a collection of annotated postcards from World War I. He contributes to the Museum’s research programme.

Royal Fever!

Harry 3

Yesterday Whanganui was visited by Prince Harry and royal fever well and truly took hold of the town.  Keen Prince-watchers were lining the viewing barrier several hours before he was due to arrive, making sure they got a good position for a possible handshake.  The Museum got into the spirit of the event too and braved the rain to decorate the entrance with some Union Jack bunting.  We don’t know if he noticed but it looked good.

20150514_085347

Here are a few shots our staff photographer, Kathy Greensides, managed to take of his royal personage and his fans.

Harry 4

Harry 2

Harry 5

Harry 1

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union

This pledge card from the Dalchild-Matarawa Band of Hope Society belonged to Estella M Cook, and bound her to the principles of temperance. The pledge reads "This is to certify that Estella M Cook is a member of the above society having signed the following pledge - I hereby agree that I will abstain from all intoxicating liquors as beverages, that I will not offer them to others, and that I will in all suitable ways discountenance their use in the community."  Signed by J Welch, May 10, 1900. (2004.112.6)

This pledge card from the Dalchild-Matarawa Band of Hope Society belonged to Estella M Cook, and bound her to the principles of temperance. The pledge reads “This is to certify that Estella M Cook is a member of the above society having signed the following pledge – I hereby agree that I will abstain from all intoxicating liquors as beverages, that I will not offer them to others, and that I will in all suitable ways discountenance their use in the community.” Signed by J Welch, May 10, 1900. (2004.112.6)

The temperance movement had roots in Britain and the United States in the early 19th century, where reformers identified alcohol as the root of evil in society, engendering poverty, bad health, brutality,  (especially towards women and children) and immorality. Temperance movements were mainly led by churches and encompassed all classes and all denominations.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was established in New Zealand in 1885 in response to a great social problem of the time, the “demon drink” that had migrated with colonial settlers. The Union’s primary aim was to eradicate harmful alcohol, but it also encompassed wider areas of concern. The WCTU was redefining a complete social and moral environment. It sought to promote wider social reform by influencing legislative activity, and its major campaign, therefore, centred on gaining the vote for women.

This plate has a coloured transfer print of a scene where a man is about to hit a woman who has a baby in her arms while two children try to stop him. A second woman watches from a doorway. Printed on the plate around the scene is "THE BOTTLE / PLATE VI - FEARFUL QUARRELS AND BRUTAL VIOLENCE / ARE THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE FREQUENT USE OF THE BOTTLE". (TH1029)

This plate has a coloured transfer print of a scene where a man is about to hit a woman who has a baby in her arms while two children try to stop him. A second woman watches from a doorway. Printed on the plate around the scene is “THE BOTTLE / PLATE VI – FEARFUL QUARRELS AND BRUTAL VIOLENCE / ARE THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE FREQUENT USE OF THE BOTTLE”. (TH1029)

On 5 October 1885 women in Wanganui met to hear an address by the American feminist, Mary Leavitt. She had come to New Zealand on a lecture tour for the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, which had just been formed in the United States of America. At the conclusion of the meeting those present decided to form a branch in Wanganui. By February 1886 there were 15 branches throughout New Zealand. Membership required the signing of a pledge to “abstain from all intoxicating liquors”.

Members were never questioned about their practice of Christianity. At the time, adherence to Christianity was seen as a given, the norm. The national WCTU suffrage leader, Kate Sheppard, wrote “We are perfectly sure that if our Lord Jesus Christ were here he would not hinder one of His followers from engaging in temperance, or any other good work, because of an error in the theology”.

Margaret Bullock’s knowledge of the parliamentary system helped push the passage of the 1893 Electoral Bill by warning leading New Zealand suffragist and Women’s Christian Temperance Union advocate Kate Sheppard, of possible obstruction. The original is from the Kate Sheppard Papers at Canterbury Museum. The telegram reads "Mrs Sheppard, Box 209 Chch / Electoral Bill returned House for strangulation ostensibly amendment wire Premier instantly / M Bullock / Wellington". (1805.417)

Margaret Bullock’s knowledge of the parliamentary system helped push the passage of the 1893 Electoral Bill by warning leading New Zealand suffragist and Women’s Christian Temperance Union advocate Kate Sheppard, of possible obstruction. The original is from the Kate Sheppard Papers at Canterbury Museum. The telegram reads “Mrs Sheppard, Box 209 Chch / Electoral Bill returned House for strangulation ostensibly amendment wire Premier instantly / M Bullock / Wellington”. (1805.417)

At its first annual convention in Wellington in 1886, the WCTU resolved to work for women’s suffrage. Kate Sheppard, who was to become the leading face of Women’s Suffrage, was appointed national superintendent of the franchise and legislation department of the WCTU. In 1891 she began editing a women’s page in the temperance newspaper, the Prohibitionist, to promote votes for women.

The Wanganui branch of the WCTU had been formed and led by Mrs A Dudley Ward, the President of the new national Union. Thirty- three working and fifteen honorary members were enrolled on 5 October 1885. The Wanganui branch demonstrated vigorous temperance activity, but a lesser degree of political agitation for other social reform, and minimal concern with women’s issues. Throughout the suffrage period the local WCTU seemed to react to directives from the national executive, rather than initiate activity at a local level.

The Criterion Hotel was originally built as a Coffee House, or a Temperance Hotel. It’s interesting to see a line-up of cars outside the hotel – was drinking and driving a standard practice in the 1930s?  Photograph by FH Bethwaite. (2005.56.11)

The Criterion Hotel was originally built as a Coffee House, or a Temperance Hotel. It’s interesting to see a line-up of cars outside the hotel – was drinking and driving a standard practice in the 1930s? Photograph by FH Bethwaite. (2005.56.11)

The Wanganui branch disbanded a year later and formed itself into a “sisterhood” through which members thought they could better meet the requirements of their district. While the early Wanganui Branch of the WCTU was believed to have supported women’s franchise, after disbanding its main focus was still temperance activity.

Individualism was a feature of the movement in general, particularly in terms of the moral choice a vote provided when selecting a candidate to support. This decision took the form of scrutinising the moral standards of candidates, rather than their political views and allegiances. Women of the WCTU believed social change did not involve a transfer of power from one group to another, but came from the changed consciousness of a morally transformed individual. Such a viewpoint put less emphasis on the formal structure of the law, which may have influenced the tendency away from political agitation for other social reform.

A ceramic plate from a series of temperance plates has a coloured transfer print of a street scene of a woman and two children begging outside a public house. Printed on the plate around the scene is "THE BOTTLE / PLATE IV - UNABLE TO OBTAIN EMPLOYMENT / THEY ARE DRIVEN BY POVERTYINTO THE STREETS TO BEG / AND BY THIS MEANS THEY STILL SUPPLY THE BOTTLE". (TH1030)

A ceramic plate from a series of temperance plates has a coloured transfer print of a street scene of a woman and two children begging outside a public house. Printed on the plate around the scene is “THE BOTTLE / PLATE IV – UNABLE TO OBTAIN EMPLOYMENT / THEY ARE DRIVEN BY POVERTYINTO THE STREETS TO BEG / AND BY THIS MEANS THEY STILL SUPPLY THE BOTTLE”. (TH1030)

This Order of the Sons of Temperance medal was awarded to Arthur George Jarvis of Wanganui. (1993.18.2)

This Order of the Sons of Temperance medal was awarded to Arthur George Jarvis of Wanganui. (1993.18.2)

In Wanganui agitation for legislation was absent except for the general directive that members conscientiously use their vote to support the candidate with the “highest principles and who would advance the best interests of the community”. The Wanganui branch re-formed years after it disbanded, in 1896, three years after women’s enfranchisement. Membership increased to reach a peak of forty-nine in 1901; numbers then started to decline.

The first Franchise Leagues, the organisations that drove the movement of votes for women, were formed in New Zealand’s main centres by the WCTU when it appeared that the 1892 Franchise Bill was in danger of being lost. In these organisations, WCTU leaders joined with non-temperance feminists in a WCTU-initiated group. The WCTU and the Leagues aimed to educate women to a sense of their responsibilities and obtain signatures for the petition to parliament.

In Wanganui, however, the League was not WCTU-initiated. Women present at the inaugural meeting of the Wanganui Franchise League in June 1893 merely confirmed “women’s right to electoral privileges and the capacity to judiciously use them”, as quoted in The Prohibitionist of 3 June 1893.

Watch yourselfie

It’s happened again, but without the selfie stick this time.  Two tourists climbed up The Statue of the Two Hercules to take a selfie and accidentally broke off a piece of the crown.  The statue is situated in the Loggia dei Militi palace in Italy and dates to the 1700s.

We don’t mean to be anti-selfie, the pop-snaps can be quite artistic.  All we ask is you be careful and watch yourselfie while taking them!  And pay attention if there is a no photography policy, of course.

To check out some other museum selfies and get some inspiration for your next piece, why not take a look at the Museum Selfies Tumblr page.  And if that’s not enough for you, take a trip to the Art In Island museum in Manila, specifically built to take selfies in, with paintings and scenes you can interact with.

If you do, let us know!  We’d love to see your pics.