Monday, 15 August 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Five - A Tour of Some of the Display 'Courts')

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition
Buildings showing the Jervois Street Entrance.
Burton Brothers Photo
[Source : "Dunedin Early Photographs" by Hardwicke Knight]

This continues my Blog series looking at the "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" held in Dunedin between 1889 and 1890. To read all parts of this blog series please click on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.

I will now detail some of the more interesting exhibits in the various 'courts' within the many annexes which comprised the Exhibition complex.

The South Seas and Early History Courts

Exiting the main hall through the avenue on the right, the visitor will first enter the South Seas and Early History courts located in the plainly decorated west annex of the building. 

Early history is represented in the first instance by maps, charts, and documents. There is also "a splendid collection of polished kauri gum".

The Maori portion of the court commences on the right-hand side of the avenue. This is represented by woven flax mats, feather kiwi mats; the 'stone age' with axes, drills, hooks, and hinting and fishing implements; a large collection of wooden implements and models of canoes, paddles, war trumpets, elaborately carved food bowls, table cases, carved meres (hand weapons) and taiaha (spears), the carved stems of Maori war canoes, and some carvings intended for contemporary use including a Maori version of the 'Madonna' for the Roman Catholic church at Tauranga. A large pataka or chief's food house occupies a bay to itself. 

The "Wairau Cannon" is a poignant relic of the confrontation between Māori and British settlers at Wairau in 1843.

The Tongan section of the court contains examples of native produce including cotton, arrowroot, candle nuts, copra, chilis, a giant yam "5ft or 6ft in length", examples of  work from Tongan schools, "two immense rolls of tapa or native cloth", a collection of coral and a couple of portraits of noted personages including the Primier of Tonga.

The Samoan Court depicts the effects of a recent hurricane, specimens of samoan clubs, fans, hand-beaten and decorated tapa cloth, and "fly-flappers", and a model of a Samoan house.

Fiji is represented by models of native canoes and paddles as well as pottery.

Santa Crux is represented by looms and dancing clubs and a feather belt "used as a medium of exchange".  

New Caledonian goods displayed include dancing masks and tobacco pipes while New Guinea is represented by a display of stone clubs.

The south end of the South Seas and Early History Gallery.
The Presbyterian Synod display appears to be located in
the far corner with a number of portraits on the wall.
The entrance to the Victoria Court is at left with the
New Guinea display at hard left. Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The display by the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland [then the Presbyterian ruling body for the south] in the early History Court includes portraits of "early fathers of the church", a picture of the ship 'Philip Laing', a large picture of the 'Scottish Disruption' of 1843, and representations of early Dunedin. In addition are "a valuable and curious collection" of native goods obtained by the Rev. W. Bannerman on his visit to the New Hebrides [now known as Vanuatu], including native dresses, fighting and dancing spears, clubs, adzes, necklaces and bracelets, bows and arrows, samples of the native arrowroot plant including manufactured arrowroot.

The Home Industries Court 

This court occupies part of the central annex that extends across the building from the Victorian court in the western annex to the Otago section in the eastern annex.

One of the exhibits is a 'forecarriage' [ie a horse drawn carriage where the front wheels could turn independently of the rear wheels], "the workmanship and finish perfect",  a wrought iron grave railing which "shows considerable merit and patience". 

The walls of several of the bays are "decorated with many specimens reflecting credit upon the refined tastes and deftness of hand to be met with in many a New Zealand home", including patchwork and crazy quilts and mats, ladies' handwork such as crewel work, point lace, and crochet work. One less charitable correspondent stated that,

"I think that dozens of counterpanes of crazy patchwork, which represented a bewildering amount of work, and in most cases no artistic effect, Generally the blending of colours was so dreadful, and the designs so fearfully elaborate, and yet so grotesquely ugly."

Samples of the upholsterer's and coachbuilder's art are also shown as well as some good specimens of fretwork.

Crossing to the left side of the annex we find in the first bay specimens of stuffed birds. Then an area occupied "by gold saving apparatus" as well as "some capital work" in model steam engines and locomotives, followed by some very pretty specimens of majolica pottery.


I have not detailed "The Fisheries Court" or "The Natural History Court". I might however relate a passionate and concerned letter to the "Evening Star" newspaper by a person interested in the welfare of the three live penguins on display and how they were housed at night. He had noted how "disconsolate" they appeared to be perched on their three wet stones with about a quarter of an inch of water covering them and "forming a picture of misery unsurpassed by any in the great art gallery." The writer invited the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" to pay a visit of inspection.   

The Fernery and Garden Court

This area had, only a few months earlier, been "absolutely a desert of clay and rubbish [and] it will be acknowledged that the committee have triumphed".

Adjoining the entrance hall is the previously mentioned fernery, being about 140ft long by 57ft 8in wide and able to be reached either from the main entrance hall or from the gardens. "It is certainly a thing of beauty, and will be a joy while it lasts"

On entering "this cool, shady retreat", the visitor will gain a good impression of the variety of ferns which are to be found in the New Zealand forest. In the centre is a picturesque piece of rock work in the shape of a cairn and covered with ferns and other moisture loving plants with water descending from its summit in small cascades to the pool below. Winding paths through groves of tall tree ferns and rare forest plants lead to every part of the fern house. A soft carpet of smaller ferns illustrates a typical New Zealand forest floor while the walls are draped in mosses. "...the whole fernery is unique and surpassingly beautiful". A £5 prize was offered for the best collection of ferns, to comprise of not less than 50 specimens.

At the east end is a bed of plants contributed by the Invercargill Borough Council including between 30 and 40 varieties of veronia, some being very rare. The lovely mountain lily in full bloom and other lovely mountain plants are also notable. The fernery is lit by electric light and at night the effect is stiking. 

A rich green sward of grass fills the spaces between the open garden walks with pretty beds of flowers "flourishing as in an old established garden". These well-stocked beds of flowers were not to exceed 200 square feet with nurserymen having the privilege of fixing an advertisement board close to their individual plots. Although "much encroached upon by the demand for exhibitors' space", the gardens were expected "to be a great source of attraction". Merit certificates would be issued to all those whose beds were kept to the satisfaction of the commissioners while all garden exhibits would be carried free by the Union Steam Ship Company.

The rustic band rotunda and small 'Eiffel Tower'.
You can just make out Mr Joubert's cascade at right
and the roof of the large Maori meeting house at left
 [Source : TeAra The Encyclopedia of New Zealand]

In the centre of the garden is the rustic band rotunda complete with a conical thatched roof, a large cascade at the southern end designed by Mr Joubert, and a "large Maori house" on the eastern side. Both the cascade and the 'Maori House' can just be discerned in the above photograph.

A 12 metre model of the 'Eiffel Tower' appears beside the band rotunda. This is a much smaller version of the replica 'Eiffel Tower' in the amusement area. Having been independently built by "King, Walker and Co." to promote their range of whiskies, it proved to be too high for the exhibition gallery ceiling so was placed - rather incongruously - outside in the Exhibition gardens. The original idea had been to build the base out of whisky barrels with the "tower" made up of a "pyramid of bottles" but judging by the picture the barrels appear not to have been used.

Detail of some of the carved panels
purchased by Dr Hocken
[Source : Otago Museum]

The "Maori Meeting House" included a set of five 2.5 metre wall panels and one corner piece carved for the late North Island Chief Karaitianga Takamoana of Ngāti Kahungunu and Member of Parliament for Eastern Māori, and are formed from a single tree trunk. Unfortunately the Chief died in 1879 before they could be installed in a new meeting house. Passionately interested in Māori ethnology, Dr Thomas Morland Hocken of Dunedin, recognised "the superior carving skills and execution" and arranged for the panels to be loaned for the Dunedin Exhibition where they were installed in the mock-up of the Māori meeting house. After the Exhibition ended Dr Hocken purchased 61 of the carved panels and gifted them to the Otago Museum where they can still be seen today.
The Education and Science Court

The Education Court is located close to the Home Industries Court in the central annex. 

Here we can view "a variety of kindergarten appliances" and specimens of the work of pupils in New Zealand kindergarten schools. The Otago bays include a considerable display of the work of pupils in the different schools of the district. these include samples of mapping, and drawing, being both mechanical, model and freehand, some of which is "really excellent". 

A large number of school copy books, exercise books, and specimens of examination work are shown, all the work being extremely meritorious. 

Numerous exhibits of well executed maps and samples as well as needlework by the girls are of a very high order.

A Taranaki school display shows a nice astronomical model illustrating the motions of the earth around the sun and of the moon around the earth, while a display from Timaru exhibits a very ingenious map of New Zealand with a raised surface for teaching the blind. There are also various models  showing the various methods of constructing joints in house and bridge building as well as displays of school furniture and tools used in carpentry classes.

The New Zealand Native Schools Department show a good assortment of samples of school work "which speak for themselves".

"The educational exhibits will prove to visitors from the sister colonies that in the matter of education New Zealand does not lag behind in the progressive march of nations".

The Foreign Court

The "Avenue of All Nations", covers a large area "and is illuminated with a great flood of light". While it was intended that the Exhibition be 'intercolonial" in its scope, the commissioners willingly accepted individual exhibits from Great Britain, the United States of America, France, and other countries, and these proved a most interesting and attractive portion of the show.

The French goods, which were supplied by a number of firms in Paris and elsewhere, possessed great attractions for visitors as did the German, Italian and Turkish exhibitors, most of whom had also been at the Melbourne Exhibition, also provided a portion of the exhibition that was much appreciated.    

Tobaccos - 

"Lovers of the 'fragrant weed' should not fail to notice the stands of tobaccos, manufactured into various shapes, in the Avenue of All Nations; even persons who have the most firmly rooted dislike to tobacco will probably be impressed with the excellent manner in which these goods are displayed." 

The displays of tobacco and cigarettes from the great tobacco producing districts and manufacturing firms of Virginia in the United States warranted a whole detailed column by the reporter which now truly appears to be just as much an advertisement for the various products as a description of the exhibits themselves.

"The entire exhibit, which is one of the most handsome and costly ever shown in the Australiasian colonies, was specially designed by the manufacturers for the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition."

Chemical Manufacturers -

Messrs F.S. Cleaver, one of Great Britain's largest manufacturers of soaps and toilet requisites, were represented through their agents, Messrs P. Hayman & Co. of Christchurch and included the popular "Iolanthe" and "Mikado" brands which comprised of various soaps, tooth pastes, shaving preparations, and other articles of toilet use.

Wines and Spirits -

In the "Avenue of All Nations" adjoining the Otago and Southland section is a fine display of wines appearing under the name of "Curcier, Adet, & Co. of Melbourne and Sydney".

"In the present festive season [Christmas 1889] there must inevitably be a great demand for wines, and exhibits of this class consequently are apropos [very appropriate]." 

Their stand was stocked with Krug Champagne; Otard, Dupuy and Co's cognac; Vergiaud clarets; and the Associated Vineyard Cultivators' Company's "Beehive Brand" cognac.  

The Machinery Court - 

The machinery court, focussing on agricultural equipment, is located beside the "Avenue of All Nations" and behind the New South Wales mineral court. The most were of British, American, and colonial manufacture.

Machines "of all sizes and shapes and degrees of mechanism" fill a space of 18,000 feet. The chief exhibitors are Messrs 'Hornsby & Sons' of Grantham England; 'Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies' of Ipswich England; the 'Buckeye Harvester Company'; 'Massey, Moufet and Co.' of Canada; 'McCormick' reapers and binders, 'Woods' Harvester and Twine Binder; 'A.Hams and Son' of Canada; 'Marshall, Son and Co.'; and 'Humble and Nicholson' of Geelong Victoria. The machinery is mostly of an agricultural nature with exhibits also made up of mining and industrial equipment.

A view of one of the annexes.
I think above the doorway reads
"The Australian[?]...   Colonies"
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections] 

The Photographic Court

This was located in the northern transept of the Exhibition building and alongside the Auckland Provincial Court, being primarily examples of portraiture, landscape and enlarged and re-touched photographs from a number Dunedin studios, including that of Mr J.R. Morris Jnr. and Mr F.L. Jones of George Street. J.G. Mills and of Messrs Burton Bros., and a number of New Zealand photographers, many of the images being of a distinct artistic nature which are detailed very closely by the reporter. Prizes were awarded for "landscapes and other views", portraits, and enlargements.

Interestingly, no less than six Victorian photographers exhibited at the Exhibition (I would imagine mostly within the Victorian Court) and received award certificates first. second and third class awards spread between the various classes. One photographer is noted from Ceylon, having received a first class award "for foilage and flower studies".

Season Ticket Holder Photographed by Mr D.A. De Maus
[Source : Toitū Otago Settlers Museum]

A large album may today be viewed in the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin with small but good photographic portraits of all those who held season tickets to the Exhibition as well as members the choir members, being taken by the Photographer Mr D.A. De Maus so that identities could be confirmed upon entry. Over 2,650 persons were photographed.

The entrance to the Australian Victorian Court
Photo by D.A. De Maus 1886
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The Australian Courts

The Australian Courts extend from the South Seas and History Courts in the western annex running along Crawford Street right down to Octagon in the South West corner.

The display by the Colonies of Victoria included a large quantity of manufactured articles, being supplied and paid for by the Victorian Government and paid for by a Royal Commission.

Also prominent is a display of gold nuggets which "appeared to astonish many", and a Victorian Art Court "which drew much admiration".

The South Australian court occupies a snug corner behind the Victorian Art Gallery, the displays chiefly being wines but also prize fleeces from sheep, having been shown at the South Australian Agricultural Show.

The New South Wales Colliery / Mining Display
in the western court. Photo by D.A. De Maus.
[Source : Hocken Collections]

We then pass through the New South Wales Court which also includes an Art Gallery, a mining display, and a magnificent mineral display. One reporter was less enthused about the display of the "Janolan Caves", referring to it as being "a very poor show". Visitors would enter what was set up as the entrance to a cave then when inside would look through holes in the wall at what were just a row of stereoscopic views.

Prominent is the Australian Wine Bar, in which each of the Australian colonies represented have an interest, is situated on the verandah behind the Victorian court. There is a strong desire on behalf of the growers and producers to introduce their wines into New Zealand,

The Ceylon Tea Planters' Association
Tea Kiosk with a staff member
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[source : Hocken Collections]

Ceylon and Mauritius Courts

The Ceylon Tea Planters' Association kiosk is located close to the South Australian court. At a kiosk with seats accommodating six people each, Indians [sic] in native dress would serve you tea. This was "a great attraction, and always full of people."

The Colony of Mauritius was officially represented at the Exhibition and forwarded a small display of its chief products.

The 6 inch Armstrong Disappearing Gun
now at Taieroa Head and dating from 1889
[Photo by Gerard O'Brien]

The New Zealand Government Courts

A timber trophy, at the entrance of the south-western octagon indicates that the New Zealand exhibits have been reached, this octagon being occupied by the Public Works department. Here many paused to inspect the kauri trophy and the models and diagrams of bridges etc. The object of the display is also to specially to illustrate the timber producing capabilities of the colony, and there are many obelisks of several samples of stone.

The New Zealand exhibits occupy the avenue along the southern and eastern sides of the buildings and, with the exception of a small space, the portion of the northern avenue that lies between the angle of the junction of Cumberland and Jervois streets, and the main hall. On display here was the "unique gold trophy of New Zealand" which brought forth astonishment from many who viewed it.

A space has been fitted up for a display by the Prisons department of the handiwork of some of the prisoners of the colony to demonstrate "the advisability of instructing prisoners in trades", being specifically from Mount Cook Gaol in Wellington, and Mount Eden Gaol in Auckland.

 "The external decorations of this bay are of a somewhat sombre kind, though distinctly appropriate." Some levity was made of the immediate proximity of Donaghy's exhibits of rope and oppiste being several bays occupied by brewing firms. "It has occurred to some waggish and wicked person to mark the sequence, which this juxtaposition of exhibits suggests, and therefrom to point a moral."

Notable is the Armaments Court. On display here are shown a number of pieces of modern ordnance including a Maxim machine gun with a recoil operated firing system, a 32-pounder muzzle-loader cast at Woolwich Arsenal in 1841, a 6-pounder Nodrdenfeldt mounted on a recoil carriage, a 6-pounder Armstrong, a 6-inch "Armstrong Disappearing Gun" [which can today still be viewed at Tairoa Head as part of a tour] mounted on a hydro-pneumatic carriage, a 6-pounder Hotchkiss, and"small arms from the obsolete types down to the deadly Martini-Henry [breech-loading single shot lever-actuated rifle] and Martini-Enfield [303 rifle], and of ammunition".

The submarine mines and "the terrible Whitehead torpedo" [the first self-propelled torpedo invented], were "viewed with expressions of wonder".

The Tourists' court is located in the eastern avenue and occupies several bays. This court was established with the idea of furnishing visitors to New Zealand, "who were desirous of seeing some of the country, with reliable information respecting the routes they should proceed by." and "proved very valuable, and thoroughly justified its existence." The walls were hung with oil paintings, water-colours, and photographs.

In conjunction with this court, a Railway Enquiry Office proved "of the utmost use", with an efficient and well resourced officer providing information to visitors who took the trouble to seek it.

The shipping companies were represented by the Union Steam Ship Company, Shaw, Saville and Co., the New Zealand Shipping Company, and the White Star Line, together with a display of models of ships.

Tourist agents Messrs Thomas Cook and Son were also represented.

The Auckland Court in the North Eastern Annex
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The New Zealand Provincial Courts

The Otago and Southland exhibits are located in the southern annex and the southern end of the eastern annex, the continuity being broken by the Government Mineral Court in the south eastern Octagon.

The Southland display "made a bold show", a great feature being a splendid exhibit of colonially manufactured furniture.

The Otago displays include mining exhibits, Ales and stouts made by Otago brewers, tanned and manufactured leathers, confectionery, a display by Donaghy's twine and rope works, and displays from two Otago woollen mill manufacturers. The latter "were a complete astonishment to the good people of Australia who were privileged to see them."

The Canterbury court adjoins the Otago and Southland section. Showing a very fair representation of industries, the chief display from this province  - the granary of the colony - was appropriately of grain. There was also a fine exhibit of native timber and of plain earthenware.

This is followed by the Westland court. The Nelson and Marlborough courts follow but are small, then the Wellington court which occupies the remainder of the avenue as far as the north-eastern octagon and included two large exhibits. This consisted of woolen manufactures and of soap and candles.

The Hawkes Bay court is advantageously located at the angle of the building. The Auckland court comprises the bays from the corner octagon to the photographic studio but were somewhat disappointing in their size.

The hard to please 'Taranaki Herald' correspondent took exception to the furniture exhibited in the New Zealand Court - "the drawing room suites were gaudy, inharmonious, inartistic, and opposed to every law of good taste."

The Refreshment and Dining Rooms

The refreshment and dining rooms are off the right of the corridor leading to the Art Gallery. Here may be obtained meals or refreshments. The dining hall is 54ft long by 35ft wide with two smaller private dining rooms at the top end, "both furnished with electric bells". The dining room is painted grey with an Indian red dado and the roof almost white. Opening off the dining room is another room which can be made available when entertainments are held in the concert hall, there being an inter-connection to the rear of the hall. Also in this area are the kitchen, scullery, storehouses, and offices.

In the outdoor space at the Anderson's Bay Road end of the Exhibition is the space reserved for side shows including "a switchback railway", "a merry-go-round" and "a model of the Eiffel Tower".

The next blog in this series will provide a description of the Exhibition Art Galleries. The complete series of blogs will be available by clicking on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- NZ History Net / Nga Korero a ipurango o Aotearoa
- Hocken Collections, Dunedin / Uare Taoka o Hākena
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin

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