Monday 27 June 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Four - The Exhibition Musical Arrangements)

The Exhibition Orchestra and Choir
on stage in the Concert Hall
[Source : "The Otago Witness"]

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 HERE to start at the first instalment.

No Reasonable Expense Should be Spared

Prior to the opening the Exhibition commissioners promised the public "that no reasonable expense should be spared in making the music of the exhibition one of the most attractive features". Judging by the very high calibre of people appointed to the various musical positions, the abundance and enthusiastic support of the choral and orchestral talent available and especially of their desire to be a part of this very special event, the obvious dedication and time spent by so many in achieving such a high standard of musical rendition; the excellent facilities provided at the Exhibition, and the glowing newspaper reports, the commissioners would have been well satisfied.

This image of the Concert Hall, taken during the
Exhibition opening ceremony, affords an
impression of the scale of the building.
[Source : "The Otago Witness"]

The Concert Hall

The main entrance to the spacious Concert Hall, being constructed in wood, is from the eastern Cumberland street annexes from which a wide corridor leads, being flanked with cloakrooms and lavatories. The concert hall itself is 158ft in length, 66ft in width, and 50ft in height with the ceiling being elliptical.The level floor is about 78ft by 65ft. The choir and orchestra have a space on the stage reserved for their use being 47ft by 65ft. Underneath the choir gallery are retiring rooms for ladies and gentlemen, with a music room, library, and lavatories with the ladies entering from the right and the gentlemen from the left.

The whole building is lined with tongue and groove and is distempered with the lower portion up to a height of 5ft painted Indian red and above being buff in colour. The frieze and cornices are picked out in various complementary colours with the frieze finished with a very rich stencil pattern and the ceiling in a light grey with panelled ribs of darker shades running round the hall. All of the seven doors are finished with pediment heads and moulded with dentil blocking (ornamental blockwork) underneath. Five additional fire escapes have been provided. Daylight is admitted by 26 skylights, lighting at night time being "quite satisfactory" while three large Archimedean ventilators draw off heated air. Usefully there is an interconnection from the rear of the concert hall to a room adjoining the dining room.

Mr Arthur Towsey, taken 1901
[Source : Towsey tales]

The Exhibition Choir & Musical Director

Suitably qualified candidates for the important position of Exhibition Musical Director were sought from New Zealand, Victoria and New South Wales, with Mr Arthur Towsey, "a gentleman long and favourably connected with the musical history of Dunedin, and whose general qualifications for the post are beyond question" being appointed to this prestigious post on the 5th April 1889. With the Dunedin Choral Society having become dormant choristers were only expected to number some 200. But places were amply filled, especially by Church choir members, which impressively enabled the enrollment, after "a fair test of musical capacity". of over 400 choristers, specifically between 150 to 367 sopranos, 85 altos, 60 tenors and 72 bases. 

Although the music to be sung at the grand choral concerts would "be of a more ambitious character than the majority of singers have hitherto been accustomed to", the sevens months of constant bi-weekly choral practice prior to the Exhibition opening "augurs favourably for a perfect rendering of the great compositions to which the frequenters of the exhibitions are at intervals, to be treated."  

A number of eminent soloists would be engaged from time to time, including a female vocalist from Leeds England and two from Melbourne Australia, and three male vocalists from Wellington.

Signor Rafaelo Squarise 1856 - 1945
Exhibition Orchestra Leader
[Source : Te Ara The Encyclopedia
of New Zealand]

The Exhibition Orchestra & Leader

Italian born Signor Rafaelo Squarise, "a violinist and composer of repute from Italy, who has for the past few years been a resident of South Australia, where his talent speedily gained most favourable recognition." was appointed leader of the Exhibition orchestra, He was so valued and his popularity in Dunedin so great that even before the Exhibition closed he had decided to settle his affairs in Australia and move permanently to Dunedin where he quickly became "a colourful and energetic figure in Dunedin’s musical history". 

The selection of a suitable orchestra of 30 permanent members is noted as having "...given the musical director and committee a considerable amount of anxiety and trouble" but "the gentlemen who have been picked from [through] out the instrumental talent of Australia and New Zealand will also have frequent opportunities of proving to the exhibition authorities and the public that a most judicious choice has been exercised, and that such an array of distinguished performers has certainly never before been gathered together in this colony." 

These included a premier violinist, Mr James Coombes, Herr Eugene Winckelmann, "a talented exponent of the violincello with 30 years' distinguished experience gained in the choicest musical circles of Germany", Herr Alfred Pleyer, a contrabassist with a good European reputation, and various performers with an established Australian reputation. For choral concerts and special occasions the orchestra would be augmented to a force of around 45 performers by the inclusion of a number of the best amateur instrumentalists. 

The committee completed the required numbers "by availing themselves of the kindly proffered assistance of three well-known lady violinists of this city, who generously and with considerable self-denial will also give invaluable aid at the orchestral concerts to be given during the currency of the exhibition."

The Exhibition Choir and Orchestra
on stage in the Concert Hall, taken
during the opening ceremony.
[Source : "The Otago Witness"]

The Exhibition Hall Organ & Organist

Installed in the concert hall would be an organ "sufficiently powerful in tone to lend efficient aid to the chorus and orchestra". This instrument had been built to the order of Mr A.J. White of Christchurch by Messers Jenkins, Parson, and Sandford of that city, expressly for use at the Wellington Exhibition of 1885 but was then "incomplete". The organ was now fully equipped by the original builders with two manuals, 18 speaking stops, four couplers, and three composition pedals, "a credit alike to the builders and the hall in which it is now erected". [Does anyone know what became of it after the Exhibition?] 

Mr A.J. Barth, the Knox Church organist, "freely and generously placed his valuable services at the disposal of the committee" to assist as organist during grand concerts and well as giving weekly organ recitals "of a high class character".

The Exhibition Orchestra 1889-1890
Burton Brothers Photo
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The Orchestral Music

Daily orchestral concerts were provided free of charge. Wednesday evenings would feature full performances of works by Hadyn such as "Creation" and "Messiah", Mendelssohn's "Elijah", and other lesser known but attractive works. Special concerts would include favourite English, Irish, and Scottish glees and part songs. Saturday afternoons would cater to the "dilettanti" by performing the choicest chamber music.

A resumé of the success of the Exhibition noted that "some exception was taken to the character of the music that was presented by the orchestra, on the ground that it did not include a sufficient number of classical selections. For a few weeks after the opening, however, classical concerts were held, and these were so poorly supported that it was felt advisable to abandon them."

The rustic Band Rotunda in the gardens next to the
'Small Eiffel Tower", complete with a thatched roof
[Source : TeAra The Encyclopedia of New Zealand]
The Brass Bands

During each week the rustic band rotunda in the gardens, complete with a thatched roof, would be occupied by one of the city brass bands. In March 1890 "very liberal prizes" would be offered which, it was expected, "will attract the competition of all the leading bands in this and the other colonies." In all, 16 brass bands competed and "a considerable amount of public interest was evoked over the contest".   

The next blog in this series provides a description of some of the more interesting Exhibition 'courts'. Click HERE to view or click HERE to view the first instalment in this series.

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

Monday 20 June 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Three - The Exhibition Buildings)

The two engraved glasses from the Exhibition
which I recently purchased for my collection.
(not the best photo but difficult to photograph)
[From my own collection]

This continues my Blog series looking at the "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" held in Dunedin between 1889 and 1890. To start at the first instalment in this series please click HERE.

As befitting an 'International Exhibition', and within the exigencies of funding, resources and available space, the Architect, Mr James Hislop, created a magnificent - but temporary - masterpiece. The buildings were always to be of a transient nature and sadly, only some interior and exterior photos remain which enable us to gain only a tantalizing glimpse of what Exhibition visitors may have witnessed and experienced.

The Moorish Inspired Entrance

With a north facing Moorish inspired building, complete with a portico, dome and turrets, this provided a suitably grand entrance on Jervois street to the Exhibition grounds.

Visitors to the Exhibition had first to pass through this grand entrance :

"The feature in regard to this building is a bold-looking dome springing from the rear of the main entrance. The width of the main elevation is to be 154ft. The chief entrance is in the centre, and on either side of the entrance are two square turrets about 40ft high. The turrets are finished with canopy-shaped heads, each surmounted with a small minaret, and carrying a flag-pole. Between these turrets is what may be called a parapet. The height of the parapet from the ground is 23ft. The parapet is continued to the corners, at each of which is an octagonal tower, finished with a minaret and flag-pole."  

"Before entering the main hall, the visitor has to go through the portico, which is 54ft in length and 10ft in width. It is arched on each side with columns and pilasters and the "spandrils" are filled in with ornamented woodwork. Above the keystone is the pediment, the tympanum of which contains the coat of arms, and on each side "spandrils" with cut woodwork on them. the apex carries iron scrolls and a flagpole."

The Main Hall

Having passed through the portico, the visitor now enters the main hall which is about 50 ft in lengthy by 28ft wide, being broken up at intervals with pilasters resting on pedestals. In this hall there are four turnstiles separated by an archway in the centre, three being for adults and one for children. The holders of season tickets and free passes enter through the central archway above which are inscribed the words, "The Earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof". The entrance fee for adults is one shilling with the turnstiles automatically recording the number that pass through them without the need to issue tickets.

The visitor now found themselves under the 85ft high dome. While the Architect had planned it to be of a greater height he had to scale back his plans in this regard due to cost. 

"The dome is octagon-shaped, diminished into 16 sides in the roof. The "spandrils" between the arches are filled in with decorative work in the shape of various New Zealand ferns and flowers..."

A frieze above the entrance to the hall, to the fernery, and to the left and right avenues are embellished with appropriate mottoes "executed in gold ground". These are "Fax Mentis Incendium Gloriæ" (glory is the torch of the mind); "Forti Omne Solum Patria" (the man of courage makes every land his home); "Virtutem Sequitur Gloria"  (merit wins credit); and "Labor Omnia Vincit Improbus" (incessant toil conquers all)

The arches at the above four entrances are draped with heavy velvet curtains. In the panels located beside the side arches are placed large mirrors, underneath these being wire baskets with ferns and flowers. On pedestals at each side of the mirrors are statuettes of members of the Royal Family, and in the centre of the hall - and directly under the dome - is a statue of her Majesty Queen Victoria, being mounted on a pedestal of Port Chalmers blue stone, around the base of which is another wire basket. Above the wall frieze is a very heavy cornice, which is finished with candalabra, with the whole being picked out with colours and gilding. Light is admitted through a wire-wove netting being covered with oil cloth. Eight tons of lead were used in covering the dome.

A large plate glass window affords a view of the fernery from the main hall. To the right and left of the window, but obscured from public gaze, are the refreshments bars.

The entrance hall now leads to the six main display galleries and some of lessor size, all with their various 'courts', a 3,000 seat concert hall (complete with an Exhibition orchestra and pipe organ), courtyards, an aviary (complete with kiwis), an oriental tearoom, gardens, an amusement arcade, an imitation 'Eiffel Tower', a switchback railway, and a merry-go-round.

The Exhibition closed daily between 5.30 pm and 7.30 to allow employees and court staff an evening meal break.

A sketch by Mr Leslie of the Exhibition buildings, taken looking east.
[Source : "The Otago Witness"]

A Quick Run Through the Exhibition Layout

I will, in future Blogs, give a fuller account of some of the more interesting Exhibition 'courts' and facilities which the newspapers of the day describe in great detail. Although some areas of the Exhibition and their location are carefully described in great detail, others display areas are perhaps a little vague but this quick tour will hopefully provide an overview.

Exiting the main hall through the avenue on the right, we first enter the South Seas and Early History annexes which run along the western avenue of the building adjoining Crawford street. Then, in order, those courts occupied by the Colonies of Victoria, South Australia, and of New South Wales. An 'Octagon' at the south western corner promoting the NZ Public Works Department delineates where the New Zealand exhibits commence, being both Government exhibits and of the various provinces which includes the southern and eastern avenues of the building.

The central Octagon in the western court
looking through to the Victorian Court.
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections]

There are four 'Octagons', another one being located at the south eastern corner which contains a mineral display for the NZ Government while the north eastern Octagon features one end of the Wellington court. The Octagon in the centre of the western annex is part of the Victorian court.

Adjoining the eastern avenue is the Post and Telegraph Office and opposite this area is the "Onslow Pavilion", having been fitted up as reception rooms for His Excellency the Governor.

Following on, we pass agricultural exhibits and some British exhibits which were late arriving before again reaching the main entrance hall. Adjoining this area is the photographic studio.

There are two main flanking annexes running transversely between the eastern and western courts. The first contains the home industries section, the educational section, and the fisheries court while the second annex contains the "Avenue of All Nations" where most of the foreign exhibits are located including the machinery court.

The large concert hall in the southern part of the complex is reached via a wide corridor leading off the Cumberland street (eastern) annexes.

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition
Buildings, Dunedin New Zealand, 1889
[Source "The Star"]

The Art Gallery, dining and refreshment rooms are also in the southern part of the complex but are reached via a corridor leading from the southern annexes facing Anderson's Bay Road. The art Gallery is to the left down the corridor and the dining and refreshment rooms to the right, the latter having a useful interconnection with the back of the concert hall.

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".

Besides the principal exhibition buildings is "the engine shed for the electric light apparatus".

The Garden Court formed the area bounded by the entrance buildings facing Jervois street, the northern sections of the eastern and western annexes, and the central flanking annex.  

Adjoining the entrance hall is the above-mentioned fernery, being about 140ft long by 57ft 8in wide. Outside the fernery, at each end, is a small rockery. Entering the gardens, a band rotunda is located in the centre, a cascade at the southern end, and a "large Maori house" at the eastern side.

The next blog in this series provides a description of the musical arrangements for the Exhibition and of some of the notable - and very talented - people involved. Click HERE to view Part Four or click HERE to view the first instalment in this series.

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

Tuesday 14 June 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Two - The Exhibition Opening, 26 Nov 1889)

The entrance to the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition,
Dunedin, New Zealand 1889-1890
[Source : De Maus Photo]

This continues my Blog series looking at the "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" held in Dunedin between 1889 and 1890. To start at the first instalment in this series please click HERE.

The Processional Pageant

Opening day, being Tuesday the 26th November 1889, was observed as a "close holiday" and would be marked by a grand opening "Processional Pageant" from The Triangle to the Exhibition site in Jervois Street. Crowds "thoroughly thronged the streets at all points within 'cooee' of the procession" with the streets taking on a festive appearance.

Despite a lengthy delay due to getting everyone into the prescribed processional order, the "cortége" finally got underway, the largest seen in Dunedin and perhaps, the reporter surmised, within New Zealand. being led by the band playing a marching tune. The procession followed a route from The Triangle, along Cumberland street to Albany street, and along George and Princes streets to the corner of Anderson's Bay Road and Crawford street, then back by the latter to the Exhibition building.  

Taking part would be the various group Marshals, the Protestant Alliance Society (30) being led by the Caversham Brass Band, The Oddfellows (150), the H.A.C.B. Society (60); the Loyal Orange Institution (150); the M.U.I.O.O.F. (200), Foresters (150) and Druid (140) Lodges; representatives of Dunedin and South Island Fire Brigades (97), being led by the Kaikorai Brass Band; the Trades Societies, including brewers (120), tailors (40), brassfounders (42), carters (130), ironmongers (80), bootmakers (30), agricultural implement makers (90), Seamen's Union (400), and Wharf Labourers' Union (250). Following would be an impressive number of military 'Volunteers'. being the Ordnance Battalion and Brass Band (346), the No 1 City Rifles Battalion and Brass Band (338), and the No 2 Country Corps Battalion and Brass Band (260).  

While the pageant "was gorgeous and elaborate in the extreme", it was however marred by "dull, leaden skies [but] unaccompanied by rain" so "there was, ... no great display of enthusiasm upon the part of the crowd." Those gathered for the indoors ceremonies apparently "evinced a far stronger spirit of enthusiasm" than those who witnessed the procession. Although there were apparently a few hitches none were of a grave nature. Accidents, which are "frequent upon public displays of any magnitude" were also avoided save for "two cases of fainting, induced possibly by the impressiveness of the pageant". While there was "a good deal of pushing and shoving in the vicinity of the exhibition" the Police, which had been expanded in numbers for the Exhibition, were able to successfully deal with the large crowd.

The Ceremonial Procession

About half an hour before the departure of the Vice Regal party for the formal opening ceremony the Southland Hussars had taken up their positions at the front of "Government House" and would form an advance guard to lead the cortége. A barouche with four handsome greys, a phaëton drawn by a pair of dark horses, and a landau drawn by dark chestnuts would convey His Excellency The Governor, the Countess, and other official guests to the Exhibition for the formal opening ceremony. On arrival in Princes street the cortége was met by the tail end of the opening procession before being escorted to the Exhibition site by way of Crawford street. At various points in the march the bands of the city had taken up positions, playing several bars of the National Anthem as the official guests passed.

Taking advantage of the presence of two of Her Majesty's ships in the harbour, being the "Opal" and the "Lizard", detachments from both met at the Triangle and marched by way of Crawford street to the Exhibition where they formed a guard of honour for the arrival of His Excellency the Governor, and again for his departure. The Opal's "fife and drum band" of 20 men accompanied the guard of honour. At the conclusion they would be marched to the Exhibition dining room and "entertained at lunch."

The decorations of the Exhibition avenues and of the building generally evoked the admiration of the guests as they wended their way to the concert hall where the ceremony of declaring the Exhibition open would be held.

The Governor and Officials on the Dais in the Concert Hall
taken during the Official Opening Ceremony.
[Source : De Maus Photo?]

The Formal Opening Ceremony

Most guests with reserved seats had taken their places before eleven o'clock leading to "a somewhat severe test of patience" but this "was infinitely preferable to the alternative of an indecorous scramble at the last moment." Thus visitors were left "twiddling their thumbs or gossiping or otherwise killing the time".

At 11.20 am the "bodyguard" of four members of the Irish Rifles and four of the Highland Rifles marched to the dais and took up a standing position ready for the arrival of the official guests.

At a quarter past twelve His Excellency Lord and Lady Onslow and their party arrived at the Exhibition. Preceeded by four naval men from the visiting men-o'-war bearing the Union Jack and the White Ensign, the official party were then escorted to the Concert Hall, the waiting crowd being alerted to their imminent approach by a band in the vicinity playing the National Anthem. Passing through the Armoury Court, the Permanent Militia presented arms to His Excellency.

Upon the guests entering the concert hall the choir seated on the stage, and under the direction of the Musical Director Mr Towsey in his "pulpit", commenced to "spiritedly" sing the National Anthem, with the accompaniment of the organ and full orchestra. The sopranos sang the first verse with the altos, accompanied by a few wind instruments, singing the second verse, the last verse being taken up by the whole choir and orchestra, an arrangement by Sir Michael Costa that proved highly effective with "the full harmony stirring the souls of her Majesty's loyal subjects to their deepest recesses."

The guests were meanwhile escorted onto the dais and to their seats, including representatives of the Exhibition Committee and New Zealand and Australian dignitaries. Many more official guests were already seated in the body of the hall, being fully named in the newspaper report of the official proceedings.

The Dais, with an elaborate canopy hung above, presented an imposing sight; "The royal canopy is very conspicuous. It is of white and gold inside and bronze green on top, with the royal arms, in gilt, surmounting the whole. The canopy is hung with ruby curtains, and propped up with two early English spears, in vermillion, with gold points. The dais is carpeted in red, and furnished with a costly suite in leather."

Thereupon the President, Mr John Roberts, read a prayer [printed verbatim in the newspaper], with two responses being "chanted by the chorus in church fashion and with pleasing effect".

The Governor and Officials on the Dais in the Concert Hall
taken during the Official Opening Ceremony. Note the
choir and orchestra seated on the stage at right with
the pipe organ visible at rear.
[Source : "The Otago Witness"]

The Hundredth Psalm was now sung by the choir. While the programme had specified that this hymn should be sung by the people and the choir due to some unexplained cause no one started on behalf of the people so the choir ably carried it alone. The organ was however noted as "rather lacking in power as a complement to the augmented choir".

Mr F.H. Cowen's masterly work, "A Song of Thanksgiving" was next performed, being a composition of three choruses for choir and orchestra. "The singing of this anthem was really enjoyable. The choir manifested a close acquaintance with the music and sustained their several parts with steadiness and in excellent taste."

The Exhibition Committee President Mr Roberts then read a congratulatory telegram from Postmaster-General Mr O'Connor, being the appointed representative of the New South Wales Ministry who had unfortunately been unable to attend the opening.

The President then gave an interesting address recounting the history of the Exhibition. His Excellency, Lord Onslow, next gave a very comprehensive reply recounting the progress that the Colony of New Zealand had made over the preceding years. Again, both addresses were published verbatim in the newspapers.

His Excellency now, in the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, formally opened the Exhibition, being followed by "loud and long continued applause". Word was then passed to "hoist the colours" with the Royal Standard being run up the main flagstaff. "B Battery" then fired a seventeen gun salute, "the roaring of cannon" alerting the waiting crowds to the fact that "The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" had now been formally opened.

The congratulatory Telegram
from Queen Victoria
[Source : Papers Past]

The choir now expertly sang "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah", utilizing the full strength of the choir, orchestra and organ.

Before bringing the formal proceedings to a close, His Excellency informed the audience that a few days earlier he had sent a telegram to Her Majesty the Queen informing her of the opening of the Exhibition and that it commemorated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Colony of New Zealand. Thereupon Lord Onslow read the Royal Reply sent via the Colonial Secretary, Lord Knutsford and that a suitable reply, on his behalf, would be sent;

"to inform Her Majesty that the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition was this day opened in your Majesty's name amid manifestations of devoted loyalty, and that your Majesty's congratulatory telegram was received by great enthusiasm."

Three cheers were then called for His Excellency by the President, and were heartily given, as were three more for the Countess of Onslow.

Then, with the organist playing an outgoing voluntary, being a triumphal march by Reinecke played on the organ by Mr Barth, the Knox Church Organist, His Excellency, along with the Countess of Onslow and the vice-regal party, left the Concert Hall at 12.30 pm, being escorted out via the Australian Courts by Mr Roberts.    

"The general impressiveness of the whole of the opening ceremonial will not readily be forgotten by the hundreds who were privileged to be present, and the musical portion of the interesting proceedings will undoubtedly remain one of the pleasantest memories of this historical occasion."

With the formal opening now concluded, and after the departure of the Governor, the public were then admitted to the Exhibition. A later blog will detail the musical arrangements, appointments to musical positions, and facilities provided at the Exhibition.

Everything Points to the Exhibition Being a Great Success

"As an event commemorative of the jubilee of the colony the exhibition can only be regarded with the greatest interest. As a monument of the enterprise and self-reliant spirit of the inhabitants of the colony it is not less interesting. As an exhibition of the advance that has been made during recent years in the arts and industries of the colony it will prove of the highest educational value. As a landmark it will be a useful point, from which in years to come the historians of the colony may trace its social and industrial progress. It should serve to call attention to the vast fields there exist in the colony for investment and trade... Everything points to the exhibition being a great success..."

The Governor remained in Dunedin for some days after the official opening, occupying a house which the commissioners had provided and furnished, being referred to during his occupancy as "Government House". Lord Onslow, along with around 200 guests would also attend the "Exhibition Ceremonial Banquet" which took place the following evening in the Exhibition Dining Rooms.

The Dresses

The two local Dunedin newspapers included, courtesy of "Alice" and "Martha", a full and exceedingly long and descriptive list of the quite elaborate and often surprisingly bright dresses and accessories worn by the lady members of the choir, the orchestra, the wives and daughters of the Exhibition organisers and committee, and by the "body of the hall"  of which here is but a very small sample :

"Upon the raised platform the black suits of the male portion of the choir formed a good background to the white dresses of the lady members seated in front; the altos to the right, with red sashes tied across the shoulder; the sopranos to the left, with sashes of royal blue.

The body of the hall was a mass of colouring, in which green predominated - green, that rang the changes, through all the varied shades of the forest foilage, from dark olive to mignonette and pale sage, willow, resider, and many others. Brilliant touches of colour were presented in the uniforms and flower like clusters of old rose, faded rose, blue, purple, and gold, with a scattering of white like daisies in a garden."

Lady Onslow brought forth "subdued murmurs of admiration" in a "lovely costume of flesh pink silk richly trimmed with white lace, with a bonnet to match surmounting her dark hair, a white lace parasol, and a long white fur boa."

Mrs John Roberts (wife of the Exhibition Committee President) - "The costume of Mrs Roberts..., was in admirable taste. The dress was of gobelin blue satin merveilleux, with a chicorée ruche of this colour and white at the bottom of the skirt in front, and a panel of white moiré on each side, with exquisite passementerie matching the satin. This also decorated the moiré collar, cuffs, and revers, the latter revealing the white vest. Her bonnet of white tulle was trimmed with roses and green leaves."

Madam Joubert - "Handsome costume of heliotrope Indian fabric with bonnet to match."

Mrs Twopeny (wife of the Exhibition Commissioner) - "Charming costume of terra cotta silk, with vest and sash of white watered silk; white bonnet."

Mrs Stead and Miss Cowlishaw - "Two of the handsomest costumes worn... Mrs Steads was composed of two lovely shades of pale green silk, embroidered with gold; pale floral cream bonnet. Miss Cowlishaw's was crushed strawberry silk, with pale pink vest, embroidered with gold; large black straw hat."

"A Discreditable Proceeding"

So that the speeches could be telegraphed through at night rates rather than at very expensive day rates the speeches to be read by the Governor and the President at the Opening Ceremony were given to the press some time beforehand on a promise not to publish until after the event. But the 'Lyttelton Times' and the 'New Zealand Herald' broke the embargo and published that morning. The Dunedin "Evening Star" was not impressed with this breach of faith fearing that it would have repercussions for the future and reflected badly on the profession of journalism.

The two rows of coloured gas globes
in the Auckland Province Annex
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The Exhibition by Night

Up until as late as 10 pm a steady stream of people kept pouring into the Exhibition. Between the hours of 9 and 10 pm it was estimated that fully 8000 people were in the building which was "beautifully lit up" and "presented a gay appearance under the mellowing influence of the brilliant gaslight". All the courts "looked very pretty with the different coloured glass globes which are distributed along the avenues".

A large proportion of the visitors consisted of people from the country while a large number of women and children were noted. "All seemed in thoroughly good spirits and well pleased with the appearance of the great show."

Visitors were occasionally seen to be strolling about the gardens enjoying the cool air, "an agreeable contrast to the warmth inside the building, although the ventilation is extremely goodThe visitors appeared to thoroughly enjoy the walk around the exhibition by gas light, and no doubt night will be a favourite time for visitors to see the show...The exhibits can be seen to advantage at night, so well is the building lit up."

One newspaper correspondent felt however that the Exhibition should have all been lit by electric light, "the light of the age", rather than also being reliant on gas, and that "it is at once apparent that the supply is insufficient for the demand".

The next blog in this series provides a description of the Exhibition grand entrance and a quick run through of the display 'courts'. Click HERE to view Part Three or click HERE to view the first instalment in this series.

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

Tuesday 7 June 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part One - The Preparations)

The entrance to the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition,
Dunedin, New Zealand 1889-1890
[Source : Wikipedia]

My recent chance finding and purchase of a couple of souvenirs from this Exhibition encouraged me to research further what I knew about the event. What I found proved incredibly fascinating.

Rather than leave out what I consider to be interesting facts about the Exhibition, I have broken this down into a well defined and manageable Blog series based around various specific aspects as it would be so easy to get lost in too much detail. I hope that the descriptions of the various events, buildings and courts, including a few rare photos, will allow the reader to form an interesting impression of this great New Zealand colonial Exhibition. 

Industrial Exhibitions Should be Held Every Two Years

New Zealand had early on embraced the idea of holding large exhibitions to showcase trade, industry and agriculture. The progressive and economically rich southern city of Dunedin held the very first New Zealand Industrial Exhibition between January and May 1865 (the subject of a future blog). In 1884 the Stout-Vogel Government proposed that industrial exhibitions should be held every two years alternately in each island. But after a large financial loss on the Wellington Exhibition in 1885, coupled with the then economic depression, it would be 1889 before another major exhibition would again be staged. But it would be well worth the wait.

To Celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of 
the Foundation of the Colony of New Zealand

The first serious discussions on organising another Exhibition took place in November 1888 when the proposals were placed, on behalf of the people of Otago and the New Zealand Exhibition Association, before a cabinet meeting with the aim of obtaining Government funding. This Exhibition was;

"intended to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the colony of New Zealand, by holding in the City of Dunedin an exhibition of arts, industries, resources, manners, of New Zealand, Australia, and the other countries and colonies in the Southern Pacific."

"Our idea is that the Exhibition shall only be a nucleus and a microcosm of the whole of New Zealand, or rather an indication of what lies behind it and a starting point for inquiries into the resources and industries of the colony. In this connection we shall endeavor to induce exhibitors to so arrange their exhibits as to provoke the inquiries which the bureau will satisfy."

Privately Funding the Exhibition

After the forming of 'The Dunedin International Exhibition Guarantee Company' with fully paid up capital of £15,000 made up of 15,000 shares of £1.each (around NZD$2.9 million in today's values), and together with Government funding and assistance (being wholly dependent on the full £15,000 being privately raised), Dunedin then had the honour of hosting "The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" which ran between the 26th November 1889 and the 19th April 1890.

By November 1889, 13,005 shares had been allotted in the Exhibition company, being held by 1013 shareholders, with 35 guarantees totalling £1,765 and 29 donations totalling £919. This more than satisfied the Government stipulation of substantial public funding.

The Exhibition buildings can be clearly seen at right 
of centre in this 1890 view over Dunedin
[Source : Alexander Turnbull Library]

Government Aid and Assistance

The New Zealand Government, recognising this exhibition as the official celebration of the jubilee of the colony, generously agreed to contribute £10,000 [around NZD$1.9 Million in today's values] "in lieu of aids to buildings, collections, or expenditure of any kind" and "will give all the information and assistance which their special knowledge and experience can supply." In return the Committee agreed to the Government request for free space for Government exhibits.

A Government amendment to customs regulations would allow for colonial and foreign exhibits to be landed free of any duty with the Exhibition grounds being designated a bonded warehouse. The New Zealand Government Railways Department would provide concessionary rates for carriage of exhibits and, during "the exhibition season", offer special Exhibition fares for the travelling public. The Defence Department would contribute to the armament court. "A similar court was a great attraction at the Melbourne Exhibition, and the Defence Minister thinks that he can make this court even more interesting and attractive." The Native Department, with the assistance of Native chiefs, would provide a representation of Māori life and customs while the Mines Department would assist with the "show of minerals and industrial staples".

The Government would also issue formal invitations to the Governments of Australia and the other colonies and islands in the South Pacific asking them to be represented within the Exhibition.

A large part of the Government grant would go towards building the main exhibition building which would contain the picture galleries, the special and scientific galleries (fauna, flora, geology and mineralogy), and the historical displays.

An aerial view of the Exhibition site with the
Jervois Street entrance marked at the upper 
left hand side of the area marked in red. The 
broken red line denotes the amusement area 
[Source : Google maps 2016]

Choosing a Suitable Site

After considering nine sites for the Exhibition, a suitable site was chosen on five hectares (12¾ acres) of reclaimed land owned by the Otago Harbour Board at a nominal rent of one shilling per annum. The site would be bordered by Crawford street, Cumberland streets and Jervois Street down to Anderson's Bay Road and a bill empowering the closing off of half of Crawford street and all of Cumberland street was successfully passed through Parliament. Additionally a bill was also passed enabling the City of Dunedin to grant a license for the sale of liquor within the Exhibition building.
The chosen site was conveniently situated close to the Railway Station (then at Queen's Gardens) and the inter-colonial wharves, while a line of railway would conveniently deliver exhibits into the exhibition grounds.

Encouraging Australian and Foreign Representation

Early in 1889 the Exhibition Committee "Executive Commissioner", Mr Twopeny, paid a visit to Australia with the aim of "arousing the interest of the Australian manufacturers" and "the agents at the Melbourne Exhibition of British and foreign manufacturers." Additionally it was hoped to secure the French educational exhibit from Melbourne as well as "the fine art gallery" which had been put together for that exhibition.

Mr Twopeny returned satisfied but that the number of British and Victorian exhibits had been larger than he had imagined. South Australia should be well represented (particularly with wines) but New South Wales "largely depended upon the way in which the Government of New Zealand  approached the Government of the parent colony". Obtaining the British loan collection of works of art (shown at the Melbourne Exhibition) was "merely a matter of money" and that as it would beyond their means to secure the entire collection, steps should be taken to secure a selection of 50 of the best pictures. The Government, acting on this recommendation, cabled the British Agent-General in Australia to secure the specified pictures for Dunedin.

Construction on an annex adjoining one of the four Octagons
[Source : "The Star"] 

Construction of the Exhibition Buildings

Mr James Hislop was appointed Architect for the Exhibition on the 31st January 1889 and only a few weeks later, the contract for the main building had been let to Messrs McMath and Walker of Invercargill at a price of £4626,12.10 Further contracts were then let until a sum exceeding £25,000 had been expended. Among these were contracts to Messrs McLeod and Shaw for the main annexes, the machinery annexes, the four large and distinctive 'octagons', and other lesser buildings and amenities. The contract for the annexes embraced 378 bays. Mr Barton held the contract for the concert hall, Mr D. Low for the dining and refreshment rooms, and Messrs McMillan and Moffat for the Art Gallery.

In all, 3,000,000 feet of timber were utilised in the construction of the Exhibition buildings, including 60,000 sheets (300 tons) of galvanised iron, 20 tons of nails, 60,000 ft of glass, 20 tons of lead (exclusive of that used in the gas piping), 1,500 casks of cement, and 250,000 bricks (used mostly in the Art Gallery), and 80 tons of wrought iron. At the time "the building is by common admission the most economically erected exhibition building that is known.", the Architect being strictly bound as far as expenditure was concerned with their being "no carte blanche to secure the best possible effect, irrespective of cost".

The Exhibition buildings covered approximately 9½ acres of the 12¾ acre site. The gardens, due to necessity of space for the expansion of the exhibition displays, had had to be "greatly curtailed" and would occupy just a little over two acres. The side shows would take up three-quarters of an acres while half an acre "is practically cut to waste" round the art gallery.

As befitting a modern Exhibition of this size and importance it would include "telegraph, telephones, and electric fire alarms".

New Zealand Wide Representation

Over the next few months the President and various Exhibition committee representatives visited different parts of the colony with the aim of encouraging active participation in the event with many local committees being formed. While the space occupied by the Province of Otago "is, as a matter of course the largest", the other provincial districts throughout the country would be "nearly all, credibly represented".

The crowd gathered for the Foundation Stone Laying
Ceremoney, with the Otago Hussars in foreground
[Source : "Otago Witness", 1925] 

The Laying of the Foundation Stone 
Procession and Ceremony

The laying of the foundation stone on the 20th March 1889 was accompanied by a surprising amount of ceremony and is perhaps indicative of the sense of expectation felt by so many. The citizens of Dunedin, "who had kept close holiday and turned out in thousands" lined the route of a procession which left from the Octagon at 2.30 pm and made its way to the site of the Exhibition. Various societies turned out in full regalia and with banners flying, the order of procession being the Engineers' Band, the South Dunedin and Caversham Fire Brigade (18), the Railway Fire Brigade (8), the Salvage Corps (8), the Seamen's Union (a smaller group as the Union Steam Ship Company had refused their members a half holiday), the Ancient Order of Druids (50), the Ancient Order of Foresters (120), the Kaikorai Brass Band, and Freemasons from various Lodges (156). Lining the approaches to the Exhibition site were a considerable number of Volunteers representing Ordnance and Rifles. The procession reached the Exhibition grounds at 10 past 3, 

His Excellency the Governor, Sir William F.D. Jervois G.C.M.G, C.B., arrived at 3.30 pm, being accompanied by the two local members of Parliament and the Exhibition President and Executive Commissioner. After the playing of the National Anthem, His Excellency mounted the platform and oversaw the laying of the foundation stone, being carried out with full Masonic Honours. This would be the Governor's last official act before he regretfully left this colony to return home to England (although he actually gave serious consideration to living here permanently).

The location of the engraved foundation stone is
unknown but was almost certainly located at the
 Jervois Street entrance to the Exhibition
[Source : Wikipedia]

Within a cavity in the foundation stone were placed various newspapers, coins of the realm,  and a masonic scroll signed by the Grand Master describing the purpose of the ceremony, who laid the stone, and the intended use of the building. Thereupon the stone was lowered into place accompanied by full Masonic Honours. Thereupon the "elements of consecration" were presented and applied by scattering corn, and pouring wine and oil. Finally with the Masonic invocation being completed the Governor was invited to declare the foundation stone laid.

The President, in his reply, pointed out that "Jervois Street" bore the honoured name of the Governor and that "Generations yet unborn will, in tracing the names of our streets, be able to say that this one was named after one of the early much-beloved Governors". The President also reminded the Governor of the words the latter spoke in Dunedin in March 1887 when he "...believed that, if proper use were made of what lay at our feet, we should soon develop into the Switzerland of the South Seas."

The next blog in this series provides a description of the Exhibition opening on the 26th Nov 1889. Click HERE to view Part Two. 

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