Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Illustrated Guide to Antique Writing Instruments

When we first learned curved writing at primary school in the 1950s being allowed to use a pen was considered something special. The first pens we used were pens with nibs dipped in inkwells recessed in our desks. The challenge was not to get blots on the page and blotting paper was used to help dry the ink. At secondary school we graduated to fountain pens and blue marks on the fingers holding the pen were common. Biros were not allowed as they would spoil our writing.

The Illustrated Guide to Antique Writing Instruments by Stuart Schneider & George Fischier provides a history of the fountain pen and pen manufacturers in the United States of America. It is primarily a book for collectors containing photographs of different types of fountain pens manufactured by a variety of companies until the 1940s. A brief history of each of the major pen manufacturing companies is also provided - Parker, Sharffer, Swan, Mont Blanc, Waterman to name a few from the list.

The history of the fountain pen provides background information on the early development of fountain pens. Although a Frenchman invented a fountain pen in 1702 it was not until the nineteenth century that experiments in fountain pen design increased with an American taking out a patent in 1809, John Scheffer taking out a British patent in 1819 and John Parker taking out a patent for a self filling fountain pen in 1831. Early fountain pens used an eye dropper method to fill the pen and leaking ink was common. In 1884 Lewis Waterman patented a fountain pen with an improved feed mechanism resulting in increased popularity of pens containing their own ink supply.

Art Deco in Australia: sunrise over the Pacific

Edited by Mark Ferson and Mary Nilsson, Art Deco in Australia, is a series of articles with photographs covering features of the art deco movement including architecture (houses, public buddings and cinema), furniture, jewellery, pottery and art, fashion, household items, bookplates and book design and transport. Although many of the examples are from New South Wales there are also specific chapters on art deco in Western Australia, Victoria, Adelaide and Queensland. Each article is accompanied by copious photographs of the examples being described. A good introduction to the influence of art deco in this country.

Modern Times is another book on this topic.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A place to remember: a history of the Shrine of Rembrance

Special buildings have their own atmosphere commanding awe and respect. The Shrine of Remembrance in St Kilda Road is one such building. When my three sons were young I took them to visit the Shrine of Remembrance. The guard on our arrival was not encouraging and warned me that if any of the boys misbehaved we would be asked to leave. He need not have worried for as soon as we entered the precinct the atmosphere of the building immediately impacted upon the boys as we explored the memorial. They instinctively knew that this was a special place.

The Shrine of Remembrance was dedicated on the 11 November 1934. This book by Bruce Scates celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Shrine by examining the quest to have a suitable war memorial in Melbourne, the controversy that ensued from the announcement of the award winning design in 1924 until the laying of the foundation stone in 1927, raising the finances for building the Shrine, the building process and subsequent additions and memorials including the new visitors' centre and the effectiveness of the Shrine as a memorial.

In the 1920s there were many conflicting views as to the type of memorial to be built - a cenotaph in a newly constructed park in the city, a tower, a hospital, an arch with cafes at ground level were some suggestions. A competition was held for the design of the memorial but when the design for the Shrine was selected in 1924 the Herald newspaper ran a campaign, including a plebiscite, to try and rally public opinion to have the award overturned. There were also accusations of plagiarism (dismissed) as parts of the design were based on older architectural styles. A temporary cenotaph was constructed with suggestions made that a permanent cenotaph should be built in Melbourne, possibly near Parliament House, instead of the Shrine. However the matter was resolved in April 1927 when Sir John Monash, at a dinner commemorating Anzac Day, announced that 'the Shrine of Remembrance is the only memorial worthy of the support of the soldiers of Victoria' and on the 11th November 1927 the foundation stone for the Shrine was laid.

Since the dedication of the Shrine in 1934 it has become a focal point for Melbourne, a place where people can go at any time to remember the sacrifice of those who served their country in war that there may be peace.

Remember them: a guide to Victoria's wartime heritage

Most suburbs and towns in Victoria have a war memorial - memorials to those who served their country during times of war and especially to those who died. Garrie Hutchinson provides a guide, with photographs, to a selection of war memorials in the state and in most cases tells the story of the war service of one or two names on the memorial. Not all war memorials are covered. The Box Hill War Memorial and the Boer and China War Memorial are the two memorials mentioned from Box Hill. The experiences in World War I of Driver Clarence Norman Draeger are described along with mentions of Able Seaman William Henry Pope and George Walters who served in China and Lance Corporal George Rowland Button who served during the Boer War. The war service of Corporal Henry Edwin Sloan is told in the section on the Doncaster War Memorial. Brothers William Gibson and Edward Kehoe have their stories told in the section on the Ferntree Gully Primary School Memorial. The selected stories provided at each location collectively portray the extent of military service and sacrifice provided Victorians over many generations.

The first chapter of the book is devoted to the Shrine of Remembrance and the many memorials within and surrounding the Shrine. The other chapters cover specific geographical areas. The introduction includes a section about the main, primarily, online resources for researching individual servicemen and there is another list of sources at the back of the book.

War Memorials in Australia provides a comprehesive listing of Australian war memorials plus photographs and inscriptions.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beyond the Facade: Flinders Street, more than just a railway station

For one hundred years the facade of Flinders Street Railway Station has been a focal point of Melbourne. Although the railway line and station had been in existence since the 1850s, by the 1880s, with the growth of Melbourne and increased use of the railways, it was obvious that the railway station needed to be rebuilt not only to accommodate current travellers but also for projected growth of railway usage. Jenny Davies provides information about the planning for and the building of the new station, completed in 1910, plus subsequent alterations to the complex.

The main focus of the book, however, is descriptions (often provided by people who worked at or near the station) of the use of the extensive railway buildings by passengers, members of the Victorian Railway Institute and other groups using the facilities including the importance to Melburnians of the station clocks, the newspaper stands and newsboys selling the Herald on the station steps in the evening, the City Hatters shop on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street, Hearns Hobbies, various refreshment services provided over the years including a restaurant, shops selling and promoting fresh and dried fruits, as well as places to grab a quick drink or something to eat on the way to the train. Two chapters are devoted to the Victorian Railway Institute and the various activities and events offered by this organisation at Flinders Street Station. From the early 1930s to the early 1970s Miss Dorothy Gladstone ran dancing classes in rooms at the station. From the June 1933 until January 1942 the railways provided a child minding service where mothers who travelled by train could leave their young children.

This is a book for browsing - examining the many photographs and reading the eye-witness accounts of working at and using the station over the years. Another contribution to the history of Melbourne.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

MasterChef Australia the cookbook volume one

Like many Australians in 2009 my family regularly watched and enjoyed MasterChef Australia so I was interested to see whether the cookbook would be primarily a promotion tool for the show or a useful cooking aid. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the second option is the case. The book continues the show's premise, apart from being a cooking contest, of encouraging the enjoyment of cooking and providing practical information on cooking techniques.

The initial chapters provide advice on general ingredients - how they can be used and storage hints, tools and equipment, how to chop vegetables - basic knife skills, dicing onions, slicing carrots and cubing potatoes - and plating up food. The rest of the book contains recipes for dishes prepared on the show by contestants, by some of the guest chefs and in the master class sessions. In some sections additional guidelines are provided. For example in the vegetable section information is provided about choosing the right type of potato, different types of onions and how to skin tomatoes. Information in other sections includes poaching eggs like a professional, jointing chickens, filleting fish, cracking open crabs and extracting meat from a lobster. At the beginning of each recipe the contestants comment on the dish and how they might do it differently. The book is fully illustrated with photographs and clearly set out making it easy to use. There is an index plus glossaries of ingedients, terms and equipment.

This would be an excellent book for those setting out on the cooking adventure as well as a useful book for those wanting to experiment with food. And yes, the recipe for Adiano Zumbo's croquembouche can be found on page 216 for those brave enough to try it.

Google your family tree: unlock the hidden power of Google

Published in 2008, Daniel M Lynch has compiled a comprehensive guide to using Google for family history research. Basing examples on his family history research, Lynch provides basic information about Google and how it works, using advanced search, using tools such as Google Books, Blog Search, Google Alerts, Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Toolbar. The appendices deal directly with genealogy research including getting started in genealogy and useful websites for genealogists plus other internet search engines, a useful article defining web search engines, and a syntax summary with examples for genealogy searches.

Illustrating how quickly the internet changes, one chapter of the book deals with using Google Notebook which ceased taking new users in 2009 - Google Docs can be used to carry out a similar function - and one of the recommended sites, Family History Online (Federation of Family History Societies), has now been absorbed into Find My Past. However this is an extememly useful guide as to how to use Google in particular and the internet in general for family history research and I have now discovered some additional tools to use.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Capital: Melbourne when it was the capital of Australia 1901 - 1927

1901 Federation of Australia and the opening of the Australian parliament and for the next 27 years Melbourne was the interim capital city of Australia until the establishment of Canberra. Kristin Otto describes what living in Melbourne was like during those years. This social history of the times focuses on the people and events that made the city a special place during a time frame that began with the celebrations and expectations for Federation and included the Great War and its aftermath. It is the interwoven stories of the people of Melbourne who are the feature of the book - Helena Rubinstein, Alfred Felton. Tom Roberts, John Wren, Squizzy Taylor, Nellie Melba, Percy Grainger, Macpherson Robertson, H V McKay, Billy Hughes, Sidney Myer, John Monash, C J Dennis, George Nicholas, Keith Murdoch to name a few. Buildings also play a part including the Exhibition Building, Flinders Street Station, Coles Book Arcade, Luna Park, Capital Theatre, Cafe Australia, Myers and Coles. It was an age with an emphasis on the use of new communication technologies and transport. Photographs throughout the book expand the text. The spirit of a vibrant city is captured in this book.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Great Mutiny India 1857

Christopher Hibbert in 1978 set out to record the causes, events and consequences of the Great Indian Mutiny in 1857 extending into 1858.

English merchants commenced trading in India in the reign of Elizabeth I and in 1613 the East Indian Company was granted permission to establish a permanent trading station at Bombay. The influence of the company grew as additional trading stations were established. Eventually British soldiers were needed to protect the interests of the East India Company in India. During the 18th century expansion of the company accelerated and alliances and treaties were made with Indian princes who were prepared to surrender some power while those who opposed the British were defeated. In 1773 a Regulating Act was passed in England making the East India Company responsible for governing its territories and by 1784 the East India Company was an agent of the British Government in India. By the 1850s the Company was the British Government's representative in the civil administration of India and was also responsible for the armies in Bengal, Madras and Bombay manned by native soldiers (sepoys) and native cavalrymen (sowars). Regiments of the British Army were also stationed in India. By 1856 the ratio of British soldiers to Indian soldiers was 1 to 6.

Lord Dalhousie became Governor General of India in 1848 and during the eight years of his term he implemented many changes that caused unrest among some of the Indian population, particularly among the ranks of Indian soldiers. Dalhousie implemented changes reforming the ownership of land resulting in a number of people from varying ranks being dispossessed of their land. Resentment that new laws and regulations threatened traditional customs and in some cases religious practices and were implemented from a foreign government began to cause unrest. There were also problems with some of the ammunition provided to the Indian soldiers.

In 1857 sections of the Indian army, in company with disgruntled princes and other leaders, mutinied against the British and any other foreigners in their territory resulting in mass murder of men, women and children. By May there had been murders of Europeans at Meerut and in Delhi. June saw the mutiny and siege at Cawnpore resulting in the massacre of most of the Europeans in the city followed by brutal retaliation inflicted by some of the British soldiers on suspected siege participants when Nana Sahib fled the city. The mutiny and siege at Lucknow also resulted in the loss of many lives. By June 1858 the battles were over and relative calm returned to the areas of India affected by the mutiny. In November 1858 Britain abolished the East India Company and took control of governing India in its own right.

As well as providing detailed and graphic account of the events relating to the mutiny Chrisopher Hibbert vividly describes conditions in India during the 1850s for the Europeans - soldiers, civil servants and their families - and also the Indians involved with the Europeans. As well as a glossary and chronology there are detailed notes, bibliography and index. For those interested in this period of Indian and British history this is a good book to read.

Australian pottery of the 19th & early 20th century

In December 2009 the Museums Australia (Victoria) end of year function was held at Roy Morgan Research, 401 Collins Street. The highlight of the evening was Gary Morgan describing his passion for collecting Australian art, particularly pottery and allowing those present to view some of the treasures in the collection. During the talk Gary Morgan talked about John Percival's Angels which I knew well from having worked at the Hargrave Library, Monash University, where a mural of angels adorns one wall. He also mentioned Ola Cohn, creator of the Fairies' Tree in the Fitzroy Gardens and William Ricketts but most of the other names I did not recognise. I realised that I need to know more about Australian pottery. It was time to start investigating the library collection.

Marjorie Graham, in her book, Australian pottery of the 19th & early 20th century, looks at the development of pottery in each of the states and photographs showing examples of the pottery are provided. The emphasis in the book is on domestic pottery - the Victorian chapter concentrating on Bendigo Pottery - but mention is made of the the artistic potters starting with Merric Boyd and other members of the Boyd family. Chapter 7 concentrates on potteries from the 1920s with Art Decco and Art Moderne influences resulting in more interesting Australian designs featuring Australian fauna and flora. Australiana designs had been incorporated on some earlier works but became a feature of the works of a number of twentieth century potters. Marguerite Mahood, Klytie Pate, William Ricketts, Dorothea and Grace Seccombe are some of the artistic or studio potters mentioned. Information is also provided about decorative works produced by potteries such as Fowlers, Bendigo Pottery and Cornwell's Pottery at Brunswick.

Published by the National Gallery of Victoria, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott a survey 1955-2005, contains a series of essays about the work of this Australian potter. Photographs of examples of her work form a major part of the book. There is also a chronology, a bibliography plus a list of collections in Australia and overseas that house her work.

Pates post-war Australian pottery by John Davenport documents the history of a family pottery established in Sydney in 1946. Alf Pate originally worked for Fowlers Pottery until with two family members Pates Pottereries was built. Photographs provide examples of the pottery that was particularly popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The author also describes the processes used to make the items, stamps and styles as well as marketing of the pieces and a guide for collectors. The book was written just before the building that had housed the pottery was demolished in 1992 but the author was able to interview family members and had access to some company documents. A history written just in time.

Bound for Botany Bay: British convict voyages to Australia

A couple of lines under the heading Ship News in the World and Fashion Advertiser, Tuesday 15 May 1787 announced the departure of the First Fleet on its way to Botany Bay:
Portsmouth May 13. Wind S.E. ...
Early this morning sailed the Sirius of 24 guns, Commodore Phillips. Captain Hunter with the following transport and convict ships for Botany Bay: Friendship, Walton; Charlotte, Gilbert; Alexander, Sinclair; Lady Penrhyn, Siver; Prince of Wales, Mason; Scarborough, Marshall; Fishborn, Brown; Golden Grove, Sharp, and Borrowdale, Reed. The Hyena frigate, Capt. D. Courey, sailed with the above, and is to accompany them 100 leagues.

Thus began began a voyage that would end with their arrival in New South Wales on 26 January 1788 resulting in the establishment of a British settlement in Australia. Alan Brooke and David Brandon have written this book about the transportation of convicts to Australia which continued until 1868. Sections of the book include the beginnings of transportation, the first three fleets, the trauma of exile, who were the convicts, transportation of children, keeping order and staying alive on convict ships, transportation from the view of a ship's surgeon and life, crime and punishment in the colony.

The convicts were transported from England as a punishment but for many it was a chance to escape from living in overcrowded gaols and hulks and starting a new life. A major consequence of transportation was the establishment of a new settlement with many hardships but also many opportunities.

Charles Bateson's book, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, is recognised as the definitive work on transportation to Australia but this account, incorporating excerpts from correspondence, logbooks and songs of the time, provides informative background information outlining experiences faced by the thousands of men, women and children who travelled to Australia aboard convict ships.

John Mackillop and the Great Mutiny India 1857

John Mackillop, son of George and Jean Mackillop, was born probably in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1827. George Mackillop was a merchant and he made his money trading in India. Searching newspapers from the 1820s to the 1860s show advertisements for trading firms - Cruttenden, Mackillop & Co; Palmer, Mackillop & Co; Palmer, Mackillop, Dent & Co; Mackillop & Co; Mackillop, Stewart & Co - in which George and / or his brother James were partners. George was also involved in real estate and advertisements can also be found for properties that he sold in Scotland, England and Ireland.

With this background it is not surprising that John became a Civil Servant in India. The 1841 England census shows a John Mackillop, aged 14, attending Bibsworth Manor House School at Finchley, Middlesex. More research is required to check that this is our John Mackillop. However he did attend the East India College (later Haileybury) at Hertford Heath from 1844 to 1846. The college was established in 1806 to provide general and vocational education for youths 16 to 18 years who had been nominated by East India Company Directors.
An article in The Times 2 July 1846 p8 describes a graduation and prize giving ceremony at the college mentioning Mackillop as one of the 'highly distinguished' term three students. After completing his studies John Mackillop served in India and was stationed at Cawnpore where he was killed in the Mutiny of 1857.
The college website carries the following memorial -
John Robert Mackillop. Joint Magistrate of Cawnpore; a brave unselfish man. When the English entered what were called the intrenchments, which were hastily thrown up earthworks, affording little or no shelter to the besieged, Mackillop took it upon himself to draw water for his comrades from a well exposed to the fire of the rebels. He did not long carry on this dangerous duty, but soon fell victim to his unselfish bravery, pierced by the bullets of the enemy. No man yielded his life better than "Jack" Mackillop.

In 1978 Christopher Hibbert, in his book The Great Mutiny India 1857 wrote a history of the mutiny recording not only the events of the uprising but investigating the causes. Chapter 9 deals with the events at the siege of Cawnpore in June. The following paragraph on page 184 describes the events leading to John Mackillop's death . -
There was only one well within the entrenchment, and as it was in an exposed position it was extremely dangerous to draw water there by day. Even at night the creaking of the tackle would usually call forth a storm of musketry. It was not long before the machinery, like the brick framework, was shot away; and thereafter it was necessary to haul the bucket up by hand from a depth of over sixty feet. John Mackillop of the Civil Service, in his own estimation 'not a fighting man', appointed himself 'Captain of the Well'. He survived in office for a week until killed by grape-shot in the groin. Before dying he expressed the wish that a lady to whom he had promised a drink should not be disappointed.

The book includes a number of photographs, a chronology of events, detailed notes and references for each chapter, a bibliography and an index. The two books referred to by Hibbett providing information on the Mackillop incident are Thomson, Captain Mowbray. The Story of Cawnpore (London 1859) and Trevelyan, G O. Cawnpore (London 1865) - the State Library of Victoria has a copy of the second title.

Obviously the death of John Mackillop is a minute event in the overall story of the Indain Mutiny in 1857 but it is an example of the detail provided by the author in unravelling the account of the tragic events that occurred in India during 1857 and 1858.

British newspapers from the second half of 1857 are full of reports of the events occurring in India including news stories, letters from survivors and death notices. The Times 5 October 157 p1 recorded the following death notice -
At Cawnpore, on or about the 25th June, in the 31st year of his age John R. Mackillop Esq., of the Bengal Civil Service, and Joint Magistrate of Cawnpore District, son of George Mackillop, Esq., of Bath, formerly of Calcutta. His death was occasioned by grape shot wound, received when assisting in the heroic defence of General Wheeler's entrenched camp.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Carter's mid 20th century

A guide to furniture, appliances, clothing, arts and crafts and other products representative of the 1950s and 1960s. As well as providing an overview of the decor and design trends of this period this richly illustrated book compiled by William and Dorothy Hall is also a social history of the times. New developments in household appliances, particularly in the kitchen, the impact of television and the increased use of plastics, are featured along with a review of toys including the Barbie doll. Many of the items in the book, which we took for granted when we were growing up, are now collectibles.