No winter wonderland: a history of Christmas in New Zealand.

It’s that time of the year again, carols, Christmas shopping, annual staff parties, parades and backyard barbeques. For many of us, Christmas traditions are passed down through our families, and some of the fare found on our festive tables may be reminiscent of a Victorian Christmas, the way the occasion was once celebrated in the motherland. However, today on the blog, we compare and contrast the modern, and the Victorian New Zealand Christmas traditions, and we will see how the festive season has changed for New Zealanders over the generations.

 

The modern idea of English Christmas celebrations was introduced in the Victorian era. While Santa Claus didn’t get a foothold in our chimneys until the 1890s (or Father Christmas as he was called then), presents were still exchanged. This exchange was originally done on New Year’s Day, before Prince Albert’s introduction of his native German-style Christmas to England in the 1840s (Midgley 2010). Around this time, the gifts were nowhere near as elaborate as the modern commercialised Christmas industry (which must keep Santa’s elves rather busy year-round). Instead, they were often nuts, sweets, oranges and sometimes toys (Clarke 2007).

A ghostly looking Father Christmas (Mr. McMillan) at Heathcote School - Mrs. Yeale in foreground - Mr James Weir - Chairman School Committee - 1900 – 1910. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference: Gimblett 0009.

A ghostly looking Father Christmas (Mr. McMillan) at Heathcote School – Mrs. Yeale in foreground – Mr James Weir – Chairman School Committee – 1900 – 1910. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference: Gimblett 0009.

 

Christmas cards were first introduced in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole and the English illustrator, John Callcott Horsley. The practice of giving specialised cards caught on as a form of present giving in itself, and it made Christmas gift exchange more conceivable between the New Zealand settlers and their families left at home. You may recall this tin postcard we recovered from a house in central Christchurch a couple of years ago. It is dated 21st December 1914, and appears to be a homemade Christmas greeting card.

 

1914 Christmas greeting card addressed to Mary. It reads: “Forget Me Not” “Don’t laugh Mary at this dear x x. Dear Mary, just a PC [postcard], hoping you are well, as it leaves me the same well. Mary I received your loving letter, but you know that I have a lot of letters to write so I got tired. Dear Mary, you might tell Mary Martin, that I am going my holidays on Christmas to Petone. So I will not see her. I am sorry more news next time. Well fondest love from your [?] Wish you a merry Christmas x x x.” Image: C. Dickson.

1914 Christmas greeting card addressed to Mary. It reads: “Forget Me Not” “Don’t laugh Mary at this dear x x. Dear Mary, just a PC [postcard], hoping you are well, as it leaves me the same well. Mary I received your loving letter, but you know that I have a lot of letters to write so I got tired. Dear Mary, you might tell Mary Martin, that I am going my holidays on Christmas to Petone. So I will not see her. I am sorry more news next time. Well fondest love from your [?] Wish you a merry Christmas x x x.” Image: C. Dickson.

 

Essentially, the largest difference between Christmas celebrations in the old and new continents was the adaption to the warmer Christmas climate – it was the difference between ‘Jack Frost nipping at your nose’ and summertime heat waves (for us, think, more chilled sauvignon blanc, less mulled wine). The Christmas festivities were moved from indoors – huddled together by a fire, to relaxing outside in the sunshine. Instead of ‘decking the halls with bells of holly’, these new-New Zealander’s decorated their homes with evergreens and native ferns and flax, and the pōhutukawa tree became the ‘Summer Christmas Tree’ (Clarke 2007, Swarbrick 2016). However, although barbeques are ever popular, our modern Christmas tradition still fiercely clings to the concept of hot plum pudding and a roast meat dinner. This is possibly because the 19th century saw many of the early settlers longing for the white Christmas of their former homes…

 

Lyttelton Times 24/12/1859: 3

Lyttelton Times 24/12/1859: 3

New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator 28/12/1842: 2.

New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator 28/12/1842: 2.

 

So what about the way people celebrated in wider community events? The first Santa parade wasn’t held in New Zealand until 1905, and before 1873, most people were required to work on Christmas Day! Law changes in 1873 and 1894 entitled most workers the day off (excluding farmers, of course). The season became more like the holiday we know it to be following the ‘Mondayising’ of Christmas and New Year’s days in 1921 (Ministry for Culture and Heritage 2014). During this era, many employers were known to throw company parties for their workers – so what kind of Christmas party is your workplace having this year? The team here at Underground Overground Archaeology is having a picnic in Hagley Park – this was actually a very popular way for workplaces to celebrate Christmas in New Zealand during the 19th century. Picnics required only an open space for spreading the food out and playing games, and parks offered an inexpensive venue that was able to accommodate a large number of people. These annual picnics also acted as an opportunity for employer/employee role reversal – at a company picnic the bosses would socialise with the workers, which wouldn’t have typically happened at the office or factory (Mitchell 1995: 20).

 

Christmas holidays at Wainoni, Christchurch, watching the Punch and Judy show [Jan. 1906]. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0066.

Christmas holidays at Wainoni, Christchurch, watching the Punch and Judy show [Jan. 1906]. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0066.

 

Christmas in the new frontier may have meant an additional challenge for some of these early female settlers who came from the higher social classes of England. Many may have been required to learn to cook for the first time since arriving on new shores – such women would have been accustomed to the services of a cook in England, but the scarcity of servants in New Zealand meant that this luxury was not guaranteed for all (Burton 2013).  Imagine if this year, you had to cook your Christmas dinner using only the cooking equipment that our ancestors used here in the 1800s! We have found a few pieces of food preparation and cooking equipment during our field work – some of these are not too dissimilar to what we use today (often just replacing similar ceramic designs with stainless steel or plastic versions). But something you might not expect is the preparation of your plum pudding in a metal cauldron! Such vessels were not only utilised for witches’ spells or storing leprechaun treasure, but for stovetop cooking as well.

 

A selection of food preparation equipment found in central Christchurch. Clockwise from left: enamel pot, drainer, colander, egg timer?, milk pan.

A selection of food preparation equipment found in central Christchurch. Clockwise from left: enamel pot, drainer, colander, egg timer? and milk pan.

A metal cauldron from central Christchurch. Image: S. Canton. Here is an 1843 exert from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol on how a cauldron like this may have been used to make a traditional Christmas pudding: "Oh! All that steam! The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron. Oh! That smell! The same as the one which prevailed on washing day! It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding. Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner's at the same time, with a laundry nest door. Thirty seconds later, Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!" - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843).

A metal cauldron from central Christchurch. Image: S. Canton. Here is an 1843 exert from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol on how a cauldron like this may have been used to make a traditional Christmas pudding: “Oh! All that steam! The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron. Oh! That smell! The same as the one which prevailed on washing day! It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding. Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner’s at the same time, with a laundry nest door. Thirty seconds later, Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843).

 

Arguably, the most useful innovations for the cooking of your traditional Christmas roast dinner would be the coal ranges specifically designed for New Zealand’s sub-bituminous and lignite coal. The Shacklock Orion range, developed in 1873, had a shallow firebox, drawing in extra air to stop the ovens smoking, a problem with previous models. These ovens were hugely successful and remained a popular piece of kitchen equipment until the 1940s (Burton 2013).

 

Advertisement for Orion cooking range. (Southland Times 01/01/1898:1)

Advertisement for Orion cooking range (Southland Times 01/01/1898:1).

 

Another of most helpful of cooking innovations would have been the rotary type egg beater. These first appeared in the 1850s but were popularised by the Dover Egg Beater (patented in 1873). These types of beaters enabled the user beat eggs in five seconds, or to quickly whip the egg whites into stiff peaks (for your pavlova?). Before this time, eggs were beaten in a shallow earthenware pan with two forks strapped together, “a broad-bladed knife or clean switches, peeled and dried”. This was a time consuming arduous task!

 

Advertisement for a rotary style egg beater. (Manawatu Herald 8/06/1880: 1)

Advertisement for a rotary style egg beater (Manawatu Herald 8/06/1880: 1).

 

Lastly, just while we are on the subject of whipping egg whites into stiff peaks at Christmas time – this may be the perfect opportunity to put to rest the trans-Tasman dispute of the origin of the humble pav… In 2008, Professor Helen Leach of Otago University established that in 1929, New Zealand beat out Australia by publishing the first creamy meringue cake recipe called pavlova. An Australian newspaper had published a pavlova recipe slightly earlier, but it was a four layered jelly dessert (Leach 2008).  So argument over? It would seem not. It was rather trendy to name fluffy deserts after Miss Pavlova in the 1920s, but prior to her pirouetting onto our dinner tables in the early 20th century, it seems that the idea of a meringue cake served with fruit and cream was something that the Germans and Americans had been devouring for quite some time. German people who had emigrated to America took with them the idea of a schaum torte (or foam cake). Duryea Maizena (an American cornflour company), ran with this concept and printed a similar recipe to our pavlova on the back of their corn-starch packets, and these were imported into New Zealand as early as the 1890s (Eleven 2015, Otago Daily Times 28/07/1896: 3).  This product was advertised in our newspapers with a very simple yet mysterious advertisement: “Use Duryea’s Maizena” (it’s all about the subliminal messages). Simple yet effective? Maybe with a catchier jingle we would have remembered to attribute this earlier version of pav to Duryea’s, and confined the Christmas bickering to the family dinner table.

 

Merry Christmas!

By Chelsea Dickson

 

 

 

References

Burton, D., 2013. ‘Cooking – Cooking technology’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/cooking/page-1 (accessed 15 December 2016).

Clarke, A., 2007. Holiday Seasons: Christmas, New Year and Easter in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand. Auckland University Press.

Eleven, B. 2015. ‘Pavlova research reveals dessert’s shock origins’. Good Food. [online] available at: http://www.goodfood.com.au/eat-out/news/pavlova-research-reveals-desserts-shock-origins-20151010-gk5yv9

Leach, H. 2008. The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand’s Culinary History. Otago University Press.

Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 2014. A day off for Christmas. [online] available at: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/christmas-day-holiday, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-May-2014.

Mitchell, I. 1995 ‘Picnics in New Zealand During the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: An Interpretive Study’, MA thesis, Massey University.

Swarbrick, N., ‘Public holidays – Easter, Christmas and New Year’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/public-holidays/page-2 (accessed 12 December 2016).

 

It’s better when we stick together.

What would we do without glue? Well, it’s estimated that each person in  U.S.A and the U.K. uses 18.2kgs of glue annually. I’m probably more of a Sellotape/Blu-Tack person myself, but those statistics sound impressive! The development of commercial synthetic glues dates from the 1920s and has taken us a long way from using flour and water as wallpaper paste to the point where modern super glues are able to surgically glue flesh wounds together (or accidentally glue your fingers together during your latest DIY project), or even take forensic fingerprints from glass or plastic surfaces.

It’s widely accepted that the first evidence of glue was a substance made by the Neanderthals ca.15000 years ago. They added animal fat to pigment to make water resistant cave paintings in Lascaux. Not to be left out, the Ancient Egyptians made use of similar animal glues in wooden furnishings and the production of papyrus, and the application of animal glue by the Ancient Greeks and Romans can still be seen today in mosaics and mended pottery. From this time until the innovations of the industrial revolution, glue was largely made from animal hides, bones, connective tissue (collagen) and hooves (not just from old horses that were sent to the glue factory). These organic sources were boiled and reduced to gelatine and could be used or dried and stored as a powder. The powder could be later mixed with water and cooked until the desired thickness was obtained (History of Glue 2016).

The first British glue patent was issued in about 1750 but, closer to home, the New Zealand Glue Company had been operating in Woolsten, Christchurch since before 1875. Christchurch’s drainage board petitioned the court for the factory to cease from discharging its effluent into the Heathcote River (Star 15/03/1918: 6, Sun 16/03/1918: 11).

Auckland Star 16/05/1936: 4)

Auckland Star 16/05/1936: 4)

From the industrial revolution to the 1920s both homemade and commercial adhesives were usually based on natural sources. Recipes required at least two basic components— a binder and a solvent.  Extra ingredients were used to increase tack, improve water resistance, flexibility, strength, shelf life and repel insects (Cannon 2010). For instance, animal glue was often cooked with an acid such as vinegar or nitric acid to keep it liquid at room temperature (Cannon 2010). The addition of coagulated cow’s blood was also handy, as it became waterproof when heated. Other binders such as gelatin, fish glue, starch, flour, dextrin, and gum arabic (from the acacia tree), rubber, and egg albumen were also used (Cannon 2010).

Phew! As a reward for sticking with me for the scientific portion of this post – hold tight for a selection of these really great vintage glue jokes…

(Wairarapa Daily Times 23/01/1897: 2).

(Wairarapa Daily Times 23/01/1897: 2).

(North Otago Times 06/07/1901: 1)

(North Otago Times 06/07/1901: 1).

Funny right? Now for the specifics – the pot of glue that inspired this post was one that we have found a few times in Christchurch. It was manufactured by Gloy Glue during the early 20th century, (though this company was formed by the 1890s). The proprietor was A. Wilme Collier who operated his adhesive business from 8th Avenue Works, Manor Park, London. This company also manufactured special pastes for photographic purposes, as displayed at the British Industries Fair in 1922 (Blanco & Bull 2013).

The recipe for the vintage Gloy Glue formula is not available. This is often the case with patent records (which can be vague), and they sometimes included statements allowing the patent holder the right to change the formulation or substitute ingredients at will (Cannon 2010). However, Gloy was later reported to have contained dextrin (from starch), mixed with magnesium chloride – which is sometimes used as a coagulant to make products thicker and more viscous. Vegetable glues like this were popular for paper, as they are fast setting, but have a low bond strength (Cannon 2010: 18). Modern day internet reviews appear to be critical of Gloy Glue’s quality. But in my opinion, any manufacturing company that survives for over a century shows real stick-ability, so they must have been doing something right.

Early 20th century Gloy Glue pot. Image: J. Garland.

Early 20th century Gloy Glue pot. Image: J. Garland.

Perhaps their success was partly due to their catchy marketing – Gloy was first advertised in New Zealand newspapers in 1914, and was amusingly described as “A clean paste for clean people.” Enticing!

 (Grey River Argus 6/06/1914: 5).

(Grey River Argus 6/06/1914: 5).

Rhyming works! A 20th century advertisement for Gloy. The texts reads: The label is red and “Gloy” pale blue, the bottle is one to remember you. Armed with brush you go ahead “Gloying” daily for daily bread.

Rhyming works! A 20th century advertisement for Gloy. The texts reads:
The label is red and “Gloy” pale blue,
the bottle is one to remember you.
Armed with brush you go ahead
“Gloying” daily for daily bread.

It may be that we come across adhesive bottles much more frequently than we are able to identify – they were often packaged in bottles that were the same as those used for ink, and the main defining characteristic of such a bottle would be a wide mouth to access its viscous contents (Lindsey 2016). As is the problem with most artefact identification, general shapes and typing can only take us so far – product manufacturers don’t always adhere to the status quo of shapes. For instance, here is another example of a Gloy glue pot: this type of wide mouth stone ware jar (without the Gloy label), could have contained any number of viscous products.

The type of adhesive pots that we most often see in our assemblages may also have originally contained mucilage – mucilage being the sticky substance found in plants like aloe vera. Although mucilage for adhesive purposes is generally made of seaweed, flax seed, bark and roots (Lindsey 2016).

uoarch-glue

Type of glue or mucilage pot commonly found in Christchurch. Image J. Garland.

Just like animal glue, mucilage is non-toxic. So in the 19th century it would have been fine for the weird kid at school to be eating paste – in fact, other usages for mucilage (that’s a mouth-full), was its common inclusion in cough medicine and as an alleviator of sore throats.  See below for a homemade recipe for children’s cough syrup from 1907. I’m not sure how many of us have exotic South American plant species in our pantries – but hey, it’s organic!

Cromwell Argus 13/05/1907: 7.

Cromwell Argus 13/05/1907: 7.

Using slightly more common ingredients, here’s a 19th century recipe for mucilage that you can try yourself:

New Zealand Herald 2/08/1893: 5.

(New Zealand Herald 2/08/1893: 5).

Within the New Zealand newspaper archives we can see the application of glue developing from more practical DIY uses – like plugging draughts in your floor (New Zealand Herald 29/08/1931: 6), and simple advertisements and recipes for strong glue (Otago Witness 23/10/1875: 3), or waterproof glue (Bruce Herald 8/6/1888: 6) – to its use in leisure projects for the 20th century idle housewife.

(New Zealand Herald 21/03/1874: 1). Perfume to taste? Hair is organic too.

(New Zealand Herald 21/03/1874: 1). Perfume to taste? Hair is organic too.

These more modern glue ads offered descriptions for an array of craft and knick-knack projects, from instructions for  “smartening” one’s umbrella by gluing a bottle cap to it (Evening Post 16/04/1938: 19), and  “silencing” one’s chairs and trays by gluing felt to their undersides (New Zealand Herald 1/08/1925: 6). You could even use glue to stiffen the train of your wedding dress, and thus render train bearers unnecessary in your wedding party (Evening Post 2/11/1938: 25). If you’re more even game than those dames, you could build an 8ft canoe out of 35 coat-hangers, a few strips of canvas, bit of oil cloth, two pieces of wood, a box of drawing pins, paper clips, and a bottle of glue (this sounds like MacGyver recipe!) – and it cost less than 30 shillings to make! (Evening Post 11/01/1937: 6).

The same archives inform us that glue was also employed for more criminal enterprises at this time – most amusingly, in a Parisian jewellery heist, featuring a Baroness with literal sticky fingers! She was caught stealing a diamond ring which was stuck with glue to the palm of her hand (Mataura Ensign 1/05/1911: 5 ). Also, you may have heard about the starving citizens of Leningrad having to eat the glue off their wallpaper during the siege of WWII? – Here, an Oldham street vendor uses glue to thicken and strengthen the gravy in his pies! To make matters worse, he stole the glue (Grey River Argus 13/06/1905: 4). When he was caught, he was sentenced to three months hard labour (for stealing the glue, not for feeding glue to his patrons). But like I said, it’s organic, and contains only 5.9 calories per postage stamp!

By Chelsea Dickson

References

Blanco & Bull 2013. Swift Polish & Blacking Co. [online] Available at:  http://www.blancoandbull.com/boot-cleaning/swift-polish-blacking-co/

Cannon, A., 2010 Australian Adhesives for Paper 1870-1920. 2010 AICCM Book, Paper and Photographic Materials Symposium. [online] Available at:  https://aiccm.org.au/sites/default/files/docs/BPG2010/AICCM_B%26P2010_Cannon_p15-21.pdf

Gloy Manufacturing Company, Ltd 1897, Patent, Application for Trade Mark titles Gloy depicting octopus in respect of a semi-fluid substances called ‘gloy’ which is used for adhesive purposes by the “Gloy” Manufacturing Company Limited, National Archives of Australia, series number A11708, control symbol 2001, barcode 4993635.

 

 

 

The Cater-Ring

Following on from last week’s blog post, when we discovered a tea set used by a local 19th century caterer – this time we will take a closer look at what catering may have been like for the Victorians.

Prior to this find, catering was one of those 19th century occupations that I’d taken for granted, or never given any thought to. It certainly surprised me to find such specific evidence of this industry, especially to glimpse a particular individual’s business. But hey, these are the things that keep our jobs interesting! Our bread and butter if you will…

When I first began to think about what this industry may have been like for L. J. Smith and his counterparts, I had visions of a primary school cook-off – in which everyone brings a pot-luck plate (made by their mum) to the local school gala day. But upon further research, I found that the industry was more established than this. Caterers were commonly used at many events, including children’s birthday parties, afternoon teas, garden parties, balls and dances, banquets, the races and A & P shows, to name a few.

Despite the number of events these guys must have attended, I only found one really sensational tale regarding the life of a New Zealand caterer, in which a well-known Wanganui professional slipped in the kitchen and slashed his wrist on broken glass, requiring emergency surgery (Marlborough Express 01/09/1900: 3). This is in sharp comparison to the bigger and more dramatic experiences of caterers back in Europe. London’s Evening Post regales us with tales about dodgy caterers being fined for serving cheap meats they claimed were delicacies, a mass poisoning at a medical congress banquet, in which 250 doctors became ill, and the caterer claimed he was framed by someone in a conspiracy to ruin his reputation (Evening Post 10/11/1894: 1, 03/08/1935: 28). Caterers were even being honoured at Windsor Castle for their edible menus (made of sugar tissue paper and cake frosting; Evening Post, 21/11/1906: 15).

All of this was entertaining to read, but what was it like to be a caterer in New Zealand during the 19th century? Like other occupations we have looked at on the blog, early caterers on our shores often had multi-faceted careers – chefs and restaurateurs, confectioners and bakers often moonlighted as caterers when opportunities arose, and successful proprietors were known to open up their own tearooms as a side enterprise.  Some of the professionals who appeared many times in newspapers had seemingly successful careers: one is described as “famous” in his obituary, and L. J. Smith himself is described as well respected (Auckland Star 23/06/1917: 5). A caterer’s name was also often announced in newspapers prior to an event, seemingly as a draw card to advertise the occasion, and they were subsequently thanked, sometimes with a description of the fare provided. So people were certainly interested in their work – I’m thinking the 19th century equivalent of posting a picture of your meal on Facebook?

But what kind of crust did these guys earn? I didn’t find any catering costings during my research, although I did find several bankruptcy notices, and occasions when community groups helped to sell off goods purchased for cancelled events, so the caterer wouldn’t make a loss (Taranaki Herald 11/02/1897: 2). We also know that they formed a union to raise the price of tariffs, which may have helped their profits (Grey River Argus 09/11/1907: 3). There was also always the occupational hazard of theft to consider – the poor guy in this story seems to have lost some equipment…

Auckland Star 05/08/1943:6

Auckland Star 05/08/1943:6

The equipment that some caterers served their fare on was alluded to last week in reference to the blue and white patterned tea set complete with the company logo. The quality and range of serving ware and equipment offered by a caterer, was no doubt related to the formality of the affair and the money spent by the patrons. One New York caterer made place markers for each of his guests in the form of recognisable caricature statuettes of them (Grey River Argus 13/07/1886: 4) – seems a bit over-the-top? More commonly, advertisements mentioned that marquees were available for hire, as well as boilers, tables, crockery, glassware, cutlery, etc. (Press 15/06/1907: 8). One proprietor even stated that her hands would never have touched the flour that made her bread, as she owned the most “up-to-date machinery” (Waikato Independent 18/05/1902: 1).

The formality and size of a catered affair would also determine if extra serving staff were required for an event. The photograph below shows the catering crew of the South Island section of the 9th contingent in which 480 people were said to have been served in four minutes!

Otago Witness 26/02/1902: 39

Otago Witness 26/02/1902: 39

If you thought that was impressive, this fun nod to old-timely sexism draws our attention to the preference of male wait staff over female waitresses for formal affairs. The author explains that women are less professional than men, and any guest conversation that a waitress might overhear will be subsequently turned into community gossip. Go figure.

Auckland Star 10/12/1926:7

Auckland Star 10/12/1926:7

Probably the most entertaining part of researching catering was determining what they may have served. Check out the ‘Bill of Fare’ for the Telegraph Dinner of 1862. Seven courses? And most of it French! Bon appétit!

Lyttelton Times 12/07/1862:5

Lyttelton Times 12/07/1862:5

I suspect not all menus were so elaborate. More humble fare may not have been as far away from what we might find at our modern equivalent of community events – like mini savouries, saveloys and fairy bread. In fact, many advertisements offered scotch pies and ‘fancy bread’, and strawberries and cream were always a special treat (Woodville Examiner 28/04/1911: 4). As many caterers also marketed themselves as confectioners, lollies (typically boiled, sometimes mixed with nuts) were on hand – and depending on the affair, a lolly scramble may have been warranted.

Lolly scramble at a 1880s child's birthday party. Image: W. Crawford. Lolly scrambles were common at community picnics and children’s birthday parties (Swarbrick 2016).

Lolly scramble at an 1880s child’s birthday party. Image: W. Crawford. Tairāwhiti Museum, Te Whare Taonga O Te Tairāwhiti. Lolly scrambles were common at community picnics and children’s birthday parties (Swarbrick 2016).

One of the most commonly catered community events during the 19th century were picnics. Organisations such as firms, churches, unions, clubs and Sunday schools held annual or even more frequent picnics. The picnic would have been a more exotic affair, and required a different menu than a sit down full course meal. Such foodstuffs would need to be served cold and stored in picnic baskets, napkins and tin containers. Common items were sandwiches, cold cuts, cakes, biscuits, cheeses, jellies and pickled fruit. Beverages commonly included ginger beer or ale, lemonade and, of course, tea! (Mitchell 1995: 16). These events (for which the caterers were often paid for by fundraising) frequently required large amounts of food. A combined Thames Sunday schools’ picnic with over 1000 children in attendance required 120 lbs of cake, 1000 dozen buns, 100 lbs of bread, 25 lbs of lollies, 50 lbs of ham, 6 lbs of tea, 25 lbs of sugar, 10 lbs of butter, 6 gallons of milk and peaches (Mitchell 1995: 27).

Essentially, whatever was on the event menu would have included a great deal of MEAT. The European settlers attempted to recreate many of their traditional foods in New Zealand, such as the standard “meat and three vege” combination, which still has its place in many New Zealand homes today (Burton 2016). The main cuisine difference between the homeland and the new frontier was that the quantity of meat consumed by the pioneers significantly increased. The availability and comparative inexpensiveness of meat in New Zealand meant that meat could be eaten for three meals a day, and fish was much less common, due to its British associations with the working class (Burton 2016). Mr Cooper, editor of The Scotsman newspaper visited New Zealand in 1897, and stated that “the fault with [New Zealand hotels] is that they offer you too much meat” and “It was my firm belief that New Zealanders eat more meat and drink more tea than any other people in the world” (Nelson Evening Mail 10/06/1897: 4). There was a small 19th century vegetarian population of New Zealand, some of which were likely to have been part of the Canterbury Dietetic Reform Association (founded in 1882), which promoted the health benefits of a vegetarian diet (Burton 2016). However, these people probably wouldn’t have been too popular at a party, nor would a caterer have been if he left meat off the menu. As Homer Simpson once said: “You don’t make friends with salad!”

Colonial Goose. A great example of the adaption of traditional British cuisine to the New Zealand colony. (Spoiler – it doesn’t: contain any traces of goose!) Goose was hard to come by in New Zealand, so lamb or mutton was used in its place. Image Insureandgo.

Colonial Goose. A great example of the adaption of traditional British cuisine to the New Zealand colony. (Spoiler – it doesn’t: contain any traces of goose!) Goose was hard to come by in New Zealand, so lamb or mutton was used in its place. Image Insureandgo.

Chelsea Dickson

 References

Auckland Star [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Burton, D. ‘Food – Meat’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/food/page-1 (Accessed 16 September 2016).

Grey River Argus [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Evening Post [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Fielding Star [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Marlborough Express[online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Mitchell, I. 1995 ‘Picnics in New Zealand During the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: An Interpretive Study’, MA thesis, Massey University.

Nelson Evening Mail [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Otago Witness [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Press [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Star [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Swarbrick, N. ‘Birthdays and wedding anniversaries – Celebrating birthdays’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/38840/lolly-scramble (accessed 16 September 2016).

Taranaki Herald [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Waikato Independent [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Woodville Examiner [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Mr and Mrs Smith

 

Of all the house sections in all the world, ‘The Smiths’ had to walk into mine. Between 1897 and 1899, that is…

Today on the blog I’ll refrain from making jokes about ‘Brangelina’ and the 2004 movie that shares its name with this post (especially regarding news of their coincidentally timed divorce). Instead, I’ll tell you a tale about the trials, tribulations and triumphs that I experienced recently, while researching the history of a family with the most gloriously common name – Smith. You will also get a peek at how we carry out some of our historic research.

Smith has been the most common surname in New Zealand and England since the 19th century. So it wasn’t surprising that it was a difficult task to find information on the family of Smiths who owned a house section in Strowan between 1897 and 1899. Large deposits of domestic rubbish were found on this site, and they contained artefacts that were dated from 1897 onwards. This house section only had one previous owner, and he was known to be living in another area of Christchurch at the time, so it seemed logical that the Smiths could have deposited this rubbish.

lloyd-street-dig

Happy archaeologists recording a large rubbish pit. Image: C. Dickson

The information that we had about the Smiths was available from the certificate of title for this land parcel, and was limited to their names and occupation (Many Anne Smith, the wife of Henry William Smith (carrier)). Now this would normally be sufficient information for us to determine if this couple lived on this section at the time that they owned it, as they would usually be listed in the Wises Post Office Directories and/or the New Zealand Electoral Roll. In this instance, no one with the last name Smith was recorded to be living on or owning a section on the appropriate street in Strowan at this time, nor was there any mention of them in the newspapers – so it would be easy to assume that this rubbish pit must have been made by a later 20th century occupant of this site.

This being said, the rubbish deposits in question contained large quantities of artefacts – many with dateable manufacturers’ marks, and many which could be dated by the techniques used to make them. As no maker’s mark was later than 1897 and no machine made glass bottles were present (machine made bottles began to be produced in the first decade of the 20th century), it seemed more likely that these rubbish pits were filled in the 19th century.

lloys-street-bottle

Pharmaceutical bottle which probably represented Spencer Vincent Pharmacy, located at 214 high Street, Christchurch. This company was first mentioned in Christchurch newspapers in 1897, and this bottle represents the youngest dateable artefact from the rubbish deposit (Donaldson 1990: 151. Star 17/06/1897: 3). Image: C. Dickson

So who could have thrown out the rubbish? The neighbouring sections surrounding this land parcel were not purchased until the 20th century, and the land wasn’t located in the highly populated central city – so it also seemed unlikely that this rubbish was deposited here by people who lived in the area.  Our section was not located near the corner of an adjacent road, so it seemed unlikely that our residents would use another road for access…

However, the resources that we have available for this type of research were compiled during the 19th century when recording methods were not always reliable or consistent. As such, we do sometimes come across errors and missing information. A closer look at the postal records of an adjacent road provided a very welcome “Henry Smith (carrier)” as a resident of an unnumbered house in the relevant block along Strowan Road, despite the fact that our modern road (Lloyd Street) had been created more than a decade before! I won’t bore you with too many further details, but the situation became much more complicated from here, and involved making maps showing where all of the residents listed on both of these roads lived (for the next decade). This can be confusing, because the houses are unnumbered, and not all the houses are always listed – so the method involves chasing consistent occupation of unnumbered houses. Tricky right? (To add to the headache, there were about five mistakes in post office directory over this period, and the residents of Lloyd Street were listed on Lloyd Street some years, and Strowan Road other years). Needless to say, complicated and time consuming, but highly rewarding when the pieces (or people) fall into place (yay!). The situation resulted in evidence of consistent occupation of our section by the Smiths from 1897, and the two more families in early 20th century. Too easy?

Little personal information was available about Henry William Smith, apart from where he resided before and after he lived in Strowan, and the fact that he worked as a carrier in Christchurch in the late 19th and early 20th century. During this period, he gave evidence at a court case regarding an eviction dispute – he had helped an evicted shop owner move her soiled, rain drenched goods, after her landlord took the roof off her shop! Nice guy. Mary Anne’s occupation is recorded as a housewife carrying out domestic duties at this time.

henry-smith-hero

Henry Smith (hero!).  An excerpt from the long-winded court case. You think your landlord is unfair!? (Press 10/03/1905: 07).

In 1900, Annie and Robert Meynell purchased the property. Robert was a local contractor who cleaned rivers and drains and was wounded in WW1 (Sun 27/06/1917: 3). The Meynells had a similarly uneventful representation in the local newspapers during their lifetimes, but they leased the house for a couple of years to a character with a much more colourful past. Raphael Portelli (whose antics we have come across before), was a fishmonger who appeared in Christchurch court many times in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was charged with a flurry of misdemeanours, including, but not limited to: public drunkenness, using obscene language (Star 19/10/1892: 3), cruely ill-using a horse (Star 26/07/1899: 3), assault, and breaking a window (Star 13/06/1900: 3), driving a cart after sunset without lights 17/04/1901: 3), being drunk while driving a horse and cart (Press 17/07/1901: 3), crashing his cart into someone else’s deliberately (coincidentally, this was the cart of Peter Thompson,  who had previously charged him with assault Star 22/05/1902: 3). His ten-year-old son was even charged with stealing a tricycle (Star 18/06/1896: 3). Imagine how that getaway must have gone!

Ordinarily, it would be safe to assume that any of these residents could have deposited our assemblage, due to the time lag between the manufacture and the deposition of an artefact. However, this assemblage contained a group of artefacts which became a lot more exciting upon realising the Smiths lived here…

You may remember a matching ceramic tea set we posted on our page back in January –  It featured the monogram of a mysterious caterer that appeared to have two different initials and the ability to run his business posthumously? This tea set was found on our section.

smith-ceramic

L. J. Smith catering tea set, showing correct and incorrect monogram. Image: G. Jackson.

On further inspection, it appeared that one of the two similar sets of initials on these matching tea sets was a mistake. The correct monogram printed on these ceramics can be attributed to Leo Josephus Smith, who was a well-regarded caterer in Christchurch from 1891 to his death in 1897. He catered everything from balls and Lodge functions to school picnics, and – that’s right – he also had the last name SMITH! We have covered the fact that Smith represents a common surname, but it seems like too much of a coincidence that these artefacts turned up on a section occupied by someone with the same last name, during a contemporary time. The likely explanation is that Leo and Henry were brothers – we know from Leo’s obituary that he was the seventh son of Mr W. H. Smith, who arrived in Christchurch “with the pilgrims” (Star 25/10/1897: 4). Henry’s initials match those of Leo’s father’s and it is possible that he was given his father’s names. As the catering business appears to have continued after Leo’s death in 1897, it is possible that Henry and Mary Anne were involved in the continued operation of the business. This is supported by an advertisement in the Press in 1898 which names H. W. Smith as the caterer for a 40-year anniversary picnic of the ship Zealandia (Press 28/09/1898). It turns out that the Zealandia had a William Smith as steerage passenger (Lyttelton Times 22/09/1858: 4). It sounds a lot like this passenger was their father!

And so we come to the end of this historical journey. I hope you’ve shared my excitement about this site – it’s pretty unusual to find an artefact with someone’s name on it, and even more uncommon to have a connection between this person and the occupant of the site where it was found. What’s also cool is that fragments of this tea set were recovered from several rubbish pits at this site – which means that we can assume that they were all deposited at roughly the same time. In this instance, this can only have happened during the three years that the Smiths lived on the section – which is a small window of time in the grand scheme of archaeology!

A piece of the tea set where it was found – inside a metal barrel containing charcoal and other artefacts. Image: C. Dickson

A piece of the tea set where it was found – inside a metal barrel containing charcoal and other artefacts. Image: C. Dickson

Chelsea Dickson

References

Donaldson, B., Hume, G. and Costello, S., 1990. Antique Bottle and Containers of Christchurch and District. Christchurch Antique Bottles and Collectibles Club, Christchurch.

Keys to the city

Did you ever wonder where the concept of locking things up came from? The reality of human nature seems to be that ever since people have owned things that are deemed valuable, they need to be protected from theft. Not to mention the need for personal protection – locking yourself in away from harm, or locking away those things or people that have been deemed unsafe to others.

Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it is thought that the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans developed mechanical locks independently from each other – highlighting the collective unconscious need to protect one’s valuables and person from this unseemly side of human nature. The idea evolved from the use of simple knots to detect if anyone had attempted to tamper with a locked place, and as time went on, locks made from wood and metal were developed and the security that they provided increased (History of Keys 2016).

Alexander the Great 'unlocks?' the Gordian knot. Image

Alexander the Great unlocks? the Gordian Knot. Image: Rugs 4.

We find several types of locks in the work that we carry out in Christchurch. Door locks from the pre-1900 houses that we record, and padlocks from excavations of pre-1900 material. The concept of a padlock is a great one! We have the Chinese from about 1000 BC to thank for the invention of a portable apparatus, the size and uses of which are so versatile that we can lock all manner of things up and away. The idea travelled to Europe via trade with the Romans several centuries later and the heart cast type became popular for locking up railway cars and controls, as they were durable in dirty and freezing conditions (History of Keys 2016).  These days we’re not just using them for railroads – they work well to secure static latches that have been fixed to the outside of a door or cupboard to keep it closed, or on the inside of a door to lock yourself in a room. How convenient! Latch and lock types that work well for this are hasp latches, and sliding bolt locks – the kind you might use on your garden shed, or on a public locker.

A hasp latch (Image: Priess 2002: 66).

A hasp latch (Image: Priess 2002: 66).

A sliding bolt is a bar which can be attached to a door and slid into a catch on the door frame to hold a door closed (Image: Priess 2002: 66).

A sliding bolt is a bar which can be attached to a door and slid into a catch on the door frame to hold a door closed (Image: Priess 2002: 66).

Padlocks consist of an enclosed body (housing), and curved bar (shackle) that is passed through a loop and secured (Priess 2002: 79). The housing shapes can vary, being symmetrical or asymmetrical, and some had key hole covers. These covers were originally attached with hinges, which were later replaced by pivoted examples. These keyhole covers can also offer additional dating and origin information as they were often stamped with maker’s marks. A popular mark was “VR”, after Queen Victoria during her reign 1837-1901 (Priess 2002: 81). Padlocks are a lock type which have been favoured historically for their flexibility, and because they are simple to make, with few working parts. But on the flip side, their simple structure means they are also easy to break open (Priess 2002: 82).

Cast iron padlock from an archaeological deposit west of the central city.

Cast iron padlock from an archaeological deposit west of the central city.

Door locks are more complicated in manufacture and form. The idea is simple – “A lock is any key-operated device attached to a door and equipped with a bolt or other member to keep the door closed” (Butter 1968: 163). But the 19th century saw many innovations in door lock technology. The most notable were the changes in material used – from wrought iron to cast iron, brass or steel, when it began to be economically viable (Priess 2002: 92).

Wooden and wrought iron rim lock. Image: K. Webb.

Wooden and wrought iron rim lock. Image: K. Webb.

Without delving into the tedious technical details – the locks that were available in the 19th century consisted of two main types – ones that are attached to the surface of the door and ones that are placed into a cavity that has been cut into the door. The surface locks consist of ‘stock locks’ and ‘rim locks’ and the cut locks are ‘flush locks’ (which were cut into the surface of the door) and ‘mortise locks’ (cut into the edge of the door).

These types are easily distinguished as the surface locks have their strike plates attached to the surface of one side of the adjacent wall, and the strike plates of a mortise or flush lock are placed within the door jamb. Also, only the front plate of the housing (lock cover) is visible with these mortise and flush locks. Sounds simple? Not always – lock reuse can make identification and dating of locks complicated, as broken locks were often replaced with new types.  Wrought iron examples could also be fixed and reworked into other things (Priess 2002: 92). Darn those thrifty Victorians!

Of the types mentioned above, rim locks and mortise locks are commonly found on the doors of Christchurch houses that were built during the 19th century. Some examples that some of our buildings archaeologists have found are pictured below.

Rim lock from a central city house. Image: P. Mitchell.

Rim lock from a central city house. Image: P. Mitchell.

 Mortise lock in situ and mortise lock close-up. Images: J. Garland and P. Mitchell.

Mortise lock in situ and mortise lock close-up. Images: J. Garland and P. Mitchell.

Mortise locks were more labour intensive to install than rim locks, as the mortise cavity in the door had to be cut. This lock type didn’t become popular until the late 19th century for this reason. But by the beginning of the 20th century mortise locks formed a major portion of the locks offered by prominent lock companies like Yale and Towne, and Sargent and Company (Priess 2002: 99). Flush locks are more commonly seen on furniture or closets, as they are inserted into the interior surface of a door or drawer, and they are usually out of sight when the drawer or door is closed (Priess 2002: 90).

The works of a few of the same lock makers are seen over and over again in our local examples – particularly the makers James Carpenter, Willenhall, England and H.&. T. Vaughan Standard Works, Willenhall (P. Mitchell and K. Webb, pers. comm.). Carpenter’s No. 60 patented lock was mentioned in the blog a few weeks ago, and this lock type was so popular that the design was counterfeited by rival lock-makers (Switzer 2013).

Jason Carpenter No. 60 rim lock and maker’s mark. The strike plate is shaped like a key! This maker was popular from the 1840s until the early 20th century (Sydney Living Museum 2016). Image: K. Webb.

Jason Carpenter No. 60 rim lock and maker’s mark. The strike plate is shaped like a key! This maker was popular from the 1840s until the early 20th century (Sydney Living Museum 2016). Image: K. Webb.

H. & T. Vaughan lock maker's mark. This company was founded in 1856, and was later responsible for the invention of the cylinder pin tumbler lock in 1910 – the easy self-locking kind which are still commonly used today (Evans 2002). Image: K. Webb.

H. & T. Vaughan lock maker’s mark. This company was founded in 1856, and was later responsible for the invention of the cylinder pin tumbler lock in 1910 – the easy self-locking kind which are still commonly used today (Evans 2002). Image: K. Webb.

So we have talked about the locks, what about the keys? They’ve enabled us to take better control of our locks and make them more exclusive as only the key holder can operate them. The first of their kind were made with wooden pins, but we can credit the Romans again for the production of metal keys – the strength of the material made it possible to make keys smaller than before and hence, more potable (History of Keys 2016). We find keys less commonly in the archaeological record, as it’s likely that the 19th century owners of these keys did not often discard them on purpose – the abundance of advertisements for locksmiths in 19th century Canterbury newspapers suggests that the skill of breaking locks was one in demand.

And who were these lock breakers behind the scenes? If you lost your key or if something went wrong with one of your locks, you’d need someone to pick it, break it, or blow it up (if you’re that desperate). Locksmiths seem to have been ‘a jack of all trades’ in New Zealand during the 1800s – they often moonlighted as plumbers, engineers, guns smiths, tinsmiths, bell hangers and gas fitters to name a few (Star 29/09/1873: 3). They appear to not only have had varied careers, but also exciting ones – among the many instances of getting called out on false alarm missions (having to open safes that were never locked, or even closed in the first place (Star 23/10/1897: 2). There were also many examples of locksmiths being the first called to the scene of a crime (often murders) to break through a locked door (Temuka Leader 16/12/1882: 3). They were also commonly called in as expert witnesses at court trials to prove if locks had been tampered with – a sort of 19th century forensics expert (Star 4/04/1900: 3). I’ve LOCKED in an example of one of these turbulent tales – it may be the craziest story I have ever read in the New Zealand newspapers – so I’ll leave it with you. Until next time.

Temuka Leader 5/5/1883: 3

Temuka Leader 5/5/1883: 3

Chelsea Dickson

References

Butter, F. J. 1968 An Encyclopaedia of Locks and Builders Hardware. Josiah Parkes, WillenhaIl, England.

Evans, J. 2002. A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers. [online] Available at: http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/Museum/locks/gazetteer/gazv.htm

History of Keys 2016 [online] http://www.historyofkeys.com/ [Accessed July 2016]

Press, P. J. 2000 ‘Historic Door Hardware’ in Karklins, K. 2000. (Ed) Studies in Material Culture Research.

Star [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed July 2016]

Switzer, R., R. 2013. The Steamboat Bertrand and Missouri River Commerce. University of Oklahoma Press. Norman.

Temuka Leader [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed July 2016]