Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bark! Bark! Bark!

I have been scouring the rich corpus of advertisements in the Australian colonial press, ca. 1852–54, for answers to two particular questions relating to the sculptor Thomas Woolner’s extended visit to Melbourne, the Victorian goldfields, and Sydney, which covered that period: (a) Was there a reasonably competent local frame-maker active in either town? And (b) Where did Woolner buy the books he read on the voyage home—several of which are extremely interesting, and published only comparatively recently in London?

I am coming up with mixed results, but a by-product of this search is the discovery of some genuinely baffling notices in the advertising columns, such as the following two notices that appeared regularly in the Hobart Town Courier early in 1852—in this case on Saturday, February 21 (p. 4):
Looking-Glasses Re-Silvered.
The undersigned begs to intimate that he has just received an assortment of Plate-glass and material for silvering Looking-glasses.
N.B. Orders punctually attended to, packed and sent to any part of the colony [of Van Diemen's Land].
Carving, Gilding, Looking-glass, and Fancy Picture-frame Manufactory.

WANTED, by the undersigned, TWO HUNDRED TONS BARK; to be delivered early in December next.
Nathan, Moses & Co., Hobart Town, Sept. 6.
The Rattler dropped anchor in Port Melbourne in January 1852, and it seems most likely that this was the origin of the shipment of glass and silvering material, and not the manufacturer. Who, then, was Robin L. Hood? And what on earth did Nathan, Moses & Co. need two hundred tons of bark for? (The answer, courtesy of reliable Nat Williams: Huge quantities of bark were needed for leather-tanning.)

No comments:

Post a Comment