Postcard Views of Early Nelson and District

Postcards are a very useful and interesting way of viewing the history of a particular place. This was well demonstrated by Ann Still when she spake to us about the postcards of early Nelson. Ann began with a little history, noting that Nelson was established as an European settlement in 1841. Provincial government was established in 1852, and the City of Nelson was created by Royal Charter.

Nelson was able to boast the colony's first brewery, first library, and first rugby match. New Zealand's first photographic society was established in Nelson, and Nelson has a long history of prominent photographers. Ann's four frames of Nelson Postcards featured 25 different photographers.Some of these photogra­phers are virtually unknown, others are very well documented. Ann noted that postcard exhibiting is easier than traditional stamp exhibiting.

Ann's postcards display all facets of life in Nelson. One section dealt with the wharves and part of Nelson and early shipping. There was a combination of Muir and Moodie photographs and Fred Jones photographs. Fred Jones worked only in the Nelson district. One of Ann's postcards featured the Penguin, which had a regular run between the ports of Nelson, Picton and Wellington until she came to grief in Wellington Harbour in 1909. There were alSo photographs of early Tahuna, including one showing a day out on the sands, by Fred Jones. This showed changing sheds which were wheeled out onto the beach.

There was an interesting selection of postcards showing the streets of Nelson. These include Trafalgar Street, Hardy Street and Bridge Street, all named after people and places connected with Horatio Nelson and his exploits. There was alSo a card illustrating Nelson's famous Suter Art Gallery, which was named after Bishop Andrew Burn Suter, the second Bishop of Nelson, and cards illustrating old provincial buildings, the post office, the School of Music, and the Nelson Institute and Museum. Unfortunately many of Nelson's old buildings, constructed of wood, have been destroyed by destructive fires. There was alSo a card showing the State Industrial School and Orphanage.

A number of cards showed churches in Nelson, mostly wooden, but same built of Takaka marble. An English influence on their architecture is apparent from looking at the cards. There were alSo cards showing religious activities, including a Bible class, and a Salvation Army harvest festival.

Ann spent same time talking about Fred Jones, a recorder of Nelson events. Fred enjoyed his photography, events and people. He had a shop in Nelson, and sold his postcards. His cards feature, amongst many other topics, a Vice­Royal visit, a farewell to troops during World War I, family picnics, and a Red Cross procession in 1917. He developed a three-pronged ladder which enabled him to get above crowds and photograph them. He alSo collected musical instruments.

The fire that destroyed Nelson College was captured on a postcard. It was after this fire that Fred Jones decided to became a professional photographer.

Ann alSo displayed a Ferguson and Taylor postcard showing part of the Queens Gardens, and photographs of the Maitai River, which was a popular recreational spot. The hop harvest featured on same cards, and hops was an important part of the Nelson economy for many a year. Other cards showed a family group of hop pickers, and hops being weighed.

The cards on display were in remarkably fine condition, considering their age, and provided a fascinating and informative insight into Nelson's early history.

Frederick Nelson (Pompy) Jones (1881-1962): Nelson entertainer and entrepreneur

Acknowledged as one of New Zealand's first photojournalists, Jones was nicknamed Pompy as his father had been.

In 1904, he sold 1,500 prints from the three glass plate negatives he took of the burning of Nelson College. After this, his photography business flourished and he was able to buy land and start a studio.

Jones recorded many Nelson events and made a major contribution to the breadth of the photographic collection, making it unrivalled as a record of a community. He was often seen on a three-legged ladder used to take photographs from above the crowds.

Photography was just one part of Jones's interesting entrepreneurial activities. He was also a saddler, an inventor, mechanical musical box collector, amusement park owner, shaw organizer and owned several monkeys!

In 1921, Jones opened Caney Park in Haven Road, with music organs, merry-go-rounds, miniature train rides and other attractions.

When Jones retired in 1933, he began to build Pixietown, animated scenes with wooden, handmade pixies. Pixietown was first shown at Trathen's shop in Trafalgar Street and others were later staged in Australia, England and America. Pixietowns are remembered by many as large department store attractions. In the downstairs exhibition in the Nelson museum you can see an example of his workmanship.

The museum has approximately 5,000 of his images and a further 5,000-8,000 images are held at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.