Local Treasures: The George Freeman Album

Front cover of George Freeman Album "Scraps"

Front cover of George Freeman Album “Scraps”

Day Shift – 18/03/2014 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewees: Mr Andrew Dodd and Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, University of Newcastle (Australia)

Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist of the University of Newcastle introduces Mr Andrew Dodd, great grand son of photographer George Freeman. Andrew kindly provided an album of photographs held by the family to the University of Newcastle (Australia) so that selected images could be digitised. A number of these images are highly significant photographs of the town of Newcastle and surrounding coastal areas, and were taken around 1884, as he was certainly there photographing the wreck of the Susan Gilmore which occurred in July 1884.  It is reasonable to assume that while here he also photographed the city and surrounding areas, as The Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate reported on the 19th July 1884 (Ref:http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135857993 ) that “Mr. Freeman, photographer, has shown us some excellent picturesque views of the marine scenery around Newcastle. They are well taken, and the photographs would adorn any album.”

Broadcast Notes:

The following information regarding George Freeman was prepared by Pamela Goodhart Dodd and Andrew Dodd from copies of original documents, photographs and newspaper cuttings held by the family. The accompanying images were digitised by Gionni Di Gravio. Clicking on the images below will take you to the high resolution images that are in the 2-6MB size range for closer examination.

The album contains around 66 photographs, along with a number of inserts, which are images, a letter, printed documents and posters. The album is in poor condition due to the acidic and brittle quality of the paper. We photographed the entire album for contextual purposes, and digitised the Newcastle related images in high resolution on an Epson Perfection V700 Scanner at the highest resolutions possible. Since the album was on loan, we did not digitise all the images in high resolution due to the time constraints and post processing.

To provide context for the images below, the whole album is available to be viewed as a PDF here: The George Freeman Album (25MB PDF File)

On behalf of the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections we wish to thank Andrew Dodd, Pamela Goodhart Dodd and family for allowing us to share this family treasure with the wider research community, and warmly welcome any feedback or information relating to any of the images or the photographer who captured them, George John Freeman.

GEORGE JOHN FREEMAN
b: 17 January 1843   d: 5 April 1895

Only known photograph of George Freeman (Courtesy of Pamela Goodhart Dodd)

Only known photograph of George Freeman (Courtesy of Pamela Goodhart Dodd)

A BRIEF HISTORY – Developing Australia

George was London born, raised, and well educated at the Bayswater Grammar, and in a letter he wrote to his father in 1857 he thanked him for buying  ‘ a set of apparatus for photography ‘. – this was his start to the interesting life that was in store for him choosing photography as a profession when he arrived in Australia.

George John Freeman arrived in Adelaide on the ship ‘Countess of Fife’, with his father George Freeman and step mother, leaving London on September 28, 1860. They arrived in the port of Adelaide, January 4th 1861. George  was 19 years of age, his diary of the voyage records, weather, land sightings, ports and events ,even when there were none to mention, the people he spoke with and ‘printed some photography’ to pass the time, then the excitement of sighting Kangaroo Island off the coast  of South Australia and the long awaited docking in Port Adelaide.

Street scene of King William Street Adelaide late 1870s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Street scene of King William Street Adelaide circa 1870s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

He established a studio soon after arriving, renting properties in various locations and ran his studio from Rundle & Hindley Street premises.  George traveled the state photographing the growing townships and was fast becoming a photographer of some note and a character, traveling to Heathcote, Victoria, the Gold Fields in 1865,  in a guise of ‘a man in tatterd rags’ he sent photos home to England to an uncle for a monetary hand. In Melbourne and took photographs of the public gardens and buildings, is no know when he started using the name of the Melbourne Photographic Company – Wivell and Johnstone worked with him.

He was the sole agent for the Art Union of Victoria, exhibited paintings of Johnstone’s at the co-gallery. In the 1870s George was the leading fine  art entrepreneur. In 1873 he presented ‘dissolving views of oxhydrogen light’ – showing morally uplifting scenes from the ‘ Illustrated life of Christ, The bottle and the Drunkards children and the Pilgrims Progress’.  Newspapers reported – ‘Innovative and up to-date photography’, the press reported every novelty- ‘like   the Athenians of old, he is always looking for something new’. He experimented with luminous paint to make photos glow in the dark, glass transparencies, coloured sunsets and moonrise with ‘green moon tint observable in the moons rays’  – In 1874  recently dry plates assisted by flash powder, to make ‘instantaneous action photographs’.  Around this time he debunked  the new craze of spirit photographs demonstrating how they could be faked by partially exposing a plate to form light patches – ‘spirits’.

In 1874 presented an exhibition of British and Colonial paintings and photographs in Adelaide Town Hall. He also opened a picture gallery and ‘encouraged colonial artists to send their productions for exhibition.’ In 1875 he was commissioned to take Adelaide views, a panorama 11 feet long, form the top of the Advertiser Building, and one from Montifore Hill 6 feet long , for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, USA, in 1876. George married Mary Sarah Goodhart in 1876, an Artist, they lived at the Hindley Street premises.

In 1877 he used the new  22×18 inch camera to take views that won him a bronze medal at The Paris Expo Universelle International, France, 1878, for his views -11′ x8′- of Adelaide from Montifore Hill, Adelaide Oval and Public Buildings. In 1879 his views of  Victor Harbour, Goolwa, Mount Gambier gained a third prize in the Sydney International 1880 ?, and for views of Adelaide again in the Melbourne International Exhibiton 1880 -’ well calculated to give clear conception of our progress in architecture and the character of some of our scenery’.  His local work of portraits of the Governors of the State and family were highly acclaimed, also photographs of the opening of the Art Gallery with HRH Prince Albert and other noted persons. George was also the ‘first bearer of the Grand sword of the Order of the Grand Lodge of Ancient and Free and Accepted Masons of South Australia in 1884′.

Two unidentified Aboriginal Children (Photograph by George Freeman)

Two unidentified Aboriginal Children (Photograph by George Freeman)

Unidentified Aboriginal Child (Photograph by George Freeman)

Unidentified Aboriginal Child (Photograph by George Freeman)

Unidentified Aboriginal Children (Photograph by George Freeman)

Unidentified Aboriginal Children (Photograph by George Freeman)

He was not only a photographer but a ‘showman, entrepreneur’, he organised Art Unions with prize money both in South Australia and Melbourne, sold views of prominent buildings and sent to London as promotion of Adelaide, he also worked with Belcher in Adelaide. He produced the first double photo portraits known to be taken in the colony – ‘two portraits of a gentleman sitting and standing – ‘Ingenious’ – the South Australian Advertiser, and to top that he did a triple headed portrait of the Emperor of Prussia, the late French Emperor and Prince Bismark all in one bust ‘- dubbed the three headed monster by the press.

Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Sydney circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Sydney circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

On the 26th February 1879 a devastating fire destroyed his premises in Hindley Street, they were then living in North Adelaide and was alerted by his apprentice, much of his work and photographic plates  and negatives were destroyed. In 1880 he patented an application for an ‘automatic fast holding door handle ‘, photographed shipwrecks , the Sorata at Cape Jervios , 7th September 1880.  In 1884, styling himself under the name of The Melbourne Photographic Company, his high profile in the South Australian press, George Freeman and Sarah decided to move to Sydney and worked in Newcastle. He possibly lived in Paramatta, Reynolds Street, Balmain, and in Newcastle.  ‘George Freeman  would set up business,  as soon as he finds suitable premises,’ July 10, 1884 -  reported by the Newcastle Register.

Two vessels in unidentified location (Sydney?) (Photograph by George Freeman)

Two vessels in unidentified location (Sydney?) (Photograph by George Freeman)

Photographing another shipwreck the Susan Gilmore, 3/7/1884, his work was noted – ‘the rocks and headlands are shown in the photograph and therefore accurate’ – The Newcastle Morning Herald- his photos were used for auction of the wreck.

Unattributed photograph of the Wreck of the Susan Gilmore (Slide C917-0504 in the John Turner Collection University of Newcastle) Could this be Freeman's image?

Unattributed photograph of the Wreck of the Susan Gilmore (Slide C917-0504 in the John Turner Collection University of Newcastle) Could this be Freeman’s image?

The image above was recently unearthed among the research slides of the late Dr John Turner, held in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. It is taken from a different perspective to the more popular image circulating of the wreck taken from the beach. Dr Turner does not provide a source for the above image, but compare it with another recently located by Dr Ann Hardy in the Hyde Family Album at the NSW State Library. The image appears to have been taken at the same time, from the position of the people in the photograph.

Photograph of Wreck of Susan Gilmore, 1884, from Hyde Family Album PXA-1445-Box5 taken by Dr Ann Hardy 2012 (Courtesy of NSW State Library)

Photograph of Wreck of Susan Gilmore, 1884, from Hyde Family Album PXA-1445-Box5 taken by Dr Ann Hardy 2012 (Courtesy of NSW State Library)

The photograph taken below from the beach does appear to match the Freeman photograph description description from The Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate story published on the 14th July 1884 p.3 showing what appears to be Rocket Brigades’ life lines in the sand extending to the waterline. : http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135857067

Wreck of the Susan Gilmore (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW) http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemPopLarger.aspx?itemid=393087

Wreck of the Susan Gilmore (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW) http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemPopLarger.aspx?itemid=393087

Wreck of the Susan Gilmore.

IN addition to the usual attractive contents of the Sydney Mail, the issue of Saturday last contains a very spirited three quarter-page engraving of the above disaster. The artist has very ably depicted the most exciting event in connection with the wreck – viz., that in which the captain’s wife is being rescued by the aid of the life lines at the hands of the gallant Newcastle Rocket Brigade. The engraving is taken from a photographic view of the wreck by Mr. G. Freeman, of this city, and forms a capital souvenir of the loss of the Susan Gilmore.

He photographed public buildings in Newcastle and Sydney, including the Town Hall, Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour and streets of the city.

Hunter Street Newcastle near current Lockup Museum and Post Office. Circa 1880s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Hunter Street Newcastle near current Lockup Museum and Post Office. Circa 1880s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Bolton Street Newcastle, circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Bolton Street Newcastle, circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle Harbour taken from Stockton, circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle Harbour taken from Stockton, circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle wharves circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle wharves circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Unidentified man on Newcastle coastline circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Unidentified man on Newcastle coastline circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Decorative arrangement of shells, and marine ornamental art in Newcastle (Photograph by George Freeman)

Decorative arrangement of shells, and marine ornamental art in Newcastle (Photograph by George Freeman)

The Horse-Shoe, (now King Edward Park) circa 1880s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

The Horse-Shoe, (now King Edward Park) circa 1880s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Cliff overlooking Bogey Hole, circa 1880s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Cliff overlooking Bogey Hole, circa 1880s. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle Breakwater (Macquarie Pier) taken from Nobbys circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle Breakwater (Macquarie Pier) taken from Nobbys circa post 1894 (Photograph by George Freeman)

The Pilgrim Boston coal loading in Newcastle Harbour circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

The Pilgrim Boston coal loading in Newcastle Harbour circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Coaling ships at Newcastle Wharf, Nobbys in distance circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Coaling ships at Newcastle Wharf, Nobbys in distance circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Two horses on shoreline, possibly near present day Newcastle Ocean Baths site c.1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Two horses on shoreline, rock platform possibly near present day Newcastle Ocean Baths site c.1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Closeup of ocean rock platform and crashing waves (Photograph by George Freeman)

Closeup of ocean rock platform and crashing waves (Photograph by George Freeman)

Closeup of Newcastle coastline with clashing waves. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Closeup of Newcastle coastline with clashing waves. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Closeup of Newcastle coastline (Photograph by George Freeman)

Closeup of Newcastle coastline (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle coastline circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

Newcastle coastline circa 1880s (Photograph by George Freeman)

His beloved wife Sarah died of typhoid in 1885, (Newcastle or Sydney) leaving a young family for George and the older children to care for. George continued to photograph buildings and scenes in Parramatta, Sydney and Newcastle. He was also an interpreter of languages for the Sydney and Adelaide courts. In 1890 his health suffering he returned to Adelaide with his family and set up another photographic business promoting photography exhibitions, he bought the camera obscura to Australia with a tent show at Genelg Beach.

George John Freeman died on 5th April 1895.

In the 1870′s there were known to be 700 photographers in Australia – it was big business !

George John Freeman studios out did Duryea, Townshend and Robert Hall. George Freeman’s 34 year photographic  career encompassed skill and showmanship along with an ingenious entrepreneurial style that recorded the early years of Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, country towns and views and bought new and exciting innovations to the colony as  a ‘photographer of some note’ to which we are proud to uncover more of his work, and learn more about the man who was our great-grandfather and the legacy he left behind.

The National Library of Australia, Canberra (Trove collection – of 21 photographs he exhibited for the Philadelphia Exhibition )

The Adelaide State Library has a collection of photographs including a family history , a scrap-book and memorabilia.
Author : Pamela Goodhart Dodd – Great Grand Daughter of George John Freeman
( Information from family history copies of document,photographs and newspaper cuttings )
Copyright 2014 Andrew Dodd

Street lamp on bridge over unidentified river. (Photograph by George Freeman)

Street lamp on bridge over unidentified river. (Photograph by George Freeman)

2 thoughts on “Local Treasures: The George Freeman Album

  1. Lovely to see recent information about George John Freeman. I am descended from his father George through another son (half brother to GJF) Henry Arthur Freeman who is my Great grand-father. I have been interested in GJF for a while, since I am also interested in photography and living near Adelaide, I know I need to go to the State Library.

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