Local Treasures: The Rodoni Glass Negatives

Troops posing for a comical photograph after fall of German Papua,1914 (Thomas James Rodoni)

Troops posing for a comical photograph after fall of German Papua, 1914 (Digitised from a Thomas James Rodoni Glass negative by Chris Fussell)


Day Shift – 19/08/2014 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Nick Gerber
Interviewees: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, University of Newcastle (Australia)

Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist of the University of Newcastle discusses plans for the recently donated glass negatives of the late Thomas James Rodoni that documented Australia’s first military conflict of the First World War, the fall of German New Guinea. The Collection also contains images from the lead up to the Great War, including what appears to be recruitment drives across Sydney and Newcastle. There are also images believed to be taken at places around Lithgow and Newcastle. We would appreciate any further information relating to the selection of images below

Broadcast Notes:

In February 2014 Bill Rodoni, son of the late Thomas James Rodoni donated all his father’s original glass negatives held in his possession to the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections (Auchmuty Library).

Close family friends Chris Fussell and his wife helped Bill organize the transfer of the Collection to the University, Chris, being a photographer, also kindly provided some of the digitized images he was able to make of the glass negatives that were in good enough condition.

Chris Fussell (left) with Bill Rodoni (right) son of the late Thomas James Rodoni

Chris Fussell (left) with Bill Rodoni (right) son of the late Thomas James Rodoni

Some of these images were featured in the recent 5th August 2014 Newcastle Herald story here: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2466630/hunters-first-wwi-volunteers-in-action-in-new-guinea-photos/

At present, there are nine or so images up on the Herald website to accompany the story. The newspaper print edition featured two images.

We collected around four archival boxes worth of glass plates. Some (i.e., around 2 boxes worth) of the original glass negatives were in relatively good condition, and another two archival boxes worth (that lay in Bill’s downstairs garage) were in a very terrible condition, water damaged, moldy, dirty and most stuck together.

Rodoni Glass Negatives upon arrival at University of Newcastle

Rodoni Glass Negatives upon arrival at University of Newcastle

All these glass negatives are now in the hands of our conservator, undergoing a thorough conservation and preservation treatment involving documenting their condition, cleaning, carefully separating the damaged plate, and then re-housing all of them in new archival quality boxes.

Once this phase is done, we will commence the digitization of them all, and have secured the University Gallery for an exhibition next year running  from March 2015 as the University’s contribution to the Anzac Centenary Commemorations.

Dr Ann Hardy, a University historian, has also said she would be prepared to volunteer her time to research Thomas James Rodoni’s life and trace the subject matter of his photographic works in the collection for the Exhibition. Gillian Shaw, University Gallery Curator, has booked the University Art Gallery from March 2015 next year to present large reproductions of these Rodoni slides as part of our contribution to the Centenary of Anzac Commemorations.

The collection is rare as there are few wartime collections taken by non-official photographers during the World War I.  The collection depicts Australia’s first military engagement of World War 1 being the transfer of power from German New Guinea in 1914 to the Australian Forces. This engagement also witnessed the first Australian casualties of First World War.

Biographical information relating to Thomas James Rodoni is scant, but have identified a moustachioed man  (in the selfie pictured below) and in a number of images as Thomas Rodoni.

The moustachioed man we believe is Thomas Rodoni

The moustachioed man we believe to be Thomas Rodoni

Military Parade - Leichhardt Marchers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Military Parade – Leichhardt Marchers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Military Parade - Farmers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Military Parade – Farmers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Plumber Gas Fitter Gladesville (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Plumber Gas Fitter Gladesville (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Bagpipes and Highland Dressed (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Bagpipes and Highland Dressed (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Street Parade - Domain Artillery Off to the Front (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Street Parade – Domain Artillery Off to the Front (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Lithgow - Parade Opposite Walters and Son Undertakers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Lithgow – Parade Opposite Walters and Son Undertakers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Newcastle Beach Crowds Military (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Newcastle Beach Crowds Military (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

The Australia in Sydney Harbour - View from Boats (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

The Australia in Sydney Harbour – View from Boats (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

The Australia in Sydney Harbour (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

The Australia in Sydney Harbour (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

New Guinea - Soldiers with Coconuts (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Soldiers with Coconuts (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

New Guinea - GMP Madang NG 1914

G.M.P. Madang NG 1914

Soldiers and Papuans (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Soldiers and Papuans (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Company of Soldiers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Company of Soldiers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Lineup of soldiers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Lineup of soldiers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Officers in White (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Officers in White (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Rodoni photographed with glass plate [?] (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Rodoni photographed with glass plate [?] (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Newcastle - Unveiling of Newcastle Post Office Cenotaph (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Newcastle – Unveiling of Newcastle Post Office Cenotaph (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Freidman's Carrington Hotel (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Freidman’s Carrington Hotel (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Diving at Newcastle (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Diving at Newcastle (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Newcastle - 2HD Mayfield (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Newcastle – 2HD Mayfield (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Interior - Unidentified Engineering Workshop (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Interior – Unidentified Engineering Workshop (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Unidentified workers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Unidentified workers (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Photograph taken of Newcastle Customs House, from second floor of Great Northern Hotel at 10 minutes to 1 PM date unknown (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Photograph taken of Newcastle Customs House, from second floor of Great Northern Hotel at 10 minutes to 1 PM date unknown (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Wer (sic) Are We [?] (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Wer (sic) Are We [?] (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Two Ladies on Shore at Sunrise or Sunset  (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

Two Ladies on Shore at Sunrise or Sunset (Thomas James Rodoni Original Glass Negative, digitised by Chris Fussell)

 

Name: Thomas James Rodoni

Born: 1872? (according to Bill vaguely) but actually born in 1882 in Victoria (sourced and confirmed by Lyn Keily via Ancestry.com)

Married: 1915 in Sydney to Catherine Annie

Occupation: Toolmaker

Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force document (Signed 28/1/15):
Certificate of Discharge of No. 534
(Rank) Private Name Rodoni T.J.
(Regiment or Corps) Aust Naval & Military Expedition
at or near the Town of [Hoth—?] Melbourne
in the State or Country of Victoria.
Attested at Sydney on the 18th August [1914] for the Australian Military Expedition Regiment or Corps at the age of 31 Years.
He is discharged in consequence of June expiring
Service towards completion of engagement 164 days
Service Abroad 164 days.
Discharge confirmed at Sydney.

New South Wales Government Railways and Tramways document dated 12th August 1915 from the Office of the Chief Commissioner Sydney states that Mr. T. J. Rodoni wrote to them on the 3rd August 1915 requesting desire to temporarily leave department to enter the Lithgow Small Arms factory to assist in manufacture of munitions for war.

Department of Defence document dated 23rd June 1916 certifies that T.J. Rodoni was employed in the Small Arms Factory Lithgow between 4th August 1915 and the 22nd June 1916 as a CUTTER GRINDER and that his conduct and character was GOOD.

A Government Dockyard, Newcastle document dated 4th March 1919 states that he was currently employed there on work connected with the engines for the Commonwealth Ships as a tradesman.

Died: 25th January 1956 (Mayfield) Killed in Waratah according to Bill while getting the newspaper he was involved in car accident, and died at the Mater a few hours later.

We welcome any further information that anyone can shed on Thomas James Rodoni and his collection of glass plate negatives.

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist
18th August 2014

5 thoughts on “Local Treasures: The Rodoni Glass Negatives

  1. Pingback: Local Treasures: The Rodoni Glass Negatives

  2. Pingback: Rodoni Archive Now Online | Cultural Collections, UON Library

  3. I have identified a few of the ‘Rodoni’ images as originally taken by the German ethnographer Richard Thurnwald in Sept-Oct 1914. Thurnwald had returned from his exploration to the source of the Sepik, apparently leaving his photographs at his base camp, and set off up the Sepik again in November to explore the Sand and North Rivers (the latter as far north as the Bewani Range). While he was away, the AN&MEF arrived (with Rodoni) on the Nusa and took all of Thurnwald’s boats, his engineer Theodore Fiebig, and supplies, collections, notes and images back down the river, eventually to Madang. When Thurnwald returned to find his camp ransacked, he went down river in a paddle canoe, sustained by a few cans of beans, and reported to the police station at Angoram, and then went on to Madang where he was befriended by Captain Walter Balfour Ogilvy, the District Officer there. Thurnwald then attempted to get all his things back but it took many years and not everything was returned. It seems these images in possession of Rodoni were part of the looting. I lived at Telefomin 1962-65, interviewed a Telefomin man who as a teenager traded some food to Thurnwald, I have travelled extensively through the central New Guinea and upper Sepik regions, so I can recognise locations and peoples fairly reliably. See the Upper Sepik-Central New Guinea website (www.uscngp.com, and go to ‘Papers’ in the horizontal menu) which includes translations from German of Thurnwald’s two reports of his explorations in the region. I am communicating with Marion Melk-Koch who published a book (in German) on Richard Thurnwald and she confirms these images I have identified are consistent with others by Thurnwald that did get back to Berlin.

  4. Great pictures. part of our history. With Leichardt Marchers, the image appears to be mirror reversed, as the bolt on the SMLE 303 rifle in the foreground is on the left side,apart from that,great

  5. Pingback: Richard Thurnwald and Thomas James Rodoni in the Upper Sepik 1914 | Cultural Collections, UON Library

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