Photo of the Day

photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum

A city on the move

August 7th, 2014 by


David Mist photographed this NSW policeman wearing a regulation pith helmet and directing traffic in the Sydney CBD for his 1969 publication, Sydney: a book of photographs.

The image appeared in the book as part of a montage created to show the city of Sydney as a hectic, dynamic urban environment. Other images from this series have been posted previously on Photo of the Day.

The photograph is part of the David Mist Archive collection.

Photography by David Mist

© All rights reserved


Mail coach

August 6th, 2014 by


Although coaching services were brought to an early close in England after the introduction of railways, in Australia they developed alongside them from the 1850s and flourished both in direct competition and in providing services where trains did not reach. This encouraged the spread of settlements and the development of effective communication networks in remote country areas , particularly in eastern Australia towards the end of the 19th century.

On the move: a history of transport in Australia, Margaret Simpson, Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 2004.

The negative of this Tyrrell collection photograph of a four horse mail coach (Cobb & Co. used five or seven horses) is inscribed with a word that looks like ‘Hazeldene’, which could refer to a location in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. This coach carries at least four passengers plus the driver, (see detail below).


00g06605 detail

Photography by unattribued studio, Tyrrell collection: 85/1286-1862

No known copyright restrictions

Ferries, Circular Quay

August 5th, 2014 by


This photograph from the Tyrrell collection shows the busy Circular Quay ferry wharves with the Milsons Point, Neutral Bay and Manly Ferries in view on a busy harbour in the days before the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A child’s fare to Manly was threepence, according to the sign over the wharf.

In February 1897 the Sunday Times reported that the popularity of the threepenny fares for children (see detail below) and the sixpenny fares for adults had resulted in a record number of passengers for the Port Jackson Steamship Company.


Tyrrell collection 85/1286-2627

No known copyright restrictions


Light rail vehicle beside the Powerhouse Museum

August 4th, 2014 by

Photo Nº: 00z30001

The photo shows a modern light rail vehicle running along the old heavy rail track next to the Museum.  Goods trains using this track delivered countless loads of coal to feed the boilers in Ultimo Power House, which was built in 1899 to supply electricity to Sydney’s first electric trams and which now houses the Museum. The photo also includes part of the not-so-old but now demolished monorail track and a section of the roadway that carries traffic to Darling Harbour. It’s Australian Engineering Week (4-10 August 2014), and this photo was chosen to celebrate the work of engineers in designing, making and maintaining the infrastructure and vehicles needed for all these transport systems.

Plans are well under way for Sydney’s light rail system to expand. If you’d like to hear top-level presenters speak about these plans, you can book to attend a free forum on Sydney’s Light Rail on 6 August. It will be held, appropriately, at the Powerhouse. For more information and registration see

Written by Debbie Rudder, Curator

Chinese chess

August 1st, 2014 by



A quiet game of chess in a rich man’s home. The game is a contest between two armies separated by a river. As in Western chess, there are sixteen pieces on each side though their designations and moves are different. The chessmen are simple counters inscribed with the function of the indvidual piece

Hedda Morrison, ‘A photographer in Old Peking’, Hong Kong, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 164

This photograph shows two young men wearing traditional Chinese dress seated on a heated platform (‘kang’) playing Chinese chess (Xiang qi). The ‘kang’ is decorated with wooden panelling and applied carved designs. According to our collection records, the game of Chinese chess (‘Xiang qi’) is played with counters on a gridded board. Xiangqi is one of the most popular games in the world. Distinctive features of Xiangqi include the unique movement of the pao (cannon) piece, a rule prohibiting the genearls (similar to chess Kings) from facing each other directly, and the river and palace board features, which restrice the movement of some pieces.

This is one of Hedda Morrison’s more staged photographs, taken inside of a house of a well-to-do family. The fur-lined long gowns (‘chang pao’), hats (‘guapi mao’) and focus of pass-time activity on the ‘kang’ suggest that the photograph was taken in winter.

Hedda Morrison, (1908-1991), was born Hedda Hammer in Stuttgart, Germany. She acquired her first camera, a Box Brownie, at the age of 11. In 1931, after completing studies at the State Institute for Photography in Munich and working in the studio of photographer Adolf Lazi (1884-1955), she answered an advertisement in a photography journal for a job in Peking.

In Peking Morrison managed Hartung’s photographic studio from 1933-1938. After her contract expired she continued to work freelance from a small darkroom in her home in Nanchang Street. The young photographer travelled around the city, usually by bicycle, often photographing its inhabitants. This photograph is part of the Hedda Morrison Photographic Collection.   Other images from the same collection have also been posted on Photo of the Day.

Photography by Hedda Morrison
No known copyright restrictions.

Windmill Street and Ferry Lane, c.1901

July 31st, 2014 by

00g07348 detail

This photograph, another from the 1901 Rocks Resumption Photographic Survey,  shows a local scene at the corner of Windmill Street and Ferry Lane c. 1901. The little girl in the centre has stopped skipping to pose for the photographer. Girls with skipping ropes appear in many of the photographs in this series, such as the recently posted image of the John Simpson store. Lengths of rope would have been easily accessible in the waterfront areas of The Rocks and Millers Point.

According to the Museum Victoria website, the earliest written record of skipping comes from 6th century China. Skipping has been established as a children’s game since the 7th century. In earlier centuries it was played by adults as well as children, and by males as well as females. Gradually it came to be regarded as a girls’ game and jumping rope was often accompanied by the recitation of rhymes.

Tyrrell Collection 85/1286-2605

No known copyright restrictions


Mr Woolcott-Waley

July 30th, 2014 by



As a man in public life, Mr Woolcott Waley, (Sir Frederick George Waley, 1860-1933) may have needed portrait photographs for purposes of self-promotion as well as identification. The photograph above, one of a series of three (see others below) shows Mr Waley, described by the Australian Dictionary of Biography as a man with classical features who, as a member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, affected ‘a jaunty nautical appearance’, sporting a straw boater hat, a flower in his buttonhole, a bow tie and a carefully arranged handkerchief in his pocket.

In the photograph below Mr Waley leans over the back of a carpet draped chair.  The carpet, used in other portraits from the same, unknown, studio, lends the image a touch of Orientalism which may have been a reference to Mr Waley’s association with the Burns Philp shipping company.  The studio numbers on the image indicate that the standard portrait (without hat or carpet) was taken first and the portrait in the straw boater last, perhaps in preparation for departure from the photographer’s studio.

Mr Waley, born in London, settled first in Queensland as the first secretary to Burns, Philp and Co. Ltd and later moved to Sydney. He was later known as a colliery manager and businessman. In 1887 he married Edith Maude Woolcott, daughter of a solicitor at Yarra Flats in Victoria and added the Woolcott name to his own.

Mr Woolcott-Waley was active in politics and charity work. He was made a Commander of the British Empire and awarded the British General Service Medal. He was also Knight Bachelor and also a Knight First-class of the Order of St. Olav, granted by the King of Norway in recognition of his services as Vice-Consul for Norway in Sydney.

In 1919, he and Lady Waley presented their country home, Mowbray Park at Picton, to the Commonwealth Government as a permanent home for shell-shocked and permanently incapacitated sailors and soldiers. Mr Woolcott-Waley also gave assistance in the equipment of the ship, Discovery, for Scott’s last attempt to reach the South Pole.




Tyrrell Collection, 85/1286-1181, 85/1286-1180,  85/1286-1504

No known copyright restrictions

Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian

Magnavox horns

July 29th, 2014 by


This photograph of four Magnavox horns with amplifier is one of 22 photographic prints depicting early radio and phonographic equipment donated to the Museum by Magnavox Australia Pty Ltd  in 1971. Magnavox is an American electronics company with nearly 100-year history, founded by the inventors of the dynamic horn loudspeaker, Edwin S. Pridham (1881–1963) and Peter L. Jensen (1886-1961).

Photographer unknown

No known copyright restrictions

The Hollywood Rhythm Girl

July 28th, 2014 by


This photograph from the Tom Lennon photographic collection was taken in Sydney on 23 April 1935 on the deck of a luxury ocean liner SS Mariposa.

It pictures an American singer Betty Lorraine with a piano accordion player from the Sunny Brooks’ band.

Brooks was brought to Australia by the Australian Cabaret and Amusement Corporation to play at the New Palais Royal at Moore Park. The newspapers from that time advertised his band as ‘Sunny Brooks and his Hollywood Orchestra’ whilst Betty Lorraine was described as “The Hollywood Rhythm Girl”.

Tom T. Lennon, was a commercial photographer with a studio at 64 Victoria Road, Drummoyne. At the time that this photograph was taken, Tom Lennon was the official photographer for Australian Dance Band News. Powerhouse Museum  purchased Tom Lennon Archive in 1994.

Photograph by Tom Lennon, 94/63/1-44/9

No known copyright restrictions

Cumberland Street, 1901

July 25th, 2014 by


The dreamlike atmosphere of the detail above belies the history and purpose of the photograph from which it is taken. The original photograph is part of the 1901 Rocks Resumption Photographic Survey. Following an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1900 The Rocks in particular was identified as a source of contagion because the disease was carried by fleas on the rats which came ashore from ships. The state government resumed the whole of the area around Darling Harbour and many buildings, including residences, were demolished.

More information about The Rocks can be viewed on The Dictionary of Sydney website.



Tyrrell Collection, 85/1286-2575

No known copyright restrictions


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