Thursday 23rd of September 2021

on the way to new south wales, australia, to see sheep farms, 1884...

Émile Wenz is barely 21 when he begins his journey from Reims to Australia, in 1884.

He is quite observant for a young man, taking notes and writing his impressions with attentive curiosity, a tad of naivety and a certain flair that can sometimes be lacking even from more mature writers. From time to time he is critical of what he sees, and shows a lack of deeper knowledge about places and things — but this knowledge, our present knowledge, is more up-to-date of course. His “Mon Journal” (My Diary) is about 75,000 words. Émile embarked on Normandie, a new ship for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, at Le Havre, to go to New York, his first port of call… We will follow some of his adventures, especially in Sydney and in country New South Wales, giving a neat impression of what these places were like then, in 1884, for a foreign visitor on a study tour of sheep farms, shearing and commerce for his father’s wool fabric business…


In 1882 the new vessel was laid down at Vicker’s Shipbuilding Company in Barrow-in-Furness in Great Britain. She was called Ville de New York. Progress continued during the year and by late October, time had come to launch the ship. She had a projected gross tonnage of over 6,000 tons – the largest ship in the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. At the time of the launch, the vessel had been renamed Normandie. The liner should have a service speed of over 15 knots to put France in the race for the prestigious Blue Riband of the Atlantic.

The speed provided other benefits than prestige. The French Government agreed to renew CGT’s mail contract because of the
Normandie’s speed. The annual subsidy was 5,480,000 French Francs. Shipping companies had realised long ago that profitable business was only possible with a mail contract from the Government.
The Normandie’s engines were indeed something special for the time. A safety precaution was installed, making the engines capable of running at a slow speed if one of them should fail to work. Many other liners had to stand still in such an event, or use old-fashioned sails if available.

On February 19th 1883 the
Normandie was ready for her trials. During these she managed to reach a very impressive top speed of 17.25 knots. CGT was delighted and gladly received her from the builders in Britain on the 27th. The French Line had advertised their new liner keenly, and for the maiden departure to New York from Le Havre on May 5, 1,066 people were on the passenger list. Upon arrival in New York it was evident that Normandie would not be able to capture the Blue Riband from the Guion Line’s Alaska. Nevertheless, the Normandie had proved a worthy competitor on the North Atlantic and the French Line was more than happy with her.

The first major accident for the
Normandie occurred in October the same year. When entering Le Havre after a crossing, she accidentally hit and sank the brig Alliance. Then the Normandie swung her bow away so quickly that it hit the Eastern Quay. Following this serious encounter, the CGT-liner was out of service until a new stem-girder could be available from Vicker’s Shipbuilding Company. On March 29, 1884, the girder had been delivered and put in place, and the Normandie could re-enter service. 

Émile leaves Reims on Wednesday 4th of June 1884… 

So here I am, on Wednesday June 4, at six o'clock in the evening, saying, for a long time to come, my last goodbyes to Reims. Three hours later, I am in Paris, and the next day in Le Havre. I was to embark for New York on Normandie. It is the largest and newest ship of the Transatlantic Company; its construction is of the latest technique: first-class passengers are in amidship cabins, before the machinery, so that they do not have to feel the vibrations of the propeller nor get the soot from the chimneys; these minor inconveniences were reserved for second-class passengers. At the very front, under the foredeck, are housed emigrants, numbering about two hundred.

The departure was set for Saturday, June 7, at eight o'clock in the morning; but on Friday evening, using permission granted to all passengers, I took possession of my cabin and wanted to spend the night on board. My father stayed with me until the last moment; but I don’t think he slept well that night, for he was terrified of not waking up in time and being taken unwillingly to America. He was however awakened, even sooner than he would have liked, by the noise of sailors starting to clean the deck at four in the morning. At six o'clock the special train from Paris brought in new passengers, and at that time I had the pleasure of finding among those who were already on board, a friend who was going to spend a few months in the United States. At quarter to eight, the ship-bell prompted passengers' friends who did not want to accidentally make the trip to return to shore. I finally took leave of my father. Eight o'clock stroked and the last whistle announced that we were about to leave: twenty minutes later, with two cannon shots, we saluted all those who had gathered on the pier to see us leave. I sent my farewell to my father as well, waving my handkerchief as long as I could see him in the crowd.

It was raining, and the wind was blowing quite strongly; but that was hardly enough to give a slight sway to a vessel of seven thousand horsepower and weighing six thousand two hundred tons: the morning went fine. But in the afternoon, the swells got longer, and the boat began to rock and roll a little more: the passengers disappeared one after the other into their cabins...

More to come

Translation by Jules Letambour.

See also: 
a bit of aussie wool and before drone photography...



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welcome to the crooked custom officers of new-york...

emile wenz


Émile Wenz (c 1890)


... (continued)


I admit it, I was not the last to go to mine, but I was not the first either. I had to spend the next day locked up; but on Monday, feeling a little lighter, I was able to get up and reappear on deck; I forgot about the troubles of the day before and, gradually getting used to the movement of the boat, I soon found myself as stable as an old sailor.

The other passengers also gradually come out of their lairs; This is the time when we start to get to know each other and organise games to pass the time.

It must be said that the sea has a lethargic effect on the body that no one can escape. The sway of the ship, the uniformity of a spectacle that is always the same in its incessant diversity, everything seems to harmonise to inspire in the most active person an invincible desire to sleep; we don't have to do anything, and the slightest effort seems painful. However, we have to find something to vary a little from the days that cannot be spent just eating and sleeping. So we had formed a circle of a dozen people: four young men, and, accompanied by their parents, some of those American young women whose frank cheerfulness contrasts so strongly with the exaggerated reserve that our education and our customs impose on our young girls. In the morning, we organised bets on the number of miles travelled since the day before, which the official post would show at noon (every day at noon, the corps of officers displayed the number of miles travelled in the last twenty-four hours ). After lunch, it's a game of Shuffle-board or Bull, always filled with surprise, disappointment, unexpected turns, the roll of the ship disturbing the combinations of the most skilful players. But nothing more charming than walks in the moonlight, on the bridge, in the evening, after dinner; we went, young girls and young men, admiring the phosphorescence of the sea, and that tranquil light which, falling from the sky, gave the ship, in the midst of perfect calm, a grandiose and important aspect. Twice we have had canvases stretched high above the deck, hung lanterns, and brought up the piano; three unmatched musicians, recruited from among the emigrants, completed an orchestra, which would perhaps have made our dilettanti roar, but from whom we only asked for tempo; on those evenings we would dance until eleven o'clock.

So the eight days passed in this calm crossing, during which we were hardly bothered except by a few short-lived fogs. We had to make a detour of two hundred miles to the south, to avoid the patches of ice descending from the polar seas, which had been reported when we left Le Havre.

Finally, on Sunday June 15, we began to realise that New-York was not to be far away.

"Apparent ravi nantes in gurgite visto". (the view appeared swimming in grey - rough translation)

On this immense expanse of water, we discovered a few ships. In the morning we had been able to make out the City of Rome a few miles away, one of the largest ships, if not the largest there is after the Great Eastern.

Around eleven o'clock, we took on board the American pilot, who had left New York four days before, and had waited for us in his pretty “schooner”, a hundred miles from the coast, to steer, as usual, our vessel as it entered the port.

However, before leaving Normandie, we would have liked to see with our own eyes the powerful soul that gave life and movement to this enormous carcass. So the chief engineer gave us permission and did himself the honours to his kingdom, we went down to visit the machines. There were thirty-two boilers there, employing eighty-eight stokers. It was a true pity to see these poor people in this kind of floating hell, receiving air only through a few meagre openings from thirty feet above them, and exposed to a constant heat of over fifty degrees (C). It was a kind of deliverance for us to come out of this furnace and take refuge in our cabin to get ready for the evening meal.

It was the “captain’s dinner,” the farewell meal, and the Company offered us champagne. We would have liked to dance; but the rather strong roll disturbed the balance of the vessel, relieved of its supply of coal, and we had to give up this project.

Monday June 15th. - At five o'clock in the morning, the silence of the machine woke me up, and I saw, through the porthole, that we were at the entrance to New York Bay, stopped barely a kilometre from a small island covered with lush greenery, from which emerged here and there a few charming-looking villas; it was Staten-Island. This is where, during the summer heat, intolerable in New-York, the inhabitants of the city come to take refuge and breathe a little.

We were waiting for high tide to enter the port. It was also necessary to undergo the visit of the health officer and three customs officers, who, solemn, with grey top hats, made us sign, under the declaration of an oath (I am exaggerating nothing), a statement by which most of us say we had nothing to declare. However, slowly advancing towards New York, we began to make out the tallest monuments, as well as the famous Brooklyn Bridge. We leave Governor’s island to our right; and at nine o'clock, thanks to the truly weird manoeuvre of half a dozen tugs pushing us aside, Normandie moored alongside the quay and finally dropped its passengers ashore.

A nice quarter of an hour, let's say better, a good couple of hours to go, before the time we got the pleasant visit of the customs, of the American customs! The customs officers look very respectable: they look like gentlemen; because they don't have a uniform; and their little straw hat is seen on the heads of all Americans. Alas! beware of appearances. Their first care is to find out whether the disembarking passenger is coming to America for the first time. They have, moreover, a very simple way of obtaining this information: if, before arriving to visit the last trunk, they did not feel around ten dollars slip into their hands, they know what to do with your luggage. Hold on, and beware of the last piece, whatever it is! It is on it that the birds of custom prey will pounce upon, and, if it contains only odds-and-ends of an old wardrobe, it will be necessary to pay dearly, and to pay more than dearly, perhaps forty or fifty percent the purchase value.

For my part, I had to buy twenty-two dollars the right to bring on American soil a camera that I had taken with me. Reckless me, who had refused to believe the accounts of other travellers, and to deposit under a garment a five dollar coin, which I would, out of the corner of my eye, skilfully point out to the customs officer! The rascal didn't just steal from me; he laughed at me, asking me if I intended to open a photographer's studio in New York: “Because then,” he added, “you wouldn't have paid anything; but since you didn’t set out to make any money with your device, it was only fair that your pleasure cost you something.” Ingenious reasoning, which I did not seek to refute, fearing to pay more. I hasten, only thinking of escaping from this mad den, to entrust my luggage to a commissionaire, an "express", as they say here; I will, with a few other passengers, take accommodation at the Hotel Saint-James, on Broadway, right in the center of town; and, from that first day, I set out to roam through New York.



More to come


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when general booth had invaded new zealand...


… and corruption made the Hawaiian government fall…. A bit of background…

Many people know that Hawaii joined the United States of America as the 50th state in 1959. But, many people do not know the political history of Hawaii before it became a state. Until 1894, Hawaii was ruled by kings and queens. Hawaii was united under a single kingdom for 80 years, from the reign of King Kamehameha to Queen Lili’oukalani. During this 80 year period, the rules of succession evolved a lot. Initially, people eligible to rule only included family members. Eventually, adopted sons and daughters were eligible to be rulers. In addition to adopted children, members of the noble class recognized by Kamehameha were eligible to become rulers too.

The Republic of Hawaii was established on July 4th, 1894. 

William Owen Smith

He acted as deputy attorney general, and was elected as a representative from Maui to the legislature of the Hawaiian Kingdom from 1878 to 1884. He helped draft the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii, which King Kalākaua was forced to sign, giving it the name "Bayonet Constitution". His law partner Thurston then became minister in the new cabinet.[8]

In the 1887 and 1888 sessions he was elected to the upper House of Nobles.

In 1892 he was elected as representative from Kauaʻi.[9]


He was a member of the Committee of Safety that organized the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 14, 1893. On January 17, he was appointed to the executive council (the new cabinet) of the Provisional Government of Hawaii under president Sanford B. Dole, the son of his former teacher. Dole's stepmother, Charlotte Close Knapp (1813–1874), was the widow of Smith's uncle Horton Owen Knapp (1813–1845), who had been a missionary teacher himself on Kauaʻi.[10] Smith was Attorney General of Hawaii from the creation of Provisional Government through the Republic of Hawaii.

On December 18, 1895 he became a member of the board of health, and later its president. He had no formal training except for having a father and brother as practicing physicians.[9]

Murder in the family

His brother Jared Knapp Smith was shot dead on September 24, 1897. It was suspected to be in retaliation for ordering patients suspected of leprosy to have tests that might send them to exile in Kalaupapa. Similar tensions had ignited the Leper War on Kaua'i four years earlier. His former law partner Kinney sailed to Kauaʻi island and was appointed special prosecutor. A native Hawaiian suspect Kapea Kaʻahea was arrested, tried on November 13, 1897, and found guilty of murder in the first degree.[11]

Instead of waiting for next scheduled term of the circuit court, a special session had been called. Honolulu English-language newspapers said "there seems no doubt of the guilt of the chief prisoner" even before the trial.[12] The objections brought to the Supreme Court of Hawaii were quickly rejected on February 3, 1898.[13] Kapea was hanged on April 11, 1898. The rushed nature of the prosecution was thought to be an attempt to show the United States that the government was in firm control. Only a few months later, in July 1898, the Newlands Resolution annexed the islands. Of the four executions for capital punishment between 1889 and 1903 in Hawaii, all four were of non-whites within a four-month period.[11]

Sanford Dole became the first president of the Republic. There was a brief effort in 1895 to restore the monarchy and Queen Lili’oukalani to the throne, but this effort was quickly ended. In 1898, a wave of nationalism was caused by the Spanish-American War. Because of these nationalistic views, President William McKinley annexed Hawaii from the United States. Hawaii’s statehood was deferred by the United States until 1959 because of racial attitudes and nationalistic politics.  In 1959, Hawaii’s status was linked to Alaska’s and both territories became states that year. It took 60 years from the time Hawaii became a United States territory until it was declared a state on August 21st, 1959.  A sovereignty movement still exists today among Native Hawaiians. The movement recognizes that the independent and internationally recognized government of the Hawaiian islands was illegally overthrown by the United States.  Native Hawaiians are the only group of indigenous people living in the United States who are not recognized as a separate nation by the government.  Instead, they are regarded as “wards” of the State of Hawaii.

Then Obama was born there, on 4 August 1961, only TWO YEARS AFTER HAWAII had been declared a US State… Phew!


By now you have guessed that young Émile Wenz is quite rich. His father’s business is very profitable, thus Émile travels first class… He can afford to be a tourist in many cities and beautiful locations like the Yosemite Valley. We’ll skip for the moment all his pleasant American adventures during which he would have taken many photographs of various sites. 

Émile finally travels from San Fransisco to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) on the steamer Mariposa


Émile tells us:

Once the Golden Gate [the one-mile-wide (1.6 km) narrows connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific] had been passed, we do not have to wait long to lose sight of the land, nor to see it again for seven days. Indeed, on the morning of Friday, August 8, we saw on the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, emerging above its blue and deep waters, the elongated back of Molokai island, one of the Sandwich group, soon sailing alongside the coast. This island is divided on all its length by a volcanic mountain chain, whose ridge is impassable; One needs to go by sea from one side of the island to the other. The North Coast of Molokai serves as a herding place for the lepers of the entire Hawaiian archipelago, whites or blacks, foreigners or nationals from Hawaii. The poor souls that are forced to live there are allowed to cultivate the earth, get married and even procreate in the leper strain.


The Mariposa belongs to J D Spreckels and Bros… So, who is Mr C. Spreckels?

Claus Spreckels: Robber Baron and Sugar King
Born in Lamstedt, Claus Spreckels settled in California and built a sugar empire that expanded into a multitude of sectors, including: transport, gas and electricity, real estate, newspapers, banks, and breweries.

Spreckels was more than a sugar king; he was interested in several other industries as well – mainly those necessary to bolster vertical integration. Starting with his Hawaiian sugar business, he financed the shipping line J.D. Spreckels & Bros. in 1879, which was incorporated as the Oceanic Steamship Company in 1881. It was the first line to offer regular service between Honolulu and San Francisco, and his sons managed to reduce travel time immensely. The sailing ship “Claus Spreckels,” made the trip in less than ten days in 1879, but the new steam vessel “Mariposa” required fewer than six days to make the run in 1883.[38] The family enterprise controlled the sugar trade and, from 1884, the mail service on the San Francisco-Honolulu stretch as well. In 1885, steamer service was extended to New Zealand and Australia, and the Oceanic Steamship Company remained an important factor for the Spreckels’ raw sugar supply until it was sold in 1926.

But the family idyll was shattered again and again. In 1884, his son Adolph attempted to kill the proprietor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Michel de Young, because of a press campaign he began in 1881 that criticized and denounced Claus Spreckels’ Hawaiian affairs.[60] Injured during the shooting, Adolph was arrested and later acquitted on account of “neuralgic headache.”[61]

Yes, Spreckels was not averse to a bit of corruption on a large scale…
Influencing politics: “Behind It All,” Spreckels as puppeteer of the Hawaiian Commissioner and Commission. Political cartoon from Judge Magazine, Volume 24, No. 592, February 18, 1893.


From the Sandwich Islands, after a brief sejour, (our hero by now) Émile Wenz, embarks on the City of Sydney on his way to Australia. His descriptions of various activities he observes are amusing and in some way quite cutting. In San Francisco, for example he noted how firemen "in their underpants “jump” from their beds into their cart, directly in their allocated seats, and put their clothes on — boots, trousers, shirt, protective overall — on the way to the fire…"

In the Sandwich Islands he observes the influence of America’s entertainment industry on the place. Not Hollywood yet, but a nifty caroussel:

This market is in fact a Tower of Babel: Hawaiians, Chinese, Malays are all mixed up and fill the air with cacophonous sounds of their various idioms.

A little distance away an American decided to set up one of those wooden horse carousels, so famous at European fairs. The pleasure that the natives take in this game is truly indescribable. Particularly on Saturday evening, after the market, men and women, dressed in their festive clothes and covered with feathers and flowers of all colors, come to fill the seats; It’s a real assault, and it often takes a long time before whoever has seized a mount agrees to let it go. The most enraged stay all evening. and it is with great difficulty that the owner manages to get them down, when the time comes to close up shop.


I had hoped that the City of Sydney, which was to take me to Australia, would not arrive until the next day; but at half past ten in the evening it was signaled, and as soon as it was moored I had to go and take my place there. I would lodge in a cabin on the deck; I should be alone there and especially enjoy an impeccable ventilation, a fairly significant advantage when you cross the equator.

At one in the morning the boat sets off again, and when day broke the land was already hidden from our eyes, we were only surrounded by the immense and calm expanse of the sea.


The Steamer City of Sydney was run by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, it had been built in 1875, dismantled by the 1930s.  

Pacific Mail SS Co.

The Pacific Mail Steamship Company was founded in 1848 by William Aspinwall of the firm of Howland and Aspinwall to execute a contract to carry mail from the Isthmus of Panama to the newly-annexed territory of California. Fortuitously for Aspinwall and his fellow investors, Pacific Mail was ideally positioned to cash in on the Gold Rush of 1849. As a result of this and the high quality of its service, the company became both an important part of the history of the American West as well as one of the most profitable enterprises of its era, with an annual return on investment that ran as high as 30%. Within five years of its inception, the company was running 18 steamers and it peaked at 23 in 1869. In that year, however, the completion of the transcontinental railroad foretold the end of the high profits of the Panama-California route. PMSS also neglected to keep up to date technologically and began to suffer from competition from other companies, especially the Occidental and Oriental SS Company. For a time, the line survived on subsidized mail contracts to Australia and New Zealand, but when it lost those it was soon forced to accept a takeover by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1893. In 1912, Congress banned ships owned by railroads from using the Panama Canal, so Southern Pacific sold PMSS to the Grace Line, which operated it as a subsidiary under its traditional house flag from 1916-25. It was then taken over by Robert Dollar & Co., which merged PMSS into its own operation, although it, too, continued to use the old name and flag on occasion. With the government bail-out of the Dollar Line in 1938, ownership passed to American President Lines, but by this time PMSS essentially existed only on paper. It was formally closed down in 1949 after just over a century of existence.


city of sydney

Glass plate negative, half plate, depicting the six-masted barquentine 'City of Sydney' at anchor in Snails Bay and the North Shore of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, unattributed studio, 1910-1920, part of the Tyrrell Collection

• 1910-1920
This image from a glass plate negative produced between 1910 and 1920 shows the six-masted barquentine 'City of Sydney' at anchor in Snails Bay, Sydney. The vessel was built as a US passenger ship for the Pacific Mail SS Co. in 1875. She was later sold and converted to a six-masted barquentine, eventually laid up for some years and then sold in 1929 for scrapping. Alongside the 'City of Sydney' are four timber lighters in varying stages of load, Two small tugs, owned by Daley & Co., can be seen with one near the bow and the other alongside a timber lighter.

At the rear above the sailing ship's stern can be seen the Long Nose Point shipyard of Morrison & Sinclair. The large buildings above the bow are the North Shore Gas Co.'s gas works and coal store at Oyster Bay, Waverton, near North Sydney, while one of the small work boats operated by Nicholson Brothers of Balmain is almost out of the picture in the foreground.

Graeme Andrews OAM, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences volunteer under the supervision of Margaret Simpson, Curator, September 2015

This photograph is one of 795 photographic negatives taken by unknown photographers between the late nineteenth century and 1935. They are part of a larger collection of 7,900 negatives once owned by Sydney bookseller, James Tyrrell.

Included in this section of the collection is a wide variety of subject matter including Sydney Streets, New South Wales landscapes, World War I portraits and images of the Harbour Bridge from the early 1930s. While many of these images remain unattributed at present, it is likely that some were taken by Charles Kerry and Henry King and were either copied by Tyrrell or one of these photographers at a later date.

Some of the photographs from Papua New Guinea appear to have been taken by Reverend Lawes and these may have been a part of the selection acquired by King in the 1890s. David Millar in his book on Charles Kerry also comments on how Tyrrell's purchase from Kerry contained a number of World War I portraits and these seem likely to be the ones in this part of the Tyrrell collection.

However other photographs, like those of Sydney Harbour Bridge, were taken after both Kerry and King had died and must have been later acquisitions by either Tyrrell or Australian Consolidated Press.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, December, 2008


Émile continues:

So when we arrived in Auckland, our watches were twelve hours behind Paris, which itself is twelve hours behind Auckland; This is how we saved a full day, and from August 21 noon we abruptly changed to August 22 noon.
This apparent sacrifice of a day did not strike us as too unpleasant; for the weather had gotten worse and worse as we approached the shores of New Zealand; many of the passengers had not shown up for two days. All day August 23 we had a strong headwind which reduced our speed from twelve to five knots per hour.


The first thing that strikes our eyes, and especially our ears on the platform, is a detachment of the Salvation Army, filling the air with cries, of Alleluia, to the sound of tambourines and bass drums. I did not know until then that General Booth had sent his soldiers to the Antipodes. But we have to believe that his apostolate no longer knows limits nor distances. It was Sunday; that is, it was not the best time to visit the city; because the inhabitants of Auckland are almost all stiff Scots, and, with the exception of the cabarets [pubs], which one would have believed otherwise hermetically closed, but which in reality were filled with whisky drinkers, all the shops were shut and all the streets were deserted.

So we spent our afternoon taking a look around, from the top of Mount Eden, an extinct volcano that rises behind the city.

We spend the rest of our day wandering the too quiet streets of the city. To see these European houses, these gardens designed in the English style and planted with willows, one would imagine oneself in a small town in Great Britain: but the old-fashioned shape of men's hats and the old-fashioned cut of women's dresses, along with the tattooed faces of a few Maoris, wrapped in dirty blankets, reminded us that we were not far from the other side of the world.

However, the City of Sydney had not stopped loading coal, and by eleven o'clock in the evening we were once more on our way, rounding the north of the island, heading straight for Sydney.


Friday August 29. - After five days of an unpleasant crossing, we began to see the Australian coast….

More to come (translations by Jules Letambour)

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a young girl, prissily raving on into a telephone...

GPO sydney

Émile Wenz continues:

As we progressed, a breach emerges amongst the high walls of rocks: this is the entrance to Port Jackson, the bay of Sydney. The cliffs take an increasingly wild and jagged appearance, threatening to shatter any vessels that inadvertently miss the narrow passage that opens between them, but on the other side is an hospitable waterway that stretches more than ten miles into the land, and forming a large number of smaller bays. The fleets of all countries could meet here, and they would find, at the same time as a very safe shelter, enough space to place themselves there all at once, not that the main surface was very large, but the contours of its edges are so twisted that in a straight line it would extend over a length of several leagues. Moreover, the shores of Sydney Bay, covered with lush greenery and lined with pretty villas, offer a resplendent landscape to the eyes. Travellers agree that Rio-de-Janeiro Bay alone can be compared to Sydney Bay; and undoubtedly I found those of San Francisco and Auckland not as beautiful, the charm of which had nevertheless captivated me.

Finally, around one o'clock, I could set foot on the Australian soil and shake hands with a few friends, whom I had not seen since the end of their stay in Europe, that is to say several years ago. Thanks to them, I was already assured of a good sojourn in Sydney. That same evening, my black penguin suit found an opportunity to take some fresh air: it needed it, gladly, after having been squeezed at the bottom of a trunk for more than two months.

It was not without feeling a certain satisfaction, moreover, that I found myself in a city the disposition of which was more varied than that of these American cities, weird and new at first sight, but monotonous somewhat, by force of resembling each other. Sydney indeed, due to the conformation of the ground (because the city extends over ten small promontories), could not maintain the strict parallelism of its streets, and this is precisely one of the charms of the city. The streets are very animated, there is no shortage of beautiful stone buildings: the Land Office, the Stock Exchange, the Post Office are buildings which many of those we see in Europe could easily compete with. I will admit, however, that the bas-reliefs that adorn one of the façades of the "Hôtel de la Poste" [GPO] did not appeal to me. Without wishing to affect too much Puritanism with regard to an art which, however, it must be recognised, is more in line with antique draperies than to the French-style of clothing, and without wishing to deny the rights of the modern artist, It is possible to find at least strange the inspiration of the sculptor who devoted his talent to represent a postman giving a letter to a family of colonists, or to a young girl, dressed in the latest fashion, in the process of prissily raving on into a telephone.

Saturday August 30 was a big day for the people of New South Wales; it was their grand prix, their own Derby. It was a good opportunity for me to see a lot of people, as many owners flocked from inland to attend this horse meet. In a country, in fact, where, by the very nature of things, everyone is necessarily a connoisseur and user of horses, everyone takes great interest in racing. Besides, the weather was wonderful; it was still the end of winter; even summer in France does not have many such beautiful days. When it comes to horses, almost all of them seemed remarkable and very capable of competing for first prize against favourites at Longchamps and Epsom.

The next day, Sunday, the weather had changed: a hot wind was blowing, raising clouds of dust in the streets. We were nevertheless able to spend some time visiting the Domain, this large park which embellishes several small bays, and in which is enclosed a botanical garden which is admired by all foreigners; because of admirable collections of tropical plants, which grow in the open air, have been brought together and been acclimatised there. On the way back, we walked along the Circular Quay, along which the magnificent steamers of the Maritime messengers, the P and O C.y (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company) and the Orient Line awaited their departure date to return to Europe.

However, I had to draw a precise schedule of my Australian campaign; I therefore decided that I would stay two more days in Sydney, then I would leave on Tuesday, with a friend, for the Blue Mountains; the following Thursday, I would be back, and I would leave, but this time alone, four days later, to see the interior of the country, to learn about sheep breeding, and to attend the shearing which was to take place at this time of the year.

more to come.

Translation by Jules Letambour

See also: a bit of aussie wool and before drone photography...



a nifty zigzag...

Émile Wenz continues his rather quick Australian journey:


So on Tuesday September 2 [1884], at nine o'clock in the morning, we left by rail for Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. After Parramatta station, where the river of the same name begins to form the wide estuary through which it flows into Port Jackson, we soon find ourselves in the countryside.

The famous eucalyptus trees soon show up, and the number only increases as one moves further into the interior. In my opinion, the eucalyptus is not a very beautiful tree: its trunk, covered with a smooth bark and an ash grey, divides and subdivides into bare branches which all tend towards the sky and each ends in a tuft, slightly flattened at the top, the foliage of which resembles that of laurel. There are more than sixty different species; but it is quite difficult to tell them apart when they are no longer shrubs. Eucalyptuses are always green; on the other hand, their bark falls off every year. - In short, the countryside would be quite monotonous, if a few orange groves did not come from time to time to brighten it up a little.

We finally arrive at the foot of the Blue Mountain range. The slope which leads to the summit is quite steep, but the train takes it, not without twisting in many zigzags. However, we did not arrive until the evening at Blackheath; for at Faulconbridge we had the fancy of stopping to visit the fine estate of Sir Henry Parkes, the "Gladstone" of New South Wales, with whom I had had the honour of traveling from Honolulu to Sydney; so we had to take the next train.

It was freezing cold* when we arrived at Blackheath: luckily we found a neat little hotel there, where we could conveniently spend the night. The next morning, we left at nine o'clock by a freight train: travellers have indeed this resource which compensates for the insufficiency in the service which is specially intended for them; you have to be content with a standing room only in a van the springs of which are not always very soft. We go back down the mountain on the other side the same fashion we went up. But for this zigzag descent, we had to recourse to very important engineered works, which were very well executed. Several large viaducts have been built, and the train has to change direction several times, moving sometimes forward, sometimes backward. This railway is, to tell the truth, the greatest curiosity of the Blue Mountains; for the landscape keeps almost always the same character. Nowhere have we seen it better than from Govett’s jump (Govett's leap). The path leading to it, bordered by thick bushes, suddenly ends at the top of a rock. From there, we dominate a dark and winding valley, which emerges as far as the eye can see between mountains, the lower part of which, covered with thick forests, slopes relatively gently; but suddenly they are transformed at their top into a wall of rocks which raise their vertical and striated walls towards the sky. The bottom of this abyss is inaccessible, and no one has ever come down to it. Here and there, a few streams of water will get lost in the valley, while on the bottom of this landscape a light bluish veil, which justifies the name given to this part of the mountain range which runs along the entire eastern coast of the Australia. From time to time, the silence which reigns around us is disturbed by a sort of great burst of laughter; this is the cry of the laughing-jackass, a bird quite common in this area.


More to come.


* Gusnote: the Blue Mountains in September can be freezing cold, foggy and snow isn't uncommon. It is likely that Émile did not have much time to visit the mountains, nor had the luxury of a car/cart — and having to walk to Govett's Leap and back would take a few hours in itself. Thus we suspect he did not visit the famous Three Sisters site, which would take a few hours there and back on foot, from the Katoomba station. As well there are more than 700 species of Eucalyptus thus time and seasons are needed to appreciate their various flowers and foliage. One sees the mountains "from the top", as they are not mountains like europeans would see, but deep valleys carved by rivers in a plateau about 1,000 metres high above the sea level. The drop from top to bottom is about 700 metres, with the cliffs being from 100 to 300 metres high.


The zigzag railroad has been replaced by a series of tunnels and the old system of zigzag is still open as a touristic attraction. A few bush tracks, ladders, stairs have been added to go to the bottom of the valleys for hikers, but there is not a single week, that one or two of them does not get lost in the difficult maze, and need to be rescued by chopper...


The laughing-jackass can be seen at:



blue mountains



See also:


Translation by Jules Letambour




awaiting for jules....

And while we wait for our friend Jules Letambour to translate more of the “Mon Journal —Voyage  Autour du Monde” by Émile Wenz, let’s make a detour via the Sydney GPO and discuss a few of his others observations. First regarding Eucalyptus, though Émile did not like them too much, they are in general an efficient tree that will survive bushfires, drought, floods and will flower at any time of the year, depending on weather conditions, such as rain and heat — though it seems these trees sense the climatic conditions to come, but we don’t pay much attention as to their very unregular cycles. 

Eucalyptus flowers (picture by Gus)


The Sydney Post Office:

Looking at the elegant colonnades, Italian Renaissance Palazzo style, and sandstone carvings that define Sydney’s GPO, it’s hard to believe Australia’s mail delivery services grew from convict beginnings. 

The first post office was run from the George street home of Isaac Nichols, a former convict. He served as Australia’s first postmaster from 1809, until his death 10 years later, when the post office was relocated to the site the GPO occupies today, on the corner of George Street and Martin Place.

But as the population and ground to be covered expanded, the demand for a bigger post office grew. So, in 1862, the colonial architect James Barnet was given the task of designing the future headquarters of the colony’s communication. According to Laila, it would be the most important building of his entire career.

Post office an enduring centrepiece

Despite the fact that the tank stream (the city’s main supply of drinking water) ran beneath the foundations, the first stage of the GPO was completed before its opening on 1 September, 1874. The structure’s iconic clock tower was added when the second phase of building began five years later. 

“It was built in a style based on the principles of classical architecture, so it’s got arches, colonnades, and there are lots of really beautiful, fine carvings*,” says Laila. “It’s got the big expanse in front of it, which is Martin Place, so people could go there and promenade in front of it, so there’s a very strong public space element.”

Historically, the GPO was a popular meeting place for Sydneysiders, much in the same way it is today. Various restaurants, shops and a hotel, as well as an Australia Post, fill the space where the state’s communications were once coordinated.

Read more:

*Some of the sculptures adorning the Sydney GPO are borderline on being cartoonish… But, according to Gus, this seems to have been deliberate. It would have been a liberation through a slightly mocking expression of the modern world, without looking like an old new world movement. These sculptures seem to reflect the unique larrikin spirit of the nation and the sculptor(s) would have enjoyed this freedom which recalls the non-secular naive sculptural style on romanesque churches of the middle ages with a modern twist, which can be seen in many of the cartoons of the times. 

And god sends us the plague, again…

On the George Street side of the building, the “statues” have the roman/greek robes but modern oversized heads. To a great extend, the weirdo style of these “panels” above the arches have been glossed over by art historians, for their near hidden satirical design, alongside the more serious ubiquitous Queen Victoria and the symbols of the British Empire, the Lion and the Unicorn… My friend Fred (Freddo) Smith had already captured a few impressions:

Some GPO Sculptures on George Street side

lion and unicorn
Lion and Unicorn sculptures on George Street side

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria

Cartoonish sculptures on the Pitt Street side.

The GPO has been taken over by a hotel and various shops. A small post office still operates on the George Street side. Mail sorting operations have mostly moved to new amenities in Cleveland Street, Redfern.

Inside the lobby of the hotel

the colonnade
The impressive colonnade

Below: the zigzag train (picture by Gus). Some of the old line disconnected from the main line, and old loco not used in the touristic attraction:
old zig

Read from top.


ichtation here!...

Here is more of Émile Wenz 's travel diary as translated by Jules Letambour:

Thursday September 4.— The first train takes us in the direction of Sydney; on the way, we stop to go and enjoy some more beautiful views, through these valleys which, here again, all look alike. In the evening we were back in town.


Time passed quickly until the following Monday; there was no lack of distractions, balls or dinners; for the merrymaking season was still in full swing*, and the sheep shearing season, with the many occupations it entails, had not yet begun. Finally, provided with good letters of recommendation, I embarked at eleven in the evening on a small boat, which reminded me rather, although it was still smaller, of those that serve the crossing between Calais and Dover.

I spent the night in the common cabin, where twenty or so men of a generally distrustful appearance, slept. The next day, at dawn, we arrived, after a splendid crossing, in Newcastle, a small port located at the mouth of the Hunter, and which is of no importance except for its large coal stores.

From Newcastle I took the train to Gunnedah, from where a coach was to take me to Bando. I noticed, during the trip, that Australian travellers were happy to show American traits without embarrassment; they unceremoniously put their boots in the nets, as we place our hats. On the other hand, the landscape that we were crossing was not lacking in interest: we soon found ourselves in the middle of the bush (this is what the Australian countryside is called), and we passed in turn thick forests of eucalyptus and some land cleared by fire, after having previously killed the trees by removing a ring of bark around the trunk (ringbarking).

In Gunnedah, I had an hour before the departure of the coach: I took the opportunity to discover what was an inland town. — Wide streets forming squares and between them, scattered around, some tiny houses in contrast to the wide streets. These houses are, for the most part, made of wood, and generally have only one ground floor; the roofs, almost always constructed of corrugated sheets of galvanised iron, often extend so as to form, on the front, a sort of verandah. They are occupied by shops of all kinds, where people from the neighbourhood come from time to time to make their provisions, or by branches of banks, where workers come to cash in the cheques with which they are paid, to then go and soak a large quantity of whisky in the neighbouring pubs. Here, stands a church built entirely of corrugated sheets; there, a school, where classes are held in the open air, under sheds. But time is short; I quickly go back to the post office where the coach is ready to go. The luggage has been tied up behind, the letter bags are in the trunk, the driver climbs into his seat, whips his horses, and off we go, taking a road that heads west.

We were five travellers, including a copper who gave me a rather annoying idea of ​​the brigade to which he belonged: he had a bottle under his arm, and he was so drunk that he had difficulty getting up to his place, and that on the way, when he had emptied the bottle, we were obliged to tie him up to prevent him from falling out.

The road we were following was traced through a thick forest of gum trees; but the night soon took away our view of the landscape. Finally, after several stops for rest and change horses, we arrived at a small inn, where I had to change coach, and around one in the morning, my new coachman dropped me off in front of a large gate, telling me that I had arrived. While I alight, the coachman takes letters left by the people of the station from a box affixed to one of the gate posts, and replaces them with those addressed to them. However, I could not see any houses in the vicinity, and the driver, after giving me some vague directions, moved away: loaded with my luggage, I nevertheless decided to go through the gate.

I walk along a gully that I could barely make out by the moonlight in front of which thick clouds kept passing. Finally, not without difficulty, after having traveled about a mile, I arrive at a place where the remains of the wood fire still gleamed; next to it was a cart from which I could hear someone snoring; I call; and all of a sudden I saw a head emerge from the cart that I thought I recognised, by the moonlight, as that of a Chinese: I asked him for directions in English, he did answer with a gibberish which I did not understand but could make something barely like "ichtation here!" while he was showing me a direction with his finger. It was enough though, I understood, and ten minutes later I knocked on the manager's door, who came in person to open it.

It was two o'clock in the morning, a singularly weird moment to introduce yourself to people! I was no less welcome, as soon as I presented my letter of introduction: without delay, I was taken to my bedroom, where I fell asleep quickly.

Wednesday September 10. — When I got up, rested from the fatigue of the long day before, the rain was pissing down. Everyone was delighted to see the water fall, and I guess that some of the people, in the excess of their joy, were getting wet on purpose by this beneficent rain, as we would hope to warm ourselves to the rays of a first spring sun. It was indeed gold for the inhabitants of the land which fell from the sky; because, for several months, it had not rained, and the drought soon decimated the herds. Talking about the flocks, as we know, it was mostly to see the sheep that I had undertaken this long journey, and I must hope that the reader will forgive me for treating the sheep of Australia like human characters and devote a few pages to them in this story.

at the pub

phil may's

Cartoons from The Inked-In Image book...

*Gusnote: the merrymaking activites in Sydney never stop really. There is always something to celebrate from Christmas to the Chinese New Year and all in between... including a fake Queen's birthday and of course the Melbourne Cup, though not officially in NSW...

See also:

Read from top. More to come





Shearing the rams 1890 Tom ROBERTS


Tom Roberts's Shearing the rams is a response to the nationalistic sentiment that developed in Australia during the late nineteenth century.




it's 1884, and the technique of wool shearing has changed a bit with the usage of power driven clippers, then electric clippers since then. But the atmosphere and the processes described in Tom Roberts famous painting are still valid, as described by Émile Wenz:






What Americans call "ranch", Australians call it a “run": it is a large area of ​​land that a rancher or a herding company has appropriated to raise sheep, cattle and horses. The station’s buildings include: the manager’s living quarters; he's known to his subordinates as the boss; the building for the employees; the building that will be used for shearing the sheep (shed), and the provisions stores: these group of housing makes up what is called the station. The run is divided by wire fences in large squares the sides of which are often several kilometres long; these squares are named paddocks. There, the cattle are distributed in numbers which vary according to the species of animals, the extent of the land, the nature of the soil and the drought of the country (in Bando, where the grass is quite abundant, and where there is on average 20 inches (inch) of rain per year, there is one sheep per acre (approx. 40 ares)

The sheep are left to fend for themselves in the different paddocks; there is no shepherd to guard them; only boundary-riders, the number of which varies according to the extent of the pastures. They are responsible for touring all the paddocks on horseback every day to inspect the fences and repair them if necessary. — They each live in very rudimentary houses made of bark, and they are often separated by a dozen kilometres from each other.

Shearing begins in Queensland in July. As one moves towards the south, contrary to what would happen in the Northern hemisphere, shearing time is staggered, and hardly begins until the end of October in the south of Victoria, and at the end of November in New-Zealand. This way the shearers can, when their job is finished in Queensland, find work in New South Wales, in Victoria, and then take the boat to New Zealand. On the mainland, workers who do not have horses travel on foot; by sunset, is it not rare to see people arriving at a station and ask for work, but if we have none to give them, we can at least offer them a shelter for the night: they are sundowners: a stick in hand, they carry on their backs a rolled up blanket, a pot and what is necessary for their modest household. The shearers are housed in a building made of wooden planks, where a cook that they pay altogether (usually a Chinese) cooks them dishes with meat provided by the station.

When the time for shearing comes, three or four men on horseback go out with dogs and bring back the sheep in herds of five to six thousand heads; it often takes them several days to bring them back to the shed, for a herd can only travel eight to ten miles a day, especially since we don't like to rush the animals before shearing: we fear that indeed the dust with which they would be covered and to minimise perspiration which would spoil the wool. The shed consists of a long covered wooden gallery, on each side of which opens a series of contiguous corridors which are perpendicular to it; on the other side, each of these series of corridors gives access to one of the parks surrounding the building. These pens contain the sheep which wait for their turn to come under the shearer's hands: but it is not always without difficulty that the animals are forced through the gates; for a flock of sheep, an open door is an obstacle to be overcome. In fact, as soon as the herd finds itself in the presence of a passage to cross, it begins to turn on itself, forming a circle which remains in place; the difficulty is to stop this continuous movement and to bring one or two animals into the park: then all follow. Two or three men are busy all day driving them from one park to another, and they have to resort to all kinds of means: sometimes they shout at them with the most bizarre cries, sometimes they frighten them by making sounds with a dozen lids of sardine cans they have pierced and gathered together on a ring of thick wire. Finally, in the middle of the wooden gallery, which we have mentioned, there are smaller parks called pans. The sheep are introduced there, a hundred at a time, when they have all entered the first parks, the shearers, who have their place in front of each corridor, come to take them, one by one.

The good workers take the first one that comes and waste no time in choosing their animals; the bad shearers on the contrary always avoid the sheep with felted fleece, those which have a lot of wool on the head, a big throat or hard wool; also the last sheep that remains has all the faults: we name it cobbler (caffut). The men work standing up, and do not tie the sheep, but hold them tight between their knees. The strength which they use is two to three times greater than that which is used in France. From time to time, one of the shearers can be heard shouting: Tar! (goudron). He has just cut a bit of flesh from the beast, and a kid, whose sole function is just that, runs up to brush the wound with a tar-coated brush.

 The shearer pushes the sheared sheep in the opposite corridor in front of him; there, an overseer examines the sheep, and, after judging the work, pushes them into the common lot, to which the corridor ends, tallying the sheep to each shearer's account; the workers are paid at the rate of 25 francs for a hundred sheep shorn. Each worker shears an average of 70 sheep in a ten-hour day. Some, however, shear 110 up to 120 sheep a day: generally those who shear the most animals are also those who shear them the best. Finally we drive all the sheep back to their paddock.
In regard to the fleeces, a kid picks them up and throws them on racks at the entrance to the last section of the shed divided by the corridors; there we get rid of the bad pieces and of the locks (lower quality of the fleece); then they are rolled up and passed over to the rack of the binder, when an employee is exclusively responsible for judging the fleeces and throwing them, according to their quality, into special graded bins. The wool from each bin is then wrapped in bales of about four hundred pounds (seventy to ninety fleeces) which are compressed under a dumping-machine, then are ringed, marked, and loaded onto large trolleys, that when full are towed by twelve oxen to the nearest railway station.





We end Émile’s story in his own words and give a brief summary of his next adventures:

Due to more rain (one inch), the shearing is delayed somewhat and the station-hands go hunting for kangaroos. Émile is a good horseman, but a poor shot. The station hands and Émile spend more than ten hours on horseback… A very tiring but enjoyable day during which no kangaroos got killed. 

On Monday 15 September 1884, Émile quits Bando and spend the night in a small inn by the side of the main "road" (track) — awaiting for the coach that passes through at 4 am… From Gunnedah to Scone to visit another station, Belltree, to Newcastle, then Émile arrives back in Sydney. From there he travels to Melbourne — having to change trains at Albury because the rail gauge is different in Victoria than that of New South Wales, a state of affairs that makes him snigger… In Williamstown, Port Philip Bay, Émile embarks on the Rome, a P&O ship on its way to Europe via Adelaide...

Bando station:

Comby feeder helps 6,000 acre Bando Station survive severe drought

Published 6th July 2018

Bando Station, located in Mullaley NSW, has been experiencing 2 years of a severe drought. Find out why farm manager James Bishop chose to invest Hustler’s new Super Comby feed out wagon with the optional grain feeding attachment… 

Running just under 6000 acres with a mixed operation of cattle, with a breeding herd of Herefords as well as Merino and Dohne ewe’s and breeding Lambs, and hardly a blade of grass in sight for his herds to eat, James Bishop is faced with enormous costs of needing to buy in feeds. To preserve his feeding budget, James has resorted to sourcing whatever feeds he can get his hands on hay, straw, rounds, squares, grain and even Almond hulls are part of the diet!

Thinking ahead, James saw the need to invest in a feeder that gave him the flexibility to feed out any feed type he could locate, but most importantly reduce the amount that is wasted. 

Feed Waste Reduction: 

Having the flexibility to feed hay into Flexifeeder troughs, and feeding directly into the fields has helped thanks to the tilting elevator allowing the operator to accurately place the feed without spilling over the edge of the troughs, and it gives the ability for the operator to determine how much the hay is teased apart. 

Being able to load the Almond Hulls directly into the wagon, along with bales enables the mix to be distributed equally in the feeding troughs without spillage or waste.

James spec’d his Super Comby with the optional grain bin, which distributes and even trail of grain over the hay for the sheep and he was impressed with the way that grain is not falling through the hay and getting lost which has cut wastage of grain to a minimum. 


“I was impressed with how it trails the grain across the top of the hay


It also enables him to dispense grain evenly straight into the field without having to feed hay, making for a multipurpose machine that is also saving him trips to the field.

The Grain Feed system has been designed primarily to deliver a measured amount of grain either on top or beside the feed or by itself and has an adjustable feed control unit.