In this rare 1860s photograph we can see displays from one of Australia's earliest zoological gardens. This was set up by Joseph Waller and William Beaumont at the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel in Botany in 1851. Later in the 1860s they opened more displays at Watson's Bay and it is one of these that has attracted the crowd of women we can see around it.
In the early 1850s technical developments and stereo photography combined to revolutionise photographs. During this period clear glass collodion negatives began to replace hazy paper ones and pushed the negative/positive process into the limelight. Glass negatives made it possible to produce multiple positive prints from one highly detailed negative, a massive improvement on the previously popular daguerreotype which was a one-off process. Not only were these new positive prints less likely to fade, but the time needed to take a photo had also decreased making it possible to count exposure time in seconds rather than minutes, increasing the number of things photographers could potentially capture with their cameras. These technical developments coincided with a craze for stereo photography that swept the Western world in the wake of the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851.
From the 1850s right through to the 1870s mounted stereoscopic photographs were immensely popular. It is estimated that millions were made in this period and were so popular they could be hired from shops for evening viewings and circulated the globe as gifts. There was a small lull in their popularity in the 1880s and 1890s but in the early 1900s large companies, like Underwood and Underwood and H. C. White, again began producing silver gelatin and lithographed stereoscopic images on a huge scale right through to the 1920s.
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, August 2009.
Ann Moyal, Koala, CSIRO publishing, 2008
William Darrah, 'The World of Stereographs', W. Darrah, 1997
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, 'The History of Photography', Thames and Hudson, 1955
(Additional remarks added by curator Des Barrett on 13/2/2013, after receiving the following information from Helen Waller on 10/2/1013. Hard copies of the documents have been placed in the Blue file for H9248-7).
"During the 1850's, William Beaumont and James Waller [not Joseph Waller, as it appears in the second line] were the proprietors of the 'Sir Joseph Banks Hotel' at Botany. It was a very popular venue for wedding parties and Sunday picnics and the colony's first zoo was established by William and James on the property adjoining the Hotel. They made further improvements and the Sydney Herald of 11th December, 1850, described the hotel garden as the most extensive in the vicinity of Sydney.
Plans were well underway for a conservatory and ball room. A riding school was established offering a course of four lessons for one guinea. At the end of a jetty, there was a bathing house with costumes for hire. Boats were also available. A.B. Spark's diary, 21st April 1851, records that he "rowed as far as Bowman's and Weller's [sic] Inn where we were entertained by the sight of a variety of beats and birds and a numerous assemblage of people amusing themselves, with a Punch and Judy to crown it all".
Crowds flocked to the hotel and it was estimated 5000 people visited the grounds on Boxing Day 1852".