This image shows steamers on the Hawkesbury River to the north of Sydney. The inscription on the image reads 'Peats Ferry, Hawkesbury River, N.S.W, May 1st, 1889'. This date was an historic occasion – the opening of the railway bridge across the Hawkesbury.
The image shows a large crowd of people waiting to board a paddle steamer. An account of the day reads: 'After the formal opening the guests were invited on board the steamers in waiting at the Hawkesbury wharf, and an opportunity given them of seeing the bridge from the river, and of enjoying the glorious river scenery'.
The ferry itself is probably the small steamer in the middle of the image. Both boats are flying American flags in honour of the Union Bridge Company of New York, USA, which had constructed the bridge.
The ferry, operated by local settler, George Peat, had provided the means of crossing the river at Mooney Mooney Point from the early 1830s. The service ceased with opening of the railway bridge on 1 May 1889.
Ref: Charles Povter, Government Printer, The Opening of the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge, Celebration at the Hawkesbury, 1 May, 1889.
This photographic negative was taken by the Sydney based photographer Henry King. It is part of a collection of over 1300 glass plates taken between 1880 and 1917, although most appear to have been made in the late 1880s and 1890s
King was one of the Colony's most significant early photographers and although born in England around 1855 grew up in Sydney. He found work with the well-known Sydney photographer J. Hubert Newman and in 1880 established a studio in partnership with William Slade. Four years later he was sole proprietor.
King quickly established a reputation for himself due to the high quality of his finished work. While King's income, like many other photographers, was dependent on portraiture he, like Kerry, is best known for his outdoor work. These views, particularly his city views, are justifiably praised and seem more carefully framed and printed than Kerry's. Outdoor views of Sydney make up the main bulk of King's work in the collection although, like Kerry, he took a series of photographs of the Jenolan Caves using magnesium flares.
Henry King died aged 68 in Waverley War Memorial Hospital on 22 May 1923 following abdominal surgery
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, December, 2008
King, Richard, Australian Dictionary of Biography - Online Edition
Josef Lebovic, Henry King, 1855 - 1923, auction catalogue, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Paddington, Australia, date unknown
Newton, Gael, Shades of Light; Photography and Australia 1839 - 1988, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1988