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87/1019-7 Photographic print, mounted stereoview of Post Office George Street Sydney, paper / albumen / silver / ink, published by William Hetzer, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1860-1863. Click to enlarge.

Post Office, George Street, Sydney

  • 1860-1863
This photograph of the old Post Office in George Street was published in one of the later sets of William Hetzer's stereoviews. The long exposure time could however suggest an earlier date. It is also possible that the photograph was taken by a different photographer, or was even possibly a deliberate ploy by Hetzer to emphasis its instantaneous nature.

The photograph was taken early in the morning, as we can see awnings are still being erected along George Street. On the steps of the Post Office groups of people have gathered, presumably to get some shade from the sun. A few doors up form the Post Office, at 392 George St, was the premises of the most respected, and long lasting photographic establishments, in Australia, Freeman Brothers. Just below the Post Office (and on the left of this photograph) were the business premises of William Harbottle, Oilman, at 382 George St.

In 1850 William Hetzer arrived in Sydney, with his wife Thekla, where they immediately set up a photographic studio at 15 Hunter Street. Hetzer initially specisalised in calotypes but soon adopted the new collodion based positive/negative processes, like the ambrotype and albumen prints, which were appearing in the early 1850s.

In 1858 Hetzer embarked on what is now his best known enterprise, the publication of a set of 36 albumen prints taken with a stereo-view camera. The success of the first series encouraged Hetzer to keep publishing Sydney views and by 1859 he had over a 60 different views. Hetzer's views of Sydney - "... its harbour, principal buildings, streets and neighbouring scenery, &c." were among the earliest outdoor photographs taken in Sydney. The sets sold well and Hetzer continued to publish sets of stereo-views of Sydney and its harbour, right up until 1863.

In 1867, Hetzer left Australia and returned to England, auctioning off his photographic equipment, and about 3500 registered negatives, to the photographer Joseph Degotardi.

For more information please see attached Powerhouse Museum Theme, 'Early Photographs of Sydney by William Hetzer.'

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, October 2008


Object No.


Object Statement

Photographic print, mounted stereoview of Post Office George Street Sydney, paper / albumen / silver / ink, published by William Hetzer, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1860-1863

Physical Description

Photographic print, mounted stereoview of Post Office George Street Sydney, paper / albumen / silver / ink, published by William Hetzer, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1860-1863

A stereoview photographic print consisting of two black and white images that have been taken simultaneously. The prints have been mounted next to one another on a card. The images show the Post Office, a colonnaded sandstone building, on George Street in Sydney. Canvas awnings can be seen in front of several buildings down from the Post Office. There are several groups of people on the footpath and in the middle of the street. A horse and carriage can be seen in the foreground. An oval shaped trademark can be seen impressed into the front of the mount to the right of the images. There is handwritten text on the back of the mount.


Text in impressed trademark on front of mount reads 'W HETZER / SYDNEY'. Handwritten text on the back of the card reads 'Post Office [George Street]'.



175 mm



  • 1860-1863


A stereo photograph is comprising two photographs, one taken as the left eye sees the view and another slightly offset as the right eye would see a view. These photographs are mounted on a card which is then fitted into a viewer. The viewer allows the brain to superimpose the two images, imitating the three dimensional stereovision of the human eye.

Stereo photographs are essentially the combination of two inventions of the 1830s. Sir Charles Wheatstone announced the first of these in 1838; it was an optical viewer that could combine two specially developed three-dimensional drawings that took into account the slight variation between the right and the left eye. The second occurred in 1839 when two different photographic processes, the 'daguerreotype' by Louis Daguerre and the 'Talbotype' or 'Calotype' by Henry Fox Talbot, were announced to the world.

In the 1840s Sir Charles Wheatstone began experimenting with Talbot's process which enabled him to place two slightly offset photographic images in his viewer. The success of these experiments inspired a Scotsman, Sir David Brewster, to announce in 1849 his modification of the stereo format, a portable viewing device called a lenticular stereoscope. It was Brewster's stereoscope which defined the standard for the new format and which was popularised from the early 1850s.

Geoff Barker, August 2009.

William Darrah, 'The World of Stereographs', W. Darrah, 1997
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, 'The History of Photography', Thames and Hudson, 1955, 253

Cite this Object


Post Office, George Street, Sydney 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 16 January 2021, <>


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