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87/617 Photographic positive, ambrotype, hand-tinted, studio portrait of Mary Hyde (Mrs Simeon Lord), collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1854-1865. Click to enlarge.

Ambrotype of Mary Hyde (Mrs Simeon Lord)

  • 1854-1865
This beautiful hand-tinted ambrotype is a portrait of Mary Hyde and is a part of the 'Simeon Lord- Mary Hyde' collection of early colonial artefacts. Simeon Lord was a convict who went on to earn his freedom and become one of Sydney's pre-eminent businessmen. Mary Hyde was his wife but marriage to this important figure in Sydney's history was not Mary's sole claim to fame, as her life was equally remarkable, particularly given the restriction upon women in this period. She was born Mary Hyde, in England in 1779, and at the age of 17 was convicted of stealing clothing and was transported to Sydney in 1798, two years later.

Like the other 95 female convicts on the Brittania II, Mary was auctioned to be a servant, wife or hut-keeper for the males of the colony. In 1798 she met and started a relationship with a ship's officer, John Black, and gave birth to two of his children. She raised both children almost exclusively by herself as her husband was away for long periods before he eventually died on a voyage back from India, in 1802. His death was not officially acknowledged until 1804 and Mary continued on in the house and shop on the land leased in Black's name.

Sometime around 1805 Mary started a new relationship with Simeon Lord, an ex-convict and former business associate of John Black. Lord became step-father to Mary's two children and Mary became mother to a young girl Lord had adopted. In 1806 Mary bore the first of 10 children to Lord and together they earned enough to be counted among the richest in the colony. In 1814 their partnership became legal when Mary and Simeon were married at St Phillip's Church in Sydney. In the 1820s the family moved to 'Banks House' in the Sydney suburb of Botany near the site of their woollen factory.

In 1840 Simeon Lord died and under the terms of the will Mary, a woman, was made executor of the estate making Mary one of the wealthiest women in the colony. She continued to manage Lord's affairs after his death and employed many people in the Botany factory before it was closed by the flooding of her land as a part of the Sydney Water Board's development of the area. Mary took them to court to get compensation and four years later won the case and was eventually awarded over £15,000, a sum measured in the millions by today's standards.

Mary died in December 1864, leaving her estate to all her children in an attempt to ensure the daughters were treated equally and could manage their inheritance in their own right. Unfortunately this was not possible in the eyes of the law and the money passed into the hands of male heirs and husbands.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009

Mary Hyde, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Hyde
D. R. Hainsworth, 'Lord, Simeon (1771 - 1840)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, Melbourne University Press, 1967, pp 128-31, http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020114b.htm


Object No.


Object Statement

Photographic positive, ambrotype, hand-tinted, studio portrait of Mary Hyde (Mrs Simeon Lord), collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1854-1865

Physical Description

An ambrotype showing the portrait of an old woman seated in a studio setting. The woman wears a black dress with a full skirt and long sleeves. The dress has a lace collar and cuffs. She also wears a bonnet that ties under the chin. The woman rests her hands on arms of the chair she is seated in. The ambrotype has been tinted, with the material on the back and arms of the chair in red. The ambrotype is enclosed in a hinged case made from wood that has been covered in leather. The case opens to reveal the ambrotype on the right hand side. The ambrotype is framed in a rectangular brass mat. A glass panel sits over the top of the brass mat and another decorative brass frame sits around the outside of the glass. The opposite side of the case is lined with faded red velvet. On the outside of the case, the leather features an embossed decorative pattern. Two metal clasps on the side of the case allow it to be closed securely.



230 mm


60 mm



  • 1854-1865


In 1851 Frederick Scott Archer announced the discovery of a new photographic process that could adhere to glass. This was a major breakthrough in the story of photography for the process made clear highly detailed negatives form which multiple copies could be made.

The general public had become used to their photographic portraits being taken using a daguerreotype process which were displayed in a small glass fronted case. To compete with this trade a special kind of collodion process, known as the ambrotype was introduced. This was essentially the same as other collodion negatives except that once the exposure had been taken the emulsion on the glass was bleached to whiten it. When this bleached negative was placed in a case against a black background it formed a positive image which bore a remarkable resemblance to the daguerreotype except it had the added advantage of not being highly reflective.

Australia followed rather than set photographic trends but in the 1850s, the massive boom caused by the discovery of gold ensured it was very quick to take up new processes like the ambrotype. Over the 1850s the ambrotype replaced the daguerreotype as the preferred method of taking portraits but even in the late 1850s daguerreotypes were still being made for more conservative customers.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009

J. Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia, Third Edition, Institute of Australian Photography, Hong Kong, 1979
Michel Frizot, A New History of Photography, Amilcare Pizzi, Milan, 1998
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, A Concise History of Photography, Thames and Hudson, Germany, 1965
A. Davies and P. Stanbury, 1985, The Mechanical Eye in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne




The subject of the ambrotype, Mary Hyde was baptised on 19 February 1779 at Halesowen, Worcestershire. She married Simeon Lord after the birth of their fifth child at St Phillip's Church, Sydney on 27 October 1814.


Credit Line

Gift of Mr John And Mrs Lloyd Ramsay under the Australian Governments Tax Incentive for the Arts Program, 1987

Acquisition Date

26 May 1987

Cite this Object


Ambrotype of Mary Hyde (Mrs Simeon Lord) 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 14 April 2021, <https://ma.as/76858>


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