The Lashmar family, 1857–58: emigration, photography and family ties


When, in 2004, the National Gallery of Victoria purchased a mid nineteenth-century Australian family portrait taken by the South Australian photographer William Millington Nixon, the sitters’ names were unknown. It was not until a descendant saw the daguerreotype on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra in 2010 that the family was identified as the Lashmar family of South Australia.1Joanna Gilmour, Husbands and Wives, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2010. The exhibition ran from 6 May until 11 July 2010. The image could be positively identified because of the existence of another daguerreotype, taken at the same sitting, which is still in the possession of the Lashmar family (figs 1 and 2).2Thanks go to Ann and Wren Lashmar and Christopher Whittle, who have generously shared their knowledge about the Lashmar family. It was Christopher and his wife Janet (nee Lashmar) who in 2010 identified the sitters in the National Gallery of Victoria’s portrait when it was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

Portraiture, in all its guises, is very personal: it enables descendants to know what their forebears looked like, and to therefore recognise them, as with the Lashmar family. However, the Lashmar family portrait is more than just a likeness of a family. Even if the viewer does not know who the family in the portrait is, the work stands as a striking image of a colonial family captured by the photographic process of the daguerreotype. Emigrants’ letters occasionally refer to the sending and receiving of daguerreotypes, but the image described is rarely known to have survived. Likewise, photographs may survive, but the identities of the sitters are lost, as was originally the case with this portrait. We could only guess at who these people were and what their lives and experiences may have been.

The Lashmar family, 1857–58, when read in conjunction with surviving family correspondence, reveals a story of a family separated by emigration. As the years passed, the letters demonstrated the importance of a family portrait sent back ‘home’ that served to strengthen family ties and prompt memory. The invention of photography and its introduction into Australia not only provided the opportunity to record people and places, but in an age of emigration, it was an innovative and widely available medium by which families divided could obtain a true likeness of their loved ones. The sending and receiving of a photograph reinforced networks and social identities and confirmed the value of the relationship.3Elizabeth Edwards, ‘Photographs as objects of memory’, in Fiona Candlin & Raiford Guins (eds), The Object Reader, Routledge, London and New York, 2009, p. 339.

Invented in France in 1839 by the artist and chemist Louis Daguerre, the daguerreotype was the earliest viable form of commercial photography. The image was produced by exposing a light-sensitised sheet of copper that had been plated with silver, highly polished, and bathed with iodine fumes. Before the process was refined, several minutes’ exposure was required to produce a latent image, which was then developed with mercury vapour.4Anne-Marie Willis, Picturing Australia: A History of Photography, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1988, p. 5.

News of the medium was reported with great interest in the Australian newspapers. The first commercial photographer to work in the colonies was George Goodman who, after arriving from Britain in November 1842 with his photographic equipment, opened his daguerreotype studio in a room on the upper floor of the Royal Hotel, Sydney.5Prior to immigrating, Goodman had taken out a licence from the British daguerreotype patentee, photographer Richard Beard. Geoffrey Batchen, ‘Postscript. Antipodean photography: an itinerant history’, in Judy Annear (ed.), The Photograph and Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2015, p. 262. From its early appearance in Australia, photography was promoted as a way of sending portraits back ‘home’. In 1845 Mr W. Little of North Terrace, Adelaide, advertised that he had just succeeded in acquiring the ‘important art’ of the daguerreotype and that ‘parties who wish to send accurate likenesses to England, will probably be enabled to do so at a very trifling expense’.6‘Local news of the week’, South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, 30 Aug. 1845, p. 2.

Creating daguerreotypes was labour-intensive and their cost put them out of the reach of many. In the early 1840s in Australia a daguerreotype cost one guinea (£1 and one shilling), which was approximately a week’s wage for a labourer.7Lenore Frost, Dating Family Photos 1850–1920, Lenore Frost, Melbourne, 1992, p. 14. When the Lashmar family sat for their portrait in the late 1850s, the cost, including a case, was around £1.8‘Coloured daguerreotype portraits’, Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, 23 June 1855, p. 4. To put this cost into perspective, in 1857 a carpenter employed on a station could earn £100 to £130 per year, with food and lodging.9George Edward Pearce Serocold, letter to Charles Serocold, 4 Jan. 1857, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane, M1724/C1.1-31. Therefore the cost in Australia had halved by the late 1850s, making the medium more accessible to a wider range of people. However, the daguerreotype process produced only one positive image per plate. Therefore, each new image required another £1 to be spent.

At the time the Lashmar family portrait was taken, the father, Thomas Young Lashmar, was working as a butcher with his son John in Mitcham, now a suburb of Adelaide.10Lashmar family information provided by Christopher Whittle, 19 July 2016. Even with many mouths to feed, Thomas was prepared (and able) to part with at least £2 for the two daguerreotypes we know were purchased on that day in late 1857 or early 1858. Taken just before the more affordable and much smaller carte de visite was introduced into Australia in 1859,11Alan Davies & Peter Stanbury, The Mechanical Eye in Australia: Photography 1841–1900, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1985, p. 66. the Lashmar family daguerreotype was executed by William Millington Nixon, who at this time worked for the Duryea Brothers Studio, located in King Street, Adelaide.12‘Nixon, William Millington (1814–1893)’, Design and Art Australia Online, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/people/1484633?c=people>, accessed 8 Sep. 2016. Nixon went into partnership with the Duryea Brothers in 1858.

Due to the technological constraints of the photographic process of the time, the majority of portraits were taken in controlled studio environments or in itinerant photographers’ temporary set-ups. A visit to the photographer was an event that often required a degree of forethought. For such an occasion, Thomas and his wife Jane would have put considerable thought into how they and their children appeared. The family’s dress shows that they were most likely comfortably off, but their clothing lacks the fashionable cut and fabric quality (for example, silks and fine trimmings) of the clothes of a wealthy family.13See, for example, Thomas Glaister’s ambrotype, Family group, 1858, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, NGA 83.1161.

The Lashmar children wear garments that were probably made by their mother. The two older girls, Jane and Eliza, wear short and simple versions of their mother’s woollen dress, with pleats at the shoulder that are caught at the waist. Their pantaloons peep out below the hem of their dresses. Fanny wears a smocked dress, most likely a hand-me-down worn by previous toddlers in the family and Thomas, who at five is not yet breeched, wears a plaid dress. The oldest child, John, wears a pale coloured cotton jacket, probably purchased some years earlier, as it looks slightly too small for him. As a young adult, he wears a tie. Mother Jane wears a dress that she may well have made herself. As was usual at the time, the neckline is furnished with a small detachable collar and is finished off with a ribbon tie. Her hair is arranged with smooth, wing-like padded rolls over the ears, which were the height of fashion in 1857, though Jane’s appear to be rather austere. She wears a thin bandeau across her forehead. Father Thomas is dressed in an informal manner, with jacket, dark-coloured shirt, trousers of either wool or moleskin and top boots. The Lashmar family present as a neatly turned-out family who probably did better for themselves in Australia than they would have had they raised their family in England at the time. Indeed, emigrants often found that prospects were better in their new homeland and spoke positively of the opportunities available.14See, for example, Henry Parkes’s and Jonathan Binns Were’s reasons for emigrating. With their wives, they sailed to Sydney and Melbourne respectively in 1839. Henry Parkes, An Emigrant’s Home Letters, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1896. Jonathan Binns Were, A Voyage from Plymouth to Melbourne in 1839: The Shipboard and Early Melbourne Diary of Jonathan Binns Were, J. B. Were & Son, Melbourne, 1964. Soon after this image was taken, the family moved to Kangaroo Island, where they farmed for many decades at Antechamber Bay.15Family information supplied by Christopher Whittle, 19 July 2016. See also ‘Kangaroo Island’, Evening Journal, 28 May 1869, p. 3, which states that there are sixty-four families on the island and a total population of about 260.

Thomas Young Lashmar embraces two of his younger children, Fanny, aged two and three-quarters, and Thomas, aged five, keeping them still during the lengthy exposure. Nixon was known for his expertise in taking ‘mother and child’ portraits, where the problem of long exposure (which by this time had been reduced to about thirty seconds) and the subsequent blurring of the active baby was solved by having the mother cradle the infant while it slept.16Jack Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia, 3rd edn, Institute of Australian Photography, Melbourne, 1979, p. 174. Evidently baby William, born in August 1857, whose face is blurred, was very much awake.

Portraiture was at the centre of nineteenth-century photographic image-making.17Alan Thomas, The Expanding Eye: Photography and the Nineteenth-Century Mind, Croom Helm, London, 1978, p. 95. The convention of arranging family groups around the central figures of the parents reinforces familial ties, domestic hierarchies and a sense of social decorum.18ibid. p. 98. In the Lashmar portrait, the son and oldest child John, aged sixteen, stands between his parents, while the second-oldest child, daughter Jane, aged ten, stands next to her father. The next oldest in age, Eliza, who is just shy of eight, is placed next to her mother. This convention in the arrangement of family groups was still being used a decade later when Nixon was working in his own business, W. M. Nixon & Sons. In a carte de visite by the company, Untitled (family group), c. 1870–80 (fig. 3), in the collection of the State Library Victoria,19W. M. Nixon & Sons, Untitled (family group), c. 1870–80, State Library Victoria, Melbourne, H2205.34/2086.the oldest son, though much younger than his sisters, is placed between the parents. The oldest daughter stands next to her father, and the next-oldest child is beside the mother, who unsuccessfully restrains a wriggling toddler on her lap. the oldest son, though much younger than his sisters, is placed between the parents. The oldest daughter stands next to her father, and the next-oldest child is beside the mother, who unsuccessfully restrains a wriggling toddler on her lap.

In the context of colonial Australia, the uniformity of photographic portrait conventions, which included the maintenance of social and family hierarchies, found between the Northern Hemisphere and the colonies could be interpreted as a desire for settlers to convey their allegiance to the prevailing political order back to their homelands.20See Geoffrey Batchen, ‘Dreams of ordinary life: cartes-de-visite and the bourgeois imagination’, in J. J. Long, Andrea Noble & Edward Welch (eds), Photography: Theoretical Snapshots, Routledge, London, 2009, p. 90. With a regular exchange of photographic portraits between families on either side of the world, colonial settlers would have endeavoured to appear as prosperous and up-to-the-minute as possible.21Helen Ennis, ‘Mirror with a memory’, in Helen Ennis & Geoffrey Batchen (eds), Mirror with a Memory: Photographic Portraiture in Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2000, p. 12.

What was the context for the Lashmar family portrait and what may have prompted its creation? In 1839, at the age of twenty-six, Thomas Young Lashmar, the oldest son of John and Mary Lashmar, decided to leave his home in Brighton, England and immigrate to the newly founded colony of South Australia. He arrived in Adelaide in 1840, when the colony had been established for just four years. The reason for his leaving is not stated in the surviving family letters, but, having completed his apprenticeship as a butcher in about 1835, Thomas may have been lured to Australia in the hope of better prospects. He was the only member of his immediate family to emigrate permanently. A brother, George, came out in 1843, but returned to England some years later.22Mary Anne Acton, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 1 Sep. 1843, State Library of South Australia, PRG 297. Thomas and George farmed on Thistle Island and then on Flinders Island (in the Great Australian Bight), but returned to Adelaide around late 1845, after which George returned to England. Information supplied by Christopher Whittle, 10 June 2018.

The family, including the close cousins, was keenly aware that Thomas’s departure created an enduring loss, for it was most likely a one-way trip. Given the 14,000-mile voyage that lasted around four months, the departure of family members was a solemn and emotional event. In the 1830s the Australian colonies introduced schemes of assisted migration to suitable emigrants. As a result of the effects of the Irish famine of the 1840s and the Australian gold rush of the 1850s the tide of immigration grew. The image of the departing emigrant is one that was familiar to nineteenth-century Britons.23See, for example, Marshall Claxton’s painting An emigrant’s thoughts of home, 1859, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, A8-1974. See Pamela Gerrish Nunn, ‘Look homeward angel: Marshall Claxton’s emigrant’, Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 32, 1991.

On 10 August 1839, just prior to Thomas Lashmar’s departure, his cousin, William Acton wrote:

Dear Cousin,

I write you this farewell letter, on your leaving England, as I was not just within when you called to bid us good bye. I hope & trust you will find in a foreign land, that which will answer your most sanguine expectations, as well, as your Relations, & Friends.

My sister Mary Ann has sent you a purse & I have sent a ring if you will accept it; it will be of use, when you marry, and I hope when a suitable lady comes along you will remain no longer single. Accept the united love of us all & wishing you health & spirits, with success in all your undertakings.

I remain, Your affectionate Cousin,

William Acton24William Acton, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 10 Aug. 1839, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

The mixture of loss and hope is evident in the letters that follow. Soon after his arrival, Thomas did indeed find a ‘suitable lady’, Jane Rushall, who had emigrated with her parents and siblings in 1838.25Family information supplied by Christopher Whittle, 19 July 2016. Thomas and Jane’s first child, John, was born in Adelaide in December 1841.

The distance from his son obviously weighed heavily on Thomas’s father. He must have wondered whether he would ever see Thomas again. In June 1841, John Lashmar wrote from Brighton:

My Dear Son,

It is now near two years since you left your Fathers House & Native Land; to seek a home on distant shore. I hope your roving mind and unsettled thoughts [h]as convinced you that the rolling stone gathers no moss and the often removd [sic] plant takes no root. When you left England I expected Sydney was to be your resting place but you have preferd [sic] [an]other settlement.

my anxious care for your welfare [h]as been very great and prayer to God to give you his grace that you may walk in the paths of rectitude. Your Mother, Brothers & Sisters affectionately join with me in kind Love.

In your Affectionate Father

John Lashmar26John Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 16 June 1841, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

In 1843 Thomas had the means to make an unexpected trip back to England, leaving Jane and his young son behind. The sojourn was brief, and Thomas, accompanied by his brother George, returned to Adelaide in the same year. From the letters it is apparent that this was the last time Thomas and his parents and siblings in England saw one another. His father died in Brighton in 1851 and his mother in 1854.

The death of his parents and long absence may have prompted Thomas to send his brother William, who was a key correspondent and communicator about family affairs, a portrait of himself in 1855 or early 1856. Although it is not known whether this portrait still exists, it is mentioned in a letter William wrote to Thomas in May 1856 that stated:

I was extremely gratified by reading your last letter, because it was the best I have ever had from you. I thank you heartily for the gift of your portrait, as also for the good feeling, you kindly entertain towards me – the portrait I hope to possess as long as I live, when I shall desire it to be again given to you, in case that I die before you.27William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, May 1856, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

In all likelihood this was a daguerreotype. The idea of returning such a treasured object and that its ownership would revert to the person who both gave it and whose image was depicted therein is thought-provoking. William had a strong sense of the importance of portraiture and family. In the same letter William, who was tying up family business on the death of their parents, stated:

The oil portraits of our dear Parents are still hanging in their accustomed spot. If you had been in England, courtesy would have required them to be kept in your possession, but the family cannot part with them, & they are still to remain at Ship St recollect they are only kept in trust, and are the property of the whole family.28ibid.

As the oldest son, Thomas would have received the portraits into his care for the rest of the family, but because he had gone to the other side of the world the portraits, which were a precious reminder of their parents, stayed in England. Although distance had divided the brothers, sibling bonds remained strong for William and were perhaps strengthened with the death of their parents. In 1856 William reflected on his older brother’s absence through emigration:

[I] am grateful to you for the good feeling when one considers that we are almost strangers to each other’s bosoms and have not seen each other for years – in real truth you can only think of me, as the timid boy, who was many years ago with you in North Street & who could not at that time of life have interested you, but we are now (both of us) men, and going down the hill of life too, let us all go hand in hand together, forgetting past wrongs and feeling that we are one family.29ibid.

The immediate precursor of the photographic portrait was the miniature. Miniature artists produced small portraits, commonly painted on ivory or vellum, which could be held in the hand. Only the upper echelons of society were able afford them. These likenesses were private objects which were cherished by their owners as true likenesses of the sitter.30See Richard Walker, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature Illustrated from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1998, pp. 7–8, and Graham Reynolds, English Portrait Miniatures, Adam & Charles Black, London, 1952. With the invention of photography, the photographic portrait competed with, and quickly overtook, the miniature. Observers noted that the image produced by the new photographic process was able to render not just a faithful likeness, but one that was superior in its accuracy to that created by a painter. In Australia, the Adelaide daguerreotypist Mr Robert Hall, who in 1846 had set up a portrait studio in Hindley Street, advertised that ‘a fidelity of representation is realized entirely beyond the power of any artist’.31Robert Hall, ‘Daguerreotype’, South Australian Register, 4 July 1846, p. 3. Hall emphasised that ‘Every one who has a friend or relation whose memory he thinks worth preserving, should avail himself of the opportunity thus presented of obtaining a faithful likeness’.32ibid.

This idea of recognition and accord is one which is vital to portraiture in general.33Jennifer Green-Lewis, Framing the Victorians: Photography and the Culture of Realism, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1996, p. 26. The terms ‘portrait’ and ‘likeness’ are used in the mid nineteenth century to refer to miniatures, works of art and photographic portraits. In 1827 the early Australian settler Henrietta King wrote of the miniature she treasured during the long absence at sea of her husband Phillip. Henrietta described the resemblance as being ‘pronounced by all to be an admirable likeness’.34Dorothy Walsh (ed.), The Admiral’s Wife: Mrs Phillip Parker King. A Selection of Letters 1817–56, The Hawthorn Press, Melbourne, 1967, pp. 38, 56. In turn, she did not think a miniature likeness ‘taken’ of her son Robert to be a success, as ‘the face [was] too long’.35ibid. p. 26. It is clear that from its inception, photography held a great fascination because of its ability to render the face accurately.36Annear, p. 18.

In the photograph of the Jacobs family taken in Manchester in around 1855 (fig. 4), Augusta holds up a cased photograph (either a daguerreotype or ambrotype) of her absent brother Isaac, who had left for the goldfields of Australia in 1852.37A. E. Linkman, ‘The itinerant photographer in Britain 1850–1880’, History of Photography, vol. 14, no. 1, 1990, p. 50. In 1855, around the time the Jacobs family sat for this photograph, there were seventeen photographic studios listed in the Manchester trade directory. A copy of this photograph is in the collection of Sue Silberberg, Melbourne. It depicts the parents, Elias and Henrietta Rypinski Jacobs, surrounded by seven of their children. The family followed Isaac to Australia in the 1860s and 1870s and settled in Victoria. Personal communication with Sue Silberberg, 29 July 2015. This suggests that, from early on, such photographic portraits were considered truthful enough to stand in for the absent member of the family and were valuable objects that connected family members separated through emigration.

The Lashmar family, sent by Thomas to his brother William in England, may have been prompted by a letter from William of June 1857 in which he informed his brother that their sibling John had died. As the linchpin of the family, William kept up the correspondence with his brother, informing him of family matters and deaths as they occurred. His warmth and keenness of feeling is palpable: ‘I am sorry to tell you of these bereavements from time to time, but as years roll on this must occur, does it not “teach us to number our days, and apply our hearts to wisdom”’.38William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 14 June 1857, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

A two-way dialogue was the norm in nineteenth-century correspondence between immigrants and their families back home. Correspondents often kept records of letters received and replied to. Many letters open with an acknowledgement of what has been received when and by which ship. The rationalisation that a letter may have been lost was a common reasoning for those who had not heard anything for some time. Having recently married, William went on to state in his letter:

I have been looking for a letter from you in reply to my last, but must fear it could not have reached you, as I have a month ago received a very kind and congratulatory letter from Australia, but not from my brother of the same place, of course you have written, and the letter is lost, as I have not recd. it. I had quite intended if I had not married, of going to Australia for the journey, and to have seen you once more, but now that I am so happily settled in domestic life, that cannot be, let me then dear Tom, hope to meet you in a better and happier country where no changes take place, where our dear honest, kind, and good parents now are, and where it is ever summer and bright.39ibid.

Arriving some months later, this letter may have prompted Thomas to have the family likeness taken and sent to William. Captured on the photographic plate, the image places the family in an arrested space, evoking William’s sentiment in the above letter, that beyond death there is a place where ‘no changes take place’.40ibid.

On 27 October 1858 William wrote to Thomas, thanking him for ‘the family group, which you so kindly sent, and which Mr John Farmer delivered not long since’.41It was common for letters and gifts to be delivered in person whenever a friend, family member or acquaintance was taking the long voyage. The image, though, seemed to have not travelled well. William stated, ‘I regret to tell you that the sea air and voyage has caused dark marks to appear on it, which has impaired a little of the appearance, still it is a very faithful remembrance and one which will be gratefully kept as a most valuable memento’.42William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 27 Oct. 1858, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

It appears that Thomas, having made the effort and gone to the expense of procuring the daguerreotype, thought it replaced any need to write a letter. William continued:

I should have been glad of a letter from you at the same time that you sent your portrait, and was disappointed, because it was your turn to write. You must not expect to hear from me unless you send me a good long letter, telling me (I hope) that you are well and prospering.

Only a year later William described the portrait as having deteriorated further:

The likeness of yourself & family begins to grow less distinct. I expect it must have been the voyage, or I should have been tempted to have sent you mine, but it is the same poor looking face as ever, & you will do better without it, my wife (always the better half) would look better, but you can fancy us here a very happy & much blessed pair.43William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 30 Sep. 1859, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

The poor state of the portrait just eighteen months after it was created suggests that it was oxidising and tarnishing.44Personal communication with Pip Morrison, Conservator of Photographs, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 6 April 2017. It also implies there may have been a third daguerreotype at the sitting with William Millington Nixon. Close inspection of the daguerreotype by the NGV’s Conservator of Photographs, Pip Morrison, found that the daguerreotype had been cleaned, probably shortly before it was acquired. This being the case, the NGV’s daguerreotype could be the one Thomas sent to England. If its case was not well sealed, the image may have suffered from the effects of humidity and other environmental fluctuations while it made its way to England, causing it to oxidise. The image was therefore not fading but was being concealed by tarnishing.45ibid. Thanks to Pip Morrison for these observations.

What happened to the sitters in the portrait, a family captured at a particular time in a particular place? One more child, Harry, was born to Thomas and Jane in May 1860. Thomas died in Adelaide in December 1860 at the age of forty-seven, just three years after this image was taken. Mother Jane died in November 1864 at the age of forty-two, leaving behind seven surviving children aged between four and twenty-three years.

The oldest child, John Sherbourne, married Jane Rushall, a cousin on his mother’s side of the family. John died in 1924 at the age of eighty-two. Jane Lashmar, the oldest daughter, died suddenly in November 1865 at the family home on Kangaroo Island at the age of eighteen. Her sister, Eliza, nicknamed ‘Lilla’, who is standing next to her mother in the portrait, married in Adelaide in 1874 at the age of twenty-four and died in 1937 at the age of eighty-seven. Fanny, who is sitting on her father’s right knee in the photograph, also married in Adelaide in 1874 and died in 1949 at the age of ninety-four. Her brother Thomas, who is sitting on his father’s left knee in the image, lived to the age of eighty-one, dying in Adelaide in 1933. The baby William, a blur on his mother’s knee, died in Adelaide in 1935 at the age of seventy-seven. Thomas and William never married. The yet-to-be-conceived Harry married Frances Ann Ladd Buick in 1886. Harry inherited the family property on Kangaroo Island and died in Prospect, Adelaide in 1941.

For William, the portrait was a tangible and lasting image of a family he never met but kept in close contact with. On hearing of the death of his sister-in-law, William wrote to his niece Jane in November 1865:

I have been for many years without Father, or Mother, I can quite understand [and] sympathize with you but it is a great consolation for us all that we have many mercies still left us.

I had not seen my poor brother for many years before his death as he had not been to England I suppose for more than 20 years, but I have the likeness of you all, including your dear Mother – the sea passage & time has nearly obliterated them. I have no doubt you are all of you much altered since then. These likenesses were sent by my brother Tom by a Mr Farmer and you were all taken together in one group (fig. 5).46William Lashmar, letter to Jane Lashmar, 28 Nov. 1865, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

William’s references to the portrait over the years demonstrate the power of such images in binding families divided through emigration. As time passed, the portrait’s significance shifted: initially it provided a material link to the living, but it came to be a lasting image in memoriam.

However, William’s image had started to disappear soon after he received it. While the other known daguerreotype taken at the same sitting remained clear, the effect of chemical reactions on William’s daguerreotype caused the image to become obscured with the passing years. Although the image of the family ostensibly held them together, its vulnerable materiality also mirrored the passing of time, as it too, for William, slipped from vision.

Laura Jocic is an independent curator.

I would like to thank Ann and Wren Lashmar and Christopher and Janet Whittle for sharing information about the Lashmar family and the family’s daguerreotype. Additionally, I would like to thank the National Gallery of Victoria’s Maggie Finch, Curator, Photography, for her interest in and support of this research, and Pip Morrison, Conservator of Photographs, for her comments about the material state of the portrait and the changes being described in the letters.

Notes

1

Joanna Gilmour, Husbands and Wives, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2010. The exhibition ran from 6 May until 11 July 2010.

2

Thanks go to Ann and Wren Lashmar and Christopher Whittle, who have generously shared their knowledge about the Lashmar family. It was Christopher and his wife Janet (nee Lashmar) who in 2010 identified the sitters in the National Gallery of Victoria’s portrait when it was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

3

Elizabeth Edwards, ‘Photographs as objects of memory’, in Fiona Candlin & Raiford Guins (eds), The Object Reader, Routledge, London and New York, 2009, p. 339.

4

Anne-Marie Willis, Picturing Australia: A History of Photography, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1988, p. 5.

5

Prior to immigrating, Goodman had taken out a licence from the British daguerreotype patentee, photographer Richard Beard. Geoffrey Batchen, ‘Postscript. Antipodean photography: an itinerant history’, in Judy Annear (ed.), The Photograph and Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2015, p. 262.

6

‘Local news of the week’, South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, 30 Aug. 1845, p. 2.

7

Lenore Frost, Dating Family Photos 1850–1920, Lenore Frost, Melbourne, 1992, p. 14.

8

‘Coloured daguerreotype portraits’, Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, 23 June 1855, p. 4.

9

George Edward Pearce Serocold, letter to Charles Serocold, 4 Jan. 1857, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane, M1724/C1.1-31.

10

Lashmar family information provided by Christopher Whittle, 19 July 2016.

11

Alan Davies & Peter Stanbury, The Mechanical Eye in Australia: Photography 1841–1900, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1985, p. 66.

12

‘Nixon, William Millington (1814–1893)’, Design and Art Australia Online, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/people/1484633?c=people>, accessed 8 Sep. 2016. Nixon went into partnership with the Duryea Brothers in 1858.

13

See, for example, Thomas Glaister’s ambrotype, Family group, 1858, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, NGA 83.1161.

14

See, for example, Henry Parkes’s and Jonathan Binns Were’s reasons for emigrating. With their wives, they sailed to Sydney and Melbourne respectively in 1839. Henry Parkes, An Emigrant’s Home Letters, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1896. Jonathan Binns Were, A Voyage from Plymouth to Melbourne in 1839: The Shipboard and Early Melbourne Diary of Jonathan Binns Were, J. B. Were & Son, Melbourne, 1964.

15

Family information supplied by Christopher Whittle, 19 July 2016. See also ‘Kangaroo Island’, Evening Journal, 28 May 1869, p. 3, which states that there are sixty-four families on the island and a total population of about 260.

16

Jack Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia, 3rd edn, Institute of Australian Photography, Melbourne, 1979, p. 174.

17

Alan Thomas, The Expanding Eye: Photography and the Nineteenth-Century Mind, Croom Helm, London, 1978, p. 95.

18

ibid. p. 98.

19

W. M. Nixon & Sons, Untitled (family group), c. 1870–80, State Library Victoria, Melbourne, H2205.34/2086.

20

See Geoffrey Batchen, ‘Dreams of ordinary life: cartes-de-visite and the bourgeois imagination’, in J. J. Long, Andrea Noble & Edward Welch (eds), Photography: Theoretical Snapshots, Routledge, London, 2009, p. 90.

21

Helen Ennis, ‘Mirror with a memory’, in Helen Ennis & Geoffrey Batchen (eds), Mirror with a Memory: Photographic Portraiture in Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2000, p. 12.

22

Mary Anne Acton, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 1 Sep. 1843, State Library of South Australia, PRG 297. Thomas and George farmed on Thistle Island and then on Flinders Island (in the Great Australian Bight), but returned to Adelaide around late 1845, after which George returned to England. Information supplied by Christopher Whittle, 10 June 2018.

23

See, for example, Marshall Claxton’s painting An emigrant’s thoughts of home, 1859, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, A8-1974. See Pamela Gerrish Nunn, ‘Look homeward angel: Marshall Claxton’s emigrant’, Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 32, 1991.

24

William Acton, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 10 Aug. 1839, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

25

Family information supplied by Christopher Whittle, 19 July 2016.

26

John Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 16 June 1841, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

27

William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, May 1856, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

28

ibid.

29

ibid.

30

See Richard Walker, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature Illustrated from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1998, pp. 7–8, and Graham Reynolds, English Portrait Miniatures, Adam & Charles Black, London, 1952.

31

Robert Hall, ‘Daguerreotype’, South Australian Register, 4 July 1846, p. 3.

32

ibid.

33

Jennifer Green-Lewis, Framing the Victorians: Photography and the Culture of Realism, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1996, p. 26.

34

Dorothy Walsh (ed.), The Admiral’s Wife: Mrs Phillip Parker King. A Selection of Letters 1817–56, The Hawthorn Press, Melbourne, 1967, pp. 38, 56.

35

ibid. p. 26.

36

Annear, p. 18.

37

A. E. Linkman, ‘The itinerant photographer in Britain 1850–1880’, History of Photography, vol. 14, no. 1, 1990, p. 50. In 1855, around the time the Jacobs family sat for this photograph, there were seventeen photographic studios listed in the Manchester trade directory.  A copy of this photograph is in the collection of Sue Silberberg, Melbourne. It depicts the parents, Elias and Henrietta Rypinski Jacobs, surrounded by seven of their children. The family followed Isaac to Australia in the 1860s and 1870s and settled in Victoria. Personal communication with Sue Silberberg, 29 July 2015.

38

William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 14 June 1857, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

39

ibid.

40

ibid.

41

It was common for letters and gifts to be delivered in person whenever a friend, family member or acquaintance was taking the long voyage.

42

William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 27 Oct. 1858, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

43

William Lashmar, letter to Thomas Lashmar, 30 Sep. 1859, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.

44

Personal communication with Pip Morrison, Conservator of Photographs, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 6 April 2017.

45

ibid. Thanks to Pip Morrison for these observations.

46

William Lashmar, letter to Jane Lashmar, 28 Nov. 1865, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, PRG 297.