Brisbane From The Air: Illustrated (1919)

Brisbane From The Air, 1919. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

In September 1919, The Queenslander newspaper published a series of aerial photographs of Brisbane and its surrounding suburbs under the title, Brisbane By Air. The photographs were taken by the newspaper's photographer, Frederick William Thiel and were promoted as the first photographs taken of Brisbane from an aeroplane.

The Queenslander had approached the chief organiser of the Peace Loan campaign and requested the use of their aeroplane to take the images. A special camera was employed for the aerial shots, as The Queenslander explained to its readers - "The assistance of the Kodak Company was sought, and the manager, Mr F.L. South, was good enough to lend a "Graflex" camera of half-plate size. This was reinforced with a wooden cover to protect the bellows from air pressure, and one of the "Queenslander's" special fast Cooke lenses was fitted...The camera was lashed to the struts of the aeroplane just over the fuselage, the photographer took his seat in the observer's compartment, and the voyage of discovery was begun".

'The first photographer (F.W. Thiel) to photograph Brisbane from an Aeroplane'. From Brisbane From The Air, 1919. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

'The City as seen from a point about over South Brisbane'. From Brisbane From The Air, 1919. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Accompanying Thiel during the 40 minute flight was the pilot, Flight-Commander Frank Smith, DFC. Smith would perform a banking manoeuvre when setting up each shot.

Overall eight photographs were taken from a height of nearly 2,000 feet (over 600 metres). These images included views of Brisbane city, Kangaroo Point, New Farm, Hawthorne, Bulimba, Roma Street Railway Station, Ascot Racecourse, Albion, Wooloowin and Kedron.

'Looking across the Roma Street Railway Yards and the City to Bulimba Point and Albion Park Racecourse'. From Brisbane From The Air, 1919. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Later that year the photographs were republished in a book titled Brisbane From The Air: Illustrated.

State Library of Queensland have digitised Brisbane By Air: Illustrated which can be perused online through our One Search catalogue.

Myles Sinnamon - Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland


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Thanks for the Link. I had read the book before. I was wondering if it is possible to find a Photo of Bulimba Hawthorne in the original photos. The only photos in the book were in the distance. A photo would certainly answer a lot of our questions on early Bulimba.

i used to work for fred thiels son at thiel studio opisit the post office when i was16 i am now 77 i still have the book i dont know if there are very many about

Hello Judith,I tracked down Fred's son ,back around 2010 , he said most of the photos were burnt in a fire in Queen street.There was a Redcliffe Museum gathering at the Redcliffe Library and I said I would pick him up at the Sandgate Train station if he could make it to there, but he said he wouldn't be ablew to make it.I would have liked to have met him, I have another 1920's photo book which looks similar to this one.Best Wishes,Bob Kirkwood ,Rothwell Qld.

as i worked for fred thiel i have the book

I worked for Fred &Jack Thiel , opposite post office 1946/50, great times, many memories.

Stunning photographs. I wonder if there are more? Did he have an archive of photographs? Or did the Queenslander keep the originals I wonder?

Hi Dr JordanYou can find more of Thiel's photographs on our One Search catalogue - Sinnamon - blog editor

Hello Arthur and Judith, I'm John (Jack) Thiel's granddaughter. It's a long shot I know, but if either of you see this post could you let me know, please. I'd love to talk to you. Thanks

I have found some old newspapers with Brisbane from the air and a few more in that year 1919