New Acquisition - William Earnshaw's Stereoscopic Photographs & Viewer

The John Oxley Library recently received a wonderful collection of approximately 200 stereoscopic photographs taken from 1907 to 1914 by William Earnshaw during his travels as a school inspector in Queensland.  The photographs cover the length and breadth of the state including the Torres Strait and Northern Queensland, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone and western areas such as Blackall, Barcaldine, Ilfracombe, Jundah, Jericho and various mining towns.

Tate Tin Mines State School, 40 miles south of Chillagoe

William Earnshaw was born in 1866 in Lancashire, England, and was educated at Westminster College in London.  He became a teacher and migrated to Australia in 1890 teaching at the Central Boys School in Brisbane.  He later became head teacher at Buderim, Redland Bay, the Southport School, Maryborough and Bundaberg South State School.  In 1910 he was promoted to school inspector, a position he held until his retirement in 1934.  These photographs capture the arduous nature of the trips carried out by school inspectors at this period as they travelled by boat, railway and Cobb & Co. coach to reach the often isolated areas of the state.  We are fortunate that Earnshaw had a keen interest in photography and documented his travels in such a detailed way.

The collection also contains domestic scenes of William Earnshaw's family, particularly when he taught in Bundaberg.  He and his wife, Kate Gaylard, had seven children; four sons (three of whom did medicine and one dentistry) and three daughters.  After retirement he visited England and travelled extensively around the world.  He died in 1943, aged seventy-seven.

Earnshaw children

Stereoscopic cameras became commercially available in the early 1900s and provided two juxtaposed photographs, which when viewed in a stereoscopic viewer provide a three-dimensional picture of the subject.  The collection also includes Earnshaw's sterescopic viewer which in itself is a masterly piece of technology.

Stereoscopic Viewer

The collection is available at the John Oxley Library, Acc. No: 28300, Boxes 16422-16423.

Lynn Meyers - Original Materials Librarian, State Library of Queensland


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What a fantastic looking collection. I can't wait to get in there and see it for myself. My great grand-aunt was a school-teacher in Queensland from about 1886 to 1908 as per this blog post here… brother-in-law was also a teacher and then Inspector at the time so it will be good to have more visual material to contemplate.