Ca. 1890. Folio ca. 30,5x38 cm (12x15 in). 25 thick card stock leaves. With 52 large original mounted albumen photographs, from ca. 20,5x26,5 cm (8 x 10 ½ in) to ca. 14,5x20 cm (5 ¾ x 7 ½ in); about a dozen photographs captioned and/or signed by the studio in negative. Period brown full sheep with elaborate blind and gilt-stamped ornaments on the boards, neatly rebacked in style; decorative endpapers, all edges gilt, remnants of a metal clasp designed to fasten the boards. Several photos mildly faded, otherwise a very good album of strong interesting images.
This historically interesting album contains forty-four rare and well preserved 19th-century studio photos of tea gardens, British managers and residents, and native people from around Sibsagar (Sivasagar, Assam). Although none of the photos bear the full name of the photographer, nine of them are captioned or signed “O.M.” (or “C.M.”?) in negative. Several identical photos from the National Anthropological Archives of the Smithsonian Institution were attributed to the famous Indian studio of Bourne & Shepherd (est. 1863) (e.g.: http://collections.si.edu/search/detail/edanmdm:siris_arc_57181?q=assam+tea&record=12&hlterm=assam%2Btea&inline=true).
Jayeeta Sharma, the author of “Empire’s Garden: Assam and the Making of India,” suggests that “hitherto unpublished” photos of Assam tea gardens from the collection of the Smithsonian Institution were taken by Colin Murray “who was the firm’s head photographer from 1870 and eventually took control in 1884 when the founders retired and left India,” also noting that “in contrast to some other regions of British India, photographic images of nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century Assam are difficult to find, except for privately held prints which can seldom be effectively reproduced” (Illustration Acknowledgements/ Sharma, J. Empire’s Garden: Assam and the Making of India. Duke University Press, 2001, p. [xiv]).
Our collection includes vivid views of numerous bungalows of British planters or managers – including photos of the bungalow in Mohanbari, tennis grounds adjacent to a bungalow with a British man posing with a lawnmower, technical buildings where collected tea leaves were processed (one photo shows boxes of tea being loaded onto a bullock cart), interior of the living room and the verandah of the “Koleapanee Bungalow” (the latter featuring a family of the owners sitting in armchairs); general views of the tea gardens with bungalows, fields of tea bushes, rolling hills or areas cleared for new gardens etc. The album houses eleven interesting group portraits of British in Assam - planters, residents or military men stationed in Sivasagar; with one group posing in front of the stone carvings of the Sivadol Temple, others shown with tennis rackets, mounted on horses during a game at “Nazira polo club,” dressed in full uniform (“Sibsagor Mounted Infantry,” the regiment was formed in 1884 as “Sibsagar Mounted Rifles” and was known under the name of “Sibsagar Mounted Infantry” in 1886-1889), etc. Other interesting photos show a group of native hill people of Assam, barracks of native workers, or “coolie lines,” a picture of native people and British planters at a riverbank (most likely, Dikhow River near the town of Nazira, where several other pictures were taken), and a portrait of a “Mech woman weaving.” Four photos show temples and monuments of Sivasagar dating back to the time when the city was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom, including famous Sivadol or Shiva Temple (the highest temple in India with the height of about 32 m), Sivasagar tank (artificial lake), and Rang Ghar royal entertainment pavilion (shown in a state of neglect, with trees growing on its roof). The album also includes six large photographs of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), with two signed by a local studio “Colombo Apothecaries Company” (1880s - ca. 1920s); the photos showing native fishermen, “merchant women,” families, bullock carts and their drivers, two rickshaw carts carrying British gentlemen et al. There are two albumen photographs of New Zealand, including one signed by the Dunedin studio of Burton brothers (1866-1914). Overall an extensive collection of rare historically significant photographs depicting British tea gardens in Assam in the late 19th century.
Price: $3,750.00 USD