[Two Albums with 199 Original Gelatin Silver Photographs Showing Ascension Island, Including the Laying of Cable for the Western Telegraph Company in 1910, Military Presence, Local Life, Buildings and Landscapes].
1910-13. Two albums with a total of 199 gelatin silver photographs including one panorama ca. 7 x 18.5 cm (2 ¾ x 7 ¼ in.), twenty photographs between ca. 14 x 9 cm (5 ½ x 3 ½ in.) and ca. 12 x 16.5 cm (5 ¾ x 6 ½ in), and the rest ca. 8 x 11 cm (3 ¼ x 4 ¼ in.) and smaller, loosely mounted in windows or on leaves, the majority with period blue ink manuscript captions on the leaves. Also included is one drawing in period black ink ca. 13 x 20 cm (5 x 8 in.) titled "Repairing Land Lines, Long Beach Ascension." One oblong quarto album ca. 25 x 29.5 cm (9 ¾ x 11 ½ in.) with 52 white album leaves. Period manuscript blue ink label on endpaper: “H. M. Island of Ascension 1910-1913.” Includes a newspaper clipping ca. 4.5 x 8.5 cm (1 ¾ x 3 ¼ in.) titled “Gold Ring On an Atlantic Isle” with manuscript note “Daily Mail 10th Oct./25.” Period gilt tooled blue half sheep with pebbled cloth boards. Some minor rubbing of extremities. Second album quarto ca. 24 x 16 cm (9 ½ x 6 ¼ in.) with twelve brown stiff card leaves. White typescript label pasted on inside of front cover: “Ascension Island / 1910-1913 / Montgomery Williams / Royal Marines.” Period brown cloth boards with gilt title “PHOTOGRAPHS” on front cover. Overall, two very good albums with strong, sharp photographs.
These interesting albums contain nearly 200 photographs showing activities, buildings, people and landscapes of Ascension Island, and the laying of the island’s third telegraph cable. The photographs were taken and compiled by Montgomery Williams, a member of the British Royal Marines in the Royal Military Academy who documented his three years living on Ascension with his wife and young daughter. Particularly interesting are two photographs that show the laying of a telegraph cable in Comfortless Cove: men are pulling a long cable onto shore and placing it along a dugout trench on land. This occurred “in 1910 when CS Colonia laid 3145 nm of cable from St. Vincent - Ascension - Buenos Aires, Argentina, with CS Cambria assisting and CS Cormorant (2) laying the cable up the River Plate. This cable was the second longest telegraph cable to be laid.” Also visible is the small cabin which served as the cable hut, from which the lines went to Georgetown, buried along Long Beach (History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications). Additionally, the album contains some photographs of the military presence on the island, including views of the Admiralty College and a photograph of “Admiral Sir William Kennedy and some New Zealand officers ashore.” The photographs also show the everyday activities of people on the island, including hiking excursions, horseback riding, hunting and fishing, the arrival of the mail boat, as well as a sports event on Ascension Day. There are images showing the roads and horse-drawn carts, as well as natural landscape photographs including a large plain where numerous seabirds are seen nesting. There is also a photograph labeled “S.S. Norse Prince burning off Ascension Jan 1910,” showing a British steamship that caught fire just off the coast. Overall, a very good album showing the life of a Royal Marine Officer and his family living on Ascension Island during the early 1910s.
“Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean. It was garrisoned by the British Admiralty from 22 October 1815 to 1922.” (Wikipedia)
Captain Montgomery Williams, R.M.A., was educated at Dulwich College and the Naval College, Greenwich, and entered the Royal Marines at the age of 17. He died while fighting in France during the first World War, in August 1916.
"At the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 the only way to get a telegraph message from the UK to Cape Town was either via the west coast or the east coast of Africa, a slow and tedious journey. A quicker and more direct route was urgently required. The Eastern Telegraph Company contracted the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company to manufacture and lay the necessary cables, which were to link Cape Town - St. Helena - Ascension - St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands. Messages were then routed over the Western Telegraph Company cables, St Vincent - Madeira - Carcavelos, Portugal, from there to Porthcurno they again travelled over the Eastern network.
In 1901 the Eastern Telegraph Company contracted the same company to manufacture and lay cables from St Vincent to Madeira, 1130 nm, and from there a 1375 nm cable to Porthcurno. CS Anglia and CS Britannia (2) carried out the work. Another cable laid by CS Anglia in the same year was that from Ascension to Freetown, Sierra Leone, a distance of 1125 nm. This was to provide an alternative route in case of cable failure.” The cable shown in this album is the third telegraph cable reaching Ascension Island. (History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications).
Price: $2,500.00 USD