The Notorious Jimmy Price

In a previous post, James William Price: Balloonist, I bemoaned the brick walls I ran into tracing his elusive genealogical origins. I can now report after a bit more sleuthing on Ancestry and GenealogyBank, thanks to a tip-off from Jerry Kuntz (who is researching a non-fiction history of the parachuting craze of 1887-1890s) — I’ve... Continue Reading →

19th-century Hotels: The Eagle Tavern, Wellington

I’m fascinated by the history of early New Zealand hotels — and there were a lot of them! While researching The Aerial Queen I sometimes found mention of the hotels that Leila Adair stayed in: Albion Hotel, WhanganuiClub Hotel, Palmerston North Digby Andrews’ Coach and Horses Hotel, Nelson European Hotel, Dunedin Burnip’s Criterion Hotel, Christchurch... Continue Reading →

Featherston Booktown Festival

What is a booktown, you may well ask? Alex Johnson in his book Book Towns: Forty-five Paradises of the Printed Word defines it as “simply a small town, usually rural and scenic, full of bookshops and book-related industries.” The most well-known booktowns are Hay-on-Wye in Wales and Wigtown in Scotland (the location of Shaun Bythell’s... Continue Reading →

Flash Fiction

I’ve been bereft at the sudden closure of the Wellington Central Library last month. I used to go there two or three times a week but now I have to check the opening hours of another branch and get in my car – so I haven’t bothered. I thought I would make a dent in... Continue Reading →

SHE WILL SWIM NIAGARA: Millie Viola

Millie Viola was the stage name used by various female balloonists who appeared with Professor James Price. Their first billing was at the Minnesota State Fair in 1888. Millie made several appearances around Salt Lake City in 1889, until Price (forced to leave town in a hurry) resurfaced in Australia the following year — with... Continue Reading →

Cycloramas

Cycloramas were a popular form of entertainment in the late 19th century until the arrival of the cinema diminished their appeal. They depicted a famous historic event in a huge 360-degree oil painting fixed to the internal wall of a large, purpose-built, circular building. The picture was viewed from a central platform with real objects,... Continue Reading →

Best Books 2018

I read exactly 100 books last year which is probably a record for me. An update of the statistics from my first blog post: Half of the fiction books I read were historical fiction. This year included more New Zealand authors, and more biographies and memoirs. I tried to get back into reading more short... Continue Reading →

Kreitmayer’s Waxworks

Waxworks were a fixture on Melbourne’s Bourke Street from 1857. First established as Madame Lee’s Waxworks and located opposite the Eastern Markets, Ellen Williams took over the business the following year. When she married phrenologist Philemon Sohier in 1859, it became Madame Sohier's Waxwork Exhibition with another branch in Sydney. The Sohiers, however, met an... Continue Reading →

Heritage Week

Old High Court Building Open Day & Exhibition: The Old High Court building is now part of the Supreme Court complex and the ceremonial courtroom was opened to the public for Heritage Week in Wellington. I went along for a look and found the theatrical design of the courtroom with its kauri panelling, large canopy... Continue Reading →

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