Eureka! Arthur B. Adair

A few weeks back, I was checking a few details about Leila Adair’s New Zealand tour on Papers Past when I noticed something that had previously escaped my attention. Auckland Star 30 March 1894Taranaki Herald 21 April 1894 Mr A. Blackwell appeared to be part of Leila’s entourage. He is listed as a passenger with... Continue Reading →

Granny Dalton: Eccentric

One of the many colourful characters I came across during my research for The Aerial Queen was a local Whanganui identity known as Granny Dalton. She doesn’t feature in the novel, but when Leila Adair made a balloon ascent from the Whanganui Racecourse, Granny Dalton was living in a shack nearby. Feisty, independent, and illiterate... Continue Reading →

Historic Petone

One of the best things about my new locale, Petone, is the history associated with the area. Since we are all restricted to short walks in our local area during the Covid-19 pandemic let me invite you to a virtual walk through Discover Historic Petone. Many of the Petone streets are named after the early... Continue Reading →

Leon Sagehomme

Most barnstorming aeronautical performers (including Price and Van Tassel) kept scrapbooks of clippings, photos, and advertisements to prove their worth when arriving in a new town — and at last, I’ve managed to locate one of these elusive items! A few weeks ago, I obtained a copy of Leon Sagehomme’s ballooning scrap album from the... Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

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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