Saturday, 28 January 2017

Some old postcards of North Borneo

There are postcards here from Funk in Sandakan, G R Lambert in Singapore and C Piens from Hong Kong.

This is number 78 of the series of picture postcards from Funk & Sons in Sandakan. It is a rare scene of the Padas river ferry crossing. It was probably taken in the early 1910s. The taller person in the near foreground in the typical starch collar European attire was Funk himself. He was featured in a few of of the postcards of this series. Funk was used to the European ways as he worked for many years in the government services especially as a clerk in the treasury department.

This picture postcard from G R Lambert in Singapore was one of the earliest commercial postcard showing an indigenous scene from North Borneo. The earliest similarly used item featuring North Borneo was a postcard published by G R Lambert of the Sandakan Memorial Tower was sent in November 1903. This is followed by a Government series postcard dating from March 1904.
This photo was possibly taken by a Mr H von Katte of G R Lambert & Co in Singapore. He was recorded in the BNB Herald as being on assignment between July and September 1902 in Sandakan, partly to take some official photographs on the request of the Governor. This was on the occasion for the festivities of the Coronation of King Edward Vll in Sandakan mainly centred at the town padang. The cost of the 12 photographs of 2 copies each was put at $150, a princely sum and also showed how expensive professionally taken photos were in those days.
Gustave Richard Lambert arrived from Dresden in Germany in Singapore in 1875 and set up his studio on Orchard Road. His studio photographed and produced about 3000 photos of Singapore, Borneo, Malaya, Siam and China. He produced the first picture post card of Singapore. The firm also flourished in Malaya and Siam but was possibly wound up during WWI due to its German origin. The post cards which were printed to a very high standard in Germany were made unsustainable.

A postcard by C Piens of Kowloon, Hong Kong.  Charles Piens resided in Kowloon between 1906 and 1913. He worked for a major German trading house, Siemssen & Co in Hong Kong. He was responsible for a series of postcards depicting scenes from Hong Kong and North Borneo around Sandakan in particular. While there is no evidence that he personally took the photos in North Borneo, he would have had some local contacts due to the close commercial links between Hong Kong and Sandakan. This is card 1977 from his series and was printed to a very high standard in Germany. I wonder who those three Europeans were and they are also in other postcards from C Piens in photographs taken around Sandakan.  

This is another card from the Funk series which was published as from Philippe & Sons. It is in exceptionally fresh and clear condition and obviously commercially used. It is unusual with its ornate frame.

A rare and possibly one-off real photo postcard of an official occasion at Sandakan parade ground or town padang. It was probably taken by Corrie Dominic. It was quite likely Mrs Tallack was his sister. Their father, Pongholo Dominic was deputy assistant commissioner of customs in Sandakan when he retired. The indication was that he was originally from Jolo in the Philippines. He and his wife had 3 sons and 4 daughters. Charles Tallack initially worked as a mining engineer at the Silimpopon coal mine near Tawau.
Little is known about the wife of Charles Tallack apart from that she was not a European. A blurred family photo taken in Tawau showed a fair complexion. A significant number of European expatriates married local women. It was officially discouraged and this group of women were the "unmentionables" in the BNB Herald. And also there was scanty information about the other races outside of the expatriate population.
The Herald was used mainly to share good news locally and with the wider audience. Acts of omission and shameful practices or events were usually grossed over or not mentioned at all. To do so would seem officially bad for the morale of the workforce and discourage inward investment and immigration. But it is still the best source of historical information about British North Borneo that exists.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Labuan Coal Company

This is a really nice registered letter cover to the Labuan Coal Company at its office in London. Arthur George Vanscolina went on to work and lived in Labuan.
In 1912, he was recorded as the assistant manager of the Brunei Estates Ltd based at Labuan and also socially a vice president of the Labuan Social Club. He also remained as the local representative for the Labuan Coalfields Company. 
The coalfields were closed in early 1911 due to the presence of fire damp.

The New Central Borneo Company Ltd were the lessee for the coal mine. In this share certificate dated 1896, A Vanscolina was one of the signatories as the secretary of the company.