The 19th c. world in living color

Henry Harrison was the paymaster-general of the British Royal Navy at the end of the 19th c. He traveled the world, taking copious pictures and biological specimens.

He was also an artist, so he adroitly colored all of his slides while he was still on the spot, coming amazingly close to photorealism for the era.

Hell, even for this era. My parents have plenty of colorized pictures from their childhood with excessively pink cheeks and glaringly yellow hair.

In addition to the collection of magic lantern slides, he left detailed notes of his subjects. He travelled from Egypt to the South Pacific, taking in most of the important ports of call along the way. The photographs include graphic images of the punishment meted out by the Chinese authorities in the early years of the Boxer Uprising.

Photographs show captured rebels in tiny crates, awaiting execution, and the aftermath of mass beheadings.
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Other locations include the Pyramids, India, Venice, Pompeii, Tonga and the West Indies. One of the slides is labelled: β€œAn English party ascending the Great Pyramid.”

Chinese rebels about to be beheaded An English party ascending the Great Pyramid

The Boxer Rebellion pictures are dated 1895, which is 3 years before the generally agreed upon beginning date of the revolt.

I’m not sure if the label is Henry Harrison’s or something the appraisers have determined. If it’s the latter, that’s something quite notable. Not only are these never before seen images of the repression, but they’re well in advance of what we might expect to see.

His large collection slides and specimens have remained in the family all this time. Now his granddaughter-in-law is selling 30 of the slides, the paints he used to color them and his notes on how to color in the photographs.

The catalogue will be online on the auctioneers’ website a week before the October 1st sale.

16 thoughts on “The 19th c. world in living color

    1. I would love to see more of his Original Photoshop ( :giggle: ) work. Perhaps the granddaughter-in-law will be inspired to publish the full collection in the wake of this publicity.

  1. Leave it to an in-law to sell a collection that amazing out of the family….though I would like to see the images compiled in a book or website. I sure as hell wouldn’t sell it off if I was them though. My family has a full set of Encyclopedia Britanica’s from the early 1900s (which is amazing to read, though horribly innacurate πŸ˜† ) that you can bet will be staying with me when they are gone. :boogie:

    1. Oh wow, WANT YOUR EB!!1 I totally agree with you. If I had a beautiful and historical collection like this, it would be fully published and loaned to museums.

      Until she put it on the block, nobody even knew it existed.

  2. The comments & dates etc are all written by Henry Manoah Harrison & have not been added by the Auctioneers or anyone else for that matter.

    (for the record – I’m not the Grand daughter in law)

    1. You mean the notes on the photographs themselves presumably? I figured as much, given Harrison’s extensive recording of his work and travels.

      The granddaughter-in-law is Moiya Harrison, not Susan. Are you related at all or just the proud possessor of the same last name?

    2. To add to the family history I have uncovered an interesting fact about a relation of Henry’s.

      On Ascension Island in the Mid-Atlantic there is a gravestone with the following inscription. “Sacred to the memory of HENRY GARLAND HARRISON died of Yellow Fever, aged 25 – 1838.

      I remember Uncle Morris (Son of Henry Manoah) refering to a portrait of a young Naval Officer of the same name but I was not aware of the exact relationship. Can you shed any light on this?

  3. I am part of the family (sort of) …Moiya is my Mother in law. I can’t claim any ‘real’ blood line!!!

    Yes, I was referring to the notes on the photographs.Evidently he was quite meticulous – recording precise details and added all sorts of interesting comments.

      1. Thanks for your comments. Yes I have seen all the slides – they are truly wonderful!
        We do hope that Henry will be recognised for his superb talent.

        1. I think he already has been. This blog entry was linked to by a very popular photography (among other things) blogger and has since received over 5,000 views.

          Clearly we are not the only ones impressed by Henry’s astonishing creativity and artistry. πŸ™‚

  4. I was on Ascension in the 1970s and took a photo of the gravestone with the inscription:
    Sacred to the memory of
    Henry Garland Harrison
    Assistant Surgeon HMS Viper
    (Son of Lieut J B Harrison R.N.)
    who died of yellow fever on
    the 26th of May 1838 in the 26th year of his age. I still have the photo if you would like a copy (gratis)

  5. How exciting! Family history being revealed by complete strangers on a history blog! I was two years too late for this conversation, but still really cool to se.

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