Capturing creativity in the Copyright Applications
One of the best things about being an Archivist is the opportunity to look through boxes of records which have been barely opened since they were accessioned. The Research Services Team has been listing records which were previously only accessible by searching through paper finding aids in the Register Room which will be retired when we go into our new building.
One of the projects on our list were the Copyright Application files which consists of over 7000 separate records spanning from around 1886-1963. These applications came in several formats; literary, artistic, musical, designs/advertising and dramatic work. These copyright applications chart cultural and political shifts as well as fashions and entertainment. They provide a hugely valuable record for many kinds of researchers, as these applications not only include basic information about the creator, but also copies of the work, and therefore a glimpse into a person’s creative life.
This is rare at Archives NZ as most of our records are fact-based - they might provide valuable life data about a person, but they do not give much information about what a person was like. Many of the works in the copyright series are one of a kind and cannot be found anywhere else, despite many of them being published.
Because these records contain such valuable information, they are of interest to a range of researchers. Since putting the listings on Archway we have noticed a spike in research and copying requests for these records.
These are some of the more entertaining copyright applications we have found. As you will see, some of these are very strange and others provide a unique and previously undiscovered historical record.
Firstly, please enjoy this extract from the copyright application of Jack Nelson trading as the Specialty Tea Company. Fortune telling, astrology and tea leaf reading booklets were a commonly copyrighted literary genre throughout the series. Many of these booklets were created by companies hoping that customers would be inspired to purchase their products to use them for insight into the future.
Another interesting literary genre is the ‘advice’ booklet. There are a few examples in this series of booklets providing advice on relationships, such as John William Henry Mitchell’s booklet ‘Married Life’ which claims to have all the information one would need to enter into a happy marriage.
Another example which outlines attitudes from the time is this booklet, copyrighted by the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited of Melbourne in 1932. Entitled 'Lets Drive Better than Men', this booklet, whilst being positive in tone about the ability of women to drive, does illustrate that not long before the booklet was published many people must have been uncomfortable with the idea of women driving cars. ‘Miss Arnold’ as the author calls herself, claims that the modern 1930s woman should no longer be terrified of cars, as the ‘coy little lady of 1904 has blossomed into the independent and capable girl of 1932’. There is also some advice in this booklet about how to ‘win smiles from traffic policemen’. Another interesting aspect of this record is the artwork. It is an outstanding example of 1930s design, in colour and complete with some excellent illustrations. These could be compared with copyright application 2195, by Simpson and Williams of Christchurch in 1927. This book, entitled ‘The Dominion of New Zealand’ is a beautiful, bright example of printing. It was created by the printers Simpson and Williams for the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts to depict ‘The Empire’s Most Fertile and Beautiful Country’.
Another interesting literary contribution is cookbooks. A favourite is a winemaking booklet copyrighted by John Henry Wacker of Taihape in 1934 which includes such gems as parsnip, beetroot, banana and tomato wine. All can be made at home. The recipe for tomato wine sounds particularly unpalatable.
Jane Beaton of Mosgiel also copyrighted a couple of cookbooks in the 1920s. 'The Universal Cookery Book' was clearly meant to contain recipes using the ingredients which could be found in New Zealand kitchens at the time, and it does show how creative cooks were with what they had.
By today’s standards, many people would probably say that some of these recipes are just awful, but that would be to forget that during that time New Zealand had just come out of a world war, and one couldn’t just pop to the supermarket whenever they wished to include something in their dinner. Cooks were much more creative than they are now.
Many photographs were also copyrighted, this is the second known photograph of ‘Old Biddy’ (aka Bridget Goodwin), the well-known West Coast gold digger of more than 30 years. Taken by James Ring Studios, it was registered for copyright in 1893. Only one photograph of ‘Old Biddy’ Bridget Goodwin was widely known until we found this during our listing project. It adds to the historical record of Bridget and has already been used by a West Coast distillery which makes ‘Old Biddy’ gin.
Another photograph of note is ‘Landing troops at Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli (ANZAC Cove) 25 April 1915’ by Albert S. J. Walsh of Petone. This photograph was taken on the ground at ANZAC cove and shows the confusion in the quantity of soldiers and boats on the shore.
Another format that was commonly copyrighted was advertisements. These ranged across many products and show design and social trends of the time of creation. Like the new fad for diamonds in the 1954 Clements and Holmes catalogue.
This one is titled ‘Map of a womans heart’ for ‘Woman’s Heart Tobacco’ copyrighted by E. P. Beadles of Wellington in 1890. It is a striking example of not only what we no longer advertise, but also of how we don’t advertise these days.
As you can see, listing the copyright applications provided a few surprises and many laughs for the Research Services team. We are proud that these records will finally become more accessible to a wider audience and we hope that they continue to provide researchers with a rich source of information - whatever they happen to be looking for.
Last updated on 07 October 2021