Inside the Collection

Ambrotype of the Premier of New South Wales Charles Cowper, 1859

Ambrotype of the Premier of New South Wales Charles Cowper, 1859
Collection, Powerhouse Museum

This photograph is of Charles Cowper, the second Premier of New South Wales, and his ministry. Sometimes referred to as ‘Slippery Charlie’, Cowper appears to have lived up to his name as he was elected premier five times between 1856 and 1870. It is amazing that this relic of the State’s history has survived the past 150 years because it was made using the ‘ambrotype’ process which produced unique one-off photographs on a glass plate.

One reason it has survived is that it has spent most of its life with the family of Lawrence Hargrave before being donated to the museum in 1963. The reason for this is that Lawrence’s father J. F. Hargrave, who can be seen on the far left of this photograph, was a member of this short-lived ministry. The others, from left to right, are John Robertson (secretary for land and public works), Charles Cowper (premier), Elias Carpenter Weekes (colonial treasurer) and Lyttleton Holyoake Bayley (attorney general).

August 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of another Cowper ministry, that of the Reverend William Cowper, who became the minister of St. Phillip’s Sydney in 1809. If you are interested, St. Phillip’s are commemorating this event with two services – Sunday 16th August, 10AM, and Tuesday 18th August, 12 noon.

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