The Many Sides of Charles Laseron, Part I

Charles Laseron among staff at the Technological Museum, Sydney, 1919, MAAS Collection, MRS 299/17 (detail)
Charles Laseron among staff at the Technological Museum, Sydney, 1919, MAAS Collection, MRS 299/17 (detail)

Charles Laseron was an early collector at MAAS and formative influence upon our applied arts collection. He was also present during the Gallipoli landings in 1915. In the week leading up to the ANZAC Centenary, we are publishing a series of posts detailing Laseron’s life. This post is the first of three.

Charles Laseron was a collector from a young age. He had his own museum of geological specimens in the loft of his Lithgow home at the age of 9, charging one penny as an entrance fee. In 1902, at 15 years old, he enrolled at Sydney Technical College and studied geology and mineralogy at night under noted geologist Carl Sussmilch. By day he worked at the Bank of New South Wales.

In 1906, Laseron travelled up the Shoalhaven River from Nowra by punt on a 3-week collecting trip, living off wallaby and damper. This journey resulted in his first science paper, “The geology of the lower Shoalhaven” published in Australian Naturalist in July that year. It was the same month he became collector at the Museum. He was 18 years old.

Charles Laseron (front row, second from right) among staff at the Technological Museum, Sydney, 1919, MAAS Collection, MRS 299/17
Charles Laseron (front row, second from right) among staff at the Technological Museum, Sydney, 1919, MAAS Collection, MRS 299/17

Life for Laseron as a collector meant travelling by second-class rail and bicycle through New South Wales, Tasmania and southern Queensland. He was directed by the curator to search for botanical and geological specimens. Writing to museum clerk George Beyer, he paints a colourful picture of life on the road:

Had hard work getting from Nimmitabel here on the bike, as I had a southerly gale in my teeth the whole way, and the roads were heavy after rain … when I arrived I was mud from head to foot, and you ought to have seen the bicycle. Send me a few official envelopes will you (Laseron, August 1913).

Letter from Charles Laseron to George Beyer, 6 August 1913, MAAS collection, MRS 203
Letter from Charles Laseron to George Beyer, 6 August 1913, MAAS collection, MRS 203

Anything from marble and granite blocks to bags of leaves would be transported by ship or rail back to Sydney for testing by the museum’s scientists. Laseron’s field notes from this time provided reference material for the museum’s research publications.

Stone specimens collected by Charles Laseron in New South Wales in 1908, MAAS collection
Stone specimens collected by Charles Laseron in New South Wales in 1908, MAAS collection

Laseron’s explorations throughout Australia as a collector for the Museum foreshadowed the long journeys he would take in the next phase of his life, including his Australian experience of war on the shores of Gallipoli.

To continue reading, see the second post and the third post in this series. 

This post was adapted by Alli Burness from “The Many Sides of Charles Laseron” by Jill Chapman. The original chapter appears in Greame Davison and Kimberly Webber (ed.s), Yesterday’s Tomorrow: the Powerhouse Museum and It’s Precursors, 1880 –2005, Sydney: Powerhouse Publishing in association with UNSW Press, 2005, 124–125.

References

Australian Naturalist, volume 1, issue 3, 1906-09, pp 26-7

MAAS Archives, series MRS 203, Laseron to Beyer, 6 August 1913

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