A very rare complete album, and still in its original binding, of one of the scarcest nineteenth-century published collections of photographs. This copy offered for sale by the descendants of the original tea-merchant owner, Oliver Latham, who won this in a competition in Foo-Chow in April 1873, and whose house features in one of the photographs.
Thomson's fine photographs comprise an extensive pictorial record of the landscape, architecture, and people of China's Fukien province. The printer's records reveal that only 46 albums were produced, of which only 7 (including this one) have been located at the present time. The albums were published by subscription for the "foreign residents" of Foochow, primarily those involved in the tea-trade (Introduction, p.9). Foochow was established as a treaty port in the early 1840s, and became a thriving centre of trade following the Taiping Rebellion. By the late 1850s, it was one of the biggest ports in China and the world's largest tea-exporter. Thomson spent time during 1870 and 1871 travelling up the River Min from Fuzhou to Nanping, covering almost 160 miles, documenting the land and people. Upon Thomson's return to England in 1872, he personally supervised the layout and printing of all these albums.
The original owner, Oliver Latham, was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1841, the youngest of 14 children of William and Jane Latham, who had estates at Hamilton Abbey in Fethard and Ballysheehan in Co. Tipperary. Latham left Ireland on 2 June 1859 for China via London, sailing from London on 5 June on the ship Solent
, commanded and part-owned by his brother-in-law Martin Brooks and arriving in Shanghai in October. In November 1859 Brooks found Latham an appoinment with John Forster of Foo-Chow, however Forster had already engaged another clerk and found Latham a position with the tea merchants Fussell and Co. as Fussell's assistant, with whom he worked until Fussell's sudden death (aged 39) in 1867. Latham then became a tea broker and for some years led a sociable life in Foo-Chow among the other European residents; at some time he entered into a tea-growing partnership with Charles Skerrett Rogers and married Rogers' sister Janie in Dublin in March 1874. Later that year he returned to Foo-Chow with his wife, but did not stay long and by 1881 they had moved to London where he is recorded as an "East Indian China Merchant." Latham died in Ireland in 1884 at his father-in-law's house near Dublin. A manuscript note in ink beneath photograph no.12 reads "House of Oliver Latham overlooking River Min - Foochow 1873"
The 11 competitors, listed on the title page of this album, for "Sheppard's Pigeon Match" at Foochow on 22nd April 1873 are named as follows: Tennant, Drought, Head, Paterson, Odell, Greig, Daly, A.H.Phipps, Reeves, Sheppard and Latham.
These men have nearly all been identified by consulting The Chronicle & Directory for China, Japan, & the Philippines, for the year 1872, (Hongkong: Daily Press office, [c.1872])
H.P. Tennant, (Gibb, Livingston & Co.), tea inspector, Foochow
J.A.H. Drought (Westail, Galton & Co.), clerk, Foochow
A. Head, pilot, Foochow
W. Paterson (Jardine, Matheson & Co.), agent, Foochow
W.L. Odell or John Odell, (Bull, Purdon & Co.), clerks, Foochow
M.W. Greig (John Silverlock & Co.), tea inspector, Foochow
Daly (In this 1872 directory there are no Dalys listed at Foochow and only two elsewhere: M. Daly (Aug. Heard & Co.), clerk, Queen’s Road and S. Daly, broker, Shanghai)
A.H. Phipps: possibly: A.L. Phipps (Phipps, Hickling & Co.), merchant, Foochow; there was also a an H.G. Phipps, clerk in Foochow)
W.M. Reeves (Westall, Galton & Co.) tea inspector, Foochow (listed as absent in 1872)
E. Sheppard (Russell & Co.), clerk, Foochow
Oliver Latham, exchange broker, Foochow