Among a group of images we recently scanned were around fifty or so taken during the 1920s which initially did not appear to have any relevance to our collection. They showed views of locations in the USA such as Niagara Falls, and a majority of the images showed scenes of forestry operations. It was not clear who had taken the photos or when, but by a stroke of luck we think we have found that out.
We began by assuming that it had to be someone well-off, since few residents of the area could have afforded an expensive overseas trip in the years after WWI. A search was made in the Trove database of our two local newspapers of the time, the Propeller and the St George Call, for any mention of ‘Niagara Falls’ in the 1920s. This led us to an account in the St George Call from 24 October 1924, in which Percy Tanner, the Mayor of Kogarah was welcomed home following a lengthy round-the-world holiday.
Alderman Tanner was well-known locally as a director of Tanner and Peters Ltd, the timber and building merchants, at that time one of the area’s largest employers. Born in 1882, he married Clara Follett in 1908, and they had three children. He was elected Alderman of Kogarah Council in December 1922, and served two three-year terms representing East Ward. In early 1924 he requested and was granted eight months’ leave of absence from his Council duties.
The main reason for his holiday was to attend the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, London. He sailed for England on the Ormuz in March. Following his English tour, in May he visited Germany, and bumped into Henry Middleton, of the Hurstville timber suppliers Walters, Middleton and Eades, with whom he toured Switzerland. (Perhaps this chance meeting was what instigated the amalgamation of companies in 1927 which formed Tanner, Middleton Ltd.)
Alderman Tanner sailed from London for New York on the Olympic liner, arriving there on 19 August 1924.
From New York he went to Detroit, and was shown round Henry Ford’s factory at Dearborn, Michigan, which was turning out one automobile every minute. Then Detroit to Chicago – the Prohibition-era Chicago of Al Capone.
From Chicago, Tanner headed for California and Oregon, with a stop-off to view the Grand Canyon. As a timber man, he made sure to visit the mighty forests on the ‘Redwood Highway’.
Methods of harvesting and transporting timber filled him with enthusiasm. He spoke on his return of one timber mill which was capable of turning out 425,000 feet of timber in eight hours – perhaps the factory shown above.
Via Seattle, Tanner crossed into Canada, and travelled home on the Niagara. His wife and daughter met up with him at Auckland.
We do not have a good photo of Percy Tanner in our collection for comparison purposes, but we think this may be him, outside the Patricks Creek Tavern in California – a venue which still exists, with an exterior largely unchanged.