93 Hardy Street
Cycling in Style with the Red Rider
This project has been simmering in the background for a while, and we think it was well worth the wait! Here we have a stunning line-up of cyclists, alongside one of New Zealand’s more intriguing visitors, Nita Rosslyn.
CYCLING IN STYLE
Oh, a bicycle…when it was not only how you reached your destination but also what you chose to wear for your two-wheeled outing. In the early 1900s, cycling was booming, especially with the new ‘safety’ bike featuring a diamond-shaped frame, chain-driven rear wheels and air-inflated tyres. For women in particular, the mode of transport was popular and brought a new-found freedom.
These photographs of proud owners and their bicycles are from the Nelson Provincial Museum, mostly from the Tyree Studio Collection. Operating from c.1882–1947, Tyree Studio was established by William Tyree, later joined by his brother Frederick. The business was then sold to their manager, Rosaline Frank. They specialised in studio portraits and recording civic occasions in Nelson (such as the Daffodil Parade, which featured decorated bicycles).
The Tyree Studio Collection includes work from their own photographers, as well as some of Nelson’s earlier photographic studios dating back to the 1860s. The collection is one of the largest in New Zealand, and is now a national treasure inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Aotearoa New Zealand Register.
To make this resourse more accessible, Nelson Provincial Museum digitised their entire collection of over 150,000 glass-plate negative photos. These can be found online at www.collection.nelsonmuseum.co.nz/explore where you can order your own copies.
Nita Rosslyn was known in the 1930s as ‘the girl in red’ or ‘the red rider’ for her striking scarlet outfit and matching red bicycle. Pictured here in front of Nelson’s Church Steps, this intrepid traveller set out from Manchester, England, in 1930, to cycle around the United Kingdom. She then undertook a world tour, which included New Zealand and Australia. She funded her venture with over 5,000 singing and speaking engagements along the way.
“I have had accidents, a broken jaw and head injuries. I have been without food for two days; I have cycled 105 miles in a day, and gone straight on to the stage to earn my way…However, I’ve met all sorts of people – sometimes distinguished people in mansions, sometimes poverty-stricken people in the slums, and I’ve enjoyed it all immensely.”Nita Rosslyn, from her memoir.
With her many appearances Rosslyn wanted to prove that variety performances on stage could rival the popularity of talking movies. Her red attire was a successful promotional gimmick. The trip wasn’t without incident. She had several accidents, encountered an earthquake in Chile, and survived knife-wielding intruders in a hotel in Brazil.
In New Zealand, she aroused suspicion by keeping her bike in the bedroom of the places she stayed, and she would also eat breakfast alone. People speculated that she was really a man, or perhaps a spy, mapping the coast. Such mistrust no doubt re ected the anxiety felt in the country over the deteriorating international relations prior to World War II.
Big thanks to Gallett Properties Ltd for the use of the wall. It looks amazing!
Top: Photo by Tim Cuff.
Bottom: Miss Nita Rosslyn, ‘Red Girl’. Nelson Provincial Museum, Kingsford Collection: 163348.
Nelson Provincial Museum’s photographic collection is one of national significance with an estimated one and a half million photographs dating from the 1850s onwards. With the earliest photos dating from…