New Zealand Exhibitions seen through Postal and Doulton Products.


Peter van Gelder.


            Doulton Wares have long been popular in New Zealand. This popularity traces back to John Shorter, who a hundred ago was Doulton’s agent in Sydney, Australia. He introduced a wide variety of Doulton products into New Zealand’s specialist china shops. Then partly in response to the resulting public enthusiasm and partly to develop such an obviously profitable market, the Doulton Company began to produce special designs with New Zealand themes or commemorating New Zealand personalities and events.

            Two Exhibitions at Christchurch. ‘The Canterbury Jubilee Exhibition’ was held in 1900, this Canterbury being a province (founded in 1850) with Christchurch as its principle town. There were two Doulton designs for this event, one represents 1850 and shows J. R. Godley with Christchurch Cathedral, the other represents 1900 and shows William Reece with the Exhibition Pavilion. Done in sepia, these designs were applied to rack plates and to jugs.

            The next event was on a larger scale. It was the International Exhibition held in Christchurch during 1906-07. The show opened on 1st November 1906 and ran for five and a half months. A set of four commemorative postage stamps was issued. The ½d value shows the arrival in New Zealand of the Maori, the 1d shows Maori art against the background of a Maori village, the 3d shows the landing of Captain Cook in 1769, and the 6d depicts British annexation (or, more correctly, the proclamation of British Sovereignty). The three lower values were issued for the exhibition’s opening day, and the 6d followed 16 days later.

            It is the 1d value which has the most interesting story attached to it. The original printing colour for this stamp was claret, but the authorities then decided that colour was too dark to show off the design effectively. So a new printing was ordered, with the colour changed to vermilion. Next, all but 16 of the claret sheets were destroyed on official orders. But somehow one sheet (i.e. 60 stamps) of the rejected claret colour got into circulation. This happened either by their being sold in error at the Exhibition Post Office, or by their deliberate (but unofficial) release during or after the exhibition period. So the question is “did they fall or were they pushed?” Whatever the true facts of this, the claret stamps are great rarities, and any copy changing hands nowadays commands a price of several thousands of New Zealand dollars.

            Doulton and the 1906 Exhibition. John Bates, a Christchurch china shop owner, organised a spectacular display of Royal Doulton wares for the 1906 exhibition. (The Company had received a Royal Warrant from King Edward VII in 1901, from when onwards its products have been marked “Royal Doulton” rather than “Doulton Lambeth”.) The Company also produced commemorative tea plates for the exhibition. Sepia was again the design’s colour, and with a border of intertwined laurel leaves, these plates show the Exhibition Pavilion.

            Publicity labels. Another collectable item from the 1906 International Exhibition is the set of seven publicity labels. These had no postal validity. The seven design subjects are, a map of New Zealand, a Maori man, a Kiwi, a Maori woman, a Tui (bird), Maori carving and R. J. Seddon (prime minister, then recently deceased). These labels remain fairly common, except for the red label bearing the Maori carving.

            Interestingly another set of labels was issued for the Aukland Exhibition in 1913-14. This time there was a set of five, they are less stamp like in appearance and they are decidedly scarce. The design subjects are, Royal Artillery Band at the gateway, the harbour, the National Flag, a sailing ship and a Maori canoe.

            Aukland 1913-14. The rather mundane set of four postage stamps issued for the Aukland Exhibition consisted of overprinted versions of four long serving definitive stamps. These exhibition stamps were available for postage within New Zealand and to Australia only. As a result, they were rather little used. Two thirds of the printing remained unsold and so were eventually destroyed.

            Far less well known than the stamps were the postal stationery cards. These have a central boxed heading on the address side, reading “AUKLAND EXHIBITION 1913-14”. There was a ½d value showing King Edward VII (died 1910) on the imprinted stamp, and a 1d card with the New Zealand stamp design. On the back each card has an Aukland view, e.g. “Fish ponds and Entrance to Exhibition” appears on some ½d cards. In all there are six different views to collect on half penny cards and seven on the penny cards. These are amongst the scarcest of all New Zealand postal stationery cards and nowadays change hands for up to £100 each.

            The 1992-93 Exhibition. Moving on nearly eighty years we come to the Counterpost Royal Doulton Ceramics Exhibition. New Zealand Post sponsored this show and to mark the event issued a set of six stamps featuring Doulton products. Additionally there is a beautiful miniature sheet showing a scene at Doulton’s Lambeth works in Victorian times. This exhibition was two years in the making and was organised to tour New Zealand’s major towns. It opened in Wellington late in November 1992, then visited Christchurch, Dunedin, Hastings and Aukland, where it closed at the end of October 1993. The “Old Charlie” character Jug was the official exhibition symbol. In all, 750 exhibits were shown, of all types and sizes, including a special section featuring New Zealand motifs. There were several rare and unusual items never before exhibited. The Sir Henry Doulton Gallery (which is the Company’s museum at Burslem) lent several pieces for the show, and many other items came from private and public collections in New Zealand and Australia. It all formed a fitting celebration of New Zealand’s century long love affair with Doulton.

   © Exhibition Study Group 1999