Maitland Flood Scenes Photographed by Elijah Hart (1864-1870?)

The State Library of Victoria holds a set of photographs by Elijah Hart (c.1821-1893) depicting Maitland (N.S.W) and  which they date to 1857 located at

Researcher Mr Peter F. Smith has provided evidence that all four images could not date from 1857, but probably date, at the earliest, from the 1864 to 1870 Maitland floods. See his evidence below.

The State Library of Victoria Information:

Photographer’s name printed beneath image; Elijah Hart, West Maitland; and on verso: Elijah Hart, Photographic Artist, Portrait Gallery, High Street, West Maitland; H2010.134/86 has name beneath image only: Elijah Hart, Photographer, West Maitland. Undated, but Elijah Hart worked at High Street, West Maitland, N.S.W. between 1857 and 1872. Ref.: Australians behind the camera, directory of early Australian photographers, 1841-1945 / Sandy Barrie, 2002.

Street scenes: Three images show what is possibly the High Street in West Maitland with the street flooded and buildings with the signs H. Thomas, Central Printing Office, and The Maitland Hotel; H2010.134/85 shows a flooded street (possibly Devonshire Street) with buildings on either side, including the Municipal Council Chambers: Five men, full-length, standing, all wearing hats, one without shoes — four men, full-length, three with beards, standing left foreground, two wearing bowler hats and two top hats, one in frock coat and leaning on a cane, another with high boots and another with mutton chop whiskers; to the left are several horses tethered to posts in front of the Maitland Hotel — Two young men standing on a log, three boys without shoes standing in water, and another boy seated on a post, beside street covered with water, with buildings on either side of the street in the background on one of which is the sign Municipal Council Chambers, and behind it a two-storey verandah with eight people standing on the upper level — Street scene with figures in the distance, street flooded and a clinker built boat outside the Maitland Hotel.


Maitland Flood Scenes by Elijah Hart, Photographer, West Maitland. Dated as 1857, but according to researcher Peter F. Smith probably circa 1867 or 1870. Courtesy of State Library of Victoria. Click image for a higher resolution version


Maitland Flood Scenes by Elijah Hart, Photographer, West Maitland. Dated as 1857, but according to researcher Peter F. Smith probably 1867. Courtesy of State Library of Victoria. Click image for a higher resolution version


Maitland Flood Scenes by Elijah Hart, Photographer, West Maitland. Dated as 1857, but according to researcher Peter F. Smith probably 1867. Courtesy of State Library of Victoria. Click image for a higher resolution version


Maitland Flood Scenes by Elijah Hart, Photographer, West Maitland. Dated as 1857, but according to researcher Peter F. Smith probably 1864 or 1867 floods. Courtesy of State Library of Victoria. Click image for a higher resolution version.


Elijah Hart: 1893 ‘LOCAL NEWS.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 12 January, p. 5. , viewed 27 Feb 2019,

THE LATE ELIJAH HART.—In the Sydney papers we note mention of the death, at the age of 72, of Mr. Elijah Hart, for many years a prominent resident of West Maitland. Mr. Hart came to Maitland in about the year 1854, and began business as a photographer, being almost the first to introduce the art here. He settled down, married, and took an active and intelligent part in various movements. He was a promoter of musical societies, and for many years was a member of the Volunteer Infantry force ; he was also conspicuous in the debates conducted at the School of Arts, and energetic as a member of the Committee and Vice President. Wielding a somewhat sarcastic tongue, he did not get on well with many folks, but he was an entertaining companion, with a flow of natural wit and a store of anecdote. Some years since Mr. Hart removed to Sydney, but made frequent visits to Maitland in connection with property he had acquired by purchase and by marriage. He leaves a widow but no family.

On 16 March 2019, Mr Peter F. Smith, a local Maitland researcher contacted us by email. He has extensively researched the Elijah Hart photographs and is convinced that they do not date from 1857,  but from the 1867 flood, and possibly 1870 floods.

Elijah Hart announced he first opened photography business in Maitland in December 1854. He married Henry Early’s widow and the Early family owned two terraces in different parts of Maitland both known as Early’s Terrace. One was in Devonshire Street and this is where Elijah Hart first lived and where he conducted his first Maitland studio. The premises still exists along west side of Devonshire Street. (The second Early’s Terrace was in West Street (near Bulwer and Elgin Street).

Hart’s first known Maitland photo is probably only known to us via the etching of the east end of High Street published in a Sydney journals in 1855. (Smith believes this etching is based on one of Hart’s first Maitland streetscape photos based on circumstantial evidence he has collected). The photo itself has not emerged – would be brilliant if and when it does!

With regards to the dating of the State Library of Victoria photographs, he provides the following evidence in support that they do not date from 1857.

Context: Elijah Hart’s Devonshire Street studio from December 1854 had been relocated to High Street at the time of these photos. The location from which the photos were taken accords to the front of where Hart’s studio was located in 1867. It’s his view that two of these photos definitively date from 1867 Maitland flood, while one could be 1864 and the other either 1867 or 1870 flood.

Here is Peter F. Smith’s evidence for each photo interpretation and date:


Photo Devonshire Street/Council Chambers

1. Alderman Wolstenholme reported in April 1866 he had examined a house in Devonshire Street, suited to be taken as the council chambers. So the photograph could probably be from 1867 or 1870 floods. Ref: Maitland Mercury, 5 May 1866 p. 3


Photograph showing four men gathered in front of store with water on road

Northern High Street frontage:

1. Top of facade of David Cohen and Co. warehouse built 1866 after 1865 clearly shown – easily paired with common photos showing Cohen’s store

2. Lettering on closer building east of High/Sun Street HAN …NY refers to Robert Strachan and Company. The business traded under the name of R. Strachan and Co. as Government Gazette states when Strachan’s 1867 insolvency was published. GG July -December 1867 p 2278. This 3 story building, commonly known in the 1850s as Dickson’s store, was taken over by Robert Strachan in 1862. He then partnered with George Addison Paterson and Strachan declared insolvency in September 1867. The building was in the hands of James’ widow, Agnes Dickson and ultimately became the Royal Hotel for several generations. The men may be able to be identified as George A Paterson, Robert Strachan and Edward Capper. Two of the Dickson brothers married sisters of Robert Strachan.

Southern High Street frontage:

1. The publican for the Maitland Hotel – as stated on two signs shown in the photo – was George Wade. I have compiled all publicans yearly as part of my forthcoming detailed book on the emergence of High Street. George Wade was the ONLY publican of the Maitland Hotel in 1867.

2. Town Hall Cafe was built in 1860 – by confectioner George Moore senior – replacing an earlier single story store he ran. Its erection made a conspicuous improvement to the streetscape at that time.

3. Henry Thomas opened in 1854 at the premises shown, but was still in business there until 1879.


Photo featuring 4 boys on street.

Same time period – 1867 flood in recession. Same water formation on road as in above. The letter “B” is visible on closeup on top side west facade of 3 story building west of Cohen’s store. This is apothecary William Lipscomb’s 3 storey rebuild after 1865 fire.

Both photos show in distance triangular gable of Victoria Theatre built 1859 – again disproving 1857 date.


Photo showing boat in front of H. Thomas

1. Town Hall Cafe built 1860 so not an 1857 flood photo

2. While John Brady brought his Beehive grocery store to Maitland in 1857, it was located north side of High Street facing Bourke Street. John Western kept Beehive stores shown in photo in the 1860s, directly west of Maitland Hotel. This photo could be either 1864 flood or 1867 flood.

Peter F. Smith
16 March 2019

High Street West Maitland 1868 (Courtesy of the National Library of Australia) Provided by John Carr.


High Street West Maitland in vicinity of 273 High Street, opposite current Maitland Art Gallery (Google Earth Screenshot 2019)


Gionni Di Gravio
18 March 2019

2 thoughts on “Maitland Flood Scenes Photographed by Elijah Hart (1864-1870?)

  1. The two storey building in the centre of these photographs still exists at 273 High Street Maitland and is locally known as the Town Hall Cafe, saved from demolition in the 1990s by local heritage enthusiasts.

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