Alexander Fletcher

Date of Birth
Date of Death
Alexander Fletcher (1837-1914)

Alexander Fletcher was born in 1837 in Gamrie, Banff, Scotland, the son of Neil Fletcher, a merchant, and his wife Janet (nee BLACK) . Fletcher, his mother and her second husband, Donald McDonald emigrated from London to Nelson aboard the Gladiator, 25 October 1861 . Just over one month later, Mr. A. Fletcher had set up a photographic studio in his rental accommodation and premises:

ALEXANDER FLETCHER, Photographer, Bronti-street, begs leave to inform the public of Nelson, that he is taking superior CALOTYPE PORTRAITS, at extremely moderate prices. STEREOSCOPIC GROUPS and STEREOSCOPIC VIEWS of Gentlemen's Seats, &c, taken in the first style of the art. ALBUM PORTRAITS, Six for a Pound, especially adapted for sending home. CHILDREN'S PORTRAITS taken at any age. Source: Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 30 November 1861. p 1

(Interestingly, In 2009, £1 from 1861 was worth: £69.40 , approximately NZD$175.00) Source: Measuring Worth’ website, <> accessed 27 July 2010

Fletcher quickly established his business in a small but competitive marketplace (approximately 12,000 Europeans and 1000 Māori ). There were at least three other photographic businesses in Nelson in 1861 according to advertisements in the local paper, including Messrs. Oxley and Lane, who operated the Royal Photographic Gallery in Trafalgar Street ; a Mr. W. Davis, taking photographs in Hardy street ; a Mr. W. LANE, PHOTOGRAPHER, HARDY-STREET, opposite the Nelson Club House; and DAVIS AND HOBY, Photographers at the Misses Jay's, Bridge-street, Nelson.

A mere year after his arrival in Nelson, Mr. A. Fletcher was referred to as one of the …leading merchants of the town . By November 1962 he had purchased and moved to new premises called the Nelson Photographic Rooms on Hardy Street. Besides photographic portraiture, Fletcher established an excellent reputation for his landscape photographs of Nelson. He exhibited these at several international exhibitions including The International of 1862 (or Great London Exposition), the 1865 New Zealand Exhibition held in Dunedin, and the 1867 Victorian Inter-Colonial Exhibition held in Melbourne. At the New Zealand Exhibition his pictures were proclaimed to be:

…without doubt the finest productions in the Exhibition, and represent some of the most picturesque portions of that picturesque Province . Source: New Zealand Exhibition, 1865, Reports and Awards Of The Jurors And Appendix. pp 195-196; 320

Unfortunately the whereabouts of the majority of Fletcher's landscape photography is unknown. Various descriptions of these images can be found in the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle newspaper .

In 1867 Mr. Fletcher left Nelson for an overseas excursion, and the Nelson Photographic Rooms were left in the management of Mr Theo. [Theodor] Bloch (late of Copenhagen) . When Fletcher arrived back in Nelson in the latter part of the same year he brought with him …a large variety of objects of art from Europe which he exhibited in the rooms of the The Literary and Scientific Institution of Nelson (now known as the Nelson Provincial Museum), Hardy Street.

We understand that it is the intention of Mr A. Fletcher shortly to open an exhibition at the Institute building of the various works of art, purchased by him during his late visit to Europe, which have just, arrived by the Queen Bee, and are now being unpacked. They consist of a large collection of objects of art, including bronze figures and tazzas, porcelain vases, &c, from Paris, of the latest designs, mounted in ormolu, oil and watercolor paintings, with numerous chromolithographs and photographs from the best London houses. The exhibition, which will introduce to the Nelson public a large variety of novelties in art will, we are informed, be followed by a Fine Art Lottery, by which every subscriber will be enabled to obtain a share in the general distribution of these beautiful objects . Source: Nelson Evening Mail, 15 January 1868. p 2

It was this foray into working as an art dealer that eventually saw Fletcher sell his photographic business to Mr. T.H. Bannehr (whom Fletcher endorsed). He married Miss Catherine Reid McGee, and they sailed for Australia aboard the Airedale on the same day, 3rd September, 1870. They moved to Melbourne, where Fletcher became a leading art dealer of Collins Street (historic Melbourne Street) until the 1890s depression and the bank crash of April-May 1893, when he disappeared from public view . Fletcher died in 1914, aged 77, at the Old Colonists' Homes in Rushall Crescent, North Fitzroy, and is buried in the Melbourne Cemetery. His wife died a year later .

By Megan Hansen-Knarhoi, Nelson Provincial Museum.

Published on August 2010.

Jordan, Caroline., In search of Alexander Fletcher; 19th-Century Photographer and Art Dealer, in The New Zealand Genealogist, July/August 2003. p 232

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 26 October 1861. p 2

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 30 November 1861. p 1

‘Measuring Worth’ website, <> accessed 27 July 2010

Hursthouse, Charles., New Zealand: the "Britain of the South", with a chapter on the native war, and our future native policy. Second Edition. London. Edward Stanford, 6, Charing Cross, 1861. p147

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 7 December 1861. p 1

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 8 May 1861. p 4

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 7 December 1861. p 1

Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 10 October 1862. p 2

New Zealand Exhibition, 1865, Reports and Awards Of The Jurors And Appendix. pp 195-196; 320

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 30 July 1864. p 3

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 5 February 1867. p 2

Nelson Evening Mail Friday, November 29, 1867. p 2

Nelson Evening Mail, 15 January 1868. p 2

Jordan, Caroline., Fletcher's of Collins Street; Melbourne's Leading Nineteenth-Century Art Dealer, Alexander Fletcher, in The La Trobe Journal, No 75 Autumn 2005. p 89
ibid. p 89


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