The Cosme Colony Collection, Treasures from the University of Sydney Library Rare Books Collection

The Cosme Colony Collection, Treasures from the University of Sydney Library Rare Books Collection


The ‘Cosme Colony Collection’ is formed of two
parts. The first part, this part here, was acquired from the Sydney journalist and author Gavin Souter, who wrote a
book about the, ah, Paraguay Colonies called, ah, ‘Peculiar People’ and that part of the collection contains his
research notes, the manuscripts of the book, photographs, and so on. The second part of the
collection was acquired from descendants of John
Lane, who was one of the original colonists
and we have a photo John Lane here, and this
part of the collection contains photos, printed material, documents and letters from the Lane family. The first settlement that was
established in Paraguay was called ‘New Australia’, and here in the collection we have a
‘Certificate of Membership’… And, this particular Certificate belonged to John Lane, who is the younger brother of William Lane, the founder of the ‘New
Australia Cooperative Settlement Association’. Right
from the start, despite the ideals of brotherhood and
equality that they had in the colony, ah, there was dissension and unhappiness. There were quarrels and rumors, and two groups
formed fairly quickly. Uh, one group which followed
William Lane and his rules of teetotalism and not
mixing with the Paraguayans, and another group which were opposed to
Lane’s rules. And he found the conditions overly harsh and the rewards few. Here we have some
photographs from the New Australia Colony. Um, here we have the Lane family. John Lane whose
‘Certificate of Membership’ we have here. Sitting in front of him is Cosme Lane,
one of his daughters who was the first child, born at Cosme Colony. And one of my favourite photos from the collection is a photo of
Jenny Lane, John Lane’s wife and one of his daughters in their kitchen. Jenny Lane is cooking and you can see
oranges on the table and the daughter who I think may be Alice
looks like she’s making a cup of tea. I think this particular photo is quite
unusual because normally when you see photos from this period, they’re quite formal photos, and
this one’s very informal, there’s people doing something in their own setting. And we know that the settlers, when they first arrived,
relied on their orange trees which grew wild in the area. They relied on them to
supplement their diet. And here in this photo you can just see
some more oranges and it looks like Jenny Lane may be cooking an orange cake for afternoon tea. And here we have an original document from
New Australia. It’s a report of the education system to
be adopted by New Australia. it’s very detailed, very
well thought out. But unfortunately the reality didn’t
live up to these ideals. A number of teachers came and went, and it was really quite haphazard. A second batch of colonists arrived at
New Australia in 1894 in March but, ah, conditions only
became worse. People mistrusted William Lane in the way that he was running the
Colony and finally, William Lane resigned his position as
chairman and left with 63 of his followers to form a new colony. They acquired some
land about 72 kilometers southeast of New Australia and this land was bought with money that was sent to
Dave Stevenson, one of the colonists who was the cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson the author. And Dave’s well- to- do family in Scotland sent
him 150 pounds, and that money was used to buy 9300
hectares which then became the second colony, ah,
Cosme Colony or Colonia Cosme in Spanish. And here
we have some of the material from the Lane
section of the Cosme Colony Collection. We’ve
got a wonderful collection of photos here and, for example, we’ve got one of the houses that was built at Cosme Colony, and you’ll
notice that it’s very typical of an Australian timber slab house. We’ve got photographs of the men of the colony. We’ve got Dave Stevenson, who inherited
the 150 pounds, reclining down the front here. He was quite a dapper fellow. We’ve got some of the children in the orange grove. We’ve got a lovely photo here, a very faint
one, of the colonists playing cricket – a
great Australian pastime transposed to Paraguay. We’ve also got
a photo here of the children’s the colony at school getting ready for a presentation. And here we have a photo of one of the
most well- known of the colonists, Mary Gilmore, later to become Dame Mary
Gilmore, the Australian poet and national icon. She went to Cosme Colony as Mary
Cameron. Um, she followed Dave Stevenson, but she ended up marrying William
Gilmore. As well, we have documents that came from
the colony. One of the ones I like the most is this
little piece of paper here which is a record of the colonists with
their names, their age, weight, height, measurements, where they came from, and their
occupation. And I feel this little document really
brings the story of the colony to life. We’ve also got an official document
from the Paraguayan government. It’s a document in Spanish appointing
John Lane as an immigration agent. And here we have some of the publications
of the colony. We have a price list of goods supplied and
work done at Cosme. This would have been printed at the
colony and we’ve got, also got a general information leaflet.
This probably would have been sent out to Australia and England in the hope of attracting
new recruits. Cosme eventually failed as well. There
was was rancor and division amongst the
colonists. People left in a steady stream, and not
enough new recruits came to replace them. Despite the hard work of the colonists,
the crops failed, and because of the isolation of the colony,
it meant that there was no ready market for what they were growing. Eventually in 1899, William Lane, founder, was so disillusioned, he left
the colony. He left Paraguay, and he went to New
Zealand where he worked as a journalist and later editor on the New Zealand Herald. According to the publication ‘The
Cosme Monthly News’, he left for health reasons, but also
because he wanted to be free to propagandise. We also have a, an interesting little handwritten
receipt, which is a receipt for trial membership, for a man called Leonard Apthorpe, who came
to Cosme Colony from England in 1900 as a result of William
Lanes recruiting drive there. And we have a photo of Len Apthorpe here. He’s the man in the photo wearing
the cap, holding the child. He ended up being one
of the long-term colonists. But he was often criticized by the
other colonists because he was considered lazy. The collection also has a number
artefacts in it. First of all, we have this board which was
carved by this man here, John or Jack Parish. He was a wood carver who came from
Bradford in England. He arrived in Cosme Colony in
nineteen hundred after William Lane’s recruiting trip there. And this board is nicely symbolic of the ideals of Cosme
Colony. We have, um, some corn here, which was grown at the colony. Another
type of plant over here. We have the horn of plenty. Seems to
symbolize the idealism and the optimism with which the colony was begun. But sadly, unfortunately, none of that
survived and the colony disintegrated. We also have a baton made out of the local timber ‘lapachum.’ Here we have a notebook that originally
belonged to John Parish. He left the colony eventually to return
to England and the notebook was passed on to John
Lane. John Lane took this notebook to Australia
when he went back for a recruiting trip in 1901, and it really was an extraordinary trip
that he made. He sailed to Perth and then travelled to Adelaide. In Adelaide, he bought himself a
bicycle, and he rode his bicycle from Adelaide through the outback and the desert to Broken Hill, Whitecliffs, and Bourke in Western New South Wales and then on up to Glen Innes in Northern New South Wales.
He did it in the height of summer. He rode a distance of over 1,700
kilometers on the bike, and in this little notebook,
we have a record of that trip. So we have listed his expenses and here
we have a record of his purchase of the bike. We have lists of the towns that he visited and
the public lectures that he gave, contacts that he made, people who are
interested in possibly moving to Cosme Colony. On that particular trip, John Lane took a number of glass slides with him, and we have some of them here. He carried these slides with him so that he
could show them on match, a magic lantern at public lectures, and we’ve reproduced these images, and here’s one of them. This is a group of the Cosme
Colonists reading the Cosme evening notes. Every night, they gathered together and the notes of what had happened during the
day were read aloud to the group. Later on, the Cosme evening notes were replaced by the Cosme Monthly a, a more formal printed newsletter. It began being hand written and was later printed at the colony. One of the very early issues from January
1895 has a map of Cosme on the front, and just reading the last two paragraphs
on the back page gives you a sense of what it was like
living at the colony at the time. No particular sickness. Missus Lawrence getting well in Rica and returning
soon. Another baby, first boy born, in Cosme. Cash and food both short beginning of
month. Nearly reached bedrock. Got 1,500 pounds of beans on credit. Ate beans till corn grew. Pretty short of
various little necces.. necessary still, but have loads of
tucker now. Consider this fairly good for six months
on virgin land.

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