Thursday, May 19, 2011

William and Jane Yandle, taxidermists

This is an advertisement from the 1905 edition of Wise's Directory. I had glanced it while flicking through to the information I was actually after -- then, as happens so often, mentally screeched to a halt and back-tracked to it again. A female taxidermist in Auckland in 1905? Established 1866, of all periods? It seemed astounding.

I think Jane Yandle was just about the only female taxidermist to advertise in New Zealand, clear through to the early years of the 20th century. If she wasn't, she was still as rare a bird as the ones she may well have prepared and mounted in ornate Victorian-era glass cases as part of the furnishings of the well-to-do in early Auckland.

Native birds have been caught and stuffed in this country from the earliest years of European settlement, mainly for export as curiosities to dear ol' Blighty. In 1846, a consignment headed out of Wellington included “1 case stuffed birds, 1 box of curiosities …” (New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian, 14 February 1846, p. 2)

There was also a deep-seated urge among the colonists to set up museums in their far-flung colony, just like the ones back home. Auckland in the 1850s was no exception, and stuffed birds in cases was at least a start.

Having long wished to see at least the foundation of a Museum laid in Auckland, it affords us much gratification to state that a very satisfactory commencement has been made by the zeal of Mr. J. A. Smith, whose efforts have already been attended with so much success that a room respectably stored with specimens and curiosities of various kind is now prepared for inspection. It was yesterday visited by His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, under whose patronage the Museum is established, and will in future be open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 to 4 o'clock. It is situated at the "Old Government Farm House" a little beyond the Scotch Church, and nearly opposite the corner of the Barrack Wall, where two rooms have been granted for the purpose by the Government, of which, however, as we have just intimated, only one is at present occupied, —the other awaiting those further contributions which, it is to be hoped, will soon pour in …

Although, of course, there is not yet a great deal to be seen, yet there are many specimens of New Zealand minerals, some handsome stuffed birds, shells, insects, and various other things amongst which an hour may be very agreeably and instructively spent …
New Zealander 27 October 1852

Canterbury was not to be left out.

We have been favoured with a view of a large collection of stuffed birds of New Zealand, made during the past two years by Mr. A. W. Lea. The collection consists of between seventy and eighty different varieties, some of them being most rare, and a few of exquisite beauty. All are preserved with great care and skill, and must have required great labour to obtain. Mr. Lea is at present packing them for shipment to England, the collection being intended to grace the Worcester museum. The services of such a skilled Ornithologist and of as many as would help him would not be ill-bestowed in forming a similar collection as the nucleus of a museum in this place.
Lyttleton Times, 7 February 1857

Auckland War Memorial Museum's Land Vertebrates Department boasts that the earliest specimens they hold are ones from a taxidermist in Nelson, dated c.1856-1857. Very early for the true trade, if so -- mostly, the bird stuffing was by enthusiastic ornithologists, naturalists and traders in those days.

At the Auckland International Exhibition 1861, a case of birds featured.

Following the catalogue, the first articles are two cases of New Zealand birds exhibited by Mr. E. King, stuffed by Mr. Wm. Bruce and cased by Mr. Mason. In every respect these are truly beautiful; not only is the stuffing that of a master-hand, but the general get-up, the arrangement and variety of native mosses, and the finished beauty of the cases, tender them worthy of the place which we doubt not they will ultimately find in some of the palatial halls or lordly manor houses of Old England.

Hawke’s Bay Herald, 24 December 1861, from Auckland W Register, December 2

The case was later displayed in London at the Great Exhibition, and later did a bit of a tour around New Zealand centres.

The names of rare birds often feature in descriptions of the stuffed birds trade in the 19th century.

The Kakapo. — Two specimens of this somewhat rare species of parrot, the Kakapo, were brought into town last week by a native named Tamiti Wiremu. They were skinned, stuffed, and preserved in the most approved fashion. This bird is now becoming very rare, it has hitherto generally been found in the Middle Island. The flesh is esteemed a great delicacy, and the feathers are used for making cloaks, which the natives value more highly than the Ruahi or dogskin mat. In appearance this bird is not unlike the Budgeregar of New Holland, its plumage being a dark green and grey. It is of the same genus as the Kaka or Brown Parrot of this Island, but twice its size. The natives offered the birds for sale at £1 each. We remember to have seen one of the cloaks alluded to at a Conversazione in the Odd Fellows Hall; it was very beautiful and attracted much attention.
Wellington Independent, 21 February 1863

Did the taxidermists have their own shops, prior to the mid-1860s? Mostly -- no. The ads that survive, like this one, were channelled through local hotels (the proprietors of which sometimes had their own collections of stuffed fauna to delight and intrigue their guests):

ANY one wanting Birds Stuffed can have them got up in a first class style. Inquire at the Octagon Hotel.
Otago Daily Times, 27 April 1864

While William James and Jane Yandle are said to have arrived in Auckland in 1866, they weren't the first to make a splash in the newspapers. In 1867, Karl Teutenberg set up business in Auckland, primarily as a gun and pistol maker (he advertised that he was the son of Ludwig Teutenberg, gun maker to the King of Prussia) – but as a sideline, he also arranged “Birds stuffed and Skins cured for exportation in a superior style.” (Southern Cross, 16 July 1867) He appears to have been somewhat of a flash-in-the-pan (excuse the pun) as far as the taxidermy trade went, although he remained in the gun trade down to at least the early 1880s (part of the time in partnership with his more famous brother Anton Teutenberg).

Meanwhile, the Yandles first advertisement found wasn't anything to do with their later claim-to-fame:

TO SPORTSMEN --WANTED to SELL, some of the handsomest and best-breed SETTER PUPS in the colony.— Apply to Yandle, Naturalist, Victoria-street.
Southern Cross 14 January 1869

A very singular circumstance occurred in Freeman's Bay on Monday. Mr. Arthur, the auctioneer, noticed that his dogs had barked up some animal in his garden, but imagining it to be a fowl he merely called them off and paid no further attention. A few hours later, however, his servant discovered the body of a kiwi lying dead in the garden, without any bruise or mark of violence about it. How the kiwi could have got into the garden is the puzzle, as the ground is surrounded by a high and impenetrable fence. However, the bird has been handed to Yandle, naturalist, for preservation, and is a remarkably fine specimen. The supposition is that the bird escaped from some place of confinemen.t, and obtaining an entrance into the garden was killed by the dogs.
Auckland Star 1 February 1871

The word 'naturalist' fairly well gives away the fact that they were in the stuffing trade. By the early 1870s, things were clearer.

WJ YANDLE, TAXIDERMIST, FURRIER &c. (to his Excellency Governor Sir G F Bowen and Lady Bowen), Auckland, New Zealand. Fur and Feather Muffs of every description always on hand or made to order. Furs and Feathers cleaned and altered. Skins and eyes always on hand.
Southern Cross 27 May 1873

In the early 1870s, the Yandles advertised for servants, and lived at 16 or 18 Grey Street (now Greys Ave, the site of Aotea Square, the Town Hall, and the Civic Council building).

In 1874, Hector Evelyn Liardet of Wellington made his debut as the star attraction for the commercial taxidermy field in this country from the mid-1870s until his death in 1891. The following description of his works gives us a view of the Victorian taxidermist here in New Zealand.

Colonial Industry. — A Wellington contemporary of the "Press" (Christchurch) says : — " We also consider it a pleasing duty to call attention to the pursuit of any local industry, especially if it be such as to supply the ‘feather furriery' — if we may coin a name for it, which results from the praiseworthy efforts of Mr H. E. Liardet to utilise the plumage of the indigenous sea birds abounding on our coasts.

A visit to Mr Liardet's magazine in Willis street will afford — ladies especially — a great treat in the inspection of muffs, tippets, cuffs, head-dresses, &c, composed of those materials. Few persons are aware that the marine birds of New Zealand are so numerous and variegated in their plumage. But here may be seen, prepared into the most dainty, and at the same time, becoming and comfortable forms for out door dress — especially for the winter weather— and also for evening attire, the plumage of many varieties of the winged creation. Chief among them is the lordly albatross, whose feathers range from the purest white through every mottled and peckled degree to iron gray. Then come the mollyhawk, gannet, and many kinds of white and mottled gulls; and the peculiar plumage of the penguin tribe affords a quaint and distinguished variety. We may also mention the large stormy petrel, the shag or cormorant (dark, crested, king, green, and large dark), Cape hen, sea-hen, whale bird, &c. These sea birds alone furnish an infinite number of charming forms of attire ; and some of these — the yellow and orange neck plumage of the gannet, for instance — present a wonderful similarity to the most delicate furs.

Mr Liardet has also to show many skins of land birds, such as the magnificent white crane, the pheasant; the gray, paradise, and other drakes and ducks, black swans, pukeko or blue swamp hen, dotterell, curlew, &c, indeed, any plumage that suggests itself as suitable.

Mr Liardet, however, is also a taxidermist and furrier; and besides preparing and making the skins of kangaroo and opossum, seal, long and short woolled, sheep and lambs, rabbits, &c, for sale, he also undertakes to prepare, make up and clean, and refit skins and plumage of birds and other animals committed to his care. We must not forget to mention the pretty tobacco pouches made out of the web-foot of sea birds, which afford a capital opportunity for ladies to reciprocate such presents of plumage as they may receive. The albatross pouch, indeed, carries a lady's handkerchief well."
North Otago Times 10 July 1874

He nearly went bankrupt in the late 1870s, but managed to pull through, and was apparently still stuffing, curing, muff-making and fur-mending until close to his death in 1891.

Salvins Mollymawk, from the Auckland War Memorial Collection, photographed for The Zoo War.

The Yandles in Auckland continued. For a brief time around 1873, William Yandle took up the butcher's trade -- but this didn't last long. He was somewhat of a troubled man, judging by the reports in the Auckland Star. Bankrupt in 1877, he somehow managed to save his business, but from that point, Jane managed her own business. She had already made a name for herself with the artistic preparation cases of stuffed birds.

There is at present to be seen in the shop of Mrs. Yandle, taxidermist, a large glass case containing some 90 American birds, beautifully stuffed and mounted. They have been prepared by Mrs. Yandle to the order of Mr. Samuel Morrin, who brought the birds with him when he returned from America, recently. The case and its contents are well worthy of examination by those having an interest in natural history collections.
Southern Cross 5 May 1875

WANTED Known, that Yandle, Taxidermist, Furrier, etc, has removed to more central premises, opposite the City Hall. All kinds of Fancy Goods, Toilet and Nursery requirements sold at the lowest possible prices. PS — W J Y returns his sincere thanks to the public generally for their favours during the past 10 years.
Southern Cross 28 February 1876

Yandle's shop sign visible at right of this 1880s image looking up Queen Street from near Wellesley Street. Cropped detail below. Ref: PAColl-8475. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The Auckland Herald describes a very handsome carriage wrapper formed of pheasant skins, and prepared by Mrs Yandle, a well-known local taxidermist. Being well lined, it is warm, and as the skins are well-chosen, and the feathers beautifully disposed, it is exceedingly gay.
Colonist 30 June 1877

In April 1882, William Yandle, who was the worse for drink, assaulted Jane.

Wm. James Yandle on warrant, was charged with violently and brutally assaulting his wife Jane Yandle, on the 3rd instant—Prisoner pleaded guilty. He was under the influence of drink.Mrs Yandle was too ill to tell the sad story of her wrongs, but after a rest said her husband was seldom sober, and she was afraid he would take her life in one of his mad fits.—Prisoner said that was about the truth of it. Ordered to find surieties, himself in £525, and another in £20, to keep the peace for one month. 
Auckland Star 8 April 1882

Yet still, they worked together, although separately, in Hobson Street. Bankruptcy again dogged William Yandle in 1882 -- while Jane's business seemed to go from strength to strength.

(left) Photo of Jane Yandle -- courtesy Rachel Simpson.

In the 1890s, Jane Yandle took to providing her work as prizes in lotteries. This led to her falling foul of the gaming laws, but there was considerable sympathy for her from Aucklanders.

General sympathy is expressed with Mrs Yandle, in the recent prosecution under the Gaming and Lotteries Act. Even the R.M., Mr Bishop, expressed sympathy with accused, but was bound to convict, in the state of the law. The public expect, however, that the law shall be impartially administered, and if private people are to be prosecuted for holding a drawing for prizes, the promoters of church lotteries ought to be proceeded against.
Observer 5 January 1892

The Observer though, during that period, were quick to take her advertising, and involve her work in their promotions.

A STITCH IN TIME SAVES NINE. Ladies should not forget to take their Seal- skin Jackets to MRS YANDLE, Taxidermist, Furrier, etc., of Hobson-street, Auckland, who will alter, reline or mend them at a very little cost. Also, Rugs, Boas and Furs of any description made equal to new, at the shortest notice Old-fashioned Furs made up in the latest style.
Observer 28 May 1892

[Observer’s Grand Christmas Prize competition]
Case of New Zealand birds, arranged by Mrs Yandle, of Hobson street. This is also a beautiful prize, Mrs Yandle being a specialist in this class of work. She has surpassed herself in this effort, and the collection of birds is a very fine one, and of considerable value.
Observer 29 October 1892

Mrs Yandle, who is so well-known in Auckland, announces that her annual gift bazaar is now on at Masonic Hall, Newton, and will continue over Friday and Saturday. Everyone receives a present. And some of the presents are both costly and beautiful.
Observer 23 December 1893

Then, in February 1896, William attacked Jane again.

Wm. Jas. Yandle was charged with having on the February 17th done an offensive act in the presence of Jane Yandle, to wit pushed her violently, and said to her "Your days are numbered," for the purpose of annoyance and provocation.— His Worship, after listening to a lugubrious tale about family matters and family discord, advised defendant to keep away from his wife and family altogether, and try to get employment in the country. He adjourned the case to see if defendant did as he advised him. 
Auckland Star 21 February 1896

It appears that William Yandle did.

The BDM database shows a William James Yandle died in 1922, aged 80, while a Jane Yandle died in 1915 aged 72. Whether these were the taxidermist Yandles of Auckland has yet to be determined. There isn't much else to be found out about them either -- so, if any relatives of theirs are reading this, please do drop me a line. I'd love to know more.

Update 18 May 2012: Jane Yandle apparently had a daughter in the same trade, Jane Greacen.

Pig-tailed macaque,  from the Auckland War Memorial Collection, also photographed for The Zoo War.


  1. You certianly did some serious digging on this one. Great photos too. Is the Macaque from Boyds? I guess it is. Love the Mollyhawk too!

  2. Hi Liz,
    Yes, both images were taken in 2008 when I took photographs for The Zoo War. If you check your copy, you'll find both specimens are there -- and it's a mollymawk, not mollyhawk! ;-) Took me a while to realise that ... :-)

  3. Some great delving there Lisa! Very interesting...and funnily enough i came across an article on an early auckland taxidermist yesterday and i can't find where on earth it was dangnabbit lol...i've been hunting for an hour in my history to no avail.

    Hehe i recognise that room the Mollymawks in...


  4. Pretty amazing really...woman before her time. I see she's listed in the Auckland Trade and Professional directory for 1866-67 as being in Victoria Street.

    Cheers Sandy
    Must get to've got me wandering all over with nosiness now! ;)

  5. Ah, cool! Thanks for finding that, Sandy. I found in the death notices that Jane died 29 November 1915 at her daughter Mrs White's residence at 65 Wellington Street, Ponsonby, and was buried at Purewa. Husband William James died 14 December 1922, private interment, but his notice included the following note: "Passenger ship Percy, 1866... Anchored at last."

    I'm wondering now whether Auckland WM Museum has any Yandle artefacts in its collections ...

    T'was a very great day I was allowed into the mollymawk's presence ... :-)

  6. Nice work!
    Be a hunt for the headstones will it? ;-) hmmm would be freaky if i had done them already LOL...unfortunately from what i can remember when taking them at Purewa the name doesn't ring a bell. Only 2 Yandle's show up on the Purewa online database and they are all in the 1990's dangnabbit.


  7. Aye, they're not on the database -- and also not at Waikumete either. Maybe unmarked graves? Bit of a mystery, those two.

  8. Hi. I was searching Jane Turle on the internet & came across your blog. Jane Turle is my great, great grandmother. I have just started doing my family tree & I have also been trying to find her grave & haven't had any luck. On her death certificate it is listed as being at Purewa but the cementary doesn't have a record of her there. Two of her children are buried at the Symonds Street Cemetary, Bessie & Joseph who died as young toddlers. Where did you find a copy of her death notice? I would love a copy of it for my tree. I have always been told that a lot of Jane's work is at the Auckland Museum. There is also a lot of her work at the putaruru timber museum (her son William lived in Putaruru). I have visted the museum & seen her work myself.

    1. Hi I have recently published an article on JANE YANDLE on Wikipedia here: and I thought you might be interested to see it as she was your great-great grandmother. I have also published an article on Wikipedia on the NZ Timber Museum. If you have more information about Jane, ideally with verifiable sources, I'd be interested to learn more. I'm also keen to learn more about the Yandle Homestead in Putaruru which is now in the Timber Museum.

  9. So Turle was Jane Yandle's maiden name? Thanks for that. I found her death notice in the NZ Herald. Are you anywhere near a library with access to films of the NZ Herald? If not, let me know with your ewmail contact, and I'll see about getting a digital image of the notice next time I'm in the library.

  10. Yes sorry Turle was her maiden name, she was from Taunton, Somerset, England. I live in Pt Chevalier so could go to the library here & look hers & William's Death Notices up, thanks for your help. If I do end up finding her grave I'll let you know. Thanks again.

  11. Cheers! I'll see if I can find any Yandle exhibits at the museum -- I hope I do!

  12. Thank you for this really interesting material! A few months ago, I purchased in Australia a damaged case of stuffed birds that was indeed prepared by "Mrs WJ Yandle in Auckland in 1866" (at least, I think that is the year - the handwriting is a bit ambiguous). Included is a Nth Island kiwi, a kokako, and many other less rare species. But, there is also a quail. If a New Zealand quail, these are reported to have become extinct in about 1869. According to Sir Charles Fleming, the last recorded pair were taken in that year and ended up in Buller's collection.

  13. Thanks for that info, John -- you wouldn't by any chance have a photo of the case at all? I'm interested to see what her work looked like, if possible. Cheers!

  14. Yes, I can arrange that - although it is quite severely damaged and in need of restoration. The front and side glass are gone, and several of the birds are "falling off their perches"! It used to have another kokako in it, also a kakapo. I was outbid at an auction by someone in Aus who wanted those, but was willing to sell me the rest. (It does still include a very nice kakapo tail feather).
    So I repatriated them to NZ. Of course it had to be fumigated on re-entry to NZ, so is presently wrapped in plastic. Eventually, I hope to restore it to magnificence.

    How do I email you a photo?

  15. Hi John -- thanks! Just send a photo through to Would it be all right to publish it here at the post?

  16. I can send you a picture as it appeared in the auction - but it has now had the broken glass removed, also the (rather sad) kakapo, and one of the kokako removed. Furthermore, it got tumbled in transit, which did not help!

    However, it still has: 1 kiwi, 1 kokako, 2 banded rail, tui, kaka, 2 moreporks, kakariki, kingfisher, weka, 2 shining cuckoos, tomtits, fantails and one or two others.

  17. I'd appreciate anything, thanks, John -- anything of Jane Yandle's work, due to fragility and time, is so rare these days, it would be a pleasure catching a bit of a glimpse.

  18. Hi, Jane and William were my great great grandparents (Hi RC, me too & I live just down the road from you). I dont know much more than RC. I discovered your research during a google search. email me: