Nicholas John Caire was born in Guernsey on February 28th 1837. His family, who were of Scottish descent, emigrated to Adelaide circa 1858. Caire pursued his interest as a photographer while working as a hairdresser. He studied photography under Townsend Duryea and became a travelling photographer. In 1865-68 he had a studio at 97 Hindley Street, Adelaide. In 1870 he moved his business to Scandinavian Crescent, Talbot, Victoria. From 1872-75 he was based at View Place, Sandhurst (now Bendigo), Victoria. In 1876 Caire purchased the Melbourne studio of Thomas F. Chuck. In 1880 he was active at 11 Royal Arcade, Bourke Street, Melbourne and in the same year he was one of three official photographers to the Melbourne International Exhibition and was later made photographer by special appointment to the government of Victoria. In 1885 Caire moved to 2 Darling Street, South Yarra. He occupied various studios in South Yarra until circa 1900.
A commercially produced portfolio containing fifty-two mounted prints measuring approximately 180 x 125 mm., showing views in and around Bendigo and giving a detailed photographic coverage of the city and its suburbs. Each print is pasted to an elaborately printed mount with a decorative border, 'Views of Bendigo' and the print number at the top, and a title and explanatory key beneath the picture. Beneath each plate is also printed 'N.U. Claire Photo. Sandhurst' and 'Welch.Typo.' Some prints also state 'Casey and Wenborn's print' and 'Forbes and Holmes, agents.'
The birth of the city of Bendigo can be dated from October 1851, in which month gold was found in this part of the Ravenswood sheep run. From then on, the town grew with remarkable rapidity. What had been deserted pasture and woodland had, by the time of the census of 1854, 15,480 inhabitants (this in spite of the fact that several thousand had recently left for other fields). In this year also, seven schools were operating, Cobb and Co. had opened a regular coach service to Melbourne, the Bank of Victoria had opened premises, and the Criterion, Freemasons and Royal Hotels were flourishing and expanding. Other signs of permanence, and of the transition from a settlement into a township, occurred in that year - in August 1854 auctions of land allotments for permanent buildings were held and surveys started to lay out a street plan. This expansion continued. When Caire took these photographs in 1875, the shallow alluvial gold deposits had been largely exhausted (although odd finds continued for many years), and the mining companies had moved in and, confounding the sceptics, had extracted huge quantities of gold in deep quartz reef mining. In 1875 the mining companies were experiencing yet another upturn in gold production: 'There appeared to be no end to the marvellous richness of the Garden Gully line of reef, and the deeper the shafts were sunk, fresh bodies of golden stone were met with at pretty regular intervals.' (Mackay 1891) Even today, mining is still an important industry in Bendigo, although secondary to the city's importance as an agricultural and stock centre.
Mackay, G (1891), 'History of Bendigo', Melbourne.
This collection level description was entered by WS using information from the original typescript catalogue.
This collection is available on microfiche: Australasia, fiche numbers 67-68.