JUST, ELIZABETH (1840-1915)

Full Birth Name: Elizabeth Ann Just
Married Name & Dates: No identified spouse
Profession: Photographer
Professional Years: 1882 to 1886
Where Practised: Rushton & Just, Rundle St, Adelaide SA (1882-1884); E.A. Just, Rundle St, Adelaide, SA (1884-1886)
Rushton & Just logo c1884
Rushton & Just logo c1884

Feature

 

JUST, THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Elizabeth Ann Just (1840-1915)

 

Elizabeth Ann Just was one of Adelaide’s earliest female photographers. How and why Just gravitated toward photography or had indeed taken up a photographic career prior to the early 1880s has not been firmly established. What has been ascertained is that in 1882, when Just was 42 years of age, she worked at Saul Solomon’s Adelaide School of Photography, one of several photographic studios located on Adelaide’s prominent Rundle Street. In that same year Just became an equal partner with John Charles Rushton (1851-1923), also from Solomon’s, in the studio Rushton & Just, and later sole owner of the studio E.A. Just & Co., both of which were short-lived.

 

Early years

Elizabeth Ann Just was born in the port city of Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. She was the eldest daughter of Patrick Just and his English wife, Elizabeth Alison Cook. The family belonged to the Scottish gentry: Elizabeth’s father was a well-to-do shipping merchant in Dundee and was Vice Consul for Hapsburg and Belgium, while her maternal grandfather, George Cook, also had a prosperous career as a Master Mariner.

But privilege and prosperity did not immune the Just family from personal tragedy. The year 1845 was a major turning point with three deaths in Elizabeth’s immediate family. Her mother died from enlargement of the heart, as well as two of her siblings, causes unknown. Elizabeth was only 5 years old at the time.

Over the next few years two pivotal but decidedly more auspicious events occurred for the beleaguered family. First, in 1848 Patrick Just was appointed Emigration Commissioner for Dundee. His role was to assist and vet potential immigrants to South Australia.[1] Second, within a year of that appointment, Elizabeth had gained a stepmother—Patrick Just married Marion Ann Calman in Dundee on 24 April 1849.[2] The Calmans were also maritime merchants.

Nonetheless, another family death was again around the corner—Elizabeth’s first half-sibling, a sister, was stillborn and buried on 27 December 1850.[3] This latest death, having followed a string of family deaths a number of years earlier, may have contributed to Patrick Just deciding to start a new life in Australia for him and his now blended family.

Migration to Australia

Scottish immigration to the colonies was formalised in the late 1840s at around the same time that Patrick Just became an Emigration Agent for Dundee. Personal tragedy aside, generating commerce and remaining financially solvent were more than likely the major incentives for migrating to Australia.

There is the fact that on 5 March 1849, Patrick Just had met with his creditors at the British Hotel in Dundee and since then had been fighting a losing battle with bankruptcy.[4] Moreover, his brother, Elizabeth’s uncle, John Thain Just, was already in Adelaide by February 1850[5] and was in the process of scoping out a family business venture, an import and commission agency.

Back in Dundee preparations were underway for the Just family to join their relative in Adelaide. The family’s passage was booked for departure on the Zetland, a new ship laid on specifically for immigration to Australia. On 30 April, the contents of Patrick Just’s office were sold off, and on 1 May so too were the contents of the family home located at 13 Westfield Place, Perth Road, in the heart of Dundee. The Just family then headed to Liverpool where the Zetland was scheduled to set off on 31 May 1851.[6]

The Zetland arrived in Melbourne almost four months later on 14 September. The family disembarked in Melbourne and stayed for a month before leaving for Adelaide on the Christina, which arrived in Port Adelaide on Saturday, 11 October 1851. In anticipation of their arrival the first of Just’s commissioned goods had already reached Adelaide and these were announced for sale on 5 November 1851.[7]

1852 to 1879

What can be pieced together about the life of the Just family in the 27 years from 1852 to 1879 is sketchy at best. Research has been able to confirm a handful of occurrences at least, and with only varying degrees of certainty. The Just family stayed in Adelaide only long enough to confirm business operations between the Just brothers: John Thain would remain in Adelaide and Patrick would setup business in Melbourne. As soon as the arrangement between the brothers was sorted, Elizabeth’s family returned to Melbourne and settled at 1 Cecil Street in South Melbourne[8], which is where Elizabeth’s four half-siblings were born between 1852 and 1856.

But it was not smooth sailing: the Melbourne arm of the family business began to flounder around 1854 and within a few years the business was insolvent. Patrick Just was finally forced to sell up his side of the business in 1857 and the family returned to Scotland.[9]

Shipping ran deep in the bloodlines of Elizabeth’s family both immediate and extended, and though she was born into a life of privilege, she had the disadvantage of living at a time when gender determined one’s role in life—for a woman the prevailing expectation was that she marry and bare offspring. Elizabeth neither sought an occupation in keeping with the family’s seafaring tradition, nor did she ever marry. Instead, as the eldest daughter her main role was to assist in the care of her siblings and parents within the home.

Elizabeth was 12 years old when the family arrived in Australia and 16 by the time they returned to Scotland. While in Scotland, and though she was still bound to duties within the family home, Elizabeth had grown into a fairly independent young woman. She must also have attained a high level of trust from both her father and stepmother, for at the age of 18 she was the first member of her immediate family to return to Australia on her own. The fact that she left Scotland in late 1858 on the immigrant ship North as a Government immigrant steerage passenger to arrive in Adelaide in January 1859 suggests that family finances or perhaps relationships were stressed.[10] The rest of her family arrived later and all, including Elizabeth, settled in Norwood, a suburb east of the city.

Then in 1864, Elizabeth’s stepmother, Marion Ann, had begun to teach languages and music, first as a visiting governess, but not long after she opened up her own school at the family home in Norwood. The need to earn an income was forced upon her by her husband’s growing debility. By this stage Patrick Just was suffering from spinal paralysis and had gone blind as a result.[11] He died in 1879 and, as was common practice, left his entire estate to his wife.

Why Photography?

Why Elizabeth Ann Just had chosen to work in photography cannot be determined exactly. Yet there is evidence to suggest that her father may have been an influence. Patrick Just was not only a shipping merchant; he was also a philanthropist and a man of the humanities. In the five years from 1852 to 1856 when the Just family lived in Melbourne, Patrick Just participated in a number of cultural events, of which a few were reported in the local papers.

In 1853, for example, Patrick Just delivered a lecture at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) on the value and need of the Fine Arts in every area of education.[12] In 1854 he advocated and oversaw the successful raising of funds to extend St Peter’s Church on Melbourne’s Eastern Hill.[13] He was also a patron of the Melbourne Public Library, now the State Library of Victoria, and it is on record that he had gifted works on art to that institution.[14]

But it was perhaps Patrick Just’s efforts as a watercolour artist[15] which hints at why Elizabeth would eventually work in photography. It was certainly relevant to the profession, for the manual application of watercolours and other paints and dyes to black-and-white photographs was common practice in the photographic industry of the 19th century. So much so that hand colouring of black-and-white photographs was considered an art unto itself. Patrick Just would likely have handed down his love of the arts to his daughter.

Elizabeth was 39 years old when her father died and available records show she was not married and was living at home. At this point in her life, she needed to do more and may have taken inspiration from her stepmother’s teaching venture. Elizabeth sought work in Adelaide’s flourishing photographic industry as a way of forging her own career to supplement the family income. She found work at Saul Solomon’s Adelaide School of Photography sometime before 1882.

June 2 1882 Evening Journal JUST
Evening Journal, 2 June 1882

Rushton & Just

In the 1880s Adelaide’s CBD was home to several high-profile photographic studios. There were six studios on Rundle Street alone, these included Saul Solomon’s Adelaide School of Photography, George Freeman’s Melbourne Photographic Company, Hammer & Co., and Manning & Chang. The latter studio was located at 150 Rundle Street and was owned by Charles Henry Manning and Chang Pang, who apparently had some issues with a fellow photographer, Mr J.R. Dobson, but with whom they claimed they had no connection.[16]

But in mid-June 1882 it was those issues which compelled Charles Henry Manning and Chang Pang to sell their business, including debts, all equipment and presumably negatives, to two ex-staff from the Adelaide School of Photography. They were Elizabeth Ann Just and John Charles Rushton. The pair had partnered up to open their own studio and they took over the lease at 150 Rundle Street and opened their studio Rushton & Just. 

As with Elizabeth, how John Charles Rushton came to work in photography has not yet been established. He was the youngest member of his family when they arrived in the Victorian city of Geelong on the Flora in October 1852. His parents were Assisted Immigrants and his father was a carpenter from Shropshire in England who had been privately contracted to work for Mr S. Smith in the Geelong borough of Irish Town.[17]

Nor is it known how Rushton came to be in Adelaide in the early 1880s. Nevertheless, while working at the Adelaide School of Photography the young Rushton enjoyed a reputation as an excellent cricketer and in 1881 went to London with a few of his teammates.[18] One may confidently speculate that before his departure, he and Elizabeth must have seriously discussed resigning their positions at Solomon’s, for their joint purchase of Manning & Chang was publicly announced on 31 May 1882, a number of months after Rushton’s return.[19] Moreover the announcement emphasised their new approach to photographic processing due to Rushton’s acquisition of improved equipment while in London, the likes of which Adelaide’s photographic community had not yet experienced.

The new process was dry plate processing.[20] Relying on their experience and reputation gained at Solomon’s to bring in custom, the business partners offered instantaneous processing of photographs for their customers’ children as well as an up-to-the-minute enlargement service for any photograph. And to give an indication of their talents and strengths, customer options included oil paintings, watercolours, mezzotints and locket pictures. The partners also undertook outdoor photography, a service not offered or at least not advertised by most photographers.

Setbacks

When the partners took on the lease for 150 Rundle Street, the studio included three photographic rooms built from galvanised iron, at least one other tenant within the building, Mrs Rombach, and a shop front given over to Loxton Bros., a picture framing business. As Rushton & Just got underway and recruited extra staff as needed, on 24 October 1882, barely four months after opening, a fire broke out. It started in the shopfront of Loxton Bros. and spread to the photographic studios.

Evidence given at an inquest later that week revealed that all parties were insured, some very recently. There was also an incriminating claim made by a nearby chemist, Mr Porter. He reported having overheard a member of the public saying that Loxton’s should be burnt down for showcasing blasphemous caricatures in their window. Porter had previously brought this to the attention of Messrs Loxton, as he believed that Roman Catholics would take offence at some of the images on display. The inquest delivered an inconclusive verdict: “… the fire is very suspicious, but there is not sufficient evidence to connect any particular persons to the fire.”[21]

Rushton & Just was barely back on its feet when almost four months later the cry of “fire!” was heard again. On the evening of 15 February 1883 at approximately 9:00 p.m., smoke and flames were noticed issuing from within Henderson & Company, a confectionery store adjacent to Rushton & Just. This time around the fire was more devastating. It rapidly spread to the studio and then reached beyond Rundle Street and into premises located around the corner in Pultney Street. It was estimated that over 5000 people watched the blaze, which could be seen from afar against a clear night sky. [22]

There were no deaths or serious injuries but damage to property was extensive despite several attempts by fire fighters, police and members of the public to contain the fire. Rushton & Just was destroyed, including 1800 of their negatives, which were essential to generating business. Not only would the partners need to rebuild their premises, they would also need to rebuild their customer base. The consequence of the latter was made evident on the very night of the fire when Alderman M. H. Madge, after having heard rumour spread among the crowd that gathered in the fire’s aftermath that all of Rushton & Just’s negatives may have been destroyed, anxiously sought clarification on whether his were lost too—and indeed they were! [23]

Photographs of the Irish National League

Of greater consequence however was the suspected loss of negatives of the visiting delegation of the Irish National League (INL), a political party which had the support of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. These photographs were of considerable significance in that they were the only ones taken of INL members while in Australia. In fact, and perhaps a little ironically, Adelaide’s morning newspapers[24] contained a brief paragraph noting the work of Rushton &  Just for having provided sample portraits featuring two members of the INL, Mr J.E. Redmond MP, and his brother Mr W.H.K. Redmond. The paragraph commended these portraits for their excellent likenesses, and their apparent loss was felt not only by the members of the INL, but also by the South Australian community at large.

As Rushton & Just required rebuilding, the partners took a temporary lease on a vacated but fully-equipped studio at 125 Rundle Street, recently vacated by photographer Otto von Hartitzsch. Rushton & Just re-opened for business on 26 February, only 11 days after the fire, and between sorting through the debris at 150 Rundle Street and moving into their temporary studio, it was discovered that the negatives of the Redmond brothers had miraculously survived the fire. The partners made the most of this by letting the public know they could order copies.

Then, in early May, Rushton & Just created a life-size enlargement in crayon of Mr J.E. Redmond’s photographic portrait for display at an INL dinner to farewell and honour an outgoing secretary. This portrait received much praise and was worthy of mention in the Adelaide newspapers of the time.[25] The photographs of the Irish National League are the legacy of the Rushton and Just partnership, for in hindsight they have gained significance beyond the initial intention of marking an event.

Dissolution of Rushton & Just

Almost 12 months after the INL dinner, Elizabeth Ann Just and John Charles Rushton formally dissolved their partnership on 17 April 1884.[26] Rushton returned to Victoria, eventually married and settled in Pakenham where he opened a photographic studio on Main Street, opposite the Shire Hall.[27] He died on 6 October 1923 at the age of 68 from senile debility and heart failure.

The South Australian Register, 18 April 1884

Why Rushton and Just decided to end their partnership remains a mystery. Perhaps the setback to their business due to the second fire was harder to overcome than they had first thought, though it is also possible the death of Elizabeth’s stepmother, Marion Ann, three months earlier may have had something to do with it.

Marion Ann died in January 1884 and at Elizabeth inherited a legacy of £100.00. All other items, property and cash were bequeathed to Marion Ann’s birth children.[28]  The estate was settled on 28 July that year, and in anticipation of that date Elizabeth may have elected to operate independently.

E.A. Just & Co

Elizabeth became the sole owner of E.A. Just & Co. soon after the partnership with John Charles Rushton was dissolved. In a classified notice placed in South Australian Register on 18 April 1884, she acknowledges her numerous customers and thanks them for their patronage, no doubt hoping they will continue to do so. But three months later on 23 July 1884, and five days before the probate on her stepmother’s will was completed, Elizabeth announced that she had sold her photographic business to a Mr Townsend Duryea.[29] The probate was completed on 28 July and Elizabeth received her inheritance.

Life after photography

After the sale of E.A. Just & Co., Elizabeth Ann Just effectively disappears from the world of professional photography. She took a position as post-mistress of the Knightsbridge Post Office[30] where she remained for a few years before retiring to the family home on Rosemount St, Norwood. At some stage she moved in with a cousin who lived in Parkside, an inner southern suburb of Adelaide, which is where Elizabeth saw out her days.

Elizabeth Ann Just at the age of 75, died on 6 November 1915 and was buried at West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide, South Australia.

Postscipt

Of the works by Rushton & Just held in public collections only carte de visite portraits appear to have survived. These photographs are of their time, and on par with contemporaneous works with little to set them apart as better or worse. This in turn suggests that customers respond not simply to quality work but return because they are drawn by the personal qualities of those who attend to them. In that case Rushton & Just can claim quality in workmanship and in service.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The South Australian Register, 27 May 1848.

[2] Dundee Courier, “Marriages”, 9 May 1849.

[3] Dundee Parish Registers, Births 282/280, p. 335.

[4] Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review, “Scotch Sequestrians”, 29 March 1850.

[5] John Thain Just arrived in Melbourne on the Condor (The Melbourne Daily News, 25 January 1850, “Shipping Intelligence: Arrived January 24: Condor”) and then departed for Adelaide on 22 February (The Melbourne Daily News, 23 February 1850, “Shipping Intelligence: Departures February 22: Condor”).

[6] Edinburgh Evening Courant, “Shipping Intelligence: Lloyd’s List”, 31 May 1851. Due to a mishap in the harbor the Zetland actually departed for Australia a few days later.

[7] The Adelaide Times, 5 November 1851.

[8] PROV, VPRS 8264 / P1, Units 1 & 2 1855-1857

[9] The Argus, “Sales by Auction”, 21 July 1857; After the auction the family left together on 6 August 1857 from Hobson’s Bay, on the AVON (VPRS 948/P0001/13, Outward Passengers to Interstate, U.K. and Foreign Ports, Jul-Aug 1857; The Age, “Shipping Intelligence: Projected Departures”, 6 August 1857).

[10] The Adelaide Observer, “Shipping Intelligence: Arrived: [Per Magnetic Telegraph]”, 29 January 1859.

[11] The Adelaide Observer, “The Week’s News: New Publication”, 29 March 1862.

[12] The Banner, “Local Intelligence: Young Men’s Christian Association”, 2 September 1853

[13] The Banner, “Plans Wanted for A Church to be Built on the Eastern Hill”, 31 March 1854.

[14] The Argus, “Domestic Intelligence, “New Publication”, 5 July 1856; The Argus, “Public Library: Donations since 14 July 1856”, 1 September 1856.

[15] Eight watercolour views, five scenes probably in Scotland, and three of ships. Patrick Just http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110336836

[16] The argument here was that another photographer, James. R. Dobson, was, according to Chang Pang, claiming that Pang was working for him as an artist. This was denied by Pang and his business partner, Charles Manning. However, by the end of 1882 Dobson and Pang plus others had joined to create a new photographic business on a grand scale, The Photographic Company of South Australia. (The South Australian Register, “Prospectus of the Photographic Company of South Australia, Limited” 20 December 1882).

[17] According to the website Geelong and District, Irish Town was renamed Chilwell and is now part of the suburb of Newtown in Geelong’s west. (http://zades.com.au/gandd/index.php/geelong/gdlocat/gdlcwhat)

[18] The Express and Telegraph, “Cricket: Norwood v. Fifteen Adelaide Central”, 30 September 1880. Rushton played for the Adelaide Centrals and in 1880 he was the Captain.

[19] The South Australian Register, 4 March 1882, “Shipping: Extracolonial Passengers: Arrivals in South Australia”. Rushton returned from England on February 26, on the Chimborazo, three to four months prior to the opening of Rushton & Just.

[20] Hannavy, John, ed., Encyclopaedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol 1. “Dry Plate Negatives: Gelatine”, John Ward, pgs., 438-439. Routledge, New York, 2008, pp. 1523. The instantaneous process Rushton and Just purchased was in all probability a version of the new gelatine dry plate process released in the early 1880s.

[21] SRSA GRG1/44 Police reports to the Coroner – City Coroner and successors. (digitised copy, viewed 18 November 2018); The Express and Telegraph, “The Fire in Rundle Street”, 26 October 1882; The Express and Telegraph, “The Fire in Rundle Street”, 27 October 1882.

[22] South Australian Weekly Chronicle, “Fire in Rundle-Street”, 17 February 1883.

[23] South Australian Weekly Chronicle, “Fire in Rundle-Street”, 17 February 1883.

[24] The Express and Telegraph, “General News”, 15 February 1883; The South Australian Advertiser, “The Advertiser, Editorial”, 15 February 1883.

[25] The Express and Telegraph, 9 May 1883, pg. 2; South Australian Weekly Chronicle, “The Week”, 12 May 1883.

[26] The Express and Telegraph, 19 April 1884, pg. 2.

[27] South Bourke and Morning Journal, “Pakenham”, 4 May 1910; Pakenham Gazette and Berwick Shire News, “Special Notices”, 11 May 1917.

[28] SRSA GRG84/9/0/41/3780 Probate and Succession Duty for Marion Ann Just; The sum of £100.00 in 1884 has an approximate value today of $14,000. See: https://www.thomblake.com.au/secondary/hisdata/query.php

[29] Evening Journal, “Business Notices”, 23 July 1884.

[30] Sands and McDougall’s South Australian Directory for 1885, pg, 270

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