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Photographs of [England], Samoa and Hawaii from the Powell Collections

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y309B

Scope and Contents

An album containing mounted photographs of various sizes, generally uncaptioned. Inside the front cover of the album is written: 'Taken by Wilfred Powell, Deputy Commissioner for the Western Pacific of Samoa,' but the photographs were probably also taken by members of his family - and by the commercial photographer J. Davis of Apia, who died in 1903. Davis’s shop appears in Y309B/50. Little information is given with regard to locations and events, and many of the captions composed must be regarded as at best tentative. The album can however be roughly divided into geographical locations thus:

Plates 1-18 England
Plates 19-24 Shipboard and (?) Solomon Islands
Plates 25-42 Samoa
Plates 43-44 (?) Australia
Plates 45-54 Samoa
Plates 55-58 Hawaii
Plates 59-89 Samoa
Plates 90-100 England

Presumably, most of the photographs were taken in the period after 1885 when Powell was appointed Consul in Samoa and Deputy Commissioner for the Western Pacific.


  • Creation: 1885 - 1890


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Powell was born in 1853. As a young man he served aboard HMS ‘Britannia,’ ‘Victory,’ and ‘Temeraire’; after this naval apprenticeship he travelled widely, exploring New Britain from 1877-1880 and describing his experiences in ‘Wanderings in a wild country’ (1883). In 1885 he was appointed Consul in Samoa and Deputy Commissioner for the Western Pacific, but was recalled in 1886 (this was not a reflection of Powell’s ability but was the result of an agreement with the German Government that Stuebel, who had been meddling shamelessly in Samoan Government affairs, should also leave). Powell was then made Consul in Stettin, from which post he attended the Berlin Conference on Samoa in 1889 (see Y309C introduction), acting as Clerk to the British delegation, and as an advising authority on the Samoan situation. Here his contact with the Pacific largely ended, the rest of his career being spent in various consular posts in America. He was promoted Consul-General in 1913, and retired in 1916. He died in 1942.


100 item(s) (100 images)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

good to poor condition.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The photographs form part of the collection of Wilfred Powell, left to the Society on his death in 1942.

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection is available on microfiche: Oceania, fiche numbers 2-3.

Related Materials

See Y309993A for other photographs from the Powell collection and for a note on J. Davis's photography.


Powell, Wilfred (1883), 'Wanderings in a wild country,' London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington.

For a listing of all items in the Powell collection see: Simpson, D. (ed.) (1962), Royal Commonwealth Society, Library Notes With List of Accessions, New Series No. 64, April.


This item level description was entered by NE and MJC using information from the original typescript catalogue, which draws heavily on the Royal Commonwealth Society, Library Notes (1962) for biographical details.


Powell, Wilfred, 1853-1942, explorer and consular official

Includes index.
2006-10-23 15:58:39+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom