Page 1: Biography
Photographer, hotel manager, farmer
Photographer, inventor, engineering works owner
This biography, written by Max D. Lash, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Fred and William Tyree were the sons of William Tyree, a master bootmaker, and his second wife, Elizabeth Frances Baker. William, the eldest child, was born on 19 April 1855, in Christ Church, Surrey, England. Two more children followed before Fred, who was born in Marylebone, London, on 7 March 1867. His mother died shortly after he was born and in March 1869 William Tyree senior married Ann Catherine Baker, his sister-in-law. They were to have four children.
In 1871 the Tyree family arrived at Port Chalmers, New Zealand, on the Otago. Soon after, William senior began working as a bootmaker at Queenstown, where his brothers – James, a photographer, and Frederick, a carpenter – were also in business. All three brothers later practised their trades in Dunedin, where by 1884 James had a photographic studio. It is possible that the younger William gained his photographic training from his uncle.
By 1878 William junior had established the Tyree studio in Trafalgar Street, Nelson. He specialised in studio portraits, processing, and keeping a photographic record of civic occasions of the growing city. On 18 March 1882 at Nelson he married Mary Ann Evans (née Cross). They had no children of their own, but William adopted Mary's son, Arthur. In late 1884 he rebuilt his studio building and two years later employed Rosaline Frank as his assistant. By this time his younger brother Fred was working for him, specialising in 'scenic images'. Fred had received his training in photography with Robert Clifford in Dunedin, having previously trained as a druggist.
In 1892 William Tyree began giving evening limelight slide exhibitions, in which he projected images from inside the studio onto the first-floor window. The first showings coincided with Nelson's 50th jubilee celebrations. In 1895 he appointed Rose Frank as his manager with power of attorney and began loosening his ties with the Tyree studio and Nelson. In October that year he and his family sailed to Sydney with a large collection of slides to advertise the attractions of Nelson province. He then travelled to England to study advances in the production of acetylene gas. William had become interested in the development of acetylene generators for gas lighting, and now sought to improve his system and market the process.
On his return to Nelson William Tyree demonstrated an Edison phonograph and moving pictures of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee of 1897. He installed an acetylene-powered lighting system in the Christchurch home of his brother Alfred, and established a company to produce generators and sell carbide to power them. He was a prolific inventor, patenting gadgets ranging from an improved egg tester to an apparatus for washing clothes. About 1910 William moved to Sydney, leaving Rose Frank to manage the Tyree studio. He bought a photographic business, but photography was now a declining interest. Instead, with his wife he became wholly occupied with establishing an engineering firm, Tyree and Tyree. He attempted to further his various inventions but was unable to succeed in the competitive commercial environment, and in their later years he and Mary were supported by their son, Arthur. William Tyree died at Sydney on 1 June 1924. It is not known when Mary Tyree died. The Tyree studio had been sold in 1914 to Rose Frank, who continued to manage it, retaining the original name, until 1947.
Fred Tyree had worked for his brother for only a few years before establishing his own photographic business in Takaka, Golden Bay, in 1889. Soon after his marriage at Nelson on 12 April 1892, he moved to Christchurch to work for his brother Alfred, a footwear manufacturer. Fred's wife, Grace Beveridge Scott, was the daughter of a Takaka farmer; there were two sons and a daughter of the marriage. About 1897 they returned to Takaka, where Fred revived his photographic business. Two years later he became manager of the Collingwood Hotel, then about 1905 moved to Rockville, where he began farming.
While living in Golden Bay Fred Tyree travelled widely around the Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast regions, capturing with technical excellence his now-famous images of goldmining, industrial and rural development, and social and transport activities. On the farm he built a bakehouse, which Grace Tyree ran, and adjoining this a darkroom and photographic workroom. He briefly returned to running the Collingwood Hotel around 1915 before settling to farming pursuits, interspersed with photographic work. He died at Rockville on 8 April 1924, eight weeks before his brother William. He was survived by Grace Tyree, who died in 1941. The Tyree collection at the Nelson Provincial Museum consists of some 200,000 negatives by the Tyree brothers and several other photographers.