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Object: Portrait of James Alexander Matheson and Ethel Louisa Matheson

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Title Portrait of James Alexander Matheson and Ethel Louisa Matheson
Production Berry, William (photography studio), 1917, Wellington
Materials photographic gelatin, silver, sheet glass, photographic plates
Classification black-and-white negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives, portraits
Technique black-and-white photography
Format half plate (1/2)
Credit line Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number B.047163

Portrait of James Alexander Matheson and Ethel Louisa Matheson

This portrait shows a man in the uniform of a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the New Zealand Army, with a young woman.

The  negative is inscribed with the name 'Sergt-Major Matheson.' The man depicted can be identified as James Alexander Matheson, service number 3/2266. James Matheson served in the New Zealand Dental Corps, and his promotion to Regimental Sergeant-Major was published in the Evening Post newspaper on 28 May, 1917. The promotion took effect from 1 April, so the photograph was probably taken shortly afterwards, given the brand-new appearance of his uniform to which he has not yet attached his Dental Corps collar badges. Perhaps the Mathesons had come into Wellington from Trentham for an appointment with one of the city tailors who specialised in uniforms?

The woman is his wife, Ethel Louisa Gertrude Matheson, nee Williams, who had married James on 24 February 1917. Their daughter, Monica Ethel Matheson, was born on 21 December 1917.

James was born in Dunedin on 11 July 1881. His pre-war occupation was as a Theatrical Agent. He was  employed by the Kinemacolor Company of Melbourne, promoting films made in  'Kinemacolor' which was the first successful colour motion picture process, used commercially from 1908 to 1914.

James volunteered for military service in early December 1915.  He was medically examined on 6 December, but due to a problem with his left foot, he was graded as 'Fit for home service'. He joined the Dental Corps at Trentham Camp as an orderly the next day with the rank of Private. He was promoted Corporal on 6 February 1916 and to Sergeant-Major on 17 April 1916.

James served with the Dental Corps until 6 February 1919, when he was demobilised. He died in Auckland on 23 June 1942. Ethel married a second time, to Alfred Strawbridge, and died in 1974 aged 87.  

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