William Edgar Geil with locals, Castle Hill, Townsville 1901
12cm x 17cm. Silver gelatin photograph.
Original Queensland photograph from American evangelist, explorer, lecturer, photographer, and author William Edgar Geil (1865-1925). Stamped to the verso indicating that is from Geil’s photographic archive. Geil is best known for his evangelistic travels, which took him to China, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Rim and the South Seas. Geil wrote a number of books about his travels, including, The Isle that is Called Patmos, Ocean and Isle, A Yankee on the Yangtze, A Yankee in Pigmy Land, and The Great Wall of China. He is considered to be one of the most important explorers of his generation and also documented his travels through photography. In addition to his writings and photography, Geil lectured extensively. He married later in life and had no children. His widow, Constance, survived him until the late 1950s. In 1959 his estate was sold at public auction including the contents of his library, which was purchased by a Bucks County book dealer “Gus” Gustafson. It remained in his possession until shortly after his death in February of 2008. This stereo view depicting Geil posing with locals atop Castle Hill and shows a number of gentlemen posing with a young girl high on a rock behind them. Upon his return from New Guinea, Geil expected to catch a boat from Cooktown to the Philippine Islands, before arriving in Melbourne. However, the boat had left Sydney four days early, and consequently had already gone when he arrived in Cooktown. Unexpectedly, he had to fill in two weeks in Queensland before the next boat was available. This new connection would not be in Cooktown, but in Townsville, so Geil travelled down the coast. Geil describes his time in Queensland as follows: “When the pastors of Townsville heard of my presence in the city they united their forces and a special series of meetings was conducted. The first evangelistic service proved that the Wesleyan Church was too small for the crowds who desired to attend. The Presbyterian building was next used, but that also would not accommodate the crowds, so a committee of businessmen leased the School of Arts, and finally the theatre. Scores professed conversion in these meetings, and arrangements were made to vigorously work on for three months or until an evangelist they expect to assist them should arrive. This was all while I waited; then I found by wiring, two days still remained before I could get the steamer. These were spent at the gold-mining centre, Charters Towers. I gave one service the first day, and there was demand for three meetings the next, which were conducted in the Wesleyan Church No.1, which was the largest church building in the city. The Lord gave us favor with the people. There were scores of converts, and among them some prominent in society and business. At the last service a man and his wife and four sons professed conversion, one not knowing that the others were doing so. This was all done while I waited. The pastors in both cities appreciated the help greatly, and the fact that they were not permitted to remunerate me in any way for the work done, helped, I think, my influence with the mass of the people. Then there being still further delay, I was asked to deliver an address on my independent observation of missions, in the Presbyterian Church in Townsville. For one solid hour I spoke to a packed house, and it was said that no such mission service had ever been held in the history of the city. I am thankful for the break in the journey, and consider it was the will of God that I should miss the ship and get in the blessed work in Queensland.”
Minor fading. A couple of surface defects to the right side. Very Good Condition.