Guide to the Papers of Wilfred Powell (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Powell, Wilfred, 1853-1942
Papers of Wilfred Powell (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1839 - 1940
Collection Number
16 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Papers mainly relating to Powell's work as Deputy Commissioner for the Western Pacific at Samoa 1885-1887. They include: official documents, letters and reports on his travels in the Pacific and New Guinea and on the administration and politics of Samoa; manuscripts and cuttings on Samoa; the Pacific labour trade; the annexation of New Guinea; accounts of the Samoan hurricane of 1889; and photographs of Samoa. Correspondents include J.B. Thurston.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Material selectively filmed at the Royal Commonwealth Society, London, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1982 (AJCP Reel: M1688). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Papers were formally held by the Royal Commonwealth Society, London. The archives moved to the University of Cambridge with the rest of the Royal Commonwealth Society Library in 1993.

Existence and Location of Originals

Royal Commonwealth Society Library, University of Cambridge Library, West Road, Cambridge, England.

For further information see University of Cambridge Library []

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

The papers of Edward J. Dunn (M1689), records of the Royal Commonwealth Society (M1690-1703) and Hugh Childers (M1687) have been listed and filmed separately.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Papua New Guinea; Papua New Guinea: annexation; Pacific labour trade; Powell, Wilfred; Samoa; Photographs: Samoa; Thurston, Sir John B.; Western Pacific High Commission


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 380, p. 144. []

Biographical / Historical

Wilfred Powell (1853-1942). Fellow of Royal Geographical Society, author of Wanderings in a wild country, or three years among the cannibals of New Britain (1883). British Consul for Navigators Islands and Deputy Commissioner for Western Pacific at Samoa 1885-1887, Consul at Stettin 1888-1898, adviser at 1889 Samoan Conference in Berlin, Consul at Philadelphia 1898-1913, Consul-General at Philadelphia 1913-1915.

Item Descriptions

Documents on consular appointments, 1883 - 29 May 1889 (File 1)

7 items

Filmed selectively.

Coutts Trotter. 'Some account of New Guinea', [1883] (Item)

Cutting on South Sea Island mail service (Item)

Powell to Lord Salisbury, 30 June 1885 (Item)

Passage from Auckland to Apia. (draft)

Sir Francis Bell to Powell, 28 July 1885 (Item)

Passage to Samoa.

P.W. Cruin (Foreign Office) to Powell, 10 January 1887 (Item)

Payment of full salary while in London.

E. Malet (Berlin) to Powell, 9 May 1889 (Item)

Requests attendance at Berlin Conference on affairs of Samoa.

E. Malet to Powell, 29 May 1889 (Item)

Thanks for assistance at Samoa Conference.

Powell's travels, 1873 - 1887 (File 2)

The papers include the registration certificate of the ship Star of the East (1875), memorandum of Powell Trading Association Ltd. (1880), correspondence with Queensland Treasury concerning pilotage duties (1887), indenture between Powell and G. Turner relating to a voyage to New Guinea (1877), correspondence concerning a paper by Powell on the South Sea Islands given to the Royal Colonial Institute (1880), and a letter from R.H. Herbert arranging a meeting with Lord Derby on New Guinea (19 April 1883). (13 items)

Book of press cuttings, 1883 (File 3)

The cuttings, mainly from London and Sydney newspapers, relate to the annexation of New Guinea, Polynesian labour trade, Fiji, New Caledonia and Powell's book Wanderings in a wild country. (c. 70p.)

Routine consular affairs, 1885 - 1886 (File 4)

The documents include correspondence with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce on a mail service to the Navigator Islands, provision of a light on Opolu, consular accounts, and description of materials for Powell's house at Apia. (8 items)

Letters on natural history specimens, 1885 - 1886 (File 5)

The documents include lists of Samoan exhibits and ornithological specimens given to the Zoological Society of London and Oxford University Museum. (7 items)

Letters and reports on Samoa, 1885 - 1889 (File 6)

The papers include letters from Captain A. Brooke on visits to Samoa, letters from J.B. Thurston on the interest of the Great Powers in Samoa, Powell's achievements and allegations that he wished New Zealand to annex Samoa, notes on the value of British, German and American properties in Apia, map of the political divisions in Savair, Opolu and Tutuila, report on special administration of Apia, notes by Powell on the distribution of Pacific Islands between Britain, France and Germany, August 1887 (printed), and Berlin Declaration relating to the demarcation of British and German spheres of interest in the Western Pacific, April 1886. (22 items)

Notebook, c. 1885 (File 7)

Small notebook with pencilled notes on conditions in Samoa, land transactions, accounts.

Map of Samoan Islands, 1839; 1871 (File 8)

C. Wilkes. Map of Samoan Islands, 1839, corrected by United States Hydrographic Office, 1871.

Photographs of Samoa (File 9)

Photographs of Samoan houses, canoes, government offices, Pago Pago village and harbour, R.L. Stevenson, and memorial to British and Americans killed in 1899.

Typescript account of Samoa (File 10)

The typescript deals with the physical geography of Samoa, customs, ceremonies, buildings, religion, music, sport, and manufacture of tapo. (44p.)

Account of Samoan hurricane, 1889 (File 11)

Typescript account of Samoan hurricane, 15 March 1889. (6p.)

Exercise book (File 15)

Book of speeches, letters, stories and notes on beche de mer, fishing, labour trade and other subjects. (c. 100p.)

List of Samoan exhibits (3p.) (File 16)

Correspondence, 1934 - 1940 (File 18)

Correspondence between E. Lewin, A.B. Campbell and Powell mostly dealing with the Samoan hurricane of 1889.

Miscellaneous notes (File 19)

Notes relating to the life of Powell, including notes by P. Kennedy on British and German archival sources on his Samoan Consulateship.

Album of photographs (File)

The photographs are uncaptioned, but about 70 of the photographs relate to the South Seas.