[Sumatra], [ca. 1910]. Oblong photo album measuring 7” x 10” approx. String-bound, padded boards in Indonesian batik cloth. 32 sepia-toned photographs glue mounted recto and verso, each measuring 6” x 4.25” approx. Minor soil to cloth with touches of wear at corners. Page edges very lightly worn. Sunning at extremities. Tissue guards edge-worn and creased. Photographs generally fine. Near fine overall. Near fine. Item #16694
Photo album of an Sumatran (likely East) tobacco plantation taken by an accomplished and likely professional photographer. Includes crisp and detailed photographs of the fields (planting, cultivation, harvest), various processing areas (drying, etc.), buildings, landscapes, and many striking portraits of workers and other native Indonesians. Laborers much in evidence throughout, including several images showing what are likely Chinese immigrant workers (more than 300,000 emigrated between 1870 and 1930 to work the plantations after tobacco's introduction to Sumatra in the 1860s). The album opens with several individual studio portraits, likely the plantation owners or other Sumatran officials, suggesting this was assembled with promotional purposes in mind. Nevertheless, an intimate look at the tobacco industry in Indonesia around the turn of the century, taken by an accomplished photographer. Perhaps more than any other region of the world, tobacco remains an integral part of Indonesian life, with some of the highest smoking rates anywhere. Therefore, an important document in the development of Indonesian culture during the peak years of tobacco production in the region.