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HomeContents > People > Photographers > General William Robert Houghton

Other: William Robert Houghton 
Dates:  1826 - 1897

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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Amateur, India
14th Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry. Photographed the tombs at Tatta in Sindh in 1858; in 1861 was commissioned by government, with H.C.B. Tanner (qv), to photograph the people of Sind for transmission to the London International Exhibition of 1862, and contributed to The People of India (8 vols, 1868-75).
In July 1861 the Bombay Government received a list from the Government of India forwarding a list ‘of the more remarkable tribes to be found in India’ and requesting ‘the assistance of this Government in procuring for Her Majesty’s Government photographic likenesses of a few characteristic specimens of such of them as exist within the Bombay Presidency.’ A letter was therefore despatched to the Commissioner in Sind on July 10 1861 asking what would be the best means of effecting this.[1]
Commissioner of Sind ‘recommends that Captain Houghton and Lieutenant Tanner be entrusted with the duty of obtaining photographic likenesses of various tribes in Sind.’ The Bombay Government approved this request on 16 August 1861, subject to the Commander-in-Chief’s approval.[2]
‘The Commissioner in Sind forwards specimens of photographs of tribes in Sind executed by Captain Houghton.’ These were acknowledged on 6 December, with a request that 20 copies of each be printed.[3]
A further package of photographs was received from Captain Houghton, and on the 6 January the Bombay Government requested 20 copies of each to be made for transmission to London.[4]
A copy of the Government of India letter to the Government of the North-West Provinces, ‘communicating their instructions in regard to the collection of photographic likenesses of tribes in India’ was received by the Bombay Government and on 9 January 1862 copies were sent ‘for information and guidance to ‘the Commissioner in Sind and the Revenue Commissioners Southern and Northern Divisions.’[5]
Commissioner in Sind submits a bill for Rs. 428-12-0 for expenses incurred by Captain Houghton in his photographic work. Bill sanctioned on 20 January and debited from the Rs. 20,000 put aside by the Government of India for expenses related to the 1862 exhibition. [6]
Civil Pay Master submits a bill for Rs. 237-11-6 for Houghton’s photographic expenses. Passed and charged to exhibition.[7]
‘Commissioner in Sind reports that he has authorized a passage per steamer to Bombay and back being provided for a Moonshee and peon proceeding in charge of native records required by Major Goldsmid to complete the descriptive accounts of the individuals photographed.’ Sanctioned 21 April 1862.[8]
Two letters received from the Commissioner in Sind relating to Tanner and Houghton’s photographs. Acknowledgements of Government sent to Tanner and Houghton and copies of papers forwarded to Home Government (see letter to the Under-Secretary of State for India, No. 797, dated 12 May 1862).[9]
Asiatic Societies of Bengal and Bombay request sets of the photographs prepared for the London Exhibition. Houghton and Tanner requested to print and forward to Government a set of the Sind photographs for transmission to the two societies.[10]
Despatch from Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for India No. 32, dated 13th November 1862 - Intimating that the photographs forwarded with the letter from this Government dated 9th of May, No. 797 of 1862, have been received, and placed in the Museum attached to the India Office, and that he has caused Captain Houghton to be informed that the 20 copies of photographs which he was requested to supply to the Secretary of State for India will not be required.’[11]
Letter from the Commissioner in Sind No. 166, dated 19th February 1868 - ‘Stating, with reference to Government Resolution No. 1610, dated 23rd September 1867, that photographs of ancient architectural structures, etc., as per list given by him, taken by Captains Houghton and Tanner, who were specially employed on the duty, were submitted to Government in 1862; and, with reference to paragraph 2 of Resolution No. 1548, dated 9th September 1867, expressing his regret that copies of the photographs taken of the various races in Sind, and sent to Government, have not been preserved.’
‘RESOLUTION. - The Commissioner should be asked whether the subjects specified in his present letter comprehend all ancient architectural structures or their remains in the Province of Sind, as the Government of India require complete lists.
2. As no copies of the photographs taken of the various races in Sind have been preserved, of the two sets under return to this country from the India Office Museum one should be sent to the Bombay Branch, Royal Asiatic Society, and the other to the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The incomplete set of nineteen photographs may be placed in the University Library.’[12]
Resolution of Government in the Public Works Department, No. 156cw-575, dated 16th March 1868 - ‘Declining to place the services of Captain Sellon and Major Houghton at the disposal of the Revenue Commissioner for the purpose of taking photographs of architectural structures; stating that there is no objection to these Officers taking photographs of any antiquities that they may meet with in the course of their tour of duty; and adding that if for this purpose they desire to make any special journey, or to incur any detention not called for by their Public Works duties, the permission of the Superintending Engineer must be obtained in the first instance.’[13]
Bombay Government Resolution No. 2434 of 15 October 1869.
records that ‘Colonel Houghton and Captain Sellon should be asked to report what photographs they propose taking during the course of the ensuing season, and informed that Government do not intend incurring any further expenditure.’[14] 

  1. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, July 1861, IOR/P/352/34 No. 538. 
  2. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, August 1861, IOR/P/352/34 No. 644. 
  3. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, December 1861, IOR/P/352/34 No. 964. 
  4. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, January 1862, IOR/P/352/35 No. 10. 
  5. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, January 1862, IOR/P/352/35 No. 20. 
  6. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, January 1862, IOR/P/352/34 No.54. 
  7. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, April 1862, IOR/P/352/35 No. 254. 
  8. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, April 1862, IOR/P/352/35 No. 285. 
  9. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, May 1862, IOR/P/352/35 No. 328. 
  10. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, May 1862, IOR/P/352/35 No. 329. 
  11. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, January 1863, IOR/P/352/37 No. 8. 
  12. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, March 1868, IOR/P/441/51 No. 246. 
  13. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, April 1868, IOR/P/441/51 No. 321. 
  14. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings 1869, IOR/P/441/52/p.346. 

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