c.1908 Pedder Street | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

c.1908 Pedder Street

c.1908 Pedder Street


Where: The lamps on the building show the word "Hotel".

Hotel lamp

They light up the Hong Kong Hotel [1], so we're looking north along Pedder Street from near the junction with Queen's Road. The curved building in the distance was the Hotel Mansions building, later called the Union Building [2]. At this time it housed an extension of the Hong Kong Hotel.


Who: It's a fascinating scene, with so many people coming and going. A few caught my eye...

Shiny hair

Long before supermarkets were filled with shelves of shampoos and conditioners, these ladies have the secret of shiny hair all worked out!

To the right, a rickshaw puller is heading towards us. With the street as busy as this, I wonder how he cleared a path. Would he have a bell to ring, or just shout out a warning?

Rickshaw puller

Next a selection of hats, a couple of broad-rim workmen's hats on the men walking away, and a bowler-hatted businessman heading our way.


Along the kerb are several rickshaws and sedan chairs, waiting for customers from the hotel. Over on the right these two are comparing notes about the day's business:

Rickshaw & sedan chair

The other "who" in any photo is the person who first owned the photo. This one has an interesting story, which we'll piece together as we see other photos they bought. The first clue comes from the back of the photo, where they wrote:

Back of photo

They've got their street names muddled up, showing they're very recent arrivals.

The Water Supplies Department are about to damage the historic Pillbox #2 at Jardines Lookout. Please sign the petition to stop this.


When: The Chinese men in the photo are still wearing their hair in a queue, dating the photo to 1911 or earlier.


Not much earlier though, as the Hotel Mansions building was only finished a few years before in 1905.

If you squint through the trees you can make out the name of one of the shops in Hotel Mansions:


This was Kruse & Co., the tobacconists [3]. I'd hoped they would help us narrow down the dates, but they moved in when the building opened, so no luck there.

The last clue I can spot is the hoarding and scaffolding on the left side of Pedder Street, surrounding a building site that belonged to Jardine, Matheson & Co. That does help, as we know they pulled down their old offices in 1907 [4], and the new building was completed in 1909 [5]. I'll split the difference and date this photo to 1908.

Prints of this and many other old Hong Kong photos are available to order.

Photo ID: A436


  1. The Hong Kong Hotel
  2. Mansions Building / Union Building
  3. Kruse & Co.
  4. Duddell's / Hunt & Co. / Jardine, Matheson & Co.- ML 100 [1855-1907]
  5. Jardine House (2nd generation) [1909-c.1955]

Readers ask for information (photos, facts, memories, etc.) about:

New on Gwulo.com this week:


Hi David,

You might like to know.  The older generation Chinese would use Camellia Seeds to brew a big pot and then use the solution to wash their hair when it is cooled.  At least my grand mother did that during her life time.

In the past few decades, some corporations had been using Camellia seed extract to make shampoo and conditioner or dish powder.  On the other hand you could still obtain the raw materials from Chinese Herbalists to brew your own if you like..


Hi T,

Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately I don't have enough hair left to worry about whether it is shiny or not...

If any readers try out the Camellia seed brew, please report back!

Best regards, David