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Historical Gems


The Trinidad Lake Asphalt Collection 1885 - 1990, 1906 - 1955


The Trinidad Lake Asphalt Company’s first patent for commercial use of the pitch lake was as early as 1851.  It was established by British Admiral Thomas Cochrane, the Earl of Dundonald. In 1864, J.W. Previte formed a coalition with Lord Dundonald and others.  It was only then that commercial activity was established.

Much of the early development of the Pitch Lake can be attributed to the private enterprise of Previte, Greig and Finalyson who consolidated their interests to form The New Trinidad Lake Asphalt Co. Ltd.  This company was eventually dissolved, leading to the formation in 1949 of The Trinidad Lake Asphalt Co. Ltd. which was owned by Previte’s interests and from which the present company is descended.

The Trinidad Lake Asphalt Company Collection consists of approximately three hundred and twenty-five (325) photographs mounted in six (6) photo albums, twenty (20) unmounted photographs, a Deed of Concession, a letter from the Colonial Office and a Dispatched Book of correspondence.

Pitch Lake   Dispatches  , 1885 - This item is a bound volume consisting of copies of correspondence sent to individuals and companies. It has an index arranged order according to the subject of the correspondence. It includes, among other things, copies of minutes, applications for leases and lease renewals and a plan of the pitch lake which is sub-divided into plots.

The Deed of Concession, July 12, 1888   - This item a legal document that granted to entrepreneurs an exclusive license to carry away asphalt from the pitch lake at La Brea.  The Deed of Concession in this collection is an agreement made between the parties of Joseph Weedon Previte, Henry Alfred Greig and New York and Trinidad Asphalt company. The Deed states how much pitch can be removed from the pitch lake, the relevant fees and rules that must be followed to make the contract viable.

The Letter, October 10, 1890  - This piece of correspondence was written by Edward Wayfeild and Mr. Previte to the Colonial Office, informing the Secretary of State that the letter petitioning against the extension of the Pitch Lake had been received and that a counter petition will soon be sent to the Colonial Office.

The Poster, 1955 - This poster entitled   The Asphalt Story 1595-1955 was produced in honour of the visit to Trinidad and Tobago of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Margaret in 1955.

Photographs, 1906-1953  - The six (6) photo albums in this collection contain photographs, circa 1906-1935, of the pitch lake, tools used to excavate the pitch, the transportation system employed to haul the pitch, the men constructing the barrels and the pitch being poured into the barrels. The photographs also highlight the places around the world where pitch from Trinidad was used to pave the streets including countries such as Italy, England, France and Egypt. In some cases, information about the photographs is handwritten under each item.

The twenty (20) unmounted photographs depict the visit to the PitchLake by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Mary, Princess Royal during her Royal Tour of the British West Indies in 1953.


The Urich Diary: Trinidad 1830 - 1832

The Urich Diary, Trinidad 1830-1832, edited and published by Anthony De Verteuil, is one of the books available in the Rare Books Collection at the National Archives. The original diary was hand-written in German by Friedrich Urich in the 1830s and translated into English by his granddaughter Irene Urich in the 1950s. This publication of the Diary is a Limited Edition, numbering just one hundred copies.

The information in the diary paints a clear picture of life in Trinidad at the time of writing (1830-1832). Numerous details and descriptions of people and places blend to offer the reader a rich tapestry of this era in Trinidad’s history.


The Editor

Fr. Anthony De Verteuil was born in 1932. He entered the order of the ‘Holy Ghost Fathers’ in 1950 and in 1992 he took up the post of principal of St. Mary’s College, Port of Spain which he held for fifteen (15) years. A noted historian and writer he has written and published approximately 20 books some of which are listed below.


  • A History of Diego Martin 1784-1884 (1987)
  • Seven Slaves and Slavery, Trinidad 1777-1838 (1992)
  • The Germans in Trinidad (1994)
  • Surgery in Trinidad (1996)
  • Great Estates of Trinidad (2000)
  • Western Isles of Trinidad (2002)
  • Temples  of Trinidad (2004)
  • The Corsicans in Trinidad (2005)