Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Power Of Advertising

These days any organisation worth its weight in bureaucracy has its own website. Whether it manufactures wheelbarrows or prize marrows, whether it collects statistics or rubbish; there will be a website somewhere which provides details of everything it does. If the website is not for a commercial organisation, it will often be  funded by advertisers, who will hope to generate business for their products from people who visit the site. A century or more ago, such information was provided by local handbooks, guides and trade directories, and these too would often be supported by advertisements from local companies.

These illustration are from "Huddersfield - The Official Handbook", which was published in 1930. As the wonderful colour advert for the local dye company, L.B. Holliday, clearly shows, this was still the golden age of advertising, when copywriters were able to combine product information with artistic style. At one time, L.B. Holliday & Co was the largest privately owned dye manufacturer in the world, but the company of that name faded away in the 1990s.

Even without full colour and pre-Raphaelite imagery, the adverts could still be attractive, even if it was simply by virtue of the typography - as illustrated in the advert for the brewers, Bentley and Shaw. That particular company had been established in the Huddersfield area by the end of the eighteenth century, and continued brewing until the early 1960s when its purity, quality and brilliancy finally went flat.

And who could resist this final advert for the Newtown Laundry, which - it seems - was famous for fine finish. Alas it is no more, as all traces of the firm have vanished like the grime from a freshly laundered shirt collar.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Wrath Of Irma

As some of you will know, many of my closest relatives live on the British Virgin Islands. You will therefore understand that the last few days have been a period of intense worry about their safety and well being. We lost contact with them last Wednesday morning and they didn't manage to get a message out of the island until late yesterday (Saturday). The good news is that they are all safe: however, like most of the other residents of the islands, they face an immediate future where their homes and businesses have been devastated. Although aid is beginning to arrive, the challenge of rebuilding the basic infrastructure of the island is going to be massive.  Hurricanes move on - and our thoughts are now with the people of Florida who are currently facing the wrath of Irma - but the destruction they cause last for a very long time. Our help, support and solidarity will be needed long after the storms have calmed.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Brace And Bit


I have no idea who this child is - but he (or maybe she) is standing around at the door of a house and is therefore perfect for this series. The photograph comes from that very large box of old photographs marked "unknown", but it is no less wonderful for its lack of provenance. Indeed it is a particularly fine photograph, the detail caught by the lens a century or more ago is as good as any modern-day digital SLR. It also shares that other common element of many of these "standing around" photographs - the sense of freedom that accompanies an escape from the confines of a photographers' studio. There is no brace holding this child's back straight, no photographers' assistant carefully composing a bit of a pose.

Monday, September 04, 2017

A Prowess Made Of Smoke And Wind

From : Athletics News : 14 June 1926
Was there ever a finer advertising slogan composed than "Men whose prowess depends upon eye nerve and wind smoke only Army Club". It will come as no surprise that Australia suffered defeat in the 1926 cricket tour of England.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sepia Saturday 383 : To Mac With Love

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features the front cover illustration of a book entitled "The Modern Bicycle". I seem to be all out of bike photographs for the moment, so my imagination was grabbed by the idea of book cover illustrations. I could happily spend my life designing covers for books I will never write. As an example, I would like to present you with that soon-not-to-be-published bestseller "From Mac With Love", by none other than my good self.

The title comes from a small sepia photograph that came to be from the collection of my Aunt and Uncle, Annie (also known as Peggy) and Harry Moore. The subject of the photograph is not them, but a contemporary couple  confidently striding out on some inter-war seaside pier. On the back of the photograph has been pencilled "To Harry and Peggy from Mac with love". The book itself tells the story of Donald and Joan McEwen and traces the interaction between their lives and relationship and the economic and social history of the 1930s in Britain. As the story develops we  witness the way in which the confidence of youth gives way to disillusionment, separation, and eventually, tragedy.  If that sounds worth reading it just goes to show that you can never judge a book by its cover.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rock Of Ages

There is a famous photograph of my local pub which was taken in June 1911 on the occasion of celebrations to mark the coronation of King George V. It shows all the local residents lined up outside the pub, where later that day there was to be a sheep roast in celebration of the coronation. The poor victim of that feast can clearly be seen amongst the gathered crowd. The photograph has been published in a couple of local history books, but I have been trying to find an original copy so I could get a high-resolution scan of it. I put the word out, and last week I was able to borrow an original copy from a friend of ours whose father is one of the babes-in-arms in the crowd. 

Along with another friend, I am currently putting together a short history of the Rock which hopefully will feature the photograph as one of the illustrations. By 1911, the pub had been open for more than fifty years and the landlord was Harry Hodgson, a remarkable character in his own right. In addition to being employed as a "stone hewer" by day and running the pub at night, he managed to fit in the task of being a somewhat inappropriate conductor of the Brighouse and Rastrick Temperance Brass Band! You might think that carrying such a load would be too much for any man to manage; and sadly you would be right. Shortly after the coronation feast, Harry dropped dead at the pub, aged only 42 years old.

If you want to know more, you will just have to wait until our little pamphlet is published.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Wilf Sykes and "La Maladie de Bradford"


Phrases such as "the dignity of work" occasionally slip too easily off the nib of a pen or the click of the computer keyboard: and I am as guilty as anyone in this respect. Standing around in today's photograph are Wilf and Amy Sykes, my uncle and aunt. Wilf was born in Pontefract in October 1903, the son of a police inspector. Following a lengthy period of training he became a woolsorter in, what at the time was the wool and worsted capital of the world, Bradford. As an apprentice-trained woolsorter, he was part of the aristocracy of labour - his skills were in demand and pay was good compared to the rest of the industry. Along with his fellow sorters he would be responsible for examining and grading the wool fleeces that came to Bradford from throughout the world. This would be done by touch and visual examination, and a skilled sorter could quickly determine which part of which fleece would be most suitable for high quality yarn or shoddy scrap. The job, quite literally, involved standing around and examining wool fleeces.

Although the job sounds as safe as the houses Amy and Wilf are standing outside, this was anything but true. During the nineteenth century it became apparent that wool sorters were falling victim to a disease that resulted in bronchitis, pneumonia, and a form of blood-poisoning which created open sores on the skin and a painful sudden decline in the victim. This rapidly became known as "Woolsorters' Disease" and "La Maladie de Bradford". Eventually it was discovered that these industrial diseases were, in fact, Anthrax - a deadly diseases contracted from contact with the spores of the bacterium "Bacillus anthracis" which were from infectious animal products. 

Wilf died in 1963, in his sixtieth year. Whether his death was directly related to the work he did, I am not sure, but it seems likely. If it was work that reduced this solid and strong-looking man to the invalid he became by the time of his death, there is nothing at all dignified in it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sepia Saturday 382 : Tempus Fugit And A Fish Supper

When you have been penning blogposts for more than ten years, you sometimes think that you are all "blogged-out". If you are capable of saying it, you suspect you have already said it. In the case of old images, if they are able to be found and digitised, you suspect you have already found them, scanned them and presented them to the world. When I saw this week's Sepia Saturday theme image, which featured a host of young people in a gymnasium showing off their graceful carriage, I immediately thought of an old family photograph which had been taken in a school hall which also featured graceful young people. 

I felt sure, however, that I must have featured it before on Sepia Saturday and blog-searched back until I found a post from September 2010, analysing the image in question. Although the analysis was  thorough and as incisive as anything I could write now, the strange thing was that the piece was illustrated by the wrong photograph. In place of the wall-remembered photograph of five children there was another photograph which had obviously been taken at the same time and in the same school hall.

Just how this mix-up happened, I have no idea, but it sent me off in search of the two photographs so that I could look at them again and possibly rescan them. This was, as always, a lengthy and complex business: sifting through boxes, folders, and albums; all of which I aspire to call the family archives. Eventually I found them and the effort involved justified their inclusion in my Sepia post this week. It is true that at least one of them has been featured in my blog before. It is true that I have no great revelation about their provenance to share with you. What I have come to realise, however, is that scanning and displaying old photographs is a little like fishing. It is the thrill of the chase which attracts you rather than the fish supper at the end of the day. You can spend a happy hour or two dangling your line into the pool of history and eventually fish out a couple of lovely old images. And then, just as happily, you can throw them back into the shoebox of time, so that you can enjoy the whole process again, seven years later.

To see what others have done with this week's prompt image, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Standing Around With The Dignity Of Work


I can't help looking at this old studio print of a worker without thinking of Robert Tressell's wonderful book, "The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists". Tressell wrote his book just before the outbreak of the Great War, which is about the date of this print from the "Oxford Electric Studios" in Cardiff. I have no idea who it is, but that doesn't matter: he is a man standing around with the dignity of work

Rescan 12 : Frame-Up In Wade Street

From the same strip of negatives as yesterday's photograph, once again this shows the area around Wade Street and Winding Road during demolition work in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It also proves that, even back then, I couldn't resist a frame-up when I saw one.