I approve of museums that take the trouble to offer public access to some of the treasures that would otherwise lie buried in their vaults. At Beamish there’s a building that holds a reserve store of accumulated items that have yet to be deployed on public display. It’s open to visitors and contains a fascinating miscellany of uncelebrated objects, for the most part arranged thematically but allowing for some strange and bizarre juxtapositions. These are the raw materials of future projects, destined for a set-dressing role but, for now at least, allowed to speak for themselves and available for singular contemplation. The totality of the Beamish experience – the colliery village, the North Country main street, and the period-costumed staff, is rather more problematic and raises all sorts of issues around conservation, authenticity and the dignity of labour. To be addressed in a future post.
Monday, 25 April 2016
Saturday, 9 April 2016
Another in the long series of small books for children distributed free of charge by Colman’s of Norwich, Mustardman Ready. Our dapper seafarer sails to distant lands where his cargo of Colman’s products restores the health of the local despot, transforming King Krosspatch into King Kontent and fortuitously, opening up a new export market for British-made Mustard, Starch and Krusto. An inspiring tale of entrepreneurial economics. It turns out that Colman’s Krusto was a pastry-maker that with the addition of water produced a perfect pie crust and thanks to the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) we can all watch a 7 minute promotional film from 1928 where Krusto comes to the rescue of an uxorious husband and a desperate-to-please spouse. A dismal succession of granite-like baked offerings that even the dog rejects is brought to an end by the entry of a sophisticated friend who brings Krusto into the unhappy household. The resulting pie is a triumph and domestic harmony is restored. The EAFA is worth exploring for more treasures from the strange world of Colman’s publicity – the Mustard Club film is a riotous celebration of gluttony – Bunuel at the Bullingdon Club.
Friday, 8 April 2016
The cartooning abilities of H M Bateman fitted very comfortably into the Guinness tradition of humorous, quirky and eccentric advertising. The standard had long been set by the work of John Gilroy but Bateman brought something fresh with his carefully considered variations on themes of shock and social outrage. Most of Bateman’s contributions came during World War 2 or immediately after and provided welcome splashes of colour in an otherwise drab and dreary Britain, relentlessly pressured by the exigencies of war. Compared with the illustrations Bateman produced for Bar One cigarettes in the 1950s the Guinness drawings have a precision and bite that would later be replaced by a more slapdash approach. This is less than half of Bateman’s Guinness output but it’s enough to give a flavour of what he achieved.
Monday, 4 April 2016
Today’s images are the front and back cover of a pamphlet produced in the 1930’s by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) to promote the visual delights to be experienced through the carriage window on a trip from London to Edinburgh on the route of the ‘Flying Scotsman’. It’s a companion piece to a brochure featured here in June 2008. On this occasion the artist signs himself Bryan de Grineau, thinly disguising his true identity, Charles William Grineau (1883–1957). Grineau’s reputation seems to rest on his spirited motoring illustrations (described here) but he also produced several improbable visions of future transport (including a spectacular city airport suspended over the River Thames) for the covers of Modern Wonder magazine in the late 1930s that are reproduced below.
Friday, 1 April 2016
Both Canada and the United States are proud hosts to one of Nature’s greatest spectacles – Niagara Falls. With such an enormous number of visitors it’s never long before the collector of postcards encounters one of the many hundreds of cards to feature this awe-inspiring sight. I salute the anonymous buyer of today’s card for having rejected all the conventional views on offer in favour of this distinctly sidelong glance. Half a dozen of tourists encased in heavy-duty rainwear pose for the camera in a rather random grouping. They are about to depart on a cruise that will expose them to a ritual soaking at the base of the Falls, visible behind them. Below is a selection of postcards where the publishers have focused on the local infrastructure or the transformation of the Falls in the depth of winter.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016
Campbell’s Soup was one of the most assiduous advertisers in America’s mass-circulation magazines and where possible would purchase the first page after the editorial content for their ads. Their prime target was the hard-pressed Great American Mom for whom the daily task of feeding hungry, boisterous and hard-to-please children was an eternal source of despair. Campbell’s offered a simple solution in the form of heat and serve cans of condensed soup in which the nutritional benefits of vitamins and protein were supplied in an easily absorbed liquid slurry. Rebuilding energy levels for the challenges of the afternoon had never been easier. Only 4 minutes from shelf to table and even the most fractious child is calm and content. Implicit in these messages was the idea that all mothers could mold their offspring into healthy, happy, high-achieving youngsters. Transformed into bright and smiling paragons of virtue with dazzling white teeth to match.
Friday, 4 March 2016
Odol mouthwash is a German product originating in Dresden in 1892. Sales expanded rapidly, assisted by an exceptionally high expenditure on advertising and promotion. By the 1930s it was on sale in more than 20 countries, including Britain and the US, where Stuart Davis made it the subject of a painting in 1924. The ad below appeared in India in 1931, reassuring the customer that Odol will destroy typhoid germs in less than a minute. Odol survives as a leading brand in Germany today in the ownership of GlaxoSmithKline.
The tradition of handing out small format picture story books free of charge to children was established at the end of the 19th. century as businesses such as Colman’s Mustard learned the value of indirect publicity. The makers of Odol, feeling less generous, priced their series of picture books at sixpence. A brave or foolish move considering that the highest priority on every page was to place Odol at the centre of attention. As well as a story, the book offered a paper plane, colouring pages, cut-out and keep toy soldiers for deployment in the war against decay, an ever-popular “What’s Wrong With These Pictures?” feature and much good advice on dental hygeine. Production values were better than average but whether it represented value for money is not so easy to say.