Hell’s Belles – Bell Ringing & the Gender Question

Engraving showing a view of the peal of bells in St.Paul's Cathedral, London, 1878. Date: 12 October 1878

Following the news this month that bell ringing is facing a national recruitment crisis, bell ringer and picture researcher Lucinda Moore turns to the archive for a historical look at bell ringing, seen through the lens of the current ringer shortage.Even a quick glance through the wealth of bell ringing images on the Mary Evans website does reflect a historical gender bias in favour of male ringers, with many of our pictures showing bands of exclusively male ringers. It was once thought that historically, poorly cast and unwieldy bells could only be managed by big strong men, making male ringers the norm, with women only starting to ring in the very late 19th and early 20th century once bells became easier to handle. However, ringing expert and author Steve Coleman debunks this idea, attributing the all-male bands to the patriarchal structure of society at the time, and to women not being given the opportunity or time outside of the home to become ringers, rather than a lack of physical strength.
Happily, as the 20th century progressed and new opportunities opened up, women began to take up bell ringing. A 1926 article in The Illustrated London News cheerfully entitled ‘The Belles of St Clement’s!’ suggested the changing attitudes, with a band of young, fashionably attired female ringers depicted at St Clement Danes church in the Strand, London. The ILN deemed the sight of female bell ringers sufficiently interesting and unusual in 1926 to dedicate a whole page to their endeavours, and in another post-WW1 article, included a small picture of a lady bell ringer as part of a spread of pictures showing women doing jobs usually performed by men. 21st century bell ringing is inclusive to a fault, with proto-ringers being generally welcomed to the tower (and later, the pub) with a big bear hug of bell ringing enthusiasm, regardless of gender.

 

The interior of the ringing chamber at St Paul's Cathedral, London. The twelve bells of the north tower can be seen here, about to be rung by an all male band of ringers. Date: 1903

 

Physical strength or even age need not be a barrier to learning. Though some bells are heavier to ring than others, and need more ‘oompf’ to get them going, these days brute force is not the key to good bell ringing. The sight of seasoned senior citizens expertly ringing not just their own bell, but also calling out to help correct the mistakes of other ringers, is not uncommon. Starting young is universally acknowledged as being beneficial, with children as young as 10 (often hailing from what are known as ‘ringing families’) able to ring impressively complicated methods.

 

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Fear can be an obstacle to recruitment, but such fears are for the most part unfounded. It’s a commonly held misconception that bell ringing is dangerous, with some fearing suddenly being whisked up towards the ceiling on the end of a wildly flailing rope. Whilst all hobbies have an element of risk, so long as the basics of safety are observed and the bells are respected, bell ringing is pretty safe.  However, the archive does have its share of depictions of sensational bell ringing accidents in the days before health and safety: these dramatic illustrations from the French magazine Le Petit Journal give a flavour of campanological crises on the continent.
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In spite of the difficulty of recruiting new ringers, there are many virtues to learning the ancient art of campanology. No costly or special kit is required; just a regular commitment and a willingness to learn. Much has changed in the world of ringing since these historical pictures were produced, but the simple pleasure that being a ringer brings has not. Whether it’s on grounds of your sex, strength, seniority or of safety, there were some significant barriers in the past to learning to ring, but they are thankfully no longer an issue: why not give it a try?

Cream of the Crop – the Pond’s Society Girls

Illustrations depicting women using various Pond's skincare products, available in jars for use at home, or tube for when travelling. Date: 1935

Buy a glossy magazine today and you’ll be guaranteed to find at least a third of its pages are given over to advertisements.  But this is nothing new.  Advertising have kept the wheels of magazine publishing turning for over 150 years.  Some titles in the ILN archive, particularly The Tatler, are bulging with hundreds of ads in every issue, and in many cases, they’re just as fascinating as the features and photographs in the main body of the magazine, offering an acute, in-the-moment snapshot of readers’ interests and aspirations.  Many of the most successful brands are still going, testament in part to their canny marketing campaigns through the years.

 One of the beauty brands with remarkable longevity is Pond’s Cold Cream, the origins of which stretch back to the mid-19th century when an American pharmacist, Theron T. Pond developed Pond’s Extract, containing witch hazel, which claimed to act as a panacea against all manner of ailments from haemmorhoids to painful feet.  By 1904, the company had created a beauty product, Pond’s Cold Cream, designed to cleanse the skin, and an accompanying Vanishing Cream to soften and ward against the dire effects of cold or hot weather in equal measure.  It was a two-step skincare regime that formed a blueprint for skincare systems developed by countless cosmetics companies since.   The company would also introduce a ‘freshener’ (toner), vitamin cream and powder to complement their flagship lotions.

Pond’s face creams enjoyed a steady success until the 1920s when increased competition from expensive brands launched by Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden caused Pond’s to re-think its low-key advertising campaign. The solution was to embark on a testimonials campaign that was to rally (with, presumably, substantial cash incentives) the support of firstly stage actresses, and then well-known, wealthy socialite beauties of the 1930s.  If economical, fuss-free and effective Pond’s was good enough for the blue blooded ladies of the land it was good enough for anyone.  As a marketing premise it was remarkably effective but did not come cheap; Pond’s regularly spent three times as much as Elizabeth Arden on its annual advertising.

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Every week during the 1930s The Tatler carried an advertisement for Pond’s, with most of the personalities endorsing the creams already familiar faces in the magazine’s society pages.  We hold alternative portrait images of many of these women at the library, if not from the ILN archive, then through the pictures taken by society photographer Madame Yevonde whose archive we represent.

The accompanying copy is flattering to the point of obsequiousness.  Each lady, countess or duchess is lauded for her sportiness, busy lifestyle, her jet setting or exquisite beauty.  Their personal anecdotes are laughably old-fashioned as they witter about how Pond’s helped to fix ruddy cheeks after exertion on wind-swept hockey pitches, or helped them achieve a vision of loveliness for their first debutante ball.

The Duchess of Leinster (the Duke’s second of four wives), American socialite Agnes Rafaelle, recounted her girlish worries about her first Yale University Ball:

“If you knew how much American girls long to go to Yale University Dances – or ‘Proms,’ as they call them – you’d realise my excitement at receiving an invitation to the midsummer prom. I’d never been to one before but I knew it was necessary to look your very loveliest if you were to win the approval of critical college boys!

I found myself muttering ‘Pond’s, Pond’s, lots and lots of Pond’s’ over and over again. Even more than a smart frock I had to get a smart face!

There was a fortnight to do it in. Each night I cleansed with Cold Cream. And during the day I smoothed on Vanishing Cream to ward off roughness and lines.  You should have seen the difference in my skin the night we motored out to Yale!  No blemishes, no dryness – soft as velvet!  The ‘prom’ proved gayer than my wildest dreams – everyone ‘cut-in’ on my dances.  I’m sure I had the best time of any girl there.”

The sporty Countess of Warwick relied on Pond’s to maintain her ‘flawless skin’ at all times whether ‘At Cannes or Cowes, Goodwood or Gleneagles,’ while Lady Smiley, the former Nancy Beaton, sister of Cecil, tells of ‘what a marvellous time I had’ at a Christmas party aged sixteen, all because of Pond’s. “I’m sure that’s why I’ve kept my skin free from dryness and little worry lines – the curse of a fine skin like mine,” she modestly confided. “People tell me my skin still looks as young as it did at sixteen.”  Lady Marguerite Strickland, just back from a sporting holiday of walking, golfing and riding was relieved to find her ‘dazzling’ skin had survived due to Pond’s.  Lady Bridgett Poulett made no apologies for her views on the importance of appearance:

“To be successful socially or professionally depends not only on one’s brain but on one’s looks,” she lectured, “There’s no excuse for an ‘ugly duckling’ in any family… The first essential to beauty is a fresh , clear youthful complexion and I’ve no patience with the woman who doesn’t make the best of her looks when it’s so simple.”

Woe betide anyone who had a bad skin day and ran into Lady Bridgett, who, despite her strident views on cosmetic slovenliness, was hailed by Pond’s as a, ‘brilliant, young favourite in London society…likened to a famous painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds’ (though the advert declined to elaborate further on which particular painting).

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If Lady Bridgett’s sharp observations, no doubt delivered in a cut-glass accent, are not enough to make us cringe then let me share those of Constance, Lady Moon who, in her Pond’s advertisement, found her creams a godsend while big game hunting in Kenya.

“We had gone hundreds of miles off into Kenya for elephant hunting. In my small mirror I saw my face getting rougher and drier every day.  Then I found – packed away in the luggage by a thoughtful person – several jars of Pond’s Creams.  How my skin changed when I started using them!”

Thank goodness Lady Moon’s maid had the foresight to send her mistress off with a secret stash of Pond’s. And thank goodness Lady Moon’s complexion was restored despite all that strenuous elephant slaughtering.

Upper class stereotypes abound, as well as the peddled rule that social advancement, in the form of engagement and marriage, could only be achieved by looking one’s best. One article in The Tatler around this time instructed women, ‘Beauty is the passport to happiness and all that it signifies, including romance.’  These are adverts that convey despairingly short-sighted ambitions for women of the era, though plenty of beauty adverts of recent times might be accused of the same.  But what is particularly intriguing is that many of the privileged women behind these endorsements led fascinating lives, often a far cry from the polish and poise projected in Pond’s advertising.

Take Lady Milbanke for instance (‘Vivid, gay, utterly charming’). Born Sheila Chisholm in Australia, she met the dissipated Lord Loughborough while nursing in Cairo in 1915 and married him later that year.  ‘Loughie’ was a compulsive gambler, to the point where his father the Earl of Rosslyn, put a notice in The Times declaring he would not be responsible for his son’s debts.  While her husband gambled away their money, Sheila was free to enjoy high society and soon came into the orbit of the Prince of Wales and Bertie, his younger brother – the future King George VI.  For a time, Sheila and Bertie enjoyed a romantic affair, forming a partnership with his brother and his mistress Freda Dudley-Ward.  They dubbed themselves, ‘the four ‘do’s’.   When George V got wind of the romance, he put a stop to it but the pair continued to enjoy a close, platonic relationship.  Sheila married twice more – to Lord Milbanke and then Prince Dmitri Romanoff.  It’s unlikely she ever came close to marrying the future king of England but there was no doubting his feelings about her.  In one letter he wrote, “”Whenever I go into a ballroom I always look around the room hoping to see you, as I know there is somebody missing, and it is so sad not seeing you, and I do so miss you.”

Another Pond’s Cream girl who did marry her Prince was Princess Marina of Greece (‘seen at the smartest functions in London’), who posed with her sister Elizabeth for a 1933 advertisement. A year and a half later, Pond’s had worked its magic.  She walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey with Prince George, Duke of Kent, younger brother of David and Bertie.  George was killed in a plane crash in Scotland during the Second World War aged 42 when their youngest child, the present Prince Michael of Kent, was just a few weeks old.  Marina never remarried.  Her eldest son is the present Duke of Kent.

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Rose Bingham was hailed as one of the prettiest debutantes of 1931 an accolade which, in this case, was probably true. With Bambi eyes and rosebud lips, Rose was a media darling, frequently photographed for the society pages.  Not only was she a Pond’s girl, but she also appeared in a full page advert for the prestigious Hotel George V in Paris declaring she stayed there because ‘only the best’ would do.  Hollywood came calling and she dabbled in film acting, appearing in ‘The Black Sheep’ in 1935 but not before she had married the 7th Earl of Warwick in 1933.  He too was a keen actor and the couple erected a cinema screen on the roof of Warwick Castle where society mingled with the Hollywood set.  If Rose had been alive today, L’Oréal would definitely have her whispering, “Because I’m worth it,” from our TV screens.  Rose and Fulke Warwick divorced; she lost custody of their son and in 1938 married Billy Fiske, an American bobsled Olympic champion instrumental in developing Aspen as a winter sports resort.  The pair were introduced to each other by David Niven who had starred alongside Rose’s ex-husband Fulke in Paramount picture, ‘The Dawn Patrol’.  The couple’s marriage was happy but tragically short-lived.  A speed freak with lightning reactions, Billy Fiske’s abilities made him a perfect fighter pilot and he became one of just seven US aircrew personnel who fought in the Battle of Britain.  On 16 August 1940, Fiske’s RAF squadron was scrambled to intercept German dive bombers over southern England.  After fifteen minutes in the air, the fuel tank of Fiske’s Hurricane was hit by a German bullet.  Despite suffering severe burns he managed to land his plane but died in hospital two days later aged 29.  Rose married twice more; to Lt. Col. Sir John Lawson in 1945, and, after divorcing him five years later, to Theodore Sheldon Bassett in 1951.  That marriage also ended in divorce.  She died in 1971 aged 59.

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Lady Alington, the former Lady Mary Ashley-Cooper, eldest daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, was the essence of the classic upper crust gal. Tall and sturdily built she was hailed as, ‘the best swimmer in London’ according to The Times, winning numerous prizes at the prestigious Bath Club in London.  Indeed, we have several examples in our archive of her swimming prowess including one page featuring her playing a part in a Royal Life Saving Society film featuring a number of well-known society women. According to a profile in The Bystander in 1936, part of a series entitled, ‘Popular Women,’ she was ‘striking in appearance…keen on hunting and racing and an exponent of physical culture that she particularly excels.’  She was also a ‘splendid hostess’ who really knew how to throw a party. ‘Hula’ as she was known to her friends, married Napier Alington, the 3rd Baron, in 1928.  They had one daughter, Marianna (Mary Anna Sturt Marten 1929-2010), but just a few years later the couple had separated.  Napier Alington presented a respectable façade in public, running as a candidate for Parliament, but in private was bisexual, indulged in drugs and had a love affair with Tallulah Bankhead which may or may not have ended by the time of his marriage to Mary.  In any case, the outdoorsy, head girl-like Lady Alington and the louche Napier seemed rather mis-matched.  Lady Alington appeared in a 1931 Pond’s Cold Cream advert (found in a copy of Miss Modern magazine here).   In April 1936, she was featured in The Bystander in a stunning Vivex colour photograph by Madame Yevonde, but just four months later, Lady Alington – fit-as-a-fiddle, swimming supremo, Amazonian Lady Alington – underwent an operation for acute appendicitis and, to the shock of everyone, died.  She was just 34 years old.  Napier was killed four years later on active service with the RAF.

Beauty, wealth, privilege – and Pond’s Cold Cream. None of it, it seems, could protect from the tragic hand of fate.

Follow the link to see more on Pond’s and the women who endorsed it http://www.maryevans.com/lb.php?ref=36706

 

 

Going for Gold – Britain’s sporting ambitions and the 1916 Berlin Olympics that never was

The English 4 x 100 metres relay team who won gold medals at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. From left to right: D. Jacobs, H. M. Macintosh, W. R. Applegarth and V. D'Arcy. Note the high-waisted shorts and T-shirts emblazoned with a Union Jack. Date: 1912

We are living through a gold rush.  At the time of writing, Team GB has scaled the Olympic Games medal table to reach the dizzy heights of second place.  We’ve dominated the rowing and cycling; there have been medals in track & field, equestrian events and sailing.  More have rolled in from gymnastics and diving – sports where we were once, if not the underdog, then barely a contender.  We can boast Goliaths of sport – Farah, Kenny, Trott, Murray, Ennis-Hill – sports men and women who are the ones to beat, not those who might be in with a chance.  For those who remember Atlanta (one lone gold – Redgrave and Pinsent in the men’s coxless pairs), the Rio Olympics is watched from sofas around the country with a mix awe, nail-biting anticipation and a faint nervousness that we might wake up and find it is all a dream.  Whatever our final position, Britain’s athletes have kindled a renewed sense of national pride.  But while nobody can deny their achievements, there is one factor that has enabled and then assured success – money.  After Atlanta, funding for elite sports increased ten-fold, a long-term investment that has paid off.  Talent has been nurtured and enhanced with the best that money can buy.  It has been estimated that each British medal win costs £5.5 million.  Funding is withdrawn from sports that fail to ‘medal’.  Behind the scenes, it’s a brutal business, but when a Brit wins gold, we are all reaping the feel-good rewards. Perhaps it’s easier to feel the Olympic love when Team GB is excelling?

Javelin thrower, 1913

Away from the Olympics, the media are already declaring that 2016 is one of the worst years in recent times; terrorism, political instability, the displacement of millions of people fleeing war, all this and more have made our modern age seem much less safe than it was twenty years ago.  And yet this exhibition of human endeavour, the greatest sports show on earth, presents the world at its very best and, for one fortnight at least, gives us all a glimmer of hope.  Another year considered the worst of times was 1916.  A century ago, nobody gave much thought to the Olympic Games, which would in fact have been held that summer in Berlin.  Looking through our archive, there is some fascinating commentary on the Olympic phenomenon in The Bystander magazine.  Launched in 1903 as a sister paper to The Graphic, The Bystander was a society magazine featuring a mix of cartoons, political satire, society gossip, travel, transport – and sport.  In August 1914, just a fortnight after the outbreak of war, The Bystander was commenting on the irony of an Olympics held in Germany.

Opening of the stadium in Berlin, Germany, intended as the venue for the 1916 Olympic Games. Due to the First World War, the Games were never held. Date: 1913

‘In the light of what is happening now it is almost comical to reflect that not so many weeks ago preparations were on foot for the holding of the Olympic Games in Berlin.  I can picture the cynical smile with which those “in the know” in Germany must have watched these preparations.  It is quite conceivable that they were allowed to go on as part and parcel of a gigantic scheme of bluff.  We may even derive some comfort from the reflection that bad as the war is for everybody it will do sport at least one good turn by putting a stop – perhaps for good and all – to its chief bugbear.

The Bystander has always been a consistent scoffer at the Olympic Games, and in sticking to this attitude it has in reality voiced the opinion of the majority of British sportsmen.   The Olympic Games were going to do all sorts of things; in particular they were going, through the medium of sport, to bind the nations of the world together in indissoluble ties of friendship.  It looks like it doesn’t it?  When the British Olympic council in its preliminary report on the Games at Stockholm lamented pathetically at thefailure of the general public of the United Kingdom to take the Olympic Games seriously, it was unconsciously paying a well-deserved tribute to the sagacity of the said general public.’

The general public, not being so blindly optimistic as the British Olympic Council saw that these games, so far from leading up to good fellowship, seemed peculiarly adapted for the production of bad blood and bickering even between countries possessing a common language and origin, and whose athletes are normally upon the best of terms with each other.’

The Bystander’s unusually virulent opinion about the Olympics can be traced back to beyond the hostilities of 1914.  The Games of 1912, held in Stockholm, were a disaster for Britain.  After topping the medals table at the 1908 London Olympics, bagging three times as many medals as the runner-up, the USA, 1912 saw Britain drop to third.  It may sound like a good effort to us today, but USA and Sweden dwarfed Britain’s medal tally.  The USA gained 25 golds to Britain’s 10. While Britain’s total medal haul was 41, Sweden won 65 and the USA won 64.  What followed was a sporting post-mortem in The Bystander more akin to the football punditry we see decipher England’s failures after each international tournament today.

1912 Stockholm Olympics

In its 12 February 1913 issue, F. A. M. Webster, Founder and Honorary Secretary of the Amateur Fields Event Association, picked apart the reasons in an article entitled, ‘Why We Failed At Stockholm’.  The programme of events was a major issue with emphasis on field events and the deletion of cycling (an omission that would certainly affect our medal tally today).

“The real reasons why we do not excel in these particular sports,” admitted Mr Webster, “are, firstly, because they are in most cases very difficult to learn, requiring a deal of practice and unlimited patience, and the young Englishman of to-day prefers sprinting, which is easy to learn; secondly, and, I think principally, because for years the sports-promoting bodies in this country have rigidly set their face against field events on the ground that they take up too much time and the public do not care to watch them.”

 

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Frederick Annesley Michael Webster was in fact, one of the great pioneers of 20th century athletics, writing numerous books on sport, coaching, becoming director of studies at Loughborough School of Physical Training and tirelessly campaigning to have field sports given equal recognition.  His son, Dick Webster, would become a successful pole-vaulter who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Webster senior had a fight on his hands to encourage interest in field sports.  The response to Britain’s poor performance at Stockholm had led many to suggest they withdraw from the Games completely – that competing but then losing was ‘beneath our dignity.’  Britain’s Olympian representatives had exposed a chink in their country’s armour and that wouldn’t do.  In 1912, Britain still had its Empire.  Its greatness was nurtured on the sports fields of its public schools.  For British sporting prowess to be exposed as so seriously lacking was, in the minds of many, an embarrassing reflection on the country’s diminishing national virility.  It was probably too much to bear for some.  However, the reactions generated seem closer to those of a spoilt child.  The Bystander, following the conclusion of the Games wrote in August 1912:

“Thousands of English sportsmen will thank Mr R. C. Lehmann* heartily for his spirited suggestion that we should withdraw from future participation in the preposterous Olympic Games.  The attempt on the part of Sir A. Conan Doyle and others to make the Olympic Games the test of our sporting efficiency, and to impose the Olympic standard upon our athletes, will be resented as tyrannical. We want only one standard, and that is the British one, in which the thing to be done is not merely to win the game, but to play it like a gentleman.  If we cannot impose our standard on the rest of the world, then let the rest of the world make its own.”

* Liberal M. P & secretary of the Amateur Rowing Association, who had written an article in the same magazine calling for withdrawal from the Games

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Such spoilt, elitist thinking makes uncomfortable reading.  The Bystander, which rarely reined in its strident opinions, supported the unflinching assumption that Britain SHOULD win; that everyone else should play by British rules, and play sports that the British traditionally were good at.   Rather than playing ‘like gentlemen’ these forthright views serve only to expose some British enthusiasts as bad sports.   Thankfully, its views on the subject were often more light-hearted.  F. A. M. Webster himself was given towards a more balanced diplomacy:

“How can we possibly withdraw from these great international gatherings, following upon our disgraceful performances at Stockholm?  Moreover, is there not also a certain political significance attaching to the next Games at Berlin?  Surely the German people would look upon it as a direct affront if we held aloof from the Games for which they are making such strenuous preparations.  Also, it will not do for us to be beaten again as we were beaten last time, especially in Germany.”

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His concerns over the Games in Berlin were tied in tightly with the belief that Germany, along with the USA, was beginning to compete with and in some instances, overtake Britain on the world stage in manufacturing and trade.  The naval arms race that had been building between Britain and Germany in the years leading up to the First World War only made the restoration of national prestige via a display of renewed sporting vigour all the more essential.  Britain’s closest sporting rivals were the USA, Sweden and Finland.  Germany, at the time didn’t come close.  Here was an opportunity to trounce the opposition and prove national potency.  A special committee, including among others, staunch patriot Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was formed to raise funds and steer a co-ordinated training programme for the next Olympic Games in Berlin.  Several aristocrats were roped in to add their voices in support including the hugely wealthy Duke of Westminster who was nominated as chief fundraiser. The notion of a team incorporating all countries in the British Empire was mooted but eventually dropped and an appeal for subscription to raise £100,000 to train a British team worthy of the Berlin Olympics was greeted with derision in some sections of the press.  The Bystander for instance, a champion of sports in which the ‘gentleman amateur’ took part, would have sneered at the idea of trying to buy victory.  Others viewed specialisation as the antithesis of British sportsmanship.  Being a good ‘all-rounder’ was a quality most admired.  But for many, the restoration of British sporting pride was more important.  The Telegraph wrote, ‘it is an affair of honour for this country,’ adding of the ‘deplorable effect’ failure would have.  Nevertheless, the British public failed to support the appeal.  By September 11th 1913, only £7000 of the £100,000 target had been raised.  Today it is difficult to understand such apathy, especially when we know how essential Lottery funding and government grants have been in enabling British athletes to devote their time to training.  But it is worth remembering that Britain’s own sporting calendar in the years leading up to the First World War included fixtures such as Wimbledon, rowing at Henley and cricket at Lord’s which were far more deeply entrenched in the British psyche than the Olympic Games.  The latter was regarded by many as a new-fangled gimmick dreamt up by a Frenchman (albeit based on the games of ancient Greece).

Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, 1912. Sukaniomi, Saaristo, Peltonen, the winner of throwing the javelin .. Date: 1912

Of the fund’s failure, The Bystander wrote in its best ‘told you so’ tone in September 1913:

‘Heartiest congratulations to the British public on their latest use of the gift of Apathy.  Never has it been shown in a better cause than in the contemptuous refusal to subscribe the hundred thousand demanded – rather inconsiderately, if I may say so – by the Duke of Westminster and others for the Olympic Games.  The habit of rushing into the Press for public money had previously aroused protest in a number of quarters, even when, as in the case of Capt. Scott, there was public interest in the background.  In the case of the Olympic Games, there is not only no interest, but there is general sentiment against.  If the national athletes are not fitted, of their own accord, to make a proper show in Berlin or anywhere else, then let us lose the pots and be done with it, or withdraw like gentlemen.  There may be a case for the subscription of public money to the general cause of promoting an athletic renaissance, but such a proceeding will take a very much longer time than lies between us and the next Games.  Any success “bought” at Berlin by mere money will morally not be worth the paper on which the cheques have been written.’


The idea of paying to win seemed to particularly irritate.  What would they have made of today’s shameless injection of cash into British sport?  But the irony that most sportsmen in Britain a century ago were those who had the financial means and leisure to spend time participating was lost on The Bystander which went on to claim ardently:  ‘The whole idea is not only wrong-headed, but sweepingly pernicious, and one to be fought tooth and nail by those who have any desire or hope of keeping English sport clean and undefiled.’

By January 1914, the Special Committee, having singularly failed in their fundraising, was disbanded.  And by July that year, with the heightening crisis in Europe, it was becoming increasingly uncertain that there would be an Olympic Games in Berlin at all.  Instead of proving their abilities on the sports field in Berlin in 1916, thousands of British (and German) sportsmen found themselves playing the so-called ‘Greater Game’on the battlefield.  The fierce debates and efforts towards Olympic reform were rendered pointless and proving national superiority through sporting prowess had quickly become an inconsequential notion.  There were bigger battles to win.

Finding Rupert Brooke – a forgotten photograph album at Mary Evans

Mary and Hilary Evans spent more than fifty years collecting the material that now comprises the library and we’re often asked by visitors what proportion of the analogue archive has actually been scanned. A finger in the wind guesstimate might find us suggesting 15-20%, but the truthful answer to this is we don’t really know.  But what we do know is that it is still possible to unearth incredible treasures containing images that have never made it near a scanner.  While it’s frustrating to find ‘perfect’ pictures hidden away, the fact that we are still lucky enough to experience that sharp thrill of discovery more than compensates.

Image copyright (c) Mary Evans Picture Library
Cuthbert Grasemann in his rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge University (Picture number 11107622)

A case in point is a photo album recently discovered neatly filed and catalogued along with others, but apparently untouched for some years. The stained, green binding was fairly unpromising but inside is a superb collection of photographs dating from the late 1890s to the 1930s.  The picture that particularly caught our eye at first was the interior of a Cambridge student’s room in 1911.  Written above it in ink were the words, ‘My rooms.  K. 5. New Court Trinity College Cambridge. 1911’. It may be Cambridge but even so, the room itself is unlike any student digs we might imagine today.  Ornaments are neatly arranged on the mantelpiece of a large fireplace, the walls are adorned with landscapes, and a collection of ukuleles and lutes. Above the picture rail what looks like a hand painted border shows a maritime landscape that includes St. Michael’s Mount.  A small occasional table is draped with an art nouveau style tablecloth on which are placed framed photographs, presumably of family members.  An elegant seat is enhanced by a rather beautiful looking peacock cushion, and the inhabitant of the room sits in the window, a pet cockatoo perched placidly on his knee.

Pupils and teachers at Fretherne House Preparatory School around 1900. From an album owned by Cuthbert Gasemann who is seated 2nd row, third from left. Date: c.1900
Fretherne House Prep School.  Grasemann is middle row, third from left, seated. (Picture number 11107606)

Further investigation soon confirmed that the album belonged to a ‘C. Grasemann’, the student in the picture. He features in most of the album’s other photographs which neatly chart his life and career from boy to man in a series of evocative images, many of which are excellent quality, printed in a generous 10” x 8” format.  The earliest picture, from 1899, is a group photograph from Fretherne House School (a prep school in Welwyn Garden City up until the Second World War).  Two more of Fretherne House take us up to 1904 as which point C. Grasemann became a pupil at Rugby School.  Another photograph shows him cross-legged in the front row of W. N. Wilson’s House.

Members of the Officer Training Corps band at Rugby school in 1905. Top right of the picture is Cuthbert Gasemann, who appears to be holding a tenor horn. This photograph is one of a number in an album compiled by him. Date: 1905
Members of the Officer Training Corps band at Rugby school in 1905. Top right of the picture is Cuthbert Gasemann, who appears to be holding a tenor horn. (Picture number 11107611)

Every boy is annotated in miniscule, spidery writing.  At Rugby, he was in the OTC band, playing the tenor horn by the looks of one photograph.  He was also in the school orchestra and when he went up to Cambridge, became a rower, a sport well-documented in the album.  Not only are there pictures of Grasemann’s rowing crew in action, but there are some beautiful views of Henley Regatta around 1911.

Rowing crew from a Cambridge University college, 1911. Date: 1910
Grasemann’s rowing crew.  He is seated middle row, second from right. (Picture Number 11107618)

 

Together with photographs of college balls, society dinners, winter sports and a fancy dress party in Switzerland (even one of the famous skating couple Mr and Mrs Edgar Syers) these are images that take us back to that extraordinary pre-war era when a young man of Grasemann’s fortunate circumstances would have had the world at his feet.  Except the world was about to slide towards catastrophe.

Grasemann’s war saw him gazetted on 10 June 1915, joining the Royal Engineers as a Lieutenant. The only wartime pictures in the album are a couple of his marriage to Irene Statham on 19 September 1916, while another photograph of him in uniform with a friendly dog arrived with the message, ‘As we can’t come we send our photo’.  All leave had been cancelled.

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Keen to find out more about who C. Grasemann was, some internet sleuthing revealed he was Cuthbert Grasemann (1890-1962) who after the war became the Public Relations and Publicity Officer for British Railways (Southern Region). Armed with this knowledge, some of the later photographs begin to make sense – one charming photograph of the South East and Chatham Railway Travelling Ticket Inspectors Garden Allotment Prize Giving in Catford in July 1922 for instance, or an annual dinner given to staff of the Superintendent of the SE & C Railway.  Another shows him accompanying Sir Malcolm Campbell as he meets the driver of the Bluebird steam train emblazoned on the front with ‘Welcome Campbell’ (presumably this coincides with one of Campbell’s land speed records in the Bluebird – possibly in 1927). One gathering from 1925, an annual reunion dinner of the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers, indicates how he progressed along his particular career path.   He was also the author of two books, ‘English Channel Packet Boats’ in 1939, and ‘Round the Southern Railways Fleet’ in 1946; clearly his job overlapped happily with an enduring personal interest in transport.

Sir Malcolm Campbell shakes hands with the driver of a steam engine with a special plaque on the front reading, 'Welcome Campbell - The Bluebird Special'. Also in the picture, far left, is Cuthbert Grasemann, PR and Publicity Officer for Southern Railways. Presumably he is the one responsible for this meeting. Date: c.1927
Sir Malcolm Campbell shakes hands with the driver of a steam engine with a special plaque on the front reading, ‘Welcome Campbell – The Bluebird Special’. Also in the picture, far left, is Cuthbert Grasemann, PR and Publicity Officer for Southern Railways. Date: c.1927 (Picture number 11107639)

Even without the detective work to uncover his personal story, the photographs in Cuthbert’s Grasemann’s album are a haunting and redolent memento of a lost era. Turning the pages, L. P. Hartley’s opening lines of ‘The Go-Between’, ‘the past is another country’ spring to mind. Especially in the case of the early photographs, this is pre-war Britain as it once was for a privileged few.  One can’t help wondering about the fates of so many of the boys and men in those photographs.  Who made it through the war, and who didn’t.

But there is one more thing that makes this album doubly interesting. Two photographs document a visit to Rugby School by Lord Roberts on 16 February 1906 where he inspected the Rifle Club, an early version of the school’s Officer Training Corps.  Cuthbert Grasemann, who would have been 15 or 16 at the time, can be seen in his bandsman’s uniform standing in line near the back.  In charge of the corps, standing at the front is one 2nd Lt Rupert Brooke.

Lord Roberts, former Commander-in-Chief of the British Army and recipient of the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny, visits Rugby School in February 1906 where he inspects the school's Rifle Club (OTC, Officer Training Corps). The officer in charge of the corps is 2nd Lieutenant Rupert Brooke, poet, who would die in the Aegean during the First World War. Date: 1906
Lord Roberts visits Rugby School in February 1906 where he inspects the school’s Rifle Club (OTC, Officer Training Corps). 2nd Lieutenant Rupert Brooke can be seen standing at the front. (Picture number 11107612)

Brooke is one of Rugby School’s most famous alumni. His father was a housemaster there, and at the time of Lord Roberts’ visit he would have been 18.  Academically gifted, sporty, and with renowned good looks, he would go up to Cambridge in autumn of that year, having won a scholarship to King’s College.  One of the most famous of the Great War poets, the tragedy of Rupert Brooke’s death, from an infected mosquito bite on a French hospital ship in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Skyros on 23 April 1915 caught the public imagination.  Shortly after his death, his poetry collection, ‘1914 and other Poems’ sold 160,000 copies.

With three years separating them, it is unlikely Grasemann was on very close terms with Brooke, but it is clear that he was aware of his significance. Underneath the photograph in which Brooke’s handsome profile is unmistakable, Cuthbert Grasemann has unusually included Brooke’s Christian name in his annotations.  It is probable this album was compiled a number of years after Brooke’s death by which time his name had entered into Great War mythology; a fallen warrior, a ‘young Apollo, golden haired’ as described by the poet Frances Cornford.

Did Mary and Hilary ever notice Brooke’s existence among these photographs? The fact that the entire album has never been catalogued or scanned suggests not; a natural oversight in a collection that numbers thousands and thousands of individual items.  Only on closer examination did I myself notice the picture and it is finds like this that make Mary Evans such a unique place to work.  How they acquired the album in the first place is unknown.  Papers relating to Cuthbert Grasemann are held at the National Archives and the National Maritime Museum.  It seems strange that this album of such exquisite personal photographs should have been sold.  A small pencil inscription on the inside front cover suggests it was bought for £20 – quite possibly some years ago.  Whatever was paid for it, we believe the contents are simply priceless.

Too see a wider selection of photographs from the Cuthbert Grasemann album click here

All images copyright © Mary Evans Picture Library.  Please contact Mary Evans Picture Library is you would like permission to reproduce any of our pictures.

The Dancing World

As rumours begin to rumble over which celebrities might take part in this season’s Strictly Come Dancing, it seems an appropriate moment to highlight a high kicking new collection from Jazz Age cultural expert, collector and author Gary Chapman. Gary’s collection The Jazz Age Club, chronicling cabaret, nightlife, celebrity, fashion and society between the wars is represented by the Mary Evans Picture Library and he has recently acquired a magnificent run of 25 copies of the rare British magazine The Dancing World.

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It is a remarkable publication spanning the period from May 1920 to at least March 1924 and at the last check, only one copy is held by British Library making this a truly unique find that will be invaluable to researchers of the Jazz Age.

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The Dancing World was similar to the more enduring Dancing Times but was produced in a much larger 8.5 x 11 inch portrait format, and aimed at a more general, yet sophisticated audience. Naturally, there was comprehensive coverage of the world of dancing, but it also featured fashion, cabaret, film, music, theatre, London society and ran an obligatory Paris column each issue. The stunning colour art deco front covers were drawn by the magazine’s art editor Guiseppe Peres (presumably of Spanish extraction) and each magazine was full of black and white illustrations and numerous photographs. The early 1920s witnessed a frenetic dancing craze in Jazz Age London; The Dancing World allows us privileged access to this most exciting periods of social history.

Mags Row 1

In an advertisement in the Christmas 1921 issue, the magazine set out its mission statement. It was to be the magazine for the stylish dance-goer – amateur or professional – who needed to be informed on all aspects of dancing from the ballet to the ballroom, styling itself as ‘an artistic paper for elegant folks.’ It was intended to be international in scope, to record the up-to-the minute news and views and to forecast the trends of dancing history, stating confidently, ‘It will appeal to the smart set, people of taste and discernment who appreciate style in a professional paper as they do when making a purchase from any of the high grade firms whose announcements are in our columns’.

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It went on to say in its March 1922 issue, ‘The Dancing World is not full of dry, technical information. Our magazine is artistic, up-to-date, mixing fun, gossip, art and dancing with a skilled hand. It is the only authentic and amusing publication of its kind in existence’.

Camel Walk

With editorial offices at 177a Kensington Hight Street, London, the proprietor was not named. There were several editors – mainly Byron Davies and occasionally Ernest Betts and JB Cooper Reade plus various contributors. Byron Davies was the publicity manager for The Original Dixieland Jazz Band known for playing at the Hammersmith Palais and Rector’s nightclub. Both venues were owned by Canadian William F. Mitchell and American Howard E Booker; Mitchell’s wife Mae was hostess at Rector’s. Both men had an agency in Kensington High Street and from 1920 were clearly wanting to promote both venues and dancing in general to an eager London audience. Given the coverage to both the Hammersmith Palais and Rector’s within the magazine, and the link to Byron Davies and Kensington High Street, it seems logical to assume these men were behind the publication itself.

Frisco Orchestra

Another twist to the tale is that the magazine appeared to publish its last issue in March 1924 when there was sensational news that Rector’s nightclub had been closed. Shady operation tactics were revealed in The Times when the club was struck off the register and ordered not to be used for the purpose of a club for 12 months because it had been supplying intoxicating liquor without a license. This was a blow to William Francis Mitchell, the owner, who had been associated with the club since 1911. In fact in June 1911, both Mitchell and his partner had been prosecuted by the London County Council for conducting the club as a dance hall without a license and it was surprise that in 1924 it still did not have a license. The club had been registered as a company at Somerset house with a capital of £30,000 and Mitchell had paid a further £12,000 to enhance the place. It was one of the very best cabaret and dancing establishments in London with a high class membership and a nightly audience of over two hundred people. What happened to Mitchell’s Palais de Danse empire thereafter is not clear.

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Photographer Robin Dale: Middlesbrough Then, and Now

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Image numbers (left to right): 10985769, 10985738 & 10985705

As a native of Middlesbrough, or ‘smoggie’, I am particularly interested in the work of photographer Robin Dale, who Mary Evans Picture Library represents.  Dale documented Middlesbrough and the greater Teesside area during the 1970s in spectacular colour photography.  During this decade, the region suffered enormously from severe industrial decline and Dale’s photographs form a brutally honest record of this period, giving a profound social context to daily life and the highs and lows for those living in Teesside during this era.  The closure of Redcar’s Tata steel works only last year, in what was the final door closing on Teesside’s heavy industry has, once again, brought a new wave of uncertainty to the future of the area.

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Image numbers (left to right): 10985702, 10985737 & 10985704

I went back to Middlesbrough in February this year to try and recreate some of Robin Dale’s photographs and was struck by just how difficult it was to find the specific locations where Dale made his work.  Many streets in Middlesbrough have since been torn down and entire communities displaced due to extensive regeneration of the town centre and inner suburbs.  I did, however, manage to recreate to a certain extent the two images below: one of the Sinbad Tattoo Parlour and the other of the Transporter Bridge.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the same building and I find it extraordinary that the premises still operates as a Tattoo parlour, whereas the street is almost unrecognisable.

Tattoo Parlour – Harlington Street, Middlesbrough

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Transporter Bridge

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Whilst I couldn’t find many more exact locations in Dale’s photographs, I think the buildings in my photographs below are certainly reminiscent of the streets, pubs, buildings and places that Dale frequented during the 1970s, and a poignant reminder of the continued struggles of this once thriving industrial area of Northern England.


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Image numbers (left to right): 10985770, 10985711 & 10985779
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Image numbers (left to right): 10985698, 10985736 & 10985701

Click here to see more of Robin Dale’s work.

From corsets to culottes – A brief history of tennis fashion

For many, it’s been a tough week to be British, but with the arrival of Wimbledon fortnight, some semblance of peace and order can be found in the tennis enclave of SW19 with its carefully manicured grass courts, tinkle of ice in Pimm’s and, of course, the pristine white attire the All England club still insists is worn by all players. The rule, which upholds Wimbledon’s strong sense of tradition and is one of the things to set it apart from the other grand slam competitions, had its origins in the early days of the game in the nineteenth century when the visibility of sweat, especially on women players, was considered unseemly. White not only disguised this, but gave the impression of freshness, and a century and a half on, the unshakeable rule remains.

Other than the stipulation of white, tennis clothing today combines style with high performance, ensuring complete freedom of movement with breathable, ‘sweat-wicking’ fabrics. It is a world away from the late 19th and early 20th century when lawn tennis gained many converts even though Victorian women would dress in a costume more suited to a garden party underneath which corsets continued to mould the female figure into the desired fashionable shape. A picture we hold of Charlotte “Lottie” Dod, (top left), five times Wimbledon champion from 1893 shows her looking for all the world as if she is about to sit under a parasol to take afternoon tea; her tennis racquet the only indication that she was the period’s leading sportswoman. Any type of exertion and energetic movement in a corset regularly caused the bone and steel to dig into players and draw blood. Nevertheless, many doctors believed the corset was advantageous during sport to ensure all internal organs were kept in place and the support warded against back pain and other such ills. Dorothea Lambert Chambers (above, second from right), seven-time singles champion at Wimbledon in the decade leading up the First World War won her matches wearing a business-like but nevertheless constricting combination of white blouse with tie and shin-length skirt. In 1905, when the young American tennis player May Sutton (later Bundy) (above, second from left), played at Wimbledon, she rolled back her cuffs to reveal her forearms because her sleeves ‘were too long and too hot’. It may seem tame to us, but her action was shocking to many spectators. In her 1910 book, ‘Lawn Tennis for Ladies,’ Mrs Lambert Chambers wrote a chapter on tennis clothing prescriptively advising the wearing of, ‘…a plain gored skirt – not pleated; I think these most unsuitable on court – about four or five inches from the ground. It should just clear your ankles and have plenty of fullness round the hem. Always be careful that the hem is quite level all round; nothing is more untidy than a skirt that dips down at the back or sides – dropping at the back is a little trick a cotton skirt cultivates when it comes home from the laundry. A plain shirt without “frills or furbelows” – if any trimming at all, tucks are the neatest – a collar, a tie, and waistband, go to make an outfit as comfortable and suitable as you could possibly desire.’

She also prescribed thin-soled white ‘gymnasium shoes’, choosing white cotton over heavier, coloured flannel or ‘stuff’ due to its infinitely washable properties and avoiding the wearing of hats. A decade later, the girl who beat Mrs Lambert Chambers in a gruelling 3-set match to take the Wimbledon title in 1919, would revolutionise tennis fashion. Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen presciently brought the youth and vivacity of the 1920s to the tennis court, sporting a succession of lightweight garments; chemise style dresses with pleated skirts, loose, straight cardigans and short-sleeved blouses or V-necked vests (still considered a risqué neckline). Lenglen’s outfits were designed by Jean Patou, the French couturier who pioneered sportswear as fashion and championed the ‘garconne’ look, opening a dedicated sportswear department in his couture store in 1925 and subsequently opening further branches in fashionable resorts such as Deauville and Biarritz. Lenglen’s clothes were embroidered with Patou’s signature, a visible declaration of the creative and commercial bond between designer and sports person and one that remains an essential relationship in the sportswear industry today. Patou was to continue as the go-to designer for a leisured lifestyle; in 1927, dialling in to the new trend for tanning with the launch of the first suntan oil, Huile de Chaldee in 1927 and a fragrance called, quite simply, ‘Sport’ the following year. Lenglen meanwhile, who topped off her on-court attire with a white fur coat (below, second from left), was hailed as a fashion revolutionary. London department store, Selfridges drafted her in to design a range of tennis clothes for them in 1933 (below left). Elizabeth Ryan, a contemporary of Lenglen and holder of 19 doubles titles at Wimbledon, said of her, “All women players should go on their knees in thankfulness to Suzanne for delivering them from the tyranny of corsets.” Ryan had witnessed the drying rack in the dressing rooms at Wimbledon where blood stained corsets were hung.

Tennis, perhaps because of the high profile of women players, continued to be a showcase for the development of sporting style. When the Spanish player Lili D’Alvarez wore a divided skirt designed by Elsa Schiaparelli at Wimbledon in 1931, (above, second from right) the garment caused a sensation, causing many magazines to note how it also ‘divided opinion’. The actress Gladys Cooper appeared in The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News in June the same year (above right), ‘trouser-skirted’ in an outfit she was planning to wear to Lady Cranfield’s tennis party at West Hall. Around the same time, some daring ladies began to wear shorts to play in, including one Mrs G. E. Tomblin, spotted in a 1932 issue of The Sketch wearing them while at a club in Chiswick (below, second from left), though the same magazine asked in one fashion column in March that year, ‘Can shorts rival these graceful frocks for the courts?’ (below, second from right). It’s an unsurprising viewpoint considering Aristoc were still advertising silk stockings suitable for the tennis court in 1933 (below right). It would be the pioneering American Alice Marble who was the first to wear them at Wimbledon in 1937 (below left).

By the 1950s another big personality was beginning to dominate the tennis fashion scene with his wildly feminine styles. 6 ‘ 7” Cuthbert Collingwood “Ted” Tinling (1910-1990) was an English tennis player and referee, already firmly doing the social round by the early 1930s. Suffering from respiratory problems, he had been sent to the French Riviera as a teenager and began to play tennis on the courts of the Cannes, eventually becoming Lenglen’s referee. We discovered a photograph of him from this time with Lord Charles Hope on the courts there in a 1931 volume of The Tatler (below left). Tinling’s playful, fashionable, flirty designs were worn by the majority of major tennis stars in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, from Billie Jean King to Martina Navratilova, but he is probably best known for the notorious frilly knickers worn by Gussie Moran in 1949, the scandal of which led to him being dismissed from his position as player liaison at Wimbledon (he would be welcomed back in 1982). Within our archive, there are some fabulous sixties designs by him featured in the swinging, ‘London Life’ magazine (three pictures below).

Despite the forays of tennis stars such as Serena Williams into the 21st century world of sportswear design, female tennis fashion today feels more serious and functional than the glory days of Tinling, though thankfully, the styles of over a century ago are consigned to the club’s excellent museum. How interesting it would be to see modern-day tennis players try to play in the corsets and long skirts of May Sutton, Lottie Dod and Dorothea Lambert Chambers. One wonders, when the mercury rises on Centre court, could they endure a three-setter in the searing heat?

Adapted from an excerpt taken from ‘Retro Fashion’ by Lucinda Gosling, published by New Holland.

Click here to see a wider range of tennis fashion images.

Colouring in the Past – a History of Colouring Books, Then & Now

As crazes go, they don’t get much bigger than the current obsession with adult colouring books. Heralded as the new absorbing, therapeutic route to de-stressing and ‘mindfulness,’ colouring in is no longer just for the kids. Johanna Basford’s colouring books of intricate natural worlds, published by Laurence King since 2013, have sold a staggering 10 million globally. Millie Marotta, Batsford’s colouring queen, is shifting in equally eye-watering quantities. Jumping on the bandwagon is the magazine industry; titles currently on the newsstand include the self-explanatory ‘Colour In’ magazine, as well as those overlapping into the self-help market with titles such as ‘Colour Calm’ and ‘Zen Colouring.’ At a recent visit to the Spring Fair in Birmingham, we witnessed colour-in T-shirts, bags, cushions and more. Type ‘colouring in’ into Amazon and you find hundreds of books with words and phrases such as ‘therapy’, ‘relaxing’ and ‘I can’t sleep.’

How did we get here? What happened? How did it suddenly become acceptable for grown-ups to spend their time colouring in? For anyone who has sat with a child and helped them colour in, it is undoubtedly a rather pleasant experience (except when the child in question takes a thick, black crayon and starts going over the lines undoing all your good work. That can actually be quite upsetting). Adult colouring books began a few years back with a smattering of tongue-in-cheek books marketed at the young and hip. Those in search of an ironic gift could give their nearest and dearest a book from Mel Elliot’s Colour Me Good range starring outline drawings of the likes of Ryan Gosling, Damian Lewis, Taylor Swift or Benedict Cumberbatch. Michael O’Mara Books were one of the first publishers to produce a more ‘mainstream’ colouring book in 2012 with the ‘The Creative Colouring Book for Grown Ups’, i.e. something you were actually meant to colour in – properly. In 2016, there are now adult colouring books on every conceivable theme from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to a neat little pocket book featuring Liberty of London textile patterns.

And so here we are. Modern life is so stressful, we apparently need to sit down and colour in to recover from it all. But whether you view colouring in as a harmless creative activity, or a mindless (as opposed to mindful) harbinger of the fall of civilisation, the advent of colouring-in, back in the 19th century, is rooted in surprisingly similar principles.

According to Wikipedia, the concept of colouring in was first suggested as a way to democratise art and was inspired by a series of lectures by painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the works of Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and his student Friedrich Frobel. The belief was that colouring in led to spiritual edification and was a way to enhance cognitive abilities, so improving future prospects. Latching on to this idea, the first colouring book, ‘The Little Folks Painting Book’, illustrated by Kate Greenaway, was published in the United States by trailblazers McLoughlin Bros. in 1879. It’s worth mentioning that early colouring books were intended for paints and even by the 1930s, when crayons had become widely available, colouring books were produced with the aim of being suitable for either paints or crayons and continued to be called ‘painting books’ for quite some time.

We do not have ‘The Little Folks Painting Book’ at the library but we do have several other early examples, not least another Kate Greenaway illustrated book entitled simply, ‘Kate Greenaway’s Painting Book,’ published by Frederick Warne. Untouched by childish hands, this edition is in ‘mint’ condition, but rather more interesting is ‘The Merry Moments Painting Book,’ also published by Warne, where most of the outline drawings have been coloured in with crayon, the young artist carefully replicating the full printed version on the opposite page. Probably done at least half a century ago, it feels all the more charming for it. We also have a couple of beautiful colouring books by the animal artist Cecil Aldin as well as a 1930s ‘Magic Paint Book’ made by Renwick of Otley, which has clearly never come into contact with water. Tempting though it is to see if the ‘magic’ still works after all these years, we shall return it safely to the shelf without trying. Those of a certain age will also remember colouring in Christmas cards and we even have examples of these from the 1960s and 70s via the Medici Society archive.

Mary Evans Picture Library is awash with images that are begging to be coloured in though rest assured, any colouring in these days is done digitally and no crayons or coloured pencils are allowed near our collection of Victorian periodicals (some of our city panorama engravings from the Illustrated London News would keep even the most experienced colour-inner going for days). Fashion illustrations from The Tatler, domestic scenes from Girls’ Own or Good Housekeeping magazines, cartoons by Heath Robinson and H. M. Bateman not to mention hundreds of beautiful nursery illustrations by artists such as Margaret Tarrant from the Medici Society archive – all have massive colouring in potential for avid colour-inners who are looking for something with a historic or vintage flavour.

Inspired by the potential of our archive as a treasure trove of colouring in material, we felt it only fair to compile and share with you our own colouring book. It’s a little alternative, and, may we say, not for the faint-hearted, and it’s most definitely aimed at the adult market (though it’s all in the best possible taste). We should warn also warn you that, rather than calming and de-stressing, this is a colouring book to excite and stimulate the parts other colouring books don’t reach. Not for us namby-pamby vegetation, ocean worlds or furry animals, THIS is a colouring book that looks at the seriously colourful side of history. Sharpen your pencils and prepare to bring to life in full technicolour the past’s most risqué, decadent and bizarre from across the centuries. And please do share the fruits of your labour with us on our Facebook page. This is one kind of adult colouring book we think is seriously worth the effort! Click here to download your copy.

Handsome Chaps from History – A Valentines Top 10

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday and with love in the air, and romance on the breeze, how could we not dedicate our latest blog post to the enduring theme of ‘amour’? To be perfectly honest, perhaps the theme is more lust than love. Let me explain. Over the last year, TV viewers have been treated to a feast of lavish historical drama, with, for some of us, characters who remain indelibly stamped into our consciousness forever more. Damien Lewis gave us a simmering alpha male Henry VIII in ‘Wolf Hall’, fans of the epic ‘War & Peace’ may have fallen for the proud and troubled Andrei (though personally, I rather preferred the sexy swashbuckling arrogance of Dolokhov), and need we say any more about Poldark’s scythe or Philip Lombard’s towel in ‘And Then There Were None’?

Inspired by such a parade of historical and fictional romantic leads, we thought it would be fun to share with you a top ten of handsome chaps from history, illustrated, of course, with images from our archive. Here’s our rundown of who we’d like to share an intimate Valentine’s dinner with. And before we’re accused of sexism, we plan a similar list of ladies the minute we find an excuse!

10. Captain Leslie St. Clair Cheape Cheape (1882-1916). We always promise the obscure as well as the well-known at Mary Evans, and Leslie Cheape may not be a familiar name but in his day was hailed, ‘England’s greatest polo player’ – playing for England in the Westchester Cup three times in 1911, 1913 and 1914. He was pivotal in bringing the cup home in 1914 despite a ball breaking his nose during practice just a couple of days earlier (what a hero). Seated here on his polo pony, with, thrillingly, the hint of a tattoo on his muscular forearm, he’s the very essence of the upper class sportsman, many of whom lost their lives during the Great War. Unfortunately Leslie was one of them. He was killed on 23 April 1916 while commanding a squadron of the Worcestershire Yeomanry in Egypt.
9. Gary Cooper (1901-1961) There are so many movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age to choose from but Gary Cooper made the top ten because lurking behind those chiselled good looks, is the sense of masculine potency and seductive promise. Talullah Bankhead said there was only one reason she accepted a role alongside Cooper in the 1932 film, The Devil and the Deep, but you’ll have to look it up as it’s unprintable here.
8. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (1928-1967) As Cuban revolutionaries go, Che had his fair share of good looks, and excellent facial hair to boot. Surely not everyone who wore a T-shirt with his face on it did so purely out of political empathy?
7. Anthony Wilding New Zealand tennis player Tony Wilding reputedly caused lady spectators at Wimbledon to faint when he made an appearance and it’s easy to see why. Tall, blond, a dedicated athlete and with matinee idol looks, he won Wimbledon four times between 1910 and 1913. He was also romantically linked with the actress Maxine Elliott, his elder by some fifteen years. Contemporary accounts testify to him being a proper gent and thoroughly nice chap – an ideal Valentine’s dinner companion. He was killed during the Battle of Aubers Ridge in 1915.  Read more about him on our WWI blog here.
6. Paul Newman Undeniably, dazzlingly, perfectly handsome, Newman once joked, “I picture my epitaph: ‘Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.’”
5. British WWI flying ace  Captain Albert Ball (1896 – 1917) was our highest scoring fighter pilot during the conflict. Combining heroics with aerial wizardry and devastating boyish good looks, Albert was something of a pin-up but, like so many heroes of the skies, died tragically young, just before his 21st birthday. Special mention must also go to Manfred von Richthofen (1892-1918) whose cheekbones were as finely honed as his cockpit skills. May we recommend Michael Fassbender for any forthcoming biopic?
4. Robert Powell as Jesus of Nazareth (7–2 BC to AD 30–33). We should point out that Mr Powell remains hale and hearty but his portrayal of Jesus in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 film saw him give a mesmerising and swoonsome performance as the son of the Lord. Those rippling locks, those piercing eyes…it’s enough to convince the most ardent atheist to attend a Last Supper.
3. Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926). If anyone has any doubt over why the greatest movie idol of the early C20th attracted such global adulation, then this photograph of him in the character of the faun for a proposed film version of the erotic ballet, L’Apres Midi d’un Faun, might prove to be that moment of revelation. Valentino’s sensual on-screen seductions were enough to make millions of women fall under his spell. Here, with oiled limbs and smouldering gaze as the priapic faun, the world may have quite simply imploded with unsuppressed lust had this film ever made it into cinemas. If the Internet had existed nine decades ago, Valentino would definitely have broken it.
2. Leslie Hutchinson (1900-1969). Better known simply as Hutch, clubland crooner and serial womaniser Leslie Hutchinson numbered Edwina Mountbatten, Tallulah Bankhead (and Ivor Novello!) among his many conquests. Suave, sophisticated and a talented tickler of the ivories, Hutch was not only the biggest cabaret stars of the 1930s, he was also rumoured to possess a member of legendary proportions (Sir John Mills once witnessed him in the shower in a men’s changing room and confirmed the rumours by simply commenting “What a man,”). Locker room secrets aside, being serenaded by Hutch might just have been the perfect Valentines treat.
1. King Charles II Claiming the top spot is the Merry Monarch himself, whose lust for life and bawdy bedroom antics marks him out as the king to have a fling with. Swarthy and sensual, he famously stood six feet two inches tall, an impressive height in the C17th. Lavishing apartments, jewels and other gifts and money on his succession of demanding mistresses while the kingdom went to pot, John Evelyn commented that the libidinous Charles would have made a good ruler, “if he had been less addicted to women”. More interested in fleshy delights than government business, the King might not have been the most dedicated ruler, but who wants sensible when it’s Valentine’s Day? Ruled by love, rather than duty, Charles II is our naughty but nice choice for a Valentine’s dinner companion.

The Maurice Collins Collection

Mary Evans’ reputation as purveyors of the quirky and unusual was given a boost last year with the welcome addition of the Maurice Collins Collection to the library’s offerings. A cornucopia of gadgetry and bizarre inventions, Maurice’s unique collection is a celebration of technological advancement, manufacturing prowess and rampant consumerism over the 19th and 20th centuries (not to mention a heavy dose of Victorian eccentricity). Among the thousands of peculiar and often dubiously useful objects Maurice has collected over the years are such curiosities as hen peck protectors, adjustable skirt lifters (to protect long hemlines from muddy puddles), bed linen smoothers, cricket bat string applicators and chewing gum holders. We thoroughly recommend whiling away an hour or so browsing his fascinating collection online. Click here to see the entire collection.

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Image numbers (left to right): 11041344, 11041464, 11041359 & 11041457

In the first of a series of contributor interviews, we talked to Maurice to find out more about his fascinating hobby and collecting habits.

How did you start your collection?

I began collecting when my children were younger in the 1970s. My daughter was handicapped, and in order to spend time with my son, we used to go bottle digging on old Victorian rubbish tips to see what we could find. We uncovered pot lids, old bottles and I recall finding a particularly unusual bottle – a genuine Hiram Codd mineral water bottle, with a pointed bottom and a marble in the neck to stop the contents’ gas escaping and the drink going flat. That was the beginning and I’ve been collecting ever since.

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Image numbers (left to right): 11043914, 11043905, 11043895 & 11043869

What is the scope of the collection? What are the qualifications an item must have to be included?

I look for anything unusual or something I simply like the look of. They might be every-day items for their time, though seem curious in retrospect. But the main rule I have is that the majority of objects fall roughly within the century from the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 to the Festival of Britain in 1951. The collection now numbers around 2000 individual items, and they are catalogued in so far as they are stored eight to a box, with a description of each piece.

Do you have a favourite particular piece?

It’s my clockwork teasmade dating from 1902. The Science Museum have one in their collection. Other than that I’m intrigued by security devices, such as traps in coat pockets against thieves, or products that were powered by clockwork. Also escape items – I have button or collar stud compasses, or compasses disguised as razor blades, used by the RAF during the Second World War.

And a preference for a particular period?

I admire the aesthetics and design of the 1930s and the Bauhaus movement, but for sheer variety and invention, the gadgets of the late 19th century take some beating. Some were essential advances to improve the health and well-being of the population such as Royal Doulton’s water filter or the Jennings toilet as shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition (George Jennings invented the first public flush toilet). There are other gadgets that demonstrate society’s increasing quest for comfort and ease such as car seat heating or coachman’s belly warmers. Others are just plain bonkers such as a tin of South-end air you could send as a refreshing alternative to a postcard!

Where do you find your treasures?

I’m always looking – antiques fairs and markets, eBay of course now, which makes searching internationally so much easier.

What is the most recent acquisition?

A clockwork alarm from around 1820 consisting of a small clock connected to a bell and ratchet. It is very beautiful and the mechanism is very effective.

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Image numbers (left to right): 11041331, 11042765, 11041461 & 11041660

As an inveterate collector yourself, are there other collections you admire?

It has to be Robert Opie and his marvellous collection of advertising, packaging and brand ephemera.

And do you collect anything else other than gadgets?

I have a sideline collection of ephemera consisting of graphic design material, adverts and posters, particularly a major collection of WWI and WWII posters. I was a compositor and then owned my own printing business for a number of years, so am naturally drawn to this sort of material.

What projects have you got lined up for the collection?

I have always lent objects to museums and for exhibitions – any fees are donated to disability charities. I will be at the Gadget Show in Birmingham this year (the show runs from 31 March to 3 April at the NEC) showing a selection of objects. I have written books based on the collection (Ingenious Gadgets and Eccentric Contraptions) and have another planned.

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Image numbers (left to right): 11047261, 11047192, 11047000 & 11044365

What do you think your collection tells us about society over the past two centuries?

It’s commonly assumed today that we buy and own too much stuff. But there is a rationale behind this and that is that society is dependent on the production and sale of goods. All wealth is created by someone buying something over a shop counter which in turn means that people are buying products, meaning employment, which allows taxation, which is then spent on the infrastructure of a democratic society, from health, roads, education and even the preservation of our past through provision of museums. It is a principle of economics that has remained constant over the centuries. My collection of objects and gadgets, whether life-changing, ground-breaking, totally pointless or utterly obsolete, represents this perennial rhythm of industry and consumerism.

The Maurice Collins Collection is exclusively represented by Mary Evans Picture Library, with 3800 images available to search. Click here to see the entire collection.