The Man Who Ate Grass

Will Brexit happen?  When will Brexit happen?  But most importantly, if and when Brexit does happen, what on earth are we all going to eat?

This of course, was a far more pressing question eighty years ago in the first few months of the Second World War, when memories of food control and rationing towards the end of the last war, meant most people were prepared for the inevitability of food shortages.

'Sorry No Potatoes' - a British housewife has limited choice for her vegetable purchasing, as potato stocks dry up due to tight rationing control over supply - December, 1941.     Date: 1941

It was a scenario for which Mr J. R.B. Branson of Battersea was thoroughly prepared.  A retired lawyer and graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, Mr. Branson felt the dietary requirements of the nation on the home front could be met by the green, green grass of home – quite literally.

Mr J. R. B. Branson, who advocated a diet of grass to counter food shortages during the Second World War. The Bystander magazine ran a double page spread on him and his views. Picture of sixty-seven year-old Mr Branson eating flowers in his garden in Battersea.     Date: 1939

In November 1939, Branson was featured in The Bystander magazine in a photo spread proving his theory that humans could subsist adequately on grass. He was shown carefully transferring lawn cuttings into a paper bag, washing and preparing grass and then pointing out a number of boxes, each neatly labelled with a particular vintage of dried grass. “Bowling Green Short 1938” sounds particularly appetising.

Mr J. R. B. Branson, who advocated a diet of grass to counter food shortages during the Second World War. The Bystander magazine ran a double page spread on him and his views. Picture shows him creating an appetite by mowing the grass and bagging the sweepings ready to take indoors for preparation.      Date: 1939

Another photograph shows him mixing grass with sugar and then wandering happily around his garden masticating on a bowlful.  He claimed, at the age of sixty-seven, to have never felt better and to prove the point, was photographed on his daily 6am run around Wandsworth Common.

Mr J. R. B. Branson, who advocated a diet of grass to counter food shortages during the Second World War. The Bystander magazine ran a double page spread on him and his views. Picture shows Mr Branson weighing out his ration of grass and mixing it with sugar. The Bystander reports that Mr Branson changed his diet gradually to 100 per cent grass s     Date: 1939

A final picture of a bowl of grass was pithily captioned by The Bystander: “”We hope German propagandists don’t see this picture”.

So if the thought of post-Brexit chlorinated chicken makes you recoil, then perhaps go one better than becoming vegan and give the great grass diet a go. Mr J. H. P. Branson clearly thrived on it!

If you can’t get enough of Mr Branson and his turf-tastic chow-down, you can see more in this brilliant Pathé clip: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-man-who-eats-grass

Motivational Posters from the Maurice Collins Collection

As we look to the start of a new year, thoughts inevitably turn to New Year’s resolutions and self-improvement.  With the help of the fabulous Maurice Collins collection that we represent here at Mary Evans, we turn the clock back 90 years and take a look at self-improvement 1928-style, through the medium of workplace motivational posters. Never mind mindfulness, forget Feng shui – these posters channel bold, colourful imagery with pithy positivity for the workplace and beyond.

Incentivisation Poster - Gossip
Incentivisation Poster - Look Pleasant
Incentivisation Poster - Who Thought

Parker-Holladay, a now defunct print company, was one producer of these motivational posters, which it made on a subscription basis for business owners to display and disseminate to their employees. Bill Jones, a fictional character created by Parker-Holladay, encouraged punctuality, good self-care, courtesy and teamwork, amongst a raft of other virtues, helping to instill best practice and positive mental attitude in the workplace.

Incentivisation Poster - Late Again
Incentivisation Poster - Health is priceless

Popular in their day, these striking posters fell from favour following the Wall Street Crash and the ensuing Great Depression of 1929, with economic events dealing a heavy blow to the self-made man and his entrepreneurial spirit. Though thankfully the economy is not suffering  today as it did back in 1929, even nearly a century later these images still convey the power of positivity and the beneficial effect this can have in the work place and on an individual’s outlook.

Incentivisation Poster - Criticism
Incentivisation Poster - Tomorrow
Incentivisation Poster - Who Thought
Incentivisation Poster - Worry

Here on The Inquisitive Archivist, these posters march again, on into 2018, with messages that are still pertinent to the workplace today.  Which of Bill Jones’s maxims will you take into 2018? Wishing all our readers a very happy and productive new year!


Incentivisation Poster - Goodbye Old Year

The GREAT Mary Evans Christmas Gift Guide

Tatler Christmas Shopping Guide

Combing the archive to reveal this season’s best buys for all the family.

We’re sorry but it’s becoming unavoidable.  There are just eighteen oh-so-short shopping days to go until Christmas.  As panic buying sets in the length and breadth of the country, FEAR NOT, for help is at hand.  Fling away those gift guides in Sunday supplements, forget about jostling for a parking space in Westfield, throw caution to the wind and CANCEL that Amazon Prime subscription. You don’t need it.* We’ve trawled through history itself in order to help you solve any festive gift-giving dilemmas.  Read on for some vintage inspiration and watch your family’s faces light up this Christmas.

*Did we mention you WILL need a time-travelling machine?

For discerning Uncle Jeremy, the ultimate in loungewear – a velvet smoking jacket from Peter Robinson with silk collar, cuffs and frogging.

Advert for Peter Robinson, gentlemen's clothing 1895

For your tech-loving teenage son – the twin-lens artist hand camera from the London Stereoscopic Company.  He’ll be extra-impressed that it’s the same one used by the Princess of Wales.

Top of any little girl’s wish-list – a toy roadside pub.  Yes, that’s right.  Complete with beer pumps, ashtrays and pork scratchings , this boozer offers instruction in basic arithmetic courtesy of the darts board.

For dear mother, what can be more thoughtful than an electric vacuum cleaner or state-of-the-art Frigidaire?  No more daily shopping, no more drudgery of carpet beating.  Now she can clean carpets all day to her heart’s content.  How kind of daddy.

Frigidaire fridge advert

Stumped again about what to buy Aunty Irene?  The answer is staring you (quite literally) in the face.  Who doesn’t want a cat telephone cosy from Selfridges in their life?  Aunty Irene need fret no more about her phone getting chilly during those winter months.

Cat telephone cosy from Selfridges, 1919

For seven-year-old Nicholas, a Tri-ang model motor car is just the thing.  But how to choose between the Rolls Royce, the Brooklands or the Chevrolet Regal?  Buy all three (they’re just £15 15 shillings each) and you needn’t feel so guilty about packing him off back to Harrow on Boxing Day.

Advertisement for Tri-Ang toy model motor cars

Ever since Grandpapa singed his moustache while using a toasting fork, the need to modernise has been apparent.  Treat him to this 1909 Elkington plate stand and lamp for making flame-free crumpets and toast at the breakfast table.

Stand and lamp for making toast 1909

For that opinionated great-aunt you loathe.  Buy her a horrific dinner gong or match holder.  Do be mindful that these will be re-gifted back to you in her will when she pops her clogs.

Chain smoking Aunty Lil would love a new Ronson lighter.  And why not also buy her a Perfu-mist scent dispenser at the same time?  We can only hope she doesn’t get the two muddled up after one too many gin and dubonnets.

Advertisement for Ronson lighters, 1931

For the newest member of the family, how about a winter bassinette or a wooden horse on wheels from the 1888 catalogue of Dunkley’s of London and Birmingham?  Strictly no actual playing with them though; it’ll seriously affect their valuation on Antiques Roadshow in 130 years’ time.

And finally, you know last year, when your sister bought you that Brian Connolly CD for Christmas and you vowed revenge?  Remember when you dreamed of finding a present that would give her nightmares at night?  Here you go.

Pssst… for actual Christmas presents you can buy today featuring Mary Evans images, visit; Prints-Online.