Iris’s Pledge

Reminiscent of the illustrative style of Janet and John reading books, this Band of Hope Pledge offers a fascinating window into the temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Established in 1847 in Leeds, England, the Band of Hope aimed to instill a sense of responsibility and abstinence from alcohol in children. This pledge card, adorned with vibrant illustrations and moral vignettes, is a testament to those efforts.

The card features central figures of a boy and girl, symbolizing the youth who committed to the cause. Surrounding them are emblems of health, happiness, prosperity, chivalry, and Christian living—each an ideal benefit of temperance. The promise, boldly printed, reads: “Because I want to be my best in every way, I PROMISE, by God’s help, never to take Alcoholic Drinks.”

Such artifacts are not only collectible but also serve as historical documents of past social movements. They highlight the values and societal goals of their time, offering a real connection to the history of public health and moral education campaigns. Items like this are invaluable for their cultural and historical significance, offering insights into the efforts to shape youth behavior and promote temperance.

The 20mph Edwardian Speed Demon

Travel back in time to the cobblestone-laced roads of Edwardian Britain, and you’ll uncover the charming tales of early motoring, replete with mustachioed gentlemen in goggles and duster coats. Amongst such anecdotes, a delightful piece of motoring history has recently surfaced, involving a certain Percival Alexander Douglas-Barry Esq. and his encounters with the law.

In the summer of 1909, Percival found himself on the wrong side of the burgeoning traffic laws. With his motor car clocking speeds over 20 miles an hour – quite the feat in those days – he caught the attention of the Cheshire Constabulary. Percival received a sternly worded yet handwritten note, advising him to put a brake on his enthusiasm and ease off the accelerator.

Fast forward to a chilly January in 1932, and our intrepid motorist once again found himself in a pickle. This time, the offense was a tad dimmer: failing to keep his vehicle’s lights burning bright enough to reveal the registration numbers, a requirement under the Road Transport Lighting Act of 1927. This transgression led to an official summons to court, a more serious affair but still handled with that personal touch only a handwritten document could convey.

These letters, penned by the officers of the law, offer a quaint peek into the early days of traffic regulation. They not only remind us of how far we’ve zoomed ahead in the realm of vehicular laws but also hark back to a time when even a speeding ticket had a personal touch.

Christmas Wishes from Egypt (1934)

Quite an unusual envelope this week… Sent in 1934 from a member of the armed forces based in Egypt, there’s an unusual addition to the envelope. Forwarded from Reading to Brighton to what we can only assume was its final destination in Ealing, the letter bears a quaint reference to the season of good will. We might more often associate whimsical stickers like this to modern post but it clearly has a much longer pedigree. Marked ‘Sealed until Dec XXV’, it must have proved a mighty test of the recipient’s self discipline, arriving as it did in the first week of October!

Below are some of the series of stamps and Christmas seals for letters sent from pre-war Egypt which would have been available in the NAAFI during the mid-late1930`s. 

A Striking Collection

Our eyes lit up when we received this stunning array of matchbooks from Michael Burroughs this week. We’re always keen on discovering a new field of collecting so today’s specialist topic is…phillumeny!

A hobby which has existed for over a century, phillumeny is the practice of collecting match-related items, such as matchboxes, matchbooks, and matchbox labels. The word comes from the Greek “philos” (meaning “lover of”) and “lumen” (meaning “light”). The British Matchbox Label and Bookmatch Society is an admirable non-profit which produces a magazine, holds auctions and regular meetings.

The matchbooks were just another way in which all sorts of enterprises advertised themselves: banks, fast food chains (as with the early McDonalds example here), airlines, theatres, restaurants… the variety is immense. Some collectors won’t countenance anything which is less than mint so it’s always best to preserve them in as near perfect condition as possible – just like most collectables.

Among the more valuable are those issued to special forces in World War II. These would form part of an escape kit and would always light no matter how damp they were. Attracting particular interest at present are any examples from Hong Kong before it was taken over by China.

The Colonies Rally Round

Beyond the 2.6 million Indian troops who helped Britain stay in the fight during World War II, a significant number helped out on the home front. In this rare series of cards, ‘On War Work In Britain’, we see sheet metal workers in critical production positions, Indian women with roles in London’s Civil Defence service and as nurses as well as a Hindu technician from Bengal making a piece of the intricate mechanism of a reconoissance camera.

Also on sale this Saturday will be a well preserved pair of British Forces Day pins. The sale of these raised funds for Lord Roberts workshops, a charitable body set up to train and equip the many thousands of people disabled through war.

Whole Lotta Love for Bone Records

Certainly one of the most unusual items we’ve ever featured, this is a very rare bootleg recording of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’.

Dating from a time in the seventies when Western music was banned behind in the Soviet Union, Russian fans would cut records into old X-ray plates. Hence they became known as ‘bone records’. Held up to the light, this one shows the image of a broken shoulder! The rough circular shape is because they were cut by hand and the hole in the middle was often made by a lit cigarette.

Usually, the value is determined by the condition of the record and whether it’s retained its original sleeve with Russian title.

Pet Cemetery

A grim reminder of the horrors that war bring is this notice from 1940s London encouraging any pet owners being evacuated or mobilised for war work to euthanise their cats and dogs so they don’t starve in their absence.

It will seem horrific by modern standards but was no doubt regarded as a kindness almost a century ago. The cemetery at the address has an extensive plot for animals with some impressive statues and carvings.

With thanks to Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria for the photo and background information.

Majestic Memorabilia

This week we’re featuring some highly topical items sent to us recently by Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria.

Firstly an official pass for a motor vehicle to be in Westminster during the late Queen’s coronation in 1953. It’s impossible to see in the photos but the registration numbers of the vehicles has been pencilled in on the front: JK2204 and RV7074 for ‘Westminster Bank’.

And then there are a couple of much sought after ‘real photograph’ postcards. The one from 1939 shows the King riding in Windsor Great Park alongside the princesses. Princess Margaret has her horse on a training lead held by her father. The other portrait photograph of the Queen was taken by Dorothy Wilding at a time when this would have been really quite unusual!

A Branded Childhood

Doug Larson described nostalgia as a “a device that removes the ruts and potholes from memory lane” and it’s often true that, almost without knowing it, our hands fumble for a pair of rose tinted spectacles whenever we look back to our childhood or adolescence. And it really doesn’t take much to transport us back across the decades to a time which seemed, and in fairness probably was, so much simpler.

Perhaps it’s the smell of a coal fire, the sound of a particular song or the taste of a favourite meal cooked ‘just right’. Or maybe it’s something as simple as a packet of Kellogg’s Sugar Ricicles, “twicicles as nicicles”. The bright commercial tapestry which formed the backdrop of our youthful lives is tinged with all sorts of bitter sweet emotions.

In 1963 one forward looking young man named Robert Opie began to collect contemporary packaging from all sorts of products. Things which were regarded as being of no consequence and routinely thrown away he would tuck away for posterity. In time, his collecting obsession grew to encompass bottles, signs, tickets, toys, games, postcards, comics and newspapers. Today the Robert Opie collection has a permanent home at the Museum of Brands in Central London and he has compiled a number of fascinating hardcover books stuffed full of visual memories of days gone by. Nostalgia like this is surely what A E Housman described as “the land of lost content…The happy highways where I went / And cannot come again.”

Holocaust Memorial Day

As regular readers will know, Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria consistently sources the most marvellous historical items for us to feature. However, although this blog has featured some really quite remarkable treasures over the last few years, in my view none of them have been either as poignant or as precious as these: letters written by an inmate of Dachau concentration camp.

A very fitting post for Holocaust Memorial Day, they are a haunting reminder of one of humanity’s lowest points. There are four letters in all, dated 14-2-194, 7-6-1941, 1-9-1941 and 12-4-1942. Written by Johann Jaworski to his wife Maria at an address which appears to be No.(/Apptment?) 37, Horst-Wessel-Strasse, Litzmanstadt. Litzmanstadt was the Nazi name for the Polish city of Łódź, part of which had been turned into a ghetto following the invasion of 1939. It was the second largest ghetto in the whole of occupied Germany.

As for the street name, this was one of thousands of streets which were renamed after figures revered by the Nazis. Horst Wessel was a brownshirt leader who was assassinated by two Communists in Berlin. Goebbels subsequently used his death for propaganda purposes and the Horst Wessel Song became the party’s official anthem.

It is rare indeed to find such letters but even more unusual to have the envelopes which held them. Few people who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis wanted to keep the envelopes bearing a stamp with either his image or former President Hindenburg. Both letters and envelopes bear the camp name, the terms and conditions of use and have been stamped by the camp censor.