Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)MS821
TitleJoseph Chamberlain Postcard Collection
Extent363 items
Date[c 1892]-[early 21st century]
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DescriptionThis is a substantial collection of picture postcards, mostly political cards, relating to Joseph Chamberlain as a public figure and statesman and predominantly dating to the first decade of the twentieth century. The majority of these comprise cartoons which communicate political messages about him and comment on his policies and political events and which were produced primarily for propaganda purposes. However, the huge popularity of picture postcards resulted in the rapid growth of a market for collectors for souvenir purposes and in their mass production. Many of the postcards in the collection have been used postally, but a significant number are blank. Most of them are printed in colour.

The earliest postcards in this collection are largely continental European ones - German, French and Dutch - which feature attacks on the British government in respect of the Boer War and, specifically on Joseph Chamberlain as Colonial Secretary with responsibility for the policies in South Africa. Queen Victoria and Edward VII are also featured as is Paul Kruger, leader of the Boers. These cards include images of works by French sculptor, Guillaume Laplagne.

There are a very few early British postcards from the end of the nineteenth century which include a vignette and a space for a message on one side and space for the address on the other. However, most of the cards in this collection date from 1903 when the 'divided back' for message and address was introduced by the Royal Mail, so allowing the full picture postcard.

Many of them relate to Chamberlain's national campaign for tariff reform between 1903 - when he resigned from office and opened his campaign with a speech in Glasgow in October - and 1906, when the Liberal party which supported free trade had a landslide victory. The cards chart the political battle on tariff reform between Chamberlain and his opponents over his policies for preferential trade between the British colonies, the protection of British industry from cheaper foreign goods, and the promotion of unity within the British Empire. Chamberlain and his protectionist policies are presented both positively and negatively, and he is frequently the subject of barbed humour. Some of the postcards use, for example, the imagery of two loaves of bread in response to the message of the Government Inquiry Blue Book issued in September 1903 that a 'free trade' trade loaf was larger than a 'protected one'. Others use such patriotic images as John Bull, 'Joe' and the dragon, lions and Union Jacks to convey messages. Biblical images and messages are also heavily used - particularly the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis, focusing particularly on 'Joseph's coat' and 'Joseph's dreams'. Similarly popular nursery images, such as Mother Hubbard and her bare cupboard, are depicted. Sport, and particularly football, is another popular form of imagery; and a variety of animals are also used. Many of the postcards include captions and slogans and, in some cases, quotations from politicians' speeches. Other political figures featuring alongside Chamberlain as subjects of these postcards include Balfour, Lord Rosebery and the other Birmingham tariff reform MPs, and also his eldest son, Austen Chamberlain, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Balfour at the time of his father's resignation.

A number of the cards feature the official opening of the University of Birmingham by King Edward VII 7 July 1909; Chamberlain is depicted in his role as first Chancellor of the University.

There are also some topographical souvenir and photographic cards of his home, Highbury Hall in Birmingham, which were produced by both local and national publishers such as Scott Russell, Whitlock and Beagles and images of Highbury at a later date in the period when it was used as a VAD Hospital during the First World War. Other souvenir postcards feature portrait photographs of Chamberlain - often wearing his monocle and an orchid in his buttonhole; others are of him and his third wife. Further souvenir postcards illustrate the events associated with his seventieth birthday celebrations on 8 July 1906 and 30 years' representation of Birmingham as an MP. There is also a postcard of his funeral procession and two Christmas postcards featuring his portrait.

The collection also includes a polling card for the Parliamentary Election in 1923 issued by Neville Chamberlain's Committee in which Chamberlain stood as the Unionist candidate for the Ladywood Division and French advertising cards for chocolate maker Guerin-Boutron and Moka Leroux coffee [c 1900].

British artists and cartoonists represented in this collection include Harry Furniss (1854-1925); Albert Ludovici (1852-1932); Arthur Moreland; R. O. Longmire; F. Carruthers Gould (1844-1925); David Wilson (1873-1935); and Percy Venners Bradshaw (1877-1965). Some artists are only identified by initials, such as J. H. R., D. D. C. and R. E.

The British postcard publishers (mostly national ones) and the series they published include:

John Walker & Co Ltd of London, publishers of Harry Furniss Political Postcards, Harry Furniss Political Postcards (People Series) and Harry Furniss, Topical Cartoons from 'The People';

Davidson Bros, publishers of series of pictorial postcards from originals by A. Ludovici;

Raphael Tuck & Sons, publishers of 'Political Leaders', the 'Oilette' series and several 'Fiscal Series' which include 'Game Birds', 'Fiscalitis' and 'Fiscal Football'. Percy Bradshaw, Frank Richards and 'Poy' were three of the artists associated with this company whose works are represented in the collection;

Premier picture postcards produced by publishers William Lyon of Glasgow, with monogram trademark (on quartered shield) L. G, which include a series 'Joseph the Dreamer' by the artist 'D.B.C.' and a series incorporating music in the picture by artist 'G.F.';

Millar and Lang, art publishers of London and Glasgow, whose cards include images of Austen Chamberlain in bed with other members of the cabinet following his father's resignation, accompanied by variants of the catch phrase 'when father says turn, we all turn'

W. C. S. & Co: featuring work by R. O. Longmire;

Stewart & Wolf of London: 'Fiscal Series' depicting the work of J. H. R.;

Evelyn Wrench's various 'Wrench Series' which include works of F. Carruthers Gould (signed F. C. G.) and R. E.;

Daily Chronicle cartoon postcards featuring the work of David Wilson;

Tamesis Photographic Syndicate, London featuring the work of Arthur Penniall
Delittle, Fenwick & Co of York;

Westminster Cartoon series which also feature the work of F. Carruthers Gould.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered readers
Finding AidsThis is a preliminary description and will be enhanced at a future date. For further information please contact Special Collections.
Access StatusOpen
Custodial HistoryAcquired by the depositor by purchase over many years
AcquisitionA collection of c 260 items was deposited October 2010; additions to the collection have been received from the depositor 2011-2022. Further accruals are expected.
Related MaterialSpecial Collections holds the personal and political papers of Joseph Chamberlain (GB 0150 JC)


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