Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Margate and comic postcards

Recently was the 100th anniversary of the Bamforth & Co Ltd postcard company famous for the publication of the comic seaside postcards that were sold in there thousands every summer season locally at Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs during the post war period up until the 1970's. Often described as saucy, risque or even rude, these postcards represent a chapter from our seaside heritage that most people are now starting to look back to with nostalgia.
During 1950's comic postcards as I like to call them, sold in their millions throughout the country and it was during that period they were to earn notoriety that ensured their place in annals of seaside history forever. This was all due to the high profile prosecutions under the 1857 obscene publications act in various seaside resorts that made national headlines. This court action instigated by the self appointed guardians of local morals who regarded these postcards with their double meanings and innuendo as obscene. This led to prosecutions under the 1857 act and seaside resorts like Eastbourne, Hastings, Brighton and Cleethorpes even banning the sale of them. Top target on the list was the artwork of Donald McGill who was persecuted more than most because his artwork contained sexual double meaning and innuendo aimed at middle class couples and lifestyle. Another target were the postcards produced by unknown artists and unknown publishers printed on the economy post war card using two colours which did not pull any punches of which postcards produced by Bamforth & Co were tame by comparison
Most seaside resorts have recorded history of the accounts of the prosecutions , banning orders and confiscations that occurred in their resorts resorts during that period. So what happened in Margate as the resort was a cockney watering hole where such cards were readily appreciated.
There was one case that was reported in a edition of the Isle of Thanet Gazette that was presented to Margate magistrates in October 1953. The story began with the secretary to the Mayor of Margate purchasing comic cards by "arrangement" and then taking them to the Police to make a complaint. The traders that were targeted were H.S.F Caterers of Marine Terrace Margate, Whitnall's on the corner of Lombard Street and New Cross Street which is know the Mad Hatters tea rooms and from K.Phillips of 13, Market Place Margate. This resulted in the Police confiscating a total of 1,824 postcards.
During the ensuring court case, George Whitnall told magistrates, "Thousands of people have a jolly good laugh at them. They are good, honest fun - good, honest vulgarity" Joshua Harrison the Mayor's Secretary, said that by arrangement he went to Phillip's shop on the 19th August 1953 and bought some postcards at 3d each. Detective Inspector Smith said , "The wordings or drawings were obscene, and the figures were crude in some cases." The Magistrates inspected some samples of the 1,824 postcards. The Chairman Mr F . J Cornford , declared that they all had double meanings and ordered they were to be destroyed as being obscene.
There were many attempts to sell the postcards without being pulled up by the local authorities in Margate and one such case were the postcards that were sold on Margate Jetty (Pier). In those days some day trippers also came down to the resort by boat from the Thames and as they waited on the Jetty for the return boat home. One enterprising shop owner would wheel out four display boards , keeping a sharp lookout shore side. Sales were good and when the boat eventually left for London the display boards were wheeled back in as quick as they were wheeled out.
A few years back I started a collection of comic postcards and even persuaded the Margate Museum to start a small collection of these postcards to be added to the seaside collection held at the Museum. The building up of the collection was easy and cheap because most shops still sold them in their postcard racks and it was just a matter of touring every shop in Thanet and having a good rummage, I even did boot fairs and local collector fairs. As a rule I did not buy anything off the Internet because I wanted every single card to have a local provenance which they all had. I carried out some research which threw up the few facts that I have listed above. I found the postcards I put in the Margate Museum collection were also interesting because I managed to get hold of some of those postcard I mentioned earlier that were printed and published anonymously that did not pull any punches.
I eventually sold off the bulk of my collection to local collectors retaining the ones I like including the postcard above that typifies the earthy humour of Donald Mcgill.

1 comment:

Tony Beachcomber said...

Amongst the collection I gave the Margate Museum are some postcards that originated from "Dirty Dick's". Dirty Dick as he was known locally had a shop on the corner of Market Place and New Cross Street. They were real back street jobs with no publisher and consisted of two colours red and yellow.