Saturday, 30 March 2013

Hard Times in Dieppe

Away from the bustle of a Cross-Channel port and the casinos and luxury hotels of a fashionable resort, another very different world existed – a literally marginal community whose homes were carved out of the cliff face. Images of destitution and deprivation are uncommon on postcards unless they are simultaneously picturesque and colourful. Not the case here among the cave dwelling fishing community in Dieppe. The fascination here seems to have more to do with the frisson of superiority to be experienced when gazing upon the wretched and dispossessed. They offer intriguing glimpses of a world of hard labour and primitive living conditions. By the time that W R Sickert settled in Dieppe in 1920 he had left behind the sordid and squalid subject matter of Camden Town in favour of café society and casino high-life, otherwise this disadvantaged tribal group might well have attracted his attention. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013


One of the most prized directives in the corporate witch-doctor’s bag of tricks is the need to identify your mighty enterprise with a small town or rural location. Plant the idea in the public mind that yours is a business just like the reader’s – you struggle along against all the obstacles that government puts in your path making just enough profit to keep going. At the end of the day you are just plain folks, nothing fancy or pretentious to unsettle the customer. The makers of Beech-Nut Gum made the most of their small town origin in the Mohawk Valley town of Canajoharie employing the service of a bucolic Adonis complete with pitchfork to bring the news to the visitor from the city. Just a bunch of local boys who got together to process wholesome smoked country hams and invented the vacuum jar – everything from ketchup to jam, from peanut butter to marmalade went into those jars until chewing gum was added to the product lines. To overcome the problem of pronouncing Canajoharie it was renamed Flavor-Town. 

Now for a Declaration of Bias – I have the undiluted petit-bourgeois aversion to the habit of chewing slabs of synthetically flavoured latex. The mechanical rhythms of the rotating jaw and associated vacuous facial distortions are self-inflicted and everyone has a right to look stupid, but the practice of transferring discarded gum to the clothing and footwear of strangers via the agency of table undersides and public seating is genuinely objectionable. So shed no tears for the demise of Beech-Nut. The company was swallowed up and spat out by a succession of competitors including Life Savers, Squibb, Nabisco, Nestlé, Ralston Purina, Madison Dearborn and the Hero Group. Somewhere in this marathon the gum expired and all that remains today is baby food. In 2011 the very last production facility in Flavor-Town moved elsewhere. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Global Ambitions

When businesses expand, dreams of worldwide domination with consumers in every land and advertising in every language begin to form. There will be a network of offices across the globe and the name in lights in the centre of every major city. A reputation for excellence will extend into the most remote regions of the planet. To become part of a supra-national global community orbiting the earth at supersonic velocity, detached from the deadweight of national allegiance was the ambition of the visionary CEO. Advertising agencies stood prepared to translate these glittering visions into reality with the assistance of a well-stocked repertoire of clichés. Foremost among these were images of the globe, infinitely adaptable and instantly recognisable. We present a small selection below but a special mention for Colgate whose loyal customers were rewarded with a globe of their own to dominate in the privacy of their own homes. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Postcard Memory Palace

Introducing a new place to view postcards

After almost 6 years of posting here I hope there are a few readers who share some of my enthusiasm for vintage postcards. With this in mind a new blog has been set up at WordPress to display a much deeper selection of postcard imagery than we have space for here. There will be no commentary but the tags should enable visitors to make their own choices and navigate around. It should eventually develop into an extensive archive with the opportunity to select and browse by theme, genre and location. Postcards will continue to feature here as long as I have something to say about them but from now on there will be a complementary space for those of you who wish to see more.