Edwardian photography Social history

Family Life

There must be zillions of family photographs in the world. Here are a few from my collection.

As you can imagine families featuring military personnel abound from both world wars and we can only guess whether they all survived the conflicts. In the second of these photographs you can see the man with a pipe in the upper left has been cut out of another photo and pasted in. Was he someone lost from the family?

This one was dated 29th Nov 1916. The message on the reverse is in German and addressed to a family in the Netherlands.

Days out at the seaside is a popular theme.

This good-looking bunch are almost too good to be true. Are they performers of some type?

I know families used to be much bigger but I’m not sure these are all from the same family.

The photographer looks like M Hotz of Honfleur. This photograph is much larger than a standard cabinet card.

Another plus sized card but no information on the photographer or the family.

Edwardian photography Social history

Gladys Cooper the first postcard superstar

According to Sheridan Morley, one of Gladys’ grandchildren, in his biography of her over 400 different postcards of her were produced between 1905 and 1920. Each postcard would have had many thousands of reprints. You can get an idea of her popularity and longevity as a celebrity by looking on ebay. When I checked today there were 1700 listings for postcards of Gladys and I would expect to see similar numbers on any day of the week.

You can find postcards of Gladys in black and white, colour, hand tinted. partially tinted, on greetings cards and so on. Often her distinctive signature is shown on the cards.

This pair of postcards are indicative of the many variations of postcards that were produced. She’s wearing exactly the same clothes in both but the colouring and orientation have been changed.

Gladys was often photographed with her children. Here she is with daughter Joan. Note Joan’s signature on the right hand photo though I doubt her handwriting was so similar to her mother’s.

Postcards were only a sideline for Gladys. She was an actress appearing in many stage plays from the 1920s and later had a career as a film actress. You can see her in Hitchcock’s Rebecca for instance.

If you want to see more Gladys Cooper postcards you’ll find them with a simple online search. My own modest collection can be seen here.


How it all began

It’s going back some years now but finding this photograph got me interested in collecting old photos in the first place. Like many people I had some topographical postcards but this was the first time I started thinking about the social history to be explored in old photographs and real photographic postcards (RPCCs).

I found it in a box of old photos at a table-top sale in the Community Centre, Cromford, Derbyshire. It was with a bunch of other unrelated photos and postcards at a stall selling general bric-a-brac and antiques. There’s nothing to identify who it is or where it comes from and it’s a real photograph, not a postcard. There’s no studio name on it either. So it’s all a mystery still even though other people have tried to find out more about it.

Looking again at the man’s outfit it doesn’t seem very authentic. Her clothes probably place the time as somewhere in the Edwardian era. The backdrop says it’s a studio but why would the man dress up like this? Was it for a play or theatre review or was he with a visiting “Wild West” show though these were more popular in the late Victorian era?

It’s unlikely I’ll ever know the true story but if you have any ideas then do contact me.