SAHB Autumn Seminar 2014 at Paulerspury
Following an ostensibly successful start to the day with our traditional literature and photograph fair, the ensuing formalities of the AGM led us neatly into our promising array of speakers.
Peter Moss with the background help of Richard Roberts and his impressive archive – started the ball rolling with “Beyond the usual Suspects”, an analysis of advertisement techniques employed by the luxury car market. Daimler advertised from as early as 1900 in monochrome, or black and white, whereas as Studebaker were actually in colour by 1906. It was important to emphasize lifestyle for these manufacturers to get their message across and Napier, in particular, appeared very good at it. The language used within the artwork was vitally important – with illustrations of Purdey shotguns, luxury yachts and elegantly dressed participants almost pushing the actual car picture into the background. Our talk was delivered with free-flowing eloquence and great enthusiasm – excellent stuff.
Peter Heilbron followed with a most illuminating talk about “Punch Motoring Cartoons” – apparently triggered by a reference to them by Malcolm Jeal in an early issue of Aspects. Punch started way back in 1841 – typically generating some 1000 pages each year. However, no mention was made of the illustrative artists that were used until 1902 with logically, I suppose, a predominance of horses being involved in motor accidents being predominantly illustrated. Artists such as Leonard Raven-Hill, G.H.Jalland (early Autocar illustrator) and Edward Sambourne were noted – together with Swain, the acclaimed resident woodblock engraver. Lewis Baumer 1870-1963 was renowned for his feminine oriented cartoons. It was absolutely imperative to read the attaching script to better appreciate the pictorial content and the humour therein. The presentation started very solemnly but developed into an animated revelation of Peter’s obvious enthusiasm for this fascinating subject.
After lunch we were treated to an insight into “Motoring Art” by our familiar expert in this field, Tony Clark.- concentrating on British artists and the role they played in the evolving UK marketplace. Tony explained how the original artwork for magazine covers and display advertisements frequently got neglected and, in many cases, thrown away once the project completed and went into print. The few surviving examples that occasionally appear on the market are the result of workers in the print shops ultimately taking souvenirs when they left employment or the firms went bust. In terms of subject matter Tony showed early examples of boring script accompanying a not very inspiring illustration of the car itself right through to the concept of “selling the dream” – perfectly complementing Peter Moss’s previous presentation. The Motor Owner appeared to have started this trend in 1919, quickly followed by Austin in 1922 with their colour ads. The Morris Owner also displayed evocative front covers and artists such as Fred Steerwood and Harold Connolly specifically deservedly mentioned. The fuel and petrol supply companies were also great contributors with some very evocative illustrations, courtesy of SHELL and CASTROL. Copyright was usually retained by the employer – notable exceptions being Cuneo and Brocklebank. A most interesting talk about the background one rarely thinks about.
Mike Worthington-Williams displayed his encyclopaedic knowledge with a rewarding insight into the extraordinarily prolific library of Williamson volumes – aptly titled “The Lightening Conductor” that is so familiar to us all as the ubiquitous example in every collectors library. Apparently, the young Alice Williamson ventured into the writing world with an erotic novel at the age of 15 – a most unexpected start for this household name! The family’s excursions to Europe did not include the UK, much to Alice’s disappointment, but she eventually met Charlie Williamson – himself a travel editor and engineer. This fortuitous liaison commenced with a marriage in 1894 and became the start of a very successful partnership. The “Lightening Conductor”, published in 1902, was the tale of their honeymoon and this travelogue resulted in eventual sales of over 1 million copies. Alice went on to have something in the order of 100 titles published, but little is known of her and Charlie’s actual lifestyle beyond the glimpses portrayed in her books. Her books were featured by both Napier and the Black and White magazine and she also worked for Northcliffe for some considerable time. She was very fond of name-dropping and obviously relished moving in high society circles but, perhaps, a degree of fantasy inexorably crept in. Several of her books we made into films and she died in 1933. Her exploits appear reminiscent of “The Eternal Quest” – though not in pursuit of collecting books. Mike certainly opened our eyes to what many of us probably regard as “all those Williamson titles” – thank you
“Caveat Emptor” was our intriguing afternoon finale by Kent “Rover” Robinson and Nick “Vauxhall” Portway and highlighted the evolution of “bitsers” and the vital importance of accurate record-keeping in respect of vehicle acquisition and restoration. What was a natural way of life post-war, where cars with broken engines or gearboxes were, thankfully, made roadworthy by combining the best bits of two damaged cars to ensure survival has developed into the modern day world of trickery and deception where deliberate fraud can result in creating large sale prices for cars that may not be all they seem! If, however, meticulous record-keeping is used with no overriding ulterior motive then the end result can be lauded and approved. Kent went on to relay the Lister saga of competition cars that were built well after production ceased and actually had “unused chassis numbers” allocated to enable, it would appear, participation in historic racing of these apparent imposters. Iso Rivolta was mentioned as appearing in a suspected litigious situation surrounding a vehicle offered for sale by Coys. Nowadays, France, apparently, take matters of this nature very seriously and are in the process of compiling a list of “veritable authenticators” who may be relied upon to help with authentication. Kent suggested that the SAHB might need to think about a similar project in the UK – along the lines of a list of club registrars who could be called upon to assist with authentication if provenance was called into question. Certainly, something that needs discussing in the light of some of the vastly expensive legal cases of recent times that concern authentication of originality or “genuineness”. After all, this consideration is very much part of our motoring heritage that we are all collectively responsible for. Thank you, Kent, for this “food for thought” presentation.
All in all, a really fascinating day that broadened our horizons in a most entertaining way. Barry Blight.
The Society were also delighted to present Malcolm and Euice Jeal with a small token of appreciation for their 10 years’ dedication to the production of “Aspects of Motoring History”. An Edwardian fan showing artwork of a racing motor car .