Friday, 15 December 2017

Soviet 'Happy New Year' Postcards, 1957

To conclude my 'After You've Gone' posts for this year, here are three Russian postcards that were published exactly 60 years ago. 

During the Soviet years, formal Christmas celebrations were not allowed, so instead 'Happy New Year' greetings cards were posted to families and friends. The festivities were mainly for the young - and inevitably images of Santa Claus and his helpers were bypassed - so instead dolls, children and snow were the popular symbols on these kind of cards. However, Grandfather Frost and his snow maiden granddaughter were often also depicted.

I found this troika of examples at some point during the 1990s at the now defunct Bloomsbury Postcard Fair at the Royal National Hotel in London, WC1. This was the place to find the wonderful and the unexpected - and very often at little cost. All three cards were printed on very flimsy paper, with the photograph on the glossy side, and all were dated 1957. One of the cards was postally used, bearing a stamp showing Lenin talking with a soldier and a sailor that had been issued the same year to mark what would have been Lenin's 87th birthday (he'd died in 1924).

The wording on the front image is:
с новым годом

...pronounced "Sno-vim Go-dahm", which literally means "with New Year". 

Season's Greetings!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Moulded Music - the story of the making of a 78rpm gramophone record

"Take a mess of trego, carbon black, shellac, copal, and resin, put in a press, warm it, cool it, and serve when you will!"

That's the recipe for 'moulded music' as documented by The Gramophone Company in a photo story that was published in the Penguin Music Magazine, Issue No.4, from December 1947. Exactly 70 years ago...

It's a rare and fascinating glimpse behind the scenes study of the production of an HMV 78 rpm disc. The Gramophone Company, formed in 1898, was never officially known as 'His Master's Voice', even though the phrase became synonymous with its product. The company was renamed EMI Records in 1973.

The famous logo on the record label depicts 'Nipper' - most likely a Jack Russell terrier - which was painted by his owner Francis Barraud in 1899. The dog had in fact died four years before Barraud's painting was completed. Nipper was buried in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey. A local street, 'Nipper Alley', was recently named in his honour...

This is DB 1085, the record that is pictured being sleeved and boxed

Friday, 3 November 2017


It's the 1930s, and radio rules the airwaves...

And here's the 'Radio Queen' greeting the visitors at RADIOLYMPIA held in London's Earl's Court, an annual trade and consumer show for radio and television devotees. 

For today's collection of images I will focus solely on the original RADIO element of RADIOLYMPIA which had its first exhibition in 1922, the very same year as the inauguration of the BBC. Early receiving sets, booklets of wiring diagrams and assorted electronic technology were displayed beside the very latest in gramophone players. By the mid 1930s, RADIOLYMPIA played host to the thousands of keen radio listeners who represented the seven million radio set owners throughout the UK.

The event was popularised in the press and the newsreels as well as the trade journals - and it continued as a mainstay of the radio and television industry until the last ever RADIOLYMPIA in 1964.

Zap! That's Elmira Humphries, the Radio Queen c.1930s

 A page from the acclaimed 'Weekly Illustrated' picture magazine from August 1935
Theme Tune to RADIOLYMPIA 1934

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Radical Clerkenwell

Join Alan Dein - broadcaster, writer and life-long Londoner - for a walk through the cobbled streets of Clerkenwell: the city’s centre for radicalism and non-conformism. With ancient architecture nestling alongside advertising agencies and coffee shops, Alan invites you to scratch the surface of Clerkenwell’s modern wealth. You will discover a history of overcrowded slums, cattle traders and artisans. Here, poverty brushed with power to create an appetite for both compassion and non-conformity - both of which still echo today. Our journey visits the execution site of rebels such as William “Braveheart” Wallace, the house where Lenin plotted the overthrow of Tsarist Russia, and the overcrowded Rookery slums that made the citizens of Clerkenwell ripe for political activism. But we’ll also go beyond the historical landmarks to see the many remnants of Clerkenwell’s history that still thrive today - the infamous Smithfield meat market, London’s first hospital and the charities and churches which grew along side rebellion to make Clerkenwell the beating heart of left-leaning reform.

Friday, 25 August 2017

How to get a Telephone Box into a Letter Box?

By the way of a finale to my run of telephone box-themed posts, it seems appropriate to offer up a philatelic concoction - or should I put it another way: how to squeeze a phone box into a post box...

To begin with a UK stamp issued in 2009. The K2 was one of a set of ten 'Design Classics' which also included such beloved beauties as the Spitfire & Concorde, the Mini & the Mini Skirt, the London Underground Map & the Routemaster Bus.

The 'Design Classics set was officially launched in 2009 by Mary Quant , designer of the Mini Skirt...

Over twenty years before the 'Design Classic' Royal Mail stamp, two Telephone Box stamps were issued from what was then called the 'Kenyan Posts and Telecommunications Corporation'. In 1986, to mark the Kenyan contribution to the Vancouver '86 Expo, and then a year later to celebrate 10 years of progress in rural communications.

Kenyan Pavilion at Vancouver '86 was actually zebra-striped 

The 5 bob triangle, and another phone box in use

Now compare the positive imagery of these two stamps with an article in Kenya's Daily Nation from 2010: 

Kenyan telephone booths take their last call this year. Telkom Ornage has decided to recall the last of the booths from the streets in the next couple of months. By the end of this year, the last of the 1,000 booths will be no more. With their exit, the war between the majestic red, yellow and (recently) cream booths, and the mobile phone finally draws to an end, won by the wireless. But the booths bow out with dignity, leaving behind fond memories"

From rural Kenya to former Yugoslavia, and three telephone box-related stamps...

In 1988 came a superb offering from Yugoslavia as part of their 'Postal Service' definitive set
In 1990 a celebration of the Yugoslavian phonecard
The 100th anniversary of the first ever public phone call in 2001

First Day Cover dated 20th November 2001. The name 'Yugoslavia' finally drops off from the stamps of the region around 2003