Railway uniforms and the English class system.

The London and South Western Railway garments are issued to the staff in the spring and autumn. Generally trousers are supplied every six months; light coats and vests every other summer; and heavy coats, vests and overcoats every other winter. At the Stores the garments for each man are made up into a separate parcel, duly labelled with his name, grade and place of employment. ….

railway serviceIt is impossible to mention all the articles of clothing that are served out on the different railways to various classes. Some men are supplied with leggings and mackintoshes; oilskin suits and clogs are required by those whose duties call for the use of water, as in carriage-washing, etc. Blue blouses are worn by men engaged in fruit and meat loading; the sailors on the railway steamers wear blue jerseys; tunnel men are clothed in flannel suits; and electricians, boiler-inspectors, policemen, firemen, dining-car attendants, Royal train officials and the hotel staff all require garments of widely differing character.

Platelayers, as a rule, are not supplied with clothing by the Company. Some of these men, however, are employed in fog-signalling, cold and cheerless work, for which warm clothing is very necessary. They are therefore provided with thick overcoats, the collars of which are covered with scarlet cloth. These garments are generally second-hand ones that have been returned to the Stores after two years’ wear by officials in higher grades. There are also various other servants, not entitled to new clothing, who are favoured with similar garments.

railway guard

Station Master, two porters, and a train guard.

A great many of the left-off garments of railway employés find their way to the “shoddy” mills for conversion into cloth of the cheapest kinds, but garments that are worth it are fitted with new collars and cuffs and then find a ready sale among farm labourers and other classes whose work calls for rough clothing. The articles for which there is no demand at home are sent abroad. Upon many of the sugar and cotton plantations of India and the West Indies and in the mines of South Africa it is not uncommon to see a native clothed in a strange medley of garments.
‘The Wonder Book of Railways’, Ed. Harry Golding,
Ward, Lock & Co., Ltd. Eleventh edition, c.1924.

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
Augustus De Morgan (1806 – 1871)

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Health and Sunny Hours

An advertising card for Ayer's Sarsaparilla from late 19th century.FOR SCROFULA and all scrofulous, mercurial, and blood disorders, the best remedy is AYER’S COMPOUND CONCENTRATED EXTRACT OF SARSAPARILLA – called, for convenience, AYER’S SARSAPARILLA. It is composed of the Sarsaparilla-root of the tropics, Stillingia, Yellow Dock, Mandrake, and other roots held in high repute for their alternative, diuretic, tonic, and curative properties. The active medicinal principles of these roots, extracted by a process peculiarly our own, are chemically united in AYER’S SARSAPARILLA with the Iodide of Potassium and Iron, forming by far the most economical and reliable blood-purifying medicine that can be used.

If there is a lurking taint of Scrofula about you, AYER’S SARSAPARILLA will dislodge it, and expel it from your system. For the cure of the disorders, lassitude and debility peculiar to the Spring, it has proved to be the best remedy ever devised. If your blood is vitiated, cleanse it without delay by the use of AYER’S SARSAPARILLA.
Prepared by
Dr. J. C. Ayer & Co., Lowell, Mass.

There are some pretty outrageous claims being made here. Scrofula is tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in the neck so equating it with blood impurity and suggesting it can be “dislodged” and expelled from the system with, essentially, a detox treatment is clearly ridiculous. Incidentally, the inclusion of Mandrake, a dangerous narcotic, in the ingredients should raise a red flag as well.

So was this a deliberate fraud? It’s hard to tell given the level of medical knowledge in the late 19th century. It certainly isn’t the worst example of overly enthusiastic claims. The patent medicine industry at the time thrived on a gullible public and a big advertising budget. The Ayer company had one of the biggest, and it shows in the printing quality of cards like this one.

A pimple poem

If you think that title is a misprint – read on.

Advertising card c. 1878 for Dr. J. C. Ayer's Sarsaparilla.

HOW FAIR
“How fair she grows from day to day,”
Her life an ever-smiling May!
And yet not always thus she grew,
Nor health and beauty always knew;
For once her cheeks were covered o’er
With “horrid pimples” by the score,
Which marred her face and made her sad;
And all because her blood was bad.
The means of cure she sought with care,-
At last, of Doctor J. C. Ayer,
Of Lowell, heard, a chemist skilled,
He who from healing roots distilled
An EXTRACT, potent to replace
The bloom of youth upon her face,
And make her blood as pure again
As when a merry child of ten.
“I’ll see!” she said, and off she hied,
A bottle bought, and quickly tried,
SARSAPARILLA was the name
By which this Extract gained its fame.
“Oh happy day,” she cried; for, lo!
The pimples soon began to go;
And now, the fairest of the fair,
She lives to bless the name of AYER!
_______________
AYER’S SARSAPARILLA,
Dr J. C. Ayer & Co., Lowell, Mass., U. S. A.
Price $1. Six bottles, $5. Worth $5 a bottle.

This card and its poetic advertisement on the back dates from around 1890. They don’t make copywriters like that anymore!

I’ll have more from the doctor later in the week.

Postcard politics

This postcard from the 1930s is for all those British subjects who will vote in the General election today – or not, as the case may be.

Vintage Bamforth comic postcard.

I suspect this might be a rare Bamforth card because it doesn’t involve sex, large middle-aged women and their henpecked husbands, or Scotsmen, their kilts, and speculation about what lies beneath. Those were simpler times!

On the Road Again

Commercial travellers, the company rep., travelling salesmen (and women) – do they still exist, or have they been made redundant by on-line ordering? If they’re still in business they probably announce their next visit by text or email but in 1906 their customers would have received something like this in the mail

calling card

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Otago and Southland edition, 1905) tells us that The firm of Messrs. Briscoe and Co., Limited, is an offshoot of the old house of William Briscoe and Son, which was founded in Wolverhampton [England] about the year 1768.

The large business conducted from Dunedin …. [opened in 1862] is confined chiefly to the South Island, where seven travellers are steadily engaged in visiting the customers; but the North Island is left to the Wellington and Auckland houses of the firm.

This particular “traveller”, W. G. Macindoe, was based in Auckland and, even at this early date, seems to have had a company car to drive around his commercial territory. Lets hope it was more practical than the steam driven fantasy on the postcard! It seems that Mr. Macindoe used both card and car for something other than company business. This was posted to a young lady in Paparoa and the single sentence at the bottom says Will you come for a drive to Whangarei and is signed Your boy. The journey from Paparoa to Whangarei would have been more than just an afternoon jaunt on the roads of 1906.

Moving forward to 1909, The New Zealand Herald of April 10 noted –
Mr W. G. Macindoe, traveller for Briscoe and Co., was the recipient of a handsome cabinet of cutlery from the staff on Thursday evening on the occasion of his marriage. The manager (Mr. A. G. Graham) made the presentation.

The cutlery was also a leaving present because, on 26th, the Auckland Star announced – Mr W. G. Macindoe, of Messrs. Briscoe and Co. (Ltd.), having been transferred to the firm’s Sydney warehouse, leaves by the Maheno this evening. He will be accompanied by Mrs. Macindoe.
I haven’t been able to find any details about Mrs. Macindoe so far. I wonder if she lived in Paparoa?

(Although the company began as a wholesaler, Brisoes is now a high-profile retail chain with their advertising slogan “You’ll never buy better”).

Travelling by stagecoach

In the late sixties of last century [19th], when the “Diggings” were in full swing, there was an excellent service of coaches owned by Cobb & Co. Coaches left Dunedin daily by the main north and south roads; the distance covered each day was well over seventy miles, so that an early start was the rule.

stage west coast

Breakfast at 5 a.m. “with our hats on” was the beginning of the first journey alone for three little sisters who set off to spend a happy summer holiday with an elder sister in her home on the banks of the Molyneux River [Clutha].

Our own road down the Glen joined the South Road a mile or so out of Dunedin, and we had, therefore, no share in the bustle and importance of the daily start from the office in town. We had not long to wait before the coach appeared on the crest of the hill and rattled down towards us. Good-byes were said and last instructions given as the big coach pulled up with a swing and stood heaving and swaying on its great leather springs, while the harness creaked and clattered as the six big greys shook it, stamping with impatience at the delay.

We were soon in the places reserved for us at the back of the coach, where we would be well protected from the weather by big leather curtains – on this fine morning rolled up so that we might enjoy the pleasant country through which we drove.

Besides the seats of honour on the box and above it, there were four (or more) seats set across the interior – just hard wooden seats with very little padding and a wide leather strap for a back. The coaches were generally overflowing with diggers, usually very cheerful, confident that they were on their way to make their fortunes, or, still more cheerful, with fortunes in their pockets, on their way to town to spend them……

The number of horses in use by Cobb & Co. must have been enormous, and the quality was outstanding. Beautiful greys were always reserved for the entrance into town, and the procession of the Gold Escort was indeed a sight never to be forgotten. Armed out-riders led and followed the special coach bringing in the gold; and there was frequently a prisoner or two, in which case the armed guard on the box, and riding alongside, would be considerably increased.

Vintage postcard of two stagecoaches on the Christchurch to Greymouth road.

All that, however, was a thing of long past when, after my marriage, I travelled by coach, this time to my new home on the Maniototo Plain. The railway that was eventually to stretch from one end of the [South] Island to the other could now be used to shorten distances, and our coach journey began at Palmerston, following up the Shag river, to Naseby – one day’s journey. In the earlier days the coach had to break the journey for the night at a so-called accommodation house that bore the very descriptive name of Pig-root.

Some of my happiest recollections are of these old coach journeys to our up-country home, my children enjoying the adventure, tucked away inside the coach with their nurse. Of course, there were inevitable discomforts, but one could forget the bumping into and over frozen ruts on a winter’s morning when looking out on the frost-laden snowgrass, the sun covering the great white domes with jewels, and icicles veiling the blue depths of fairy halls below them.

The driver, appreciating my husband’s eye for a horse, always kept the box-seat for us, and his fund of yarns was inexhaustible, so that on many a drowsy summer afternoon their voices seemed to me to grow fainter and fainter as the coach wound up the sunny side of the Range. But, at the top, the fresh breeze in one’s face was like the meeting with an old friend, and, with a crack of the long whip and the rattle of loose swingle-trees, away we would go, down the long cutting and across the river-bed, till, in the cool dusk, sweet with the scent of the flax blossom and dewy tussock, we pulled up at the wayside hotel where we changed horses for the last stage that day.
J. M. Buchanan, a contributor to ‘Tales of Pioneer Women’, Whitcombe & Tombs Limited, 1940.

The stagecoaches illustrated here, with the popular five horse configuration, are similar to the one Mrs. Buchanan would have taken on her trip to Naseby. These coaches travelled some New Zealand “roads” until the early 1920s.

A Busy Day at Boulters Lock

Edwardian scene at Boulters Lock on the river Thames, England.

From a vintage postcard mailed in 1907

This chaotic scene at Boulters Lock on the river Thames near Maidenhead, England, may have been photographed on Ascot Sunday, when this popular part of the river was at its busiest in the late 19th/early 20th century. You can see moving pictures, filmed in 1926, at this British Pathe site.

The first lock was built here in 1772.