Postcard Publishers

This page provides information about the publishers of postcards included on this website. Further information about postcard publishers can be found at Metropostcard.com [33].

I. Benghiat Son, Aden

I have been unable to find out anything about this Aden postcard supplier other than the name. The postcards in the collection include just the name and 'Hotel d'Europe, Turkish Shop.

Benzaquen & Co.

A. Benzaquen is thought to have set up a postcard business in Tangier and published postcards of that place but at some point expanded the business into Gibraltar. A number of postcards can be found easily using Google but I can find no further information about the publishers apart from a quote below from the website 'Aden in Empire' [24].

In 1905 Benghiat (of postcard fame) wrote to the Residency to complain that some soldiers had entered the Hôtel De L'Europe (which he appears to have owned or at least leased) with passengers off ships and were being bought alcoholic drinks. His licence did not allow him to serve soldiers.

Birn Brothers

I am grateful to Margot Blackah for digging out information about Birn Brothers. The company was identified as the publishers/printers of many of the postcards in the collection by the inclusion of just B.B. on the reverse.

According to an article in Brixton Buzz [13]:

Birn Brothers, based in London, were a major publishing house. They were listed in the London trade directories in 1882 at 135 London Wall, and later at 27 Finsbury St and then at 67-70 Bunhill Row EC1Y, which runs just west of Old Street Station almost down to Moorgate. Birns were famous for producing cards covering a wide variety of themes. These included Christmas cards, greetings cards, actresses, views and artist signed cards. They also produced propaganda plus military and naval themes. In the early part of WWI as Kitchener built his army, there was a rash of postcards depicting the cap badges that these new soldiers would wear. Birns produced some of the most attractive of these – embossed with the regimental badge in gold, a sketch of soldiers in action and verse explaining the role of the regiment. Birns also published many real photo postcards, sepia postcards and embroidered silks. Despite their large postcard production (up to nineteen million cards in the years of the late Victorian period) they seem to have been primarily involved in printing cheap pictorial books. Many of their cards were published under the name BB London and, in common with those of a similar vintage, printed in Saxony and Bavaria.

And with respect to the silk cards, The Illustrated History of the Embroidered Silk Postcards lists 140 such cards and has this to say [14]

The Birn Brothers Company were a major publishing house established in the late 19th Century. They published books and greetings cards, as well as being prolific publishers of postcards of every type. Their embroidered silk postcards seem to have been introduced in about 1916, probably in response to the popularity of the cards, and covered most subjects: sentimental, patriotic, place names, and military.

They published embroidered silk postcards in several distinct styles in addition to the normal types with a fully embroidered silk panel. One common element in the appearance of most of their cards is the application of colour to the frames. Seven colours were used: blue, brown, green, grey, mauve, pink and dusky red.

In addition to being coloured, the shapes of the frames of Birn Brothers cards are also distinctive. Many of the vertical cards have a disc on the bottom right hand side as part of the frame, or a semi-circular panel at the bottom of the frame. A gold-embossed military badge is applied to the disc or panel. The captions listed are mainly embossed into the badge and can be difficult to read. Alternatively, a place name or greeting is printed on the disc or panel. The embroidered silk panels have designs that are unique to Birn Brothers and are not seen from other publishers. Most of the vertical designs were also sold as the fully embroidered silk postcard without the military badges. A few horizontal cards have the same disc or panel, but these mainly carry printed place names. Most of the horizontal cards have a smaller aperture for the silk panel, which is circular or diamond-shaped. This allows a military badge, place name or greeting to be embossed or printed alongside.'

Margot Blackah told me that ... collecting 'silks', as they are known, can be quite specialised and very expensive. Some of them are beautiful while others - those made in France by local people during WW1 - less so, but they were very popular with the troops to send home.

A number of postcards with portraits of actors, musical performers and members of the Royal Family can be found in the National Portrait Gallery [15].

Birn Brothers almost certainly produced 'scraps' - coloured and shaped images that could be put into scrapbooks. Until researching this page I had no idea that such a thing existed and thought that people just cut out images from newspapers and similar to put in scrapbooks. The image below, from the Mary Evans Picture Library, which it claims is a reproduction of a Victorian 'scrap', shows a small horse-drawn omnibus with advertisements for Birn Brothers on the side.

Birn Brothers Scrap
Birn Brothers Scrap [16]

In 1924 there was a major fire at the Birn Brothers premises in Bunhill which was badly damaged. They must have repaired the building quickly as in 1926 there was a court judgement against the company as a result of a postman delivering a parcel losing both legs after falling down a lift shaft.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Daily News' 13 August 1924 [17]

In the mid 20th century, Birn Brothers printed an enormous range of children's books, with colourful covers and titles like 'Splendid Book for Girls' and 'Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes', including many by Enid Blyton - but not her 'Noddy' books. Many can be found advertised on websites like eBay and Abebooks.

One website states they began printing postcards from 1903, 'at first without a trademark'. Given the company was on record in 1882, it would be surprising if they were not producing postcards before 1903 but it is possible their trademark came later. In 1915, they became a limited company and gradually concentrated more on book publishing.

V.B. Cumbo

Information about this local Gibraltar company below is from Neville Chipulina [22]

V.B.Cumbo - later Cumbo and Montegreiffo - was one of the larger local publishers of souvenir photo-booklets and tinted collotype view-cards depicting Gibraltar. The company probably produced most of its postcards during the early 20th century although they continued to be sold long after that. The address of the company was 19 Church Street.

P.Falk & Co. Ltd

This company from West Australia was probably based in either Perth or Fremantle and specialised in postcards depicting the local cities and West Australian Aboriginal people. The company may have derived from a wholesale jewellery and goldsmiths' establishment that was reported as operating in Adelaide in 1876 [29.]

Ephtimios Freres

The brothers functioned as photographers, booksellers, and publishers of postcards. Most of their postcards depicted views and types of Egypt though they produced some images of Palestine as well. Their cards were printed as tinted halftones. They are understood to have been in business from 1903-1909 [25.]

H. Grimaud, Fils, et Cie

Grimaud was a printing and publishing company 54 Rue Mazenod, Marseille. They may well have printed Tarot cards as well as postcards.

Plate & Co, Photographers (Ceylon)

This leading photographic business in Ceylon was founded in Colombo in 1890 by A W Plate and still exists today. It was the first on the island to embrace Postcard Publishing and this became a large part of its business in the late 1890s and early 1900s - when postcard publishing was at its most popular. The book Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon edited by Arnold Wright and published in 1907 mentions "Messrs Plate & Co's output of picture postcards now reaches half a million a year" [12].

S. Hildesheimer & Co.

Siegmund Hildesheimer (1832–1896) founded his eponymous company (S. Hildesheimer & Co.) in Manchester, England, at 62 Dantzic Street and, later, 63 Miller Street. By 1876, the firm had a branch in London at 15 Silk Street. About the same time Siegmund's brother, Albert Hildesheimer (Aron Elieser) (1843–1924), founded a greeting card company in London nearby at 8 Chapel Road.The two firms were joined by 1887 and by 1902 had many postcards in production. The London business later moved to 96 Clerkenwell Road. Hildesheimer and Co. postcards primarily employed a chromo-lithography printing process, and the printing was often done in France and Germany or at local English printing houses. [31.]

Max H. Hilckes

This Singapore company was in business from 1906-1910 and published local views as monochrome and continuous toned lithographic postcards.

Rigby Ltd. Adelaide

William Charles Rigby was born in London in 1834. He presumably did well as in 1853 he purchased a 48 ton lugger The Gem and sailed to Australia in it with his family and a crew of seven men. He arrived in Adelaide in 1859 with five cases of books and opened a bookshop there.

The postcards in the collection were all printed in England for the company.

Skeen Photo

William Louis Henry Skeen (1847–1903) was an English photographer in Ceylon who photographed tea and coffee cultivation, railway construction, landscapes and various inhabitants in the second half of the 19th century. Born in London he was the first officially appointed Government Printer in the country.

The postcards I have come across marked 'Skeen Photo' presumably use his photographs as the source but I have come across no references to him actually printing postcards.

Valentines

J. Valentine and Co. of Dundee started as a photographic company but became Scotland's largest publisher of postcards. The company was purchased by John Waddington Limited in 1963, who sold it in turn to Hallmark Cards in 1980. Valentine and Sons' operations ceased in 1994.

The company was founded in 1851 by James Valentine (1815-1879). He added portrait photography to the activities of his established Dundee business, which had been based up to 1851 on the engraving, printing and supply of business stationery. Valentines called themselves 'photographic publishers' and reproduced a great variety of photographic goods as well as the postcards for which they are best known. A price war with German postcard publishers between 1910 and 1914 had serious effects on the business. They diversified into greetings cards and calendars at this time. Other ventures included children's cut-out books, guidebooks, and pens. The overseas branches were sold off to local management in 1923 and in 1929 they closed the portrait side of their operation to concentrate mainly on postcards. A new factory was built on the Kingsway on the outskirts of Dundee in 1937.



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