Tuesday 29 September 2015

The Problem Picture

"Defendant and Counsel", By WF Yeames, 1895
[A print from my own collection]

I have owned this old late Victorian era framed coloured print since 1978 but only in recent years have I discovered the story behind it - but not as one would imagine!

Entitled "Defendant and Counsel", I often wondered what misdemeanor brought such a woman of obvious means and culture before her counsel, obviously preparing for a court case. What crime had she committed or been accused of? Was it a well known case? Was she declared innocent or guilty and what became of her? And exactly who in fact was this smart but troubled looking woman? The possibilities were indeed quite endless. Thus this painting has always intrigued me as I felt there should be an interesting story behind it.

A copy of the original painting giving a rather more 
accurate representation of "Defendant and Counsel
by William Frederick Yeames R.A., 1895
[Source : Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery]

Having come as a supplement to "The Graphic", Summer number of 1896, a publication to which my family in New Zealand subscribed, they duly had it professionally framed. The picture obviously intrigued them as much as myself. But I wonder, did they know the story behind it?

William Frederick Yeames R.A., taken 1883
[Source : The Print Collector]

Painted by the British artist William Frederick Yeames R.A. (18 December 1835 – 3 May 1918) in 1895, it was then exhibited at the Royal Academy. But what I have discovered is that Yeames specialised in a particular genre of art popular in the late Victorian era which was "...characterised by a deliberately ambiguous narrative that can be interpreted in several different ways, or which portrays an unresolved dilemma... The viewer of the picture is invited to speculate about several different possible explanations of the scene."

"Defendant and Counsel", By WF Yeames, 1895
[A print from my own collection]

Being exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1895, the painting "enjoyed immediate notoriety" and "visitors were desperate to know exactly what the lady had done."  A newspaper even ran a competition asking readers to guess what crime she may have committed. Please feel free to leave a comment below as to your own thoughts on her 'misdemenour'.

Unfortunately we have no record of who may have sat for Yeames in "Defendant and Counsel" but one thing we do now know for sure is that this scene is entirely contrived and fictitious.

This particular genre of painting continued to be hugely popular into the Edwardian age but increasingly came to be viewed as old fashioned so is thus little known today. For a rather interesting Wikipedia resumé of the life and work of William Frederick Yeames please click Here.

Monday 21 September 2015

Vintage Product Labels

"The Excelda Handkerchief" box

My personal collections of ephemera and collectables includes quite a number of attractive vintage product boxes, tins and labels dating back as far as the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. But what mainly sets these images apart is that the majority are in vibrant colour or at the very minimum have a visually interesting element to them. Click on images for a larger view.

"Crawford's Oval Rich Digestive" Biscuit box,
William Crawford & Sons, Liverpool

"Peacock's Marmalade Jam",
Dunedin New Zealand

The Dunedin classic, a "Tiger Tea" tin

"Thorne's Premier Toffee",
Leeds, England

"Camp" Coffee with Chicory,
R. Paterson & Sons Ltd,

Original London & North Eastern Railway (LNER)
"Flying Scotsman" Luggage Destination Label,
circa 1936 - 1948. Purchased from British 
Railways 'Collectors Corner', Euston,
London in 1986.  

"La Maria Cristina" Cigars box inside lid,
Manila, The Philippines 

"Great Western Vineyard No.1 Claret",
Irvine & Co, Melbourne, Australia,
and bottled by Bishop & Co. of
Christchurch, New Zealand, pre 1918.
The image is printed in gold ink.

"St. George Boiled Beef",
Dunedin, New Zealand

An early "A & F Pears" Transparent Glycerine Soap box

A well known classic. "Mazawattee Tea"
and "Old Folks at Home"

"St. George Rabbit in Jelly",
Dunedin, New Zealand

Cadbury Chocolate Box,
possibly 1920's or 1930's

"Peacock's Raspberry Jam",
Dunedin, New Zealand

A slightly more modern (1950's?) version
of the Dunedin classic, a "Tiger Tea" tin

Irvine & Stevenson's "Ye Olde English Plum Pudding",
Dunedin, New Zealand

"Royalty" Assorted Chocolates

Edmonds' Custard (as an accompaniment) with Peach Pie,
Christchurch, New Zealand, circa 1950's?

Please Note : All Items (unless otherwise stated) are originals from my own collections and may be freely copied provided this page is acknowledged. Thank you.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Vintage Trade Advertisements

The "Scheaffer Lifetime Pencil" advertising blotter

My personal collections of ephemera and collectables includes quite a number of attractive vintage trade advertisements dating back as far as the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. These also include a number of advertising 'giveaways' for existing or potential customers. But what mainly sets these old advertisements or product labels apart is that the majority are in vibrant colour or at the very minimum have a visually interesting artistic element to them. A following Blog will feature equally colourful vintage product and service labels. Click on images for a larger view.

Vicenzo (or Vincenzo) Almao, Wholesale and Retail
Hat and Cap Manufacturer and Importer, Dee Street, 
Invercargill, pre 1894. (see below for reverse side)

Vicenzo Almao, Wholesale and Retail Hat
and Cap 
Manufacturer and Importer,
Dee Street, Invercargill, pre 1894

With the advent of colour lithographic and halftone printing from the 1870's, these colourful trade advertisements became economically viable to mass produce at a minimal cost. Collecting such items became a favourite pastime for children and whole albums would be filled with advertising fliers and cards.

Big Tree Motor Spirit blotter

My vintage trade advertisements include small and colourful advertising fliers, cards, ink blotters, free trade magazines, postcards, and small free gifts which, besides advertising a product, additionally served a useful purpose as well. All items are from my own collections. I trust you enjoy viewing this decidedly eclectic collection.

A Wax Vesta case advertising Aitken's Beer,
James Aitken & Co. Ltd, Falkirk, Scotland.
The image shows their factory in Falkirk. 

A (still full) Wax Vesta Case advertising
"Aitken's Pale Ale", 
James Aitken & 
Co. Ltd, of Falkirk, Scotland 

The Invercargill Post Office Clock Chime.
An advertising card for "W. Nicol & Son", Watch & Clockmakers,
Atheneum Building, Dee Street, Invercargill

J. Bibby & Sons, 1898.
Stock Feed & Soap Manufacturer, Liverpool 

Women's Compact style Mirror,
The "DIDO Umbrella Company", Glasgow,
both dated circa 1910

"Cross" Power Kerosine blotter

A 1908 postcard referring to the famous Gingerbread made
in Strathaven, Lanarkshire, Scotland. The earliest confirmed
 reference I have found to Stra'ven Gingerbread is 1812! 

A blotter from "Macalister & Co.",
Prescription Chemists, Dee Street, Invercargill

"The New Rega Oracle Butterfly".
A Novelty Gift from Thomson & Beatties
Department Store, Tay Street, Invercargill.
(The "butterfly" is shown below)

"The New Rega Oracle Butterfly". 
A Novelty Gift from Thomson & Beatties 
Department Store, Tay Street, Invercargill.
You place the butterfly in your palm and
the way it curls is then compared with the
numbered list shown above.

Advertising Trade Card from the North British Locomotive
Company Ltd. of Glasgow. The locomotive
 is a New Zealand "AB" class. 

Note : My apologies that the quality of the image is fairly poor but this card is no longer in my possession. I had always thought it was interesting that the North British Locomotive Company could supply a 'stock' locomotive based on New Zealand Government Railways (copyrighted?) drawings and specifications for the 'AB' class. Simply cable "ARGLISTIGE" to order a new locomotive! Some years ago I donated this card, which I had bought in England, to the former group restoring the North British built "AB745". This locomotive is now owned by the Rimutaka Incline Railway who intend restoring it to working order when resources allow. 

J. Bibby & Sons, 1898. 
Stock Feed & Soap Manufacturer, Liverpool

"Shell" Motor Oil Co. of New Zealand Ltd. blotter

J. Bibby & Sons, 1898. 
Stock Feed & Soap Manufacturer, Liverpool

"20 years Hard Labour" blotter,
The Otago Farmers' Union Mutual
Fire Insurance Association, NZ

Please Note : All Items (unless otherwise stated) are originals from my own collections and may be freely copied provided this page is acknowledged. Thank you.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

A Scottish Grandfather Clock by James Wiseman, Lesmahagow

Grandfather clock by James Wiseman,
Lesmahagow, Scotland, c1858

My family owned circa 1858 eight day clock by James Wiseman of Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire Scotland is a good honest example of a Scottish Provincial Grandfather clock. By the mid 19th century Watchmakers and Clockmakers were to be found in almost every Scottish town of any size and importance. Thus a large number of such clocks remain to this day, proudly displaying their Scottish maker's name and provincial origins.

Grandfather clock by James Wiseman,
Lesmahagow, Scotland, c.1858

The history and provenance of any object adds so much to its interest. As this clock has never been out of family hands we have been lucky that it has a known history of ownership. But what do we know of James Wiseman?

"James Wiseman" watch paper, Hamilton, 1864
(used as padding in the back of pocket watch cases)
[from my own collection]

Born in the Parish of Strathaven, the first reference to this enterprising young clockmaker is in 1850 when, at just 23 years of age, he commenced business in the village of Lesmahagow as a watch and clock maker and jeweller. Obviously successful in his trade, 1851 census records show that Wiseman was then "employing one man". In 1859 he moved his business to the much larger township of Hamilton, later operating as "James Wiseman & Son", his son William having become a partner in the business around 1889.

An Advertisement for "James Wiseman,
Watch and Clock Maker, Jeweller, &c.",
of 32 Cadzow Street, Hamilton, 1862
[Source : Silver Forums]

Unfortunately, I note that by 1894 the Wiseman business had become insolvent, with the sole remaining partner, James' son William Wiseman, being subject to "sequestration", in other words bankruptcy proceedings. An offer was made to creditors "...on their whole debts of Twenty Shillings in the pound, payable in four equal instalments at four, ten, sixteen, and twenty-two months after their final discharge." James Wiseman himself was by this time deceased.

James Wiseman Clock Mechanism, c.1858

Surprisingly, I note an Alexander S. Wiseman, "Late James Wiseman & Son... Established 1850" and operating as a "Watch and Clock Maker, Jeweller & Optician" in Motherwell from around 1896 and additionally in Hamilton, as late as 1907. A fuller history of the three Wiseman businesses can be found in "Scottish Clockmakers" by Felix Hundson published in 1984.

John & Margaret Watson, Crossford, c.1860,
the original owners of the Wiseman Clock
[from an Ambrotype image in my own collection]

This Grandfather clock by James Wiseman therefore pre-dates his move to Hamilton in 1859. Knowing that it was owned by John and Margaret Watson, being the Crossford Village Grocer and his wife, it would likely have been purchased when they married in 1858 or not long before. That makes this clock around 157 years old. The only other example of a Wiseman clock from Lesmahagow that I have located is in Ontario Canada but is in a dissimilar style. Although somewhat more ornate it has a less well proportioned hood covering the mechanism and face and has a different door design. Curiously it is marked "J. Wyseman, Lesmahagow" but Scottish name spelling had in previous years often been phonetic.

A tinted Edwardian postcard of Crossford Village.
[from my own collection]

This clock features a presumably English (most likely Birmingham) movement with an attractive 'japanned' painted dial face showing the changing seasons, and a mahogany veneer case with an attractive 'flame' mahogany door. The beautiful 'flame' effect is achieved by cutting the mahogany at the point where a limb protruded from the tree trunk. Being a very expensive wood much prized by furniture makers, 'flame' mahogany was normally, as in this case, used as a thin veneer. The rest of the case is a mixture of solid and veneered mahogany wood.

Mahogany veneer "flame" door,
Wiseman Grandfather Clock,
Lesmahagow, c.1858

James Wiseman would have had this quite well-proportioned case manufactured locally or onsite by a qualified cabinetmaker and this adds to its provincial charm. Interestingly, his brother Robert Wiseman worked as a joiner in or near Strathaven, which is only 9 miles distant of Lesmahagow, so this is a distinct possibility.

James Wiseman Clock Mechanism, c1858

A great many enterprising provincial clockmakers sold clocks with locally manufactured cases and bought in movements but bearing their names on the clock face. Thus there is quite a wide variety of case designs to be found today with consequent varying levels of quality. Some are better proportioned and decorative than others and additionally, polished brass adornments are not uncommon.

The "bob" carrying a Scotch thistle
which beats to the second

My first verified reference to the family provenance of this clock is my elderly Scottish born Great Aunt personally telling me that John Watson, by now a widower and in ill health, came to live with her parents around 1883. John brought with him a number of items of monetary and sentimental value, one of them being the Wiseman Grandfather clock. But as her parents already had a Grandfather clock (which I now own) they unusually then came to own two such clocks. Sadly, John himself died later that year aged 65 years. The clock then remained with the Watson family in Scotland until my Great Aunt and her family emigrated to New Zealand at the end of 1910. The clock, including some of their furniture, came out at the same time as freight on the 'S.S. Durham' per the Union Transit Company of Glasgow.

Grandfather clock by James Wiseman,
Lesmahagow, Scotland, c.1858

With a slow moving pendulum these clocks remained highly accurate. But despite it still usefully serving the purpose it was designed for after close to 157 years and faithfully ringing out the hours on a large bell, such clocks are less fashionable today due to their size and tending to dominate a room. Even by the latter part of the 19th century the popularity of such clocks had been on the wane, being replaced with smaller, usually more inexpensive, and just as accurate timepieces.

A short Video with the Bell Striking

But my family have still been lucky to inherit what would have originally been quite an expensive purchase. This clock still faithfully rings out the hours and with care and attention it should easily run for another 157 years. But sadly, qualified clock repairers are now becoming few and far between.

Painted Arch, Wiseman Grandfather Clock, c.1858

Bibliography :

- "Scottish Clockmakers" by Felix Hundson, 1984 (Edinburgh City Reference Library)
- "In Memoriam - Rev. W.P. Rorison DD", 1907 (held by the writer)
- Robert S. McLeish, Lesmahagow Parish Historical Society (2000)
- Watson Family Papers & Photographs (held by the writer)

Video produced with Windows Live Movie Maker, Virtual Dub cropping and Xvid Codec compression.

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