Saturday, November 24, 2018

Valentine & Sons Ltd of Dundee

The Valentine company was founded in Dundee by John Valentine (1792–1868), in 1825 and originally provided engraving, printing and supply of business stationery. James Valentine was born in 1815 in Dundee, the second of the five children of John and his wife, Mary Valentine née Watson (1790-1866). Valentine studied photography at the University of St Andrews and after learning the daguerreotype process in Paris in the late 1840s added portrait photography to the family business in 1851. In 1855 Valentine erected one of the largest photographic glasshouses in Britain and the company began selling Scottish topographical view photographs in 1860. They later added portrait photography to their activities.

More and more the company catered to the growing tourist industry by producing photographic prints with views from around the country. They produced drawing room albums and individual prints of Scottish landscapes. These were available in a choice of sizes cabinet, imperial and card. Stereoscopic views were also produced. Valentine & Sons Ltd were given their first Royal commissioned in 1866 and received the Royal warrant in 1867. James Valentine received a commission from the Queen to photograph a set of 40 views of Highland scenery and in 1868 was appointed as the Royal Photographer.

Valentine & Sons Ltd became widely known after the Tay Bridge disaster in 1879, when they were commissioned to photograph the remains of the bridge for the Court of Inquiry. The pictures were subsequently sold across the country, and used in picture postcards. By 1882 the company extended their landscape range to include England and fashionable resorts abroad, including Norway, Jamaica, Tangiers, Morocco, Madeira and New Zealand.

Valentine & Sons printed its first postcards in 1898. Canadian production began between 1903 and 1906 with offices established first in Montreal and then Toronto. The earliest Canadian postcards published by Valentine and Sons were monotone black, collotype views showing the scenery along the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway north of Lake Superior and in the Rocky Mountains. By the turn of the century Valentine and Sons of Dundee was Scotland’s most successful commercial photographers and was internationally famous as the producers of picture postcards.

By the early 1900s they also had a growing trade in Christmas cards and children's books and had begun to publish fancy cards. In 1907, at the height of the postcard revolution, the photographs they published showed scenes from around the world. Often regarded as only postcard publishers, Valentines produced images in various formats including fine early photographic prints. In 1908 they became the official postcard publishers for the international Franco-British exhibition at the White City. By the time of the First World War they had become a world-wide name with office branches in Canada, South Africa, Australia, America and Norway.

In the 1920s they expanded their trade in Christmas cards and calendars and then to greetings cards which forms the basis of their business today. All interests outside of Great Britain were sold in 1923. By 1929 they had given up their photo portraiture work to concentrate solely on postcard production. But they did not anticipate the public’s growing demand for color cards and by the 1950’s their business was suffering. In return they put most of their efforts into greeting cards. In 1963 the company became a subsidiary of John Waddington Ltd.

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879 – 1964) was a British illustrator, known for her adorable , nostalgic drawings of children which featured on many postcards, advertisements, posters, books and figurines. She studied at Heatherley's and Saint Martin's School of Art, but because of her dislike of the emphasis on still-life drawing and classical subjects left to develop her own interest in imaginary subjects. She worked as an illustrator and took individual commissions to illustrate children’s books including J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy ; greeting cards; and advertising illustrations. She was very much an observer of the times and reflected this in her art. Her cute children show many adult traits and thus ensured a wide appeal to the audiences of the times. Her samall gilr character as based upon her daughter, Marjorie, ( Peggy). Soon her distinctive designs of animals and small green elves in green suits called ‘Boo Boos’ appeared on cups, mugs, bowls etc. She also produced a tea set; the teapot was in the shape of a mushroom house, the sugar bowl was a mushroom with the top cut off and the milk jug was a green Boo Boo in a coy saluting pose. Valentine and Sons issued two series of her 30s and 60s works entitled the Valentines Attwell Series .

Gradually Valentine’s greeting card gradually replaced the picture postcard and what remained of a card making empire was sold to Hallmark Cards Inc. in 1980. The Dundee operations closed in 1994.

Further Reading
Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City
Valentine Postcards

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