Day 16 of our Heritage Advent Calendar is brought to you by Rhian Isaac, Senior Librarian for Special Collections.
In 1968 Sir Alvary Gascoigne donated to Leeds Libraries, a collection of over 3000 books, pamphlets and periodicalsin memory of his father, Colonel F.R.T. Gascoigne, of Lotherton Hall. The Gascoigne Collection mostly includes items relating to military and naval history and amongst the many treasures is a scrapbook of military Christmas cards. These are illustrated by different artists, including Harry Payne.
Harry Payne (1858–1927) was a prolific artist who specialised in military illustrations for books and postcards. Payne’s work was very popular, he sold pictures to the Prince of Wales and produced several commissions during Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year in 1887, the original sketches were presented to the Queen.
He was also the leading artist for Raphael Tuck & Sons who sold pictures, greetings cards and postcards, which were their most successful product. The business was started by Raphael Tuck and his wife Ernestine in 1866 after they migrated from Prussia to England. Tuck was a key promoter of the Christmas card and oversaw designs that featured religious themes, for example, the Nativity scene and the Magi, as well as more secular images like Santa Claus, holly and mistletoe.
In 1880 the Tucks’ second son Adolph launched a national Christmas card competition with a first prize of £5000. They received more than 5000 entries which were all exhibited at the Dudley Gallery and the submissions were judged by professional artists and writers. The competitions were a huge success and continued into the 20th century.
The military themed Christmas postcards are perhaps not what we would expect to receive today but they are fascinating for researchers of military history as they incidentally depict an array of different uniforms. You can browse the rest of the Gascoigne Collection on our online catalogue and please get in touch if you would like to see these festive postcards or any other items in our special collections.
See you tomorrow for more Advent Calendar fun