Tag Archives: history

Potent Ink and Political Satire

Today, I want to talk about cartoons. Come again? Is this librarian a complete Looney Tune? That may well be a matter of opinion, but the subject of this post has certainly got me animated, so by the Power of Greyskull, let’s turn our attention to the renowned cartoonist:

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J. M. Staniforth’s signature, Cartoons: originally published in the “Western Mail”, (Cardiff,Western Mail, 1908)

Joseph Morewood Staniforth was an editorial cartoonist best known for his work in the Western Mail (Cardiff’s daily paper), the Evening Express (Cardiff’s evening paper), and the News of the World (the Sunday paper).

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Portrait of J. M. Staniforth, Cartoons: originally published in the “Western Mail”, (Cardiff, Western Mail, 1908).

I initially became aware of him through the work of Professor Chris Williams, who has been diligently documenting and digitising the wartime newspaper cartoons of this unique artist. It seems we have here in Special Collections and Archives possibly the only copy of Football Cartoons & Rhymes compiled by Staniforth and a writer named Idris, and when Chris asked to see it, judging from the title, I presumed he was researching some traditional banter ready for the impending Rugby Six Nations!

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Rugby cartoon detail from J. M. Staniforth, Football cartoons & rhymes, (Cardiff, Western Mail, c. 1903)

However, I was soon to discover just how exceptional Staniforth’s work was, and indeed still is to anyone interested in the social, political, and cultural history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The fourth son of a saw repairer, Staniforth was born in Gloucester on the 16 of May 1863, and later grew up in Cardiff. At 15, he left school to train as a lithographic printer for the daily newspaper the Western Mail, whilst studying art in the evenings at the Cardiff School of Art which was initially established in rooms above the Royal Arcade in Cardiff city centre. Built in 1858, it is the oldest arcade in Cardiff, and, interestingly, the birthplace of our distant relative, Cardiff’s Free Library, set up through voluntary subscriptions above the St. Mary Street entrance to the arcade. But I digress! So back to the school of art, where another soon to be famous artist, the sculptor William Goscombe John was also learning his craft. Originally working with paint, Staniforth soon developed his technique in inks whereby with a fine pen and ink, he would compile his cartoon on paper which was then photographed onto a metal bloc used in the printing process. The Western Mail claimed to be the first regional newspaper to adopt this technique. He began drawing cartoons bearing his tell-tale monogram for the Evening Express and on occasions, for the Western Mail, where his skills as an illustrator were quickly spotted by the Mail’s editor, Henry Lascelles Carr, who swiftly transferred him to the editorial team. Following Carr’s takeover and restyling of the Sunday News of the World in 1893, Staniforth’s cartoons were given prime-place on the front page of every issue. By 1900, his cartoons were a regular feature in the Western Mail.

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‘Martyrs of the Arena’, Cartoons: originally published in the Western Mail: Vol II, (Cardiff, Western Mail, c. 1910)

The News of the World and the Western Mail were amongst the first newspapers to use cartoons as a means of political and social commentary rather than purely comic distractions. Sir Francis Carruthers Gould is generally regarded as the first cartoonist on a British daily newspaper, drawing as he did for the Pall Mall Gazette from 1888 followed by the Westminster Gazette, and some examples of his work can be seen here in Special Collections. Staniforth, nevertheless, came to the fore just five years later, and by the early 20th century, the News of the World was selling over one million copies every week! Its circulation almost tripled by the time of Staniforth’s death in 1921 and was considered to be the largest in the world. The Western Mail too was a leading regional newspaper, its scope however was far from provincial in its aim, as the self-styled national newspaper of Wales, to report on the key national and international events of the day. Despite its conservative leanings, its readability and tempered journalism attracted a broad readership including Liberals, Nonconformists and Trade-Unionists. Thus, the potential reach of Staniforth’s continuous crop of cartoons was infinite.

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J. M. Staniforth, Cartoons: originally published in the “Western Mail”: Vol II, (Cardiff, Western Mail, c.1910)

It is estimated that Staniforth drew over fifteen thousand cartoons over the course of his career, which coincided with one of the most tempestuous eras in modern history. 1898 – 1921 was not only a defining time in the history of the South-Wales coalfield and Labour relations, but in imperial and international affairs generally. Major domestic and international events such as the ‘Great Strike’ of 1898, the Boer War, The Great War, and the growing industrial unrest in the coal-fields, were keenly observed on the regular platform provided by Staniforth’s pen.

Viewed in this context,  the scope of his cartoons is even more substantial. Some were published as single volumes, samples of which we are fortunate to hold as part of the Salisbury Library, such as Cartoons of the Boer War (Cardiff, 1902), Cartoons of the Welsh coal strike, April 1st to Sept. 1st, 1898 (Cardiff, 1898), and Cartoons of the Welsh revolt (Cardiff, 1905).

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J. M. Staniforth, Cartoons of the Boer War: Vol. II, (Cardiff, Western Mail, 1902)

And that’s not all folks! Staniforth compiled a collection of nursery rhymes, and drew numerous picture postcards, funny and factual. These too are being digitised by Chris Williams on the sister site – Cartooning the Road to War.

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J. M. Staniforth, Staniforth’s Nursery Rhymes, (Cardiff, Western Mail, 1902)

Let’s not forget that Staniforth was a trained artist. As a loyal member of the South Wales Art Society since its foundation in 1888, he regularly exhibited work at their annual exhibition, securing his own 3 week showing at a Cardiff gallery in 1916. He designed the costumes for the National Pageant of Wales held in 1909, including the famous dragon-encrusted dress worn by the Marchioness of Bute as ‘Dame Wales’. Staniforth was also commissioned to paint eleven panels depicting various themes from Shakespeare’s plays (the largest of which is 2m high, 1.2m wide) for Howells School for Girls, in Cardiff. These are currently being restored by specialist conservation architects and painters, and will be reinstated at the school in April this year.

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Staniforth’s Romeo and Juliet at Howells School for Girls, Cardiff, courtesy of Michael Davies of Davies Sutton Architects.

 

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Restoration work being carried out on Staniforth’s Romeo and Juliet at the workshop of specialist painting conservator, Rachel Howells (courtesy of Michael Davies).

Staniforth’s last cartoon appeared in the News of the World on the 11 of December, 1921. He passed away six days later due to ill-health. Tributes to the man and his work swamped the papers during the following weeks, casting him with the likes of Hogarth, Gillray, Leech and Tenniel. The then Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, observed the tremendous loss of ‘one of the most distinguished cartoonists of his generation’. Certainly, there is some weight behind Peter Lord’s assertion that Staniforth was ‘the most important visual commentator on Welsh affairs’. His unique portrayals offer an immediate and acute observation on some of the most historic and radical political and social events of the industrial and pre-war era. While historians may value the printed text over the sketch, visual sources can provide direct access to historical moments, capturing the initial pulsations of key events in our history. As Staniforth himself explained: ‘a good cartoon should be very acceptable… small though it be, it is a power of far reaching effect’. And so the moral of this blog-post is: never underestimate the potential of cartoons. They may be mere fun on the surface, but beneath their inky contours lies something far more meaningful. That’s all folks!

To see more of Staniforth’s work, visit:

http://www.cartoonww1.org/

http://www.roadtowarcartoons.org/

http://www.postwarworldcartoons.org/

 

 

 

 

 

Tall Trees, Ancient History

Working with Special Collections means I’m never short of inspiration. Frankly, it’s hard to move for the stuff. However, recent encouragement has stemmed from much further afield…

… all the way from Offa’s Dyke to be precise. Having read about Robert McBride’s  project of recording and authenticating the ancient trees along this early earthen boundary, I was struck by two thoughts. Firstly, what an ‘ah-mazing’ job – second only to rummaging through old books (though I should point out that McBride’s efforts are voluntary); secondly, how crucial this work is, today especially.

The history of trees is often overlooked yet they are essential elements of our historical and cultural landscapes. Forests and woodlands were initially seen as forbidding and wild terrain, a symbol of the uncivilized. It is no coincidence that the word ‘savage’ derives from the Latin silva, meaning forest or wood. Since prehistoric times, human advancement hinged on the clearing and consumption of these woods, a recurring process throughout the Roman and Saxon eras, where woodlands were felled to make way for human settlements and pastureland. By the end of the 17th century, with the growing need for industrial fuel and building materials, only around 8% of England and Wales remained covered by forest. Some saw this a sign of progress. For contemporaries a ‘wilderness’ did not refer to a stark wasteland, but rather a dark, untamed wood. See, for example, how definitions of ‘forest’ and ‘wood’ in Edward Phillips’ The New World of Words (London, 1671),  are understood as something ‘wild’ and ungodly!

E. Phillips The New World of Words title pages

Edward Phillips, The New World of Words: or, a General English Dictionary,  (London, 3rd edition, 1671). First published in London in 1658, this was the first folio English dictionary and featured many unusual, foreign and specialist words.

Forest definition E. Phillips The New World of Words (London 1671)

Phillips’ definition of a forest, 1671: ‘…abiding place for Deer, or any sort of beasts, that are wild…’

Wood definition E. Phillips The New World of Words (London 1671)

Explanation of the term wood, 1671: ‘that signifies mad, or furious.’

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Title page of John Evelyn’s Sylva: or a Discourse of Forest Trees and the Propagation of Timber (London, 1664)

Nevertheless, attitudes were shifting towards a consideration for conservation and planting. Not necessarily a new development in itself, but with the economic demands of building a Royal Navy, and the growth of iron and glass manufacture, organized attempts at planting were becoming more evident. The work of John Evelyn is indicative of this. Sylva, published in London in 1664 is a study of British trees, designed to promote the planting and repair of the country’s forests and saplings for the ‘Glory of His Kingdom’. ‘Him’ being Charles the II who, incidentally, found sanctuary in an English oak during the final battle of the Civil War.

Change was afoot socially too. Whereas wooded territories were primarily cultivated for wild beasts and deer for hunting purposes, these deer parks and Royal forests were increasingly appreciated for their aesthetic and distinctive qualities. The gentry could distinguish themselves physically and socially in a country house set in a landscaped park, whilst fashionable society could parade itself in the open setting of city parks and gardens. The great tree-lined avenue became a familiar aristocratic feature, and trees were increasingly planted purely for their visual charm.

Austen A Treatise of Fruit Trees illustration detail

Engraving by John Goddard from Ralph Austen’s A treatise of fruit trees: shewing the manner of grafting, planting, pruning and ordering of them in all respects, (Oxford, 2nd edition, 1657), showing the ‘enclosed’ garden as well as gardening tools and a planting plan.

Hence by the eighteenth-century, any landlord worth his salt planted trees on his land. The following notebook for example, lists the different trees planted on an estate in North Wales, details of trees given to tenants, where they were planted and their history.

Trees also held a sacred and magical significance. The Yew, for example, generally understood to be the longest living tree in Britain, is found in most churchyards. Wales appears to have the world’s largest collection of ancient yews. The most famous is the Llangernyw Yew in the grounds of St Dygain’s Church, Conway, North Wales, believed to be over 4,000 years old! The old Welsh saying ‘gorwedd dan yr Ywen’, ‘sleeping under the Yew’, when referring to one’s demise, suggests that they were seen as a symbol of immortality and sanctuary for the dead. The existence of a holy well or spring near such trees also suggests their sacred origins. Ffynnon Digain (St. Digain’s Well) lies about a mile outside of Llangernyw, whilst in Carmarthenshire the Ffynnon Gwenlais yew grows above the source of the Gwenlais stream, and was noted by both Edward Lhuyd in the late seventeenth century, and Richard Fenton in 1804. The Welsh custom of tying rags to the branches of trees growing near a holy well, whereby the rag is ‘offered’ to the Saint or to God as a healing ritual also reflects their sacred qualities.

Moreover, their magical traits are evident in the medieval Welsh poem Cad Goddeu – the Battle of the Trees. Preserved in the 14th century manuscript Llyfr Taliesin (The Book of Taliesin), the poem refers to Gwydion’s enchantment of the trees of the forest where they rose up as warriors against the forces of Arawn, king of the underworld. ‘Rush, ye chiefs of the wood’, reads one line, while the rest of the poem describes, amongst others, the ‘Alders, at the head of the line’, the Yew at ‘the fore’, and ‘The Ash… exalted most’.  Does this scene Ring any bells? Ring(s) being the operative word! For whilst this particular story inspired Tori Amos’ song, Battle of the Trees, and John Williams’ composition ‘Duel of the Fates’ for Star Wars: Episode 1, I can’t help wondering if Cad Goddeu was also the source of inspiration for the Battle of Isengard in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings?

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Image of Cruben yr Ellyll from E. Salisbury’s scrapbook on Meirioneth, c. 19thC

Through all ages then, and worlds, our trees have provided physical emblems of our historic and cultural heritage. Some, like the Pontfadog Oak, where it’s believed the Welsh Prince Owain Gwynedd rallied his army before defeating the English at the Battle of Crogen, or the Cruben yr Ellyll,  The Hollow Demon Oak,  where legend has it the body of Hywel Sele was interred by Owain Glyndwr, have a historic worth, while others have been a source of wonder, like the Crooked Oak of Pembrokeshire which inspired the Welsh poet Waldo Williams to pen ‘Y Dderwen Gam’ – ‘The Crooked Oak’. Some have even survived great battles! And so the moral of this blog post is to never underestimate the importance of our ancient trees. They truly are blooming marvelous – pun intended!

 

Cardiff Women’s Suffrage Society banner comes home

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Copyright: Local Studies, Cardiff Public Library


On Saturday 13 June 1908, the newly-formed Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society were returning from a mass demonstration in London to demand equal voting rights. On the journey back to Cardiff, their coach was intercepted by police. The vehicle was searched, and all propaganda material was confiscated and set alight in a nearby field.

One item escaped the fire – a large canvas banner, featuring a hand-stitched red dragon motif and the Society’s name. One of the suffragists, Irene Protheroe, concealed the item from police in her clothing, and brought it back to Cardiff in one piece.


Special Collections and Archives was recently contacted by Irene’s granddaughter, now living in London. She told us that a women’s suffrage banner had been passed down through her family. She knew that it had been taken to London and back for a march, and saved from destruction, but had no more specific details. Seeking a safe home for its long-term preservation, Irene made a final London-to-Cardiff trip with the banner, and kindly agreed to donate this very special piece of Cardiff’s history to the archives.

Seeking further information on the march mentioned by the donor, we enlisted the help of Beth Jenkins, PhD candidate in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Her research examines women’s professional employment in 19th and 20th century Wales. She immediately recognised the banner from photographs of the 1908 march, which have been reproduced here with the kind permission of Local Studies, Cardiff Public Library. Below, Beth summarises her research on the details of the march and its wider context.

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In June 1908, over 10,000 women marched from Embankment to the Royal Albert Hall, where a large meeting took place. The procession was organised by the ‘constitutional’ wing of the women’s suffrage movement and led by Millicent Fawcett, leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. It included women from all classes, parties, and areas of Britain. Provincial detachments marched behind the leaders in alphabetical order. Each contingent carried a banner made for the march by local branch members, or designed by the Artists’ League for Women’s Suffrage. These banners used regional or national emblems: a leek for Llandudno and a dragon for Cardiff.

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Copyright: Local Studies, Cardiff Public Library

The years preceding the First World War were the pinnacle of activity in the struggle for women’s parliamentary franchise, and campaigners used both constitutional and militant means to promote their cause. Banners were an important element of the spectacle in the suffrage marches and helped to distinguish groups – even though contemporaries did not always do so. The participants of this march displayed their non-militancy in the colours they wore: the red, white and green of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, rather than the purple, white and green which would be used by the Women’s Social and Political Union in their Hyde Park rally the following week. Participants with degrees also wore their academic robes to demonstrate the respectability of their supporters and women’s suitability for citizenship.

Formed in June 1908, this march would have been one of the Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society’s inaugural activities. The society began with a membership of 70, and rapidly grew until it became the largest branch outside of London in 1912-13. Its membership peaked at 1,200 on the outbreak of the First World War.

The branch’s co-founder was Millicent Mackenzie, Professor of Education at the University (formerly the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire). Mackenzie became the first female professor in Wales and the first female professor in the United Kingdom appointed to a fully chartered university in 1910. She also stood as the only female parliamentary candidate in Wales in 1918 – the first election in which women could vote, and be voted for.

Following the Representation of the People Act in 1918, the Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society reconstituted itself as a Women Citizens’ Association, and continued to campaign for women’s franchise on the same terms as men. This was eventually achieved in 1928.

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Back in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Professor Bill Jones brought his Culture, Society and Identity in Wales 1847-1914 undergraduates into Special Collections to see the banner. The impact was palpable: following a stunned silence, the group broke out into discussion: how was it made, who would have carried it, what did they talk about while it was being sewn, how far through the sewing were they before they realised that the dragon was facing the wrong way…? Some questions will never be answered, but thanks to the University’s research community, we now know much more about the history of this important item.

Historical Travel Literature – a ‘rough guide’

SCOLAR has just launched a new onsite and online exhibition based on its historical Travel Writing works, and a presentation has been given on this topic in the ongoing Cardiff  Rare Books Lecture Series. Investigation of this topic was spurred by enquiries from the School of European Studies, so an oultine listing was produced of our historical books (1500-1914), and this shows we have around 2,000 volumes in stock for this topic and era (not all yet catalogued though). We have not yet explored our ancient/medieval travel sources amongst our rare books, nor looked at our modern 20th century travels in the Library’s collections.

We have a wide ranging collection of early modern overseas travel works, from Drake and Raleigh, through later sources from Cook and Dampier, up to more recent works by H.M. Stanley, Shackleton and others. However, the main strength in our collections lies in the wide coverage we have of British travels and the ‘Grand Tour’ of the continent in the 18th and 19th centuries; this is supported by our very strong holdings of Welsh travel writers on this topic.

Amongst the well known authors in our collections are Lady Montagu, Mary Wollstonecroft, and Isabella Bird, as well as Addison, Boswell, Sterne, Goethe, Voltaire and Wordsworth. On top of this we hold a multitude of volumes by minor or unknown authors, all providing a barometer of cultural opinion on their travels across the centuries and the continents. Our collections include works from slaves and shipwrecks, missionaries and ambassadors, traders and adventurers, and many by early ‘tourists’ !

 

 

 

 

 

( See  our  online digital travel writing exhibition selection at:     www.cf.ac.uk/insrv/libraries/scolar/digital/travel.html    )

( See our online listings of Welsh related travel writings at: www.cf.ac.uk/insrv/libraries/scolar/special/welsh/index.html   )