Here's a wonderful piece of political ephemera which I chanced upon in Janette Ray's secondhand bookshop in York yesterday. It's a spoof mourning card marking a moment of political vengeance - the defeat in the Lancashire constituency of Westhoughton of the sitting Conservative MP, Edward Stanley, in the 1906 'Liberal landslide' general election.
Stanley had been the Postmaster General in the outgoing Conservative government and had notoriously castigated postal workers wanting a pay rise as parasites and bloodsuckers. Not surprisingly, that insult rankled.
The seat was won by the Labour candidate, W.T. Wilson, who ascribed his victory to Stanley's contemptuous attitude towards trades unions and working people. As the result was announced, a crowd sang:
Good-bye Stanley dear, good-bye
Good-bye Stanley dear, don't cry
You're a bloodsucker so true
And we've had enough of you
Good-bye Stanley dear, good-bye
'Bloodsucker' Stanley hadn't 'departed this political life' however. In 1908 he inherited the title of Earl of Derby and in later years served twice as Secretary of State for War and was also Britain's ambassador to France.
"Hope it's as exciting as it sounds!"
That was my neighbour's comment this morning when I said I was heading off to Bloomsbury to attend my very first ephemera fair.
He had his golf clubs on his shoulder, and was heading for Wanstead Flats to play a round or two in the rain. And I hope that was as exciting as it sounds, too!
So, what happens at an ephemera fair? Well, there were thirty or forty stalls selling postcards, pamphlets, prints, posters, itsy bits of paper, maps, books, all sorts of stuff - very well organised and convivial, and well attended too. It was mainly men of a certain age - but I can hardly complain about that.
And I suppose you want to know what I came away with? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. I got a few books, all ridiculously cheap - so the 1885 Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, with all 800 pages of minuted evidence, for £3! (OK, so it was disbound, and I guess a couple of pages of the index are missing - but still a bargain).
The pamphlet above was published by the National Council of Labour, apparently in 1935, both denouncing and mocking Oswald Mosley and his blackshirted British Union of Fascists. Mosley had visited Mussolini a few years earlier - and that's the subject of the biting Will Dyson cartoon on the cover.
But my favourite is this wonderful poster - slightly larger than foolscap - published by the CP in January 1943, when communist concern to support the war effort and so save Soviet Russia extended to speeding up production and making capitalism work more efficiently, whatever the drain it put on the workforce. This was the CP's 'Home Front' - and there's a freshness about the drawing and colouring which I find very beguiling. Richard Gold (from whom I bought this) tells me the artist was Elizabeth Shaw - there's an obituary of her here and a nice piece with photo from the Irish Times. According to her Wiki entry, she worked as a mechanic through much of the war ... so she practised what she preached.
So, that's what you come across at an ephemera fair!
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