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Picture Postcards By Raphael Tuck
( Article orginally published September 1960 )
If one were to take a map of the world and color the spheres of influence of Raphael Tuck and Sons there would be very few spaces left blank. Mr. Tuck, when he founded his business in 1866, did better than he knew. In his lifetime he was to see the business make enormous strides. He was to see millions of pictures and cards leave his plant.
Tuck cards have exercised a really great influence. Tuck's production of all kinds of post cards carry an artistic message that must have a real if gradual educative effect-an influence more effective, some say, than that of all the art galleries of the world.
A distinguished artist, president of the Royal Academy, who, every year visited remote corners in Scotland, once expressed his opinion on this point to Mr. Tuck. While seen on drawing-room tables everywhere, there was hardly a cotter's dwelling, he said, in which he had not noticed one or two or several cards stuck up to decorate the uneven, smoky walls.
Side by side with them were the roughly drawn woodcuts of an earlier date, and it was impossible that the contrast should not make itself felt with the coming generation he thought.
The Royal Academy and the world's great picture galleries can reach at the best just a few. But the Christmas card reaches all individuals and all levels. There was a time when the only pictures available for the people generally were crude lithographs. The art of lithography was still in its infancy when Mr. Tuck brought his knowledge of it from Germany to London and began to work on its improvement.
He set himself to better the designs as well as the methods by which lithographs were reproduced, and to replace ill-drawn, crudely colored horrors by real works of art, Every day of our lives we collectors see how far he succeeded.
This firm also exerted itself to give the world new things. Since Mr. Tuck first introduced Christmas cards in 1871, each year has seen an increasing variety of new designs and ideas. In 1910 alone Tuck had over 4,000 designs of Christmas cards to choose from. There has never been any "sameness" about the productions of Raphael Tuck. The firm has developed the Christmas card enormously. The calendar was an extension of the idea.
At the height of the post card boom days. the Tuck collection of post cards consisted of no less than 15,000 separate and distinct designs! I refer to only the general line-the cards that sell each day of the year.
To market such a stupendous variety by selling to the retailer in individual cards was practically impossible. Dealers were found to be out of the best-selling and most important cards most of the time.
So from each classification Tuck selected 100 different subjects. He put them into a neat and substantial box at a low price. The dealer was enabled to sell cards at a popular price and at a satisfying profit. Each box contained a combination show card and display rack holding 10 cards, so affixed that they could be easily removed.
Tuck established an American branch at 122 Fifth Avenue, New York City. In August, 1914, Tuck offered the post card trade a series of new cards comprising a number of very attractive subjects which were called the "Oilette" series.
The bright humor of Douglas Jerrold's "Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures" had added lustre injected into it thru the fine expressions in the really clever animal studies. The expressions are so true to life.
Other Tuck cards of decided interest were:
No. 2983, "A11 in a Garden Fair," after the original drawing of Miss Pilkington, showing the natural garden in all its beauty.
"Oilette" post cards are eagerly sought by collectors and specialists today. Collections have been made of over 6,000 different 0ilettes, but there is thought to be at least 12;000 to 15,000 cards printed, each a different subject.