History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
Enemy models—A hostile public—Banishment of four rulers—Our reply to John Bull—Attacks on the Kaiser's effigy—Story of an Iron Cross.
W E now come to the eventful period that began in August, 1914. At the beginning of hostilities the Kaiser, Count Zeppelin, and other German objectionables were relegated to a less conspicuous position than they had formerly occupied. The enemy had not at that time gained the animosity which his subsequent acts of "frightfulness" earned for him, but he soon showed himself in his true colours.
It was in the spring of 1910 that a renewed portrait of the German Emperor had been given a place of honour, with the Empress by his side, near our own royal group. Not very long afterwards the British public began to suspect the Kaiser of evil designs upon this country, and visitors frequently indicated their displeasure in front of his model.
With the outbreak of war, naturally enough, came an outburst of general reprobation, and the atrocities committed by the German Army and Navy provoked impulsive patriots to visible and audible manifestations of anger. More than once the Kaiser had his figure struck by men, while women shook their fists and umbrellas in the face of the world's greatest homicide.
As a matter of fact, to the Kaiser belongs the distinction of having been expelled from Madame Tussaud's for several months—a distinction that was shared by the late Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria.
This was done in deference to public opinion, which had become very hostile to their models being shown at Madame Tussaud's. Letters had appeared to this effect in the Press, and one periodical published a large cartoon showing the Kaiser and his associates in the prisoners' dock in the Chamber of Horrors.
Originally four enemy monarchs had pedestals in an obscure corner of Room No. 4. They were the Kaiser, the late Emperor of Austria, the Sultan of Turkey, and King Ferdinand of Bulgaria.
The Sultan of Turkey, as an unkind friend re-marked, "found his level in the melting-pot" some time ago; and the Kaiser twice had to undergo a surgical operation as the result of bouts with ultra-patriotic visitors. Ferdinand of Bulgaria also had some narrow escapes, especially from our "handymen," who have a short way with all enemies.
Some time ago my attention was called to the fact that one of the "spikes" of the Kaiser's moustache had been clipped off, giving him a ludicrously woebegone appearance. I have always suspected the Colonials of that "cut," and if I am wrong—well, I apologise. Perhaps the "spike" will be heard of some other day as a souvenir of the war.
Feeling ran so high after the sinking of the Lusitania that we readily yielded to the public demand, and evicted the Huns from the house.
On the 16th of September, 1916, John Bull had addressed to us the following open letter on the subject of the presence of the objectionable figures:
To the Directors, Madame Tussaud & Sons, Ltd.,
Baker Street, W.
Being an admirer of your Moral Waxworks, I am sure you will excuse me if I indicate a blot upon your interesting and intellectual display. As a matter of fact, there are four blots.
They occur in your Grand Hall, No. 4, and they take the form of effigies representing, with a fidelity almost lifelike, those malodorous monarchs the Sultan of Turkey, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, the Emperor of Russia, and that arch-villain Kaiser Bill.
Do, please, reshuffle the pack, gentlemen. Take the sinful quartette out of your Grand Hall, which they desecrate, and place them in that other room of yours which seems specially designed for their accommodation—the Chamber of Horrors.
In the company of Burke and Hare, Charles Peace, Greenacre, and Wainwright, they will be quite at home.
John Bull on the 14th of November printed the following, containing my reply:
PATRIOTIC ACTION OF THE GREAT EXHIBITION.
We have received the following Interesting letter from Mr. J. T. Tussaud:
"As a regular reader of your valuable and most instructive paper, my attention was drawn to your letter, addressed to my company, which appeared in your is-sue of the 16th September.
"In it you call attention to what you describe as a blot—or rather four blots—upon `our interesting and intellectual display,' namely, the inclusion of the Sultan of Turkey, the King of Bulgaria, and the Emperors of Austria and Germany in our collection of celebrities and notorieties. Of course, such a letter from such an influential person could not pass unnoticed, and it was brought before my Board of Directors at the earliest opportunity.
"Prior to the date of your letter the pack had al-ready been reshuffled, and the figures to which you refer had been relegated to a much less conspicuous position than they had previously occupied. When your letter was penned they were conspiring against the peace of Europe in a small room which contains the tableau representing `The Destruction of Messina'—a scene of ruin which seems to be in keeping with this Machiavellian group.
"Like yourself, other visitors had frequently suggested that the quartette should be placed in another famous—or infamous—part of the Exhibition; but the trouble was that Burke and Hare, Charles Peace, Greenacre, and Wainwright, whom you name, and their comparatively innocuous companions, would not hear of their abode being thus desecrated.
"What were we to do?
"I am now pleased to inform you that after considering your remarks a solution has been arrived at: the pack has been shuffled again, and, by a remarkable feat of legerdemain, the four knaves have now disappeared altogether."
We congratulate Messrs. Tussaud on this happy solution to the problem.
The restoration of two of the figures was due to a very singular circumstance. Our overseas soldiers soon began to visit Madame Tussaud's in large numbers, and they frequently expressed disappointment at not being able to see the two enemy Emperors whose armies they had come so far to fight.
Sympathising with their point of view, we had the Kaiser and Francis Joseph readmitted, placing them in an isolated position, with the "All-Highest" at one time confronting the Messina tableau, and more recently faced by the tableau of the Ruhleben horse-box in which British prisoners had to spend four long weary years of separation from home and family. In the same room are models of Prince Bismarck and Count von Moltke.
It was some little time after the Kaiser's reinstate-ment that a British sailor, who was quite unable to control his feelings, after glowering for several minutes at the figure, made a run at it and knocked it over. The head was smashed and the figure badly damaged.
The tar's friends, who were much concerned at their companion's escapade, strove to pacify him, and contrived to get him out of the building without further trouble; but the Kaiser had to go into hospital for repairs.
The sailor was carried away by an impulse thousands have with difficulty controlled out of respect for the Exhibition and the law which makes it an offence to destroy other people's property.
Two days after the incident a little boy inquired of an Exhibition attendant where he could see the pieces of the Kaiser, as he would like to take a bit away.
A party of twenty-eight American soldiers happened to be passing the curtained room where the dismembered model of the Kaiser lay, and one of them made the request that they should be shown the "All-Highest" lying in state.
"And a very bad state, too," replied the attendant, who could not oblige.
The second serious attack upon the Kaiser's effigy took place two or three months after the first.
On this occasion it was a Colonial soldier who, seeing the restored monarch gazing at him in a supercilious fashion, as he imagined, drew from its scabbard the sword of the defunct Austrian Emperor, whose model sits close by, and stabbed the Kaiser's figure in the face.
The force with which the thrust was delivered was such that off came the monarch's head, and again the model had to be taken to hospital for the surgical operation of restoring the head and refixing it to its trunk.
Count Zeppelin, whose name will for ever be associated with the introduction of aerial warships and the dropping of bombs upon defenceless people, has had many a clenched fist shaken at him standing there beside the portraits of Roger Casement and Tribich Lincoln.
Though never actually assaulted, it was only the stolidity of the British character that kept people's hands off his effigy during the Zeppelin raids on London. Visitors were too proud, I suppose, to touch him, and from the time the first German airship was brought down in flames on British soil Count Zeppelin's model began to be ignored.
A British matron quietly remarked, as she stopped an instant in front of the portrait, "So you're going the way of all our enemies beaten at your own game."
In the early months of the war we borrowed from a soldier an Iron Cross that he had taken from the breast of a dead German officer whom he had found lying in a wood at Zillebeke, near Ypres, in November, 1914.
According to the story of the soldier—Drummer Newman, of the Grenadier Guards—our men, comprising Grenadier Guards, Irish Guards, and Oxford-shire Light Infantry, were opposed to the Prussian Guards, who were driven out of the wood, leaving behind them several hundreds of their dead.
Newman was searching for despatches when he happened upon the cross in question. I remember him coming to my studio with the trophy. He was a typical soldier, and he greatly amused me by his description of the way in which old soldiers—bearing in mind one of the trite sayings of Frederick the Great—would hearten their comrades, saying, just before going over the top, "Now then, boys, you don't want to live for ever, do you?"
The Iron Cross was exhibited with other relics, and used to be handed round for inspection, until one day it was missing. That was in October, 1915, and, although we made inquiries of the police and learned that it had been seen in the neighbourhood of the Exhibition, we heard no more of it till, several months later, it was traced by detectives to a gentleman at Warrington who had innocently purchased it from an invalided soldier.
We willingly refunded the amount that had been paid for the cross, and it has now been restored to our collection.
No sooner was London subjected to the terrible ordeal of air-raids than we received, as was only to be expected, offers of bombs that had been dropped by enemy aircraft.
As a matter of fact, we acquired one of the first of these missiles, and it proved of great interest to our visitors, especially to our own airmen, who never tired of describing to their friends the construction of the bomb and the way in which it was dropped.
We found it necessary, however, to discourage the bringing of ammunition to the Exhibition, as we had no desire that the building should be wrecked by the untimely explosion of a live bomb or shell.
Reverting for a moment to the attacks upon the effigy of the ex-Kaiser, I am reminded of one or two occasions when figures have incurred the animosity of beholders, although not to the same extent.
A professional rider, expelled from the Jockey Club, used to visit the Exhibition very often for the sole purpose of venting his spleen against the image of his supposed enemy, Fred Archer, the jockey who won five Derbys; and he was heard to remark that it was "so like the beggar, I would give anything to smash it."
In August, 1893, an old man, whose whole get-up spoke of better days, was seen to walk up to the effigy of the late Jabez Spencer Balfour, shake his withered, palsied fist in its face, and totter out of the building.