In 1908 company became a Limited Company and ceased to trade just before the second World War.
Many collectors will know a publisher by name, some may even collect cards published by a certain manufacturer, but what is the background behind the name? Here is a potted story of the Raphael Tuck company, one of the most prolific publishers in the post card, greeting card and fine art publications in the country.
Raphael Tuck was born on the 7th August 1821 at Koschmin, East Prussia. Not much is known about his early life other than he married Ernestine Lissner when he was 27. By 1859 they had six children and had moved from Koschmin to Breslau where their seventh child was born.
The Prussian war with Denmark and the Austrian war convinced Raphael
that he needed to move his family to a safer location, so he
emigrated to Britain early in 1865 and set up in London as an estate
agent. His wife and family joined him in late 1865. The Tucks were
adventurous and in 1866 they decided to form their own business by
opening a picture framing and art gallery in Union Street,
Bishopsgate, London. After three successful years they moved to a
larger shop at 177, City road. Raphael turned his artistic talents to
producing and publishing black and white lithographs, oleographs and
colour chromolithographs. Their sons Adolph, Herman and Gustave
joined the business with Herman and Adolph drumming up trade by
travelling and Gustave taking charge of the London dealings.
In 1871 Raphael produced his first Christmas Cards and published his coloured scraps which were to become very popular. By 1880 the company was well known throughout the world. Adolph Tuck had a flair for innovation and enterprise. In 1880 he arranged a competition nation-wide to design a Christmas Card with a top prize of 500 Guineas. Well over 5,000 entries were submitted, as well as the winning design some £2,500 was paid to other artists for their works giving the Tuck company many years of designs to work with.
Adolph Tuck also designed and registered the famous ‘Easel and Palette’ trade mark in 1880. The following year Raphael decided to retire. A partnership was formed by the three sons and the business expanded to Coleman Street. Adolph, following the success of the Christmas Card competition went on to form the Tuck Literary Competitions which were also very successful. During the 1880’s and 1890’s the House of Tuck continued to expand with branches opening in Paris and New York. The Company was granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment by Queen Victoria in 1893 for the publication of the Queen’s Letter to the Nation on the death of the Duke of Clarence. A Royal Warrant has been awarded by each Monarch since.
Ernestine Tuck died in 1895 and Raphael’s health began to fail. A new Head Office building at Moorfields in the City was to be built, Raphael laid the foundation stone on the 4th April 1898. The building was named Raphael House and was formally opened on July 6th 1899, but in the March of 1900 Raphael died from influenza aged 79.
Adolph Tuck continued to expand the firms sales with fine art reproductions, picture post cards and greetings cards. Their first picture post card was published in 1894 and featured a view of Snowdon, as a sales gimmick this was on sale by the Mountain Guides to visitors to Snowdon.
It was a Post Office Regulation that one side of a post card was to be devoted to the address and the postage stamp only, any message had to be included on the side with a pictorial view, and this had to be within a card of a maximum length of three and a half inches. Adolph argued for four years with the Post Master General to change this to a larger size. In 1896 the Post Master finally agreed to a larger size.
In 1901 Raphael Tuck had become a public company with a capital of £500,000. The Board of Directors, Adolph Tuck, Chairman and Managing Director, Gustave Tuck, Vice Chairman and Director. Herman Tuck, Arthur Conan Doyle and Alfred Parsons A.R.A. were also on the board.
The sons of Adolph, Reginald and Desmond joined the company in 1910, also in this year Adolph was created a Baronet and became Sir Adolph Tuck. In 1912 the company produced a poster stamp known as the Charles Dickens Centenary Stamp, this was for fixing to the front page of Dickens books, all the proceeds went to a fund for the novelist’s dependants.
During the First World War Reginald joined the Army, while Desmond was seconded to the French Air Force, then to the Royal Flying Corps and then, when it was formed into the Royal Air Force. After the war the brothers returned to the family business and during the next decade revived the old custom of sending Saint Valentine Cards which coincided with their Diamond Jubilee in 1926. Sir Adolph died in July of that year with his title being passed to Reginald. Gustave Tuck became Chairman and Managing Director with Sir Reginald and brother Desmond as joint Managing Directors. The publishing and printing of Fine Art books, post cards and greeting cards continued to flourish until the Second World War when a very heavy air raid on London during the night of December 29th 1940, Raphael House took a direct hit and was reduced to an empty shell. Desmond had entered the blazing building but only managed to retrieve the Royal Warrants.
Under the foundation stone of the burned out building they found a broken glass bottle, however, the contents had survived the fire and included early greetings cards, a catalogue, copies of the Times and Daily Telegraph dated April 5th 1898, a gold sovereign and a half sovereign a five shilling piece and some other coins. The archives going back 74 years had been destroyed. Business was carried on in several small locations in Appold Street, E.C. and Cromwell Road S.W. At the end of the war things gradually returned to the fortunes of pre war days. In the late 1940’s Tuck’s purchased a major share holding in the Northampton based printing company Clarke & Sherwell Ltd. A new London Head Office was built and opened in the West End of London.
Sir Reginald Tuck died in 1954, Desmond was now the only surviving member of the Tuck family. He retired in 1959. In 1962 the shares of the Raphael Tuck & Sons Company were acquired by Purnell & Sons Ltd. Paulton, Somerset. In turn the group became member firms of the British Printing Corporation. Production of the business was now carried out at Purnell’s factory at Warminster, Wiltshire, with the Head Office at Paulton House, Shepherdess Walk, London, just a short distance from the location of Raphael and Ernestine’s first London shop.
In the late 1960’s yet another fire, this time at the Warehouse in Warminster which destroyed the Tuck Archives including all the negatives used for the 1951 Festival of Britain post cards published by the company. We now have to thank the dedicated post card historians for their painstaking efforts in researching and putting the flesh back on the bones of companies that produced post cards such as Tuck.
© Exhibition Study Group 2005