S. O. S.


Bill Tonkin.

No, my soul is not in need of saving. S.O.S. stands for Sorting out Snapshots.

I have been spending my retirement from the onerous duties of Secretary in delving into the strange affairs of the packets of Snapshots. You know what I mean, those little boxes or folded cartons of usually 12 small Snapshots that most of the postcard publishers manufactured and sold in addition to their post cards. I expect you are all like myself, you see them at a fair, buy them if the price is right, take them home, look at them once, and put them away in a box or drawer and never look at them again.

When Mike Perkins and myself did the update of our Wembley Book last year we included Snapshots and did some limited research into the contents of the packets and it became obvious to me that here was a subject that would repay going into later, in some depth. At the time we listed the various types of packets but did not go much further into the subject than that. Now that I have virtually stopped going to post card fairs I have the time to enjoy my collection and really getting to know my various sidelines. Over the years I have accumulated a lot of the packets published by firms like Beagles, Fleetway Press, Tuck’s, Valentine’s and Wildt & Kray. I recently had the opportunity to greatly increase my collection, and this started me looking at the packets in much greater detail than I have done before.

I am sure the loose set of Snapshots came from this type of packet
which is the only type with titles printed on the backs.

I am fortunate in that some issues I have had eight or nine of the same issue of packet to check. I should at this point thank both Mike Perkins and Alan Sabey who have generously loaned me their collections, without which the research would not have been possible. When you come to examine the contents which all look the same at a quick glance, what a wealth of variety there is. To a person like myself who has always been attracted by varieties from the normal, this has proved a fascinating field. They have everything so dear to my heart. The same view, sold and packed by the same firm, in the same carton, can be found with different clouds in the sky, there are redrawn and repositioned numbers on the snapshots, some times large numbers were redrawn in a much smaller size, and not just reduced in size but written in a different hand. To my surprise Valentine on one series of cartons went to the trouble of carefully scratching out the numbers on the negatives, so they cannot be read, although under a glass traces of the numbers can still be seen. Why did they start by putting numbers on the snapshots and then go to considerable trouble deleting the numbers we shall never know.

S.O.S as I have explained at the beginning can mean many things, one is a plea for help, and it is in this context that I need some help. I am sure a member has the answer, if only I can persuade him or her to turn off the box, and go and look through their snapshot packets.

The query is about Valentine’s snapshots of the British Empire Exhibition. They sold the sets of 12 snapshots in four types of folded carton. The cartons had a title in bold letters much larger than the rest of the printing on the front of the carton. The headings were 1. ‘British Empire Exhibition. Wembley.’ 2. ‘Valentine’s Snapshots’, 3. ‘Wembley’, and 4. ‘Wembley Exhibition.’ I have got stuck on type 2 ‘Valentine’s Snapshots’. The heading is printed in two lines of very large letters nearly half an inch high. This particular carton comes in three types, and all have ‘Titles on the reverse side of the photos’ printed on the carton. The snapshots from the other types of cartons all had plain backs.

A. Has plain edges or sides to the carton, and contains only 1924 titles.

B. Has ‘Wembley’ printed on the side and contains some 1925 titles.

C. The third has ‘Wembley No. 2’ printed on the front and on the sides, this also contains some 1925 titles.

Valentine cheated a little bit as their 1925 cartons contained mainly 1924 views already issued in 1924, with just the title changed. For instance, Burma Pavilion was changed into Schweppes Pavilion.

My problem is that I have a loose set of snapshots which I bought as a complete set, although there are in fact 13, which is one too many, all with titles printed on the back which means they have come from a ‘Valentine’s Snapshots’ carton, and my set contains several 1925 titles not included in the three cartons A, B or C, or in fact any Valentine carton. I suspect there is a missing carton possibly with ‘Wembley No. 1’ printed on the side. Has anyone got this carton of snapshots in their collection, if so, would they please get in touch with me as I would like details of the carton also a list of the titles. I shall then know which 12 of my 13 snapshots are a set. The titles of my 13 loose snapshots are as follows,

Boating Pool, Wembley
Canadian Pavilion, Wembley
Ceylon Pavilion, Wembley
Gold Coast, West African Section, Wembley
H.M. Government Building, Wembley
Indian Court, Wembley
Indian Theatre and Pavilion, Wembley
Malaya Pavilion, Wembley
Old London Bridge, Wembley
On the Lake, Wembley
Railodok Bus, Wembley
Schweppes Pavilion, Wembley
South Africa, Wembley

While some of these titles appear in other Valentine cartons, the snapshot titled ‘Gold Coast, West African Section, Wembley’, does not appear in any other packet as far as I know.

This is the title printed in manuscript form on the back of the Snapshot.
Which carton does it belong to ?

One thing that has come to light is that the snapshots and the printing on the cartons of two of the publishers, Fleetway Press and Wildt & Kray are absolutely identical. I suspect that Wildt and Kray was the actual printer and they supplied Fleetway who were the sole concessionaires


© Exhibition Study Group 2005