Post Cards of the White City

Part 20.


Bill Tonkin

The last part 19 published in the Winter Journal of ‘Post Cards of the White City’ saw us come to the end of the small publishers section. This has covered all the publishers with the exception of Valentine & Sons Ltd. Part 20 makes a start on this truly vast area of collecting.

Valentine’s post cards of the Franco-British Exhibition 1908.

To list the post cards of the White City exhibitions from 1908 to 1914 when the outbreak of the Great War put an end to them, has long been an ambition of mine. When I first joined the Exhibition Study Group I corresponded with Andrew Brooks on the subject, and we worked together on a list of all the known numbers of Valentine’s cards.

Even then I realised it would be a big undertaking, and that I did not possess the knowledge of how to set about it. The first requirement was to build up a large collection, so I would have the material to work on. Over the last fifteen years or so, I have built up what is probably the largest collection of White City exhibition cards in existence. I have never counted them but they fill twenty one boxes, and there must be in the region of seven to eight thousand cards.

With the non Valentine’s cards there was no problem, and as these comprise nearly half of the collection, it was time consuming, but straight forward work, compiling lists of the various small publishers in alphabetical order. The problems really started when I reached Valentine & Sons.

After several trial runs I decided that the sheer number of Valentine’s cards would have produced a list with so many alterations of titles and cross references, that it would have been very difficult to locate a card, especially if it had a common title like ‘Court of Honour’ which would have needed possibly 30 to 40 pages alone. I decided the cards would have to be split up into sections, and as the exhibition of the year seemed the most logical thing, this is what has been done. Even so cards titled ‘Court of Honour’ has taken 15 pages in the first Franco-British section.

Valentine’s used the name ‘Great White City’ in a lot of their titles, in place of a specific exhibition, and these have all been listed together in section 2.

Section 1. 1908 Franco-British Exhibition and the 1908 Ballymaclinton cards.

2. Cards titled The Great White City published in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912.

3. 1909 Imperial International Exhibition and the 1909 Ballymaclinton cards.

4. 1910 Japan-British Exhibition.

5. 1911 Coronation Exhibition.

6 1912 Latin-British Exhibition.

7. 1914 Anglo-American Exposition.

The National Gas Exhibition in 1913 was a trade exhibition which only ran for one month. Neither Valentine or Gale & Polden published postcards for it, and apart from one poster type card no others are known to me. This has been placed in section N small publishers under National Gas Exhibition.

One anomaly found in the 1908 section, was cards with Franco-British Exhibition in the title on the front, and a Great White City back, these have been listed under Franco-British Exhibition. Cards with Great White City on the front, but Franco-British backs have been listed in the Great White City Section. In other words, the exhibition named on the front or picture side of the card, takes precedence over the exhibition named on the back. The following non related backs have been recorded. It could well be that these are mistakes on the part of Valentines. In the Franco-British Exhibition section only three instances are known where this mistake occurs.

Franco-British Exhibition on the front with The Great White City on the back

The Great White City on the front with Franco-British Exhibition on the back

The Great White City on the front with Imperial International Ex. on the back

The Great White City on the front with Coronation Exhibition on the back

Numbering System.

Valentine’s used a numbering system for many of their White City Exhibition cards, known numbers ranging from No. 108 to No. 859, unfortunately the numbering system was not used on all of their cards. Many views were not given numbers at all, some views were given numbers but the number did not appear on all the various printings, The real photo card might be numbered while the coloured card has no number, or the coloured card may be numbered while the B/W card is not. For some reason sepia cards were seldom numbered. This can even vary within the same process and you can have coloured cards with and without numbers.

The lack of numbers up to 108 can be explained by accepting that these numbers were allocated, but not included on the artist drawn cards which Valentine’s were able to produce before the exhibition opened. These I have called ‘Pre exhibition forerunners’.

Almost without exception none of these pre exhibition forerunners for the Franco-British Exhibition are numbered. The only exception that I have found is one card, a view of the Stadium which had no number when published as a coloured card, but when published with an ornamental border was given number 110 in very small figures printed in the design.

Valentine’s also on occasions used the same number and the same title for different views as in the case of No. 142 titled ‘Flip Flap’, where three different pictures taken at different times were used. Indeed one view has been so altered by being reduced in size, that we could say there are four different cards.

To add to the confusion some of the pull outs used a different numbering system, running from No. 706 to No. 1268. In some cases the numbers given to pull outs duplicate numbers of the main system on completely unrelated cards. One Coronation Exhibition card ‘Irish Section, Glendalough’ number 786, is given the same number as a pull out for the same exhibition titled ‘One of the (H)attractions of the Coronation Exhibition’. Pull outs made from views of the exhibition were generally not given pull out numbers but retain their original number. Even this was not a hard and fast rule, and ‘Indian Woman and Child’ was given No. 824 as a normal post card, and No. 821 as a pull out.

There was also a short series of cards for the Japan British Exhibition numbered 1 to 10. Some of these are also known with the main number, for example the same view titled ‘Spring, the Four Seasons’ can be numbered either 8, or 670, but no card has been found with both numbers printed on it.

Cards for other exhibitions published by Valentine’s during the White City period 1908 to 1914 including the 1908 Scottish National Exhibition, the 1911 Festival of Empire at the Crystal Palace, the 1913 Liverpool Exhibition and their series for the Earls Court, all had numbering systems of their own, within the White City range, and it is possible to have post cards for two different exhibitions with the same number. For example No. 108 can be a 1911 Festival of Empire or a Franco-British card, and No. 142 can be the Flip-Flap at the Franco-British Exhibition or a card titled ‘The Amusements’ at Earls Court.

Range of numbers used for each exhibition, and total of different numbers published.

1908 Franco-British Exhibition 108 to 582 174

1908-14 The Great White City 112 to 859 97

1909 Imperial International Exhibition 108 to 594 86

1910 Japan-British Exhibition 1 to 10 10

132 to 758 101

1911 Coronation Exhibition 132 to 824 72

1912 Latin-British Exhibition 532 to 844 33

1914 Anglo-American Exposition 455 to 844 6



Un-numbered titles of post cards published for each exhibition.

1908 Franco-British Exhibition 114

Pre exhibition forerunners 61

1908-14 The Great White City 75

1909 Imperial International Exhibition 37

1910 Japan-British Exhibition 37

1911 Coronation Exhibition 21

1912 Latin-British Exhibition 1

1914 Anglo-American Exposition 0


One of the main problems in listing the titles of Valentine’s printed coloured cards, was the enormous variety of titles found on the same view. The title of any given view was not part of the plate used for printing the cards. If this had been so the title would have been identical on all the cards of that view. Instead when Valentine’s decided to reprint a view, the title was redone from scratch. This meant that if during the course of the Franco-British Exhibition a certain view was reprinted, say fifteen times, each batch of printings would have had a new title prepared and used just for that batch. When the printing run was finished, the plate was saved but the title was scrapped. When another printing was required, the plate was taken from the stores, and a new title produced to go with it.

Since there was no need to keep any record of the title of the previous printing, or any need to match the setting or style with the first printing, it follows that the title on the second printing would be different in many respects from the first. A third printing would be different again from the previous two and so it went on. One advantage of not having permanent titles on the printing plate, was that the same plate could be used again year after year, with just the title altered for the next White City exhibition.

It may well have been left to the whim of the person preparing the title whether it was in one line, two lines, three or even four lines. It may be found at the top of the card to the left, in the centre, or to the right, or in any intermediate position, the same applies to its position at the bottom of the card. If the title was in more than one line, then the first word of the second line in relation to the line above would be different. There was endless variety, with every batch of printings different. When the title was printed at least the font was the same, but when the title was hand written (manuscript), then there would be a difference in the form of the individual letters. To complicate matters, more than one person was engaged in hand writing the titles, and the same view is known where there are two distinct styles of hand written title, indicating a reprint with the title written by a second person. In this list the position of the title has been given i.e. ‘title in two lines at bottom left’, but it was not felt necessary to go further into too much minor detail of the position or variations of the title. Where the title is in manuscript form this is listed, and some notice is given to the style of manuscript.

On some cards especially Ballymaclinton there are two distinct styles of writing titles, the easiest thing to look for is the way ‘h’ and ‘n’ are written. They can either have long tails, described as (with tails) or do not have tails (without tails). There are other differences in individual letters but these are simple to spot and are listed.

There is another respect in which the title of a given view can be different. Valentine’s seemed very lax on the actual wording of a title, and did not worry if it got altered, ‘Court of Honour’ can be reissued as ‘In Court of Honour’ or ‘The Court of Honour’ or even ‘In the Court of Honour’. ‘Court of Honour at Night’ can become ‘Court of Honour, Night Effect’, and there are many more extreme examples of changes, such as ‘Donaghmore Cross’ into ‘St. Patrick’s Cross’ and ‘Irish Village Street’ into ‘Main Street and Ancient Church, Ballymaclinton’.

It is possible that Ballymaclinton cards changed their titles with every reprint and views are common with anything from two or three, up to eight different titles. This has meant that a certain amount of cross referencing has been necessary. It was felt that all cards of the same view printed from the same plate or negative, of a particular exhibition should be kept together whatever the title.

Where there are a number of different titles for the same view they are sorted out into alphabetical order and listed under the first title. All the secondary titles follow also in alphabetical order with the note ‘title altered to’ until all the changes of title are recorded. Elsewhere in the list each of the secondary titles will be listed with a reference pointing to where the complete list of the various titles for that view at the particular exhibition can be found. At the end of the list will be found a reference to which other exhibitions that view was published for and the title used for the other exhibition.

Sometimes a change of name was justified, the Olympic Games took place while the Franco-British exhibition was on, and a card titled ‘Imperial Sports Club’ (No 299) shows a view of the headquarters for the games. After the games finished the building became the ‘Lagoon Grill Room’ and the title on the card was altered to ‘Band Stand and Canal’. Sometimes of course the occupiers of a pavilion changed when a particular exhibition was over. For instance after the Franco-British exhibition closed, the French interests departed and some of the pavilions were renamed.

In placing a title in its alphabetical order in the list, the prefix ‘A’, ‘An’, ‘In’, ‘In the’, ‘On’, ‘On the’ and ‘The’ is ignored, as far as the location of the title is concerned, although it is not left out of the description, i.e. ‘In the Grounds’ will be found under Grounds in section ‘G’ and not section ‘I’ for ‘In’, ‘In Court of Honour, under ‘Court’ and ‘The Flip Flap’ under ‘Flip’.

When it appears, the name of the exhibition ‘Franco-British Exhibition, London, 1908.’ is usually printed in full on a card, but some times the ‘1908.’ or even ‘London, 1908.’ is left out. In most cases this comes after the title, but in several instances i.e. ‘Franco-British Exhibition, London, 1908. "Salutation".’ the title comes after the name of the exhibition. In the listing the name is given as it appears on the card, but it will be found in the ‘S’ for ‘Salutation’ section, and not in the ‘F’ for ‘Franco’ section.

Valentine’s used their system of re-titling each batch printed, for many years. It was still being done on the real photographic cards for the 1938 Empire Exhibition at Glasgow, where views can have up to half a dozen manuscript titles all with slight variations. The same thing happened with their 1951 Festival of Britain cards.

Valentine’s Imprint.

Valentine’s imprint or lack of it on the front of cards is also worthy of study. ‘Valentine’s Series Copyright’ on the front can be found in six different positions. These variations occur almost entirely on the pre exhibition forerunners. It would seem that once Valentine’s got the forerunners out of the way they settled down to a standard imprint at an angle in the bottom right corner.

Often Valentine’s would publish a card with the imprint moved to two or three different positions, this is especially so in the case of the ‘Sunk Plate with large white border, type of card. Here they even managed to get ‘Valentine’s Series Copyright’ printed the other way round, as ‘Copyright Valentine’s Series’.

Cards are even known with two imprints. This occurs when for instance a white imprint is printed on a white path, where it does not show up. It is reprinted moving it on to say a dark lawn where it is more visible, and Valentine’s did not bother to remove the first imprint.

1. Some cards were published without the imprint and these are listed as ‘without Valentine’s Series Copyright’.

2. Some have a split imprint with ‘Valentine’s Series’ on the left and ‘Copyright’ on the right, listed as ‘with a split Valentine’s Series Copyright’. Measurements are given for the gap between ‘Series’ and ‘Copyright’.

3. The split imprint can be varied with the words changed round, ‘Copyright’ is on the left and ‘Valentine’s Series’ on the right, these are listed as ‘with a reversed split Copyright Valentine’s Series’.

4. The imprint can be in two lines in a horizontal position, listed as ‘with a horizontal Valentine’s Series Copyright’ and can be in the bottom right corner.

5. The imprint can also be in two lines in a horizontal position, listed as ‘with a horizontal Valentine’s Series Copyright’ in the bottom left corner.

6. The imprint can also be found printed at an angle, listed as ‘Valentine’s Series Copyright at an angle’. If the angled imprint is in the left bottom corner this is noted,

7. If the angled imprint is on the right this is not listed as this became the normal position for it to be.


Backs of the post cards of the Franco-British Exhibition.

While most collectors are naturally mainly concerned with the front or picture side of a post card, there is much of interest in the printed backs as well. Altogether Valentine’s used 20 different backs for their Franco-British Exhibition post cards, not counting the wide range of colours. Three of these were used for the giant sized post cards and one for the panoramic double width post cards. All of these are illustrated and numbered from FB 1. to FB 20.

The importance of the colour is that a different coloured back often means a different printing and sometimes an examination of the front will reveal different clouds in the sky or a different setting of the title.

When we come to the colours of the backs, things get a little more difficult. Some of the backs like FB 1. the ‘Official F B Seal’ which was used for a large proportion of Valentine’s cards were printed in three colours, black, dark grey and red. The black and dark grey backs were only used in stapled books of post cards. The red back was the most common one used by Valentine’s and there must still be many tens of thousands of them about.

The second most common type was FB 2. the ‘Famous Throughout the World’ back. This came in black, grey, greenish grey, bluish grey, green and deep green. It is easy to lay out a dozen cards with the backs ranging from grey to greenish grey, but it is difficult to decide just where you stop calling a colour grey and start calling it greenish grey. In this I have only listed both shades where there is a clear recognisable difference. The same applies to the difference between greenish grey and bluish grey, it can be very difficult deciding what to call an intermediate shade.

FB 3. was used on some of the artist’s painted postcards and also some of the Ballymaclinton cards. There was no great range of colours only grey and greenish grey.

The next back FB 4. had a short life and was used on the multi view postcards and cards featuring members of the Royal Family at the opening. These would all have been available on the opening day or very soon after. FB 4 was also used on some of the pre exhibition forerunners

FB 5 the smaller version of the ‘Famous Throughout the World’ back and comes in about eight colours, it was used for Ballymaclinton postcards.

There is some doubt if the postcards with back FB 6. are exhibition cards. They are included for the design relationship.

The next four Souvenir backs, FB 7, FB 8, FB 9 and FB 10, were all used for specific series like the Australian Pavilion, Canadian Pavilion and the Entente Cordiale.

The two X L Series backs were both used for real photographic cards FB 11 was used more often than FB 12.

The difference in the three Welsh Harp backs is in the position of the imprint down the side. The differences can be seen in the illustrations. The third type without an imprint is only known on one of the B/W litho reprints of ‘Interior of M’Kinley’s Cottage, Ballymaclinton’.

The illustrations of the three ‘Giant’ backs have been reduced in size

FB 1. printed in red the most common of all the White City Exhibition postcard backs.
It is also known in black and dark grey on postcards sold in stapled booklets.


FB 2. the second most common back printed in black, grey, greenish grey, bluish grey,
green and deep green

FB 3. similar to FB 2. but without the ‘Official ‘ imprint down the side,
and with ‘Correspondence’ in small letters at an angle in the top left corner.
This was a seldom used back used mainly on artist painted cards.


FB 4. again similar to FB 2. but with many differences, one is that ‘Carte Postale’ is in italics.
It was used for real photographs and is in black or a deep reddish brown.


© Exhibition Study Group 2002