Among the gems released into the public domain by the British Library last December is an advertisement for Batkin & Kent, Hairdressers and Perfumers of Stafford, (or Staffford – whoever proofread it probably hoped it would disappear with the next edition of the book rather than re-emerge on the internet 128 years later, but c’est la vie).
It is illustrated with the image of a man seated in a barber’s chair, undergoing the fashionable process of hair-brushing by machinery.
This attractive and somewhat intriguing advertisement has scored more than 4,200 views so far – not bad for one image among a million.
But how did this hair-brushing process work? Was it a one-off eccentricity that never caught on, or a familiar sight in every hairdressing salon?
The answer is that it became more than familiar – hair-brushing by machinery was a Victorian sensation, capturing the public imagination at a time when the mechanisation of everyday activity spoke of prosperity, progress and improvement to the human condition.
It was also a solidly British development; something that the ‘Yankees’, for all their inventiveness, had failed to come up with.
When the phrase “San Francisco rock posters” is uttered in certain circles, most people picture bold blocks of psychedelicized Art Nouveau lettering, a skeleton crowned by a garland of roses, shimmering collisions of equiluminant colors, and a flying eyeball peering through a burning ring of fire.
That describes the most iconic work of the so-called Big Five poster artists—Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and Rick Griffin.
But as good as those artists were (in the case of the late Griffin and Kelley) and are (in the case of the rest), it took more than just five artists to create all the posters and handbills required to publicize all the concerts produced during these years.
In addition, if it weren’t for the career pressmen at companies such as Bindweed Press, Cal Litho, West Coast Litho, and Tea Lautrec Litho, the drug-fueled dreams of some of these artists might never have seen the light of day.
“One of the best pressmen in the business was Levon Mosgofian, who owned and operated Tea Lautrec Litho.”
Recently, I was invited to curate an exhibition of San Francisco Bay Area rock posters at the San Francisco International Airport, whose SFO Museum produces more than 50 shows a year across 25 exhibition spaces for the 44 million travelers who pass through the airport annually.
My qualifications for this incredible honor are essentially a love of rock posters since I was a kid, membership on the board of The Rock Poster Society as an adult, and a collection of maybe 400 pieces, which is paltry compared to the holdings of most of the collectors who supplied posters to the show.
Thanks to their generosity, I was able to organize “When Art Rocked: San Francisco Music Posters, 1966-1971,” which features about 160 posters, along with another 100 or so postcards, handbills, tickets, and other scraps of ephemera from the era.
A smaller companion exhibit of 1960s fashion and design, curated by SFO’s Nicole Mullen, is located conveniently nearby.
Anthropomorphic birds and animals were another popular theme, as seen in this Christmas Reversed scene, where raw dinner ingredients get in a party mood.
Sending Christmas cards was a habit popularised by the Victorians, helped by the introduction, in 1840, of a uniform penny post.England’s first commercial Christmas card was printed in 1843, and is in the Laura Seddon collection at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Here, is a selection from its archive.
Showing that there’s little new about the tactics of trick-or-treaters, a group of festive musicians make their presence known, and demand beer.
This classic card was designed by the children’s book illustrator Walter Crane, a prominent member of the Arts and Crafts movement.
All Photographs: Ade Hunter/Manchester Metropolitan University
“The Taishō period^ (大正時代 Taishō jidai?), or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912, to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Emperor Taishō”.
Some of the posters carry over to the early Shōwa era: Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito)^ reigned from 1926 to 1989.
Title: Puraton mannenhitshu: Puraton inki [Woman with an ink bottle] Description: A woman holding an ink bottle. Nakayama Taiyodo. Platon ink and pen (プラトンインキ, プラトン万年筆). Subject (company): Nakayama Taiyōdō; 中山太陽堂
Title: Kabushiki Kaisha Tōkyō Tsukiji Kappan Seizōsho = The Tokyo Tsukiji Type Foundry, Ltd. [Goddess] 株式會社東京築地活版製造所 Description: A goddess holding a musical instrument. Tokyo Tsukiji Type Foundry, Ltd. (東京築地活版製造所). Marked with “H” [Hirano, Tomiji 平野富二?]. Subject (Company): Foundries