Tag Archives: Ephemera

And A Happy New Year….

As the New Year starts we all wonder what is in store for us in the coming months. However, if this was the year 1642 we wouldn’t have to speculate, we would know, if we had ‘a new Almanacke and Prognostication, for the yeare of our Lord God, 1642’ as produced by Nathanael Nye, Practitioner of Astronomy (ref 241942 ).

Nathanael Nye

Nathanael Nye

Nathanael Nye was a Birmingham lad, baptised at St Martin’s Birmingham on 18th April 1624. His ‘Almanacke’ was ‘Calculated exactly for the faire and populous Towne of Birmicham in Warwickshire, where the Pole is elevated above the Horizon 52 degrees, and 38 minutes, and may serve for any part of this Kingdome.’

Well, that would be good to know, along with the prospect of ‘Very cold and some wind’ around the 15th January, a bit of ‘Frost’ around the 18th and so on.

These little books were annual publications which advised upon the weather, astronomical details such as the times of the rising and setting of the sun, phases of the moon and the places of the planets throughout the year, the various Saints’ days you wouldn’t want to miss and much more. There is even an informative little guide to parts of the body as governed by the signs of the zodiac ….handy!

'A new Almanacke and Prognostication, for the yeare of our Lord God, 1642’ as produced by Nathanael Nye, Practitioner of Astronomy (ref 241942 ).

‘A new Almanacke and Prognostication, for the yeare of our Lord God, 1642’ as produced by Nathanael Nye, Practitioner of Astronomy (ref 241942 ).

Continue reading


Haggis and Poetry? It must be Burns’ Night

Burns' Anniversary Dinner Programme, 24 January 1919 [1017688; LF21.7]

Burns’ Anniversary Dinner Programme, 24 January 1919 [LF21.7]

The 254th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns will be celebrated on 25 January 2013.  The Birmingham and Midland Scottish Society has been celebrating Burns’ Night since its foundation in 1888, with haggis and poetry on the menu, and entertainment with pipe music and dancing. One of the early chairmen of the Birmingham and Midland Scottish Society in the 1890s was Alexander William Still (1859-1931), a journalist and editor of the Birmingham Gazette, who had trained in youth as a gun maker in London and Aberdeen.

Burns' Night Programme

Burns’ Night, Grand Hotel, 1898 [LF21.7]

Robert Burns’ personal connection with Birmingham goes back a further century to another Scottish gun maker. There is a letter at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, South Ayrshire from Robert Burns to David Blair (c.1755 -1814) dated 27 August 1789, about poetry, a magazine Blair had sent him and Burns’ appointment as excise officer. Blair had set up a gun making business as Blair & Lea in Navigation Street in 1783 and he was a founder member of the Birmingham Chamber of Manufactures and Commerce. Burns also sent a copy of his newly published volume of ‘Poems’ to Blair in 1793.*

There are programmes and menus of the Burns’ Night celebrations of the Birmingham and Midland Scottish Society and of the Birmingham Burns Club in the collections of Birmingham Archives & Heritage (L21.7 and LF 21.7).

Fiona Tait, Archivist 

(* Letters of Robert Burns, ed. Ferguson, 2 vols. 1931)

Seasonal Greetings

Christmas card

Extract from an early Christmas card design [MS 4078/8/2]

In a little book called Christmastide Lore by Rose Sydenham Dugdale, printed in Birmingham in 1937, and delightfully illustrated by Ivy Anne Ellis, is the sentence: ‘Christmas cards were first thought of by W.C.T. Dobson, head of a school of design in Birmingham who wished to send an unusual greeting to a friend in 1844.’

A little research suggests that the first Christmas card was actually sent in 1843, when Sir Henry Cole (1808-1882), founding director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, asked artist J. C. Horsley (1817-1903) of the Royal Academy to design a card with a seasonal message he could send to his many friends.

Lempriere's Christmas Card

Lempriere’s personalised Christmas card, 1908 [MS 1575/3/7/2/1]

William Charles Thomas Dobson (1817-1898), artist, had entered the Royal Academy schools in 1836 and was encouraged by the first president of the National Gallery, Charles Lock Eastlake. In 1842 Dobson was appointed to the School of Design recently established in Somerset House and the following year he took up the position of headmaster of the Government School of Design in Birmingham. He may have sent a Christmas sketch to friends in 1844; regrettably, I have not been able to find any Christmas sketches or cards designed by him. Dobson retired from Birmingham two years later to pursue his artistic training in Italy.

Christmas Cat

Card from Lucy Hawynes’ scrapbook [CC5/137]

The cards illustrated here are from three collections:
MS 2075
Papers of Birmingham Balloonist George Phillip Lempriere (1854-1949)
MS 4078 Personal papers of the Hemming, Twigg, and Pemberton families
CC5/137 Scrapbook of Miss Lucy Hawynes, a member of the Erdington Congregational Church in the 19th century.

Continue reading

James Watt Society in Japan

Poster for a James Watt Exhibition in Japan

Poster for the Tokyo Steam Engineering Exhibition in 1936 (MS 4243)

The influence of James Watt and the steam engine on Imperial Japan was aptly demonstrated at the 1936 Tokyo Steam Engineering Exhibition held under the joint auspices of the James Watt Society of Japan, the Tokyo Science Museum and the Japan Power Association. The date of the exhibition is significant in that it coincided with the bicentenary of Watt’s birth in 1736.

The exhibition itself included over two hundred and fifty objects and records on loan from foreign institutions including the old Birmingham Reference Library, home to the Archives of Soho. In gratitude, the President of the James Watt Society of Japan, Mr Hashimoto, sent a volume of bound exhibition photographs to the library. 

Continue reading

Birmingham Celebrates!

Coronation Celebrations Programme

Coronation Celebrations Programme, 1953 (LE/Royal Occasions/42)

An extensive programme of events took place across Birmingham to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In June 1953 concerts were held at the Town Hall where locals could enjoy such varied entertainment as the National Band of New Zealand, the Humphrey Lyttelton Jazz Show, the experience of an Old Time Dance, featuring Leonard Hayes and His Orchestra, and a Coronation Barn Dance.

The official Coronation Programme produced for Birmingham shows that gifts were to be distributed throughout the city. Babies born on Coronation Day were to receive £2. 2s. 0d, paid into an account in the Municipal Bank. All children up to the age of 11 were to receive a Coronation mug and a tin of chocolates. Older children could receive a Coronation mug, a decorated glass tumbler, a Bible, a New Testament and other books, propelling pencils, a pen knife, a sweet dish, spoons, sweets or a brooch. ‘Gifts for Old People’ were also produced. Women over 65 and men over 75 could apply for a souvenir canister containing ½ pound of tea and a caddy spoon. Approximately 62,000 applications were received and proof of age was required!

Diary of Musical Events for the Coronation Celebrations

Diary of Musical Events for the Coronation Celebrations (LE/Royal Occasions/42)

A ceremonial parade was organised throughout the City, commencing at Holliday Street. Representatives from all arms of the Armed Forces participated, including Commonwealth Forces from Pakistan and Ceylon. Local residents were busy organising committees to arrange their own street parties. One in particular, Newborough Grove and Newborough Road, took the celebrations seriously. As early as February 1953, residents were setting up a committee to organise special events. Celebrations included fancy dress, sports and games, and an evening concert provided by local talent. Official programmes were even printed with the order of events for the day. While it was hoped much fun was to be had by all, correspondence in the Ephemera Collection noted “You will see that we have purposely left out “Drinking”, although we do hope to all drink the Health of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

Continue reading

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

As part of the team making sure our collections are correctly labelled and boxed for the move into the Library of Birmingham, I often have to spend long periods of time in our store rooms looking at rows of rather bland boxes. It is a treat when you have to look inside one of them and are reminded of the range of treasures sitting quietly on the rows of shelving.

The archive collection which I am most fond of certainly cheered me up when I came across it during our surveying. Opening a mysterious box containing photographs of a dare-devil woman apparently risking life and limb underneath a hot air balloon intrigued me.

MS 1575/3/6/2/7

After checking the catalogue back in the office I was delighted to find out her name was Kitty King and she that she worked for Lieutenant George Phillip Lempriére. Lempriére (born 26 February 1854) was a balloonist and aeronaut, who performed and exhibited at a wide variety of events including public, private, and scientific engagements at fetes, galas, shows, and lectures.  He travelled throughout England but lived much of his life in Handsworth, so it is fitting that many of the images are of the local area.

MS 1575/3/6/2/7

Continue reading

Dickens in Birmingham

An image from A Christmas CarolCharles John Huffam Dickens was born in 1812 on 7 February and thus 2012 marks 200 years since the birth of this distinguished novelist, widely considered to be the greatest of the Victorian era. Continue reading