Comic Postcards in Holmfirth

Saucy British seaside postcards

Holmfirth was the birthplace of Bamforth & Co Ltd and the saucy seaside postcard. The beginnings date back to 1860’s when a family of painters and decorators started to supply painted backgrounds for laternslide shows and subsequently the lanternslides themselves. At the turn of the century the picture postcard started to become popular and during the first world war sentimental and song based cards were produced by Edwin Bamforth.

Popular holiday resort views were core products until artists Douglas Tempest and Arnold Taylor introduced the comic cards we now associate with Bamforth’s. The cards often had a topical theme but the most enduring were the saucy variety like Taylor’s courting couple She: “I’m as virtuous as the day is long, Mr Jones!” Mr Jones: “Stick around, then, love – it’ll soon be dark!” or Policewoman: ”Anything you say will be taken down”. Drunk: ”Knickers” – and they had the cartoons to match.

Sadly the company bought by E W Dennis of Scarborough in 1987 stopped production with the closure of Dennis’s. Now you can see postcards in the museum at Holmfirth or buy them from collectors fairs or Ebay like those above.

With thanks for photo and commentary Saucy British seaside postcards by brizzle born and bred CC BY-NC 2.0
‘Saucy British seaside postcards

image above: Newly married couple on honeymoon – saucy seaside humor British postcard 1980s.

McGill, who was known as the King of the Saucy Postcard, produced about 2,000 designs between 1904 and 1962 of which an estimated 200 million postcards were printed and sold.

However, McGill fell foul of a crackdown on the saucy postcard industry during the 1950s and was prosecuted and fined under the 1857 Obscene Publications Act in 1954.

Many postcards were destroyed by their owners during the government crackdown.

Saucy postcards, with cartoons and captions such as the one above, were once as familiar to British seaside resorts as striped deckchairs, candy floss, sticks of rock and fish ‘n’ chips.

In today’s liberal world of open frankness on sexual matters, the cartoon characters and antics of the saucy postcard era would hardly lift an eyebrow. However, back in those days of sexual repression, “It” was very much a taboo subject, considered to be the height of bad manners bordering on obscene to discuss. Saucy postcards were a breath of fresh air to some; others were disgusted and offended by them.

In the early 1930s, cartoon-style saucy postcards became widespread, and at the peak of their popularity the sale of saucy postcards reached a massive 16 million a year.

They were often bawdy in nature, making use of innuendo and double entendres and traditionally featured stereotypical characters such as vicars, large ladies and put-upon husbands, in the same vein as the Carry On films.

In the early 1950s, the newly elected Conservative government were concerned at the apparent deterioration of morals in Britain and decided on a crackdown on these postcards.

The main target on their hit list was the renowned postcard artist Donald McGill. In the more liberal 1960s, the saucy postcard was revived and became to be considered, by some, as an art form. This helped its popularity and once again they became an institution.

However, during the 1970s and 1980s, the quality of the artwork and humour started to deteriorate and, with changing attitudes towards the cards’ content, the demise of the saucy postcard occurred.

Original postcards are now highly sought after, and rare examples can command high prices at auction. The best-known saucy seaside postcards were created by a publishing company called Bamforths, based in the town of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, England.

Despite the decline in popularity of postcards that are overtly ‘saucy’, postcards continue to be a significant economic and cultural aspect of British seaside tourism. Sold by newsagents and street vendors, as well as by specialist souvenir shops, modern seaside postcards often feature multiple depictions of the resort in unusually favourable weather conditions.

The use of saturated colour, and a general departure from realism, have made the postcards of the later twentieth century become collected and admired as kitsch.

Such cards are also respected as important documents of social history, and have been influential on the work of Martin Parr.’

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