The Falkland Islands
Around 1990 Mike Perkins and myself were well into our researches for our book on the Postcards of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. After we had produced a basic list of both of our combined collections, we set about trying to visit every British Empire Exhibition collector we knew of, looking for additions to our list. Mike covered the Midlands and I did the South.
The help we received from collectors amazed and encouraged us in our efforts. I remember at the time one of our members in America Professor Burton Benedict sent over photo-copies of his entire B.E.E. collection. On another occasion Mike and I visited a Wembley exhibition and topographical collector Lyn Lane who lived in the Wembley area, after first phoning her to see if we could visit her. At the end of our visit we asked if it would be possible to borrow some of her post cards to photograph and she willingly let us take 28 trade and advertising B. E. E. post cards from her collection. Apart from that one phone call to Lyn we were two complete strangers. Another Sussex collector who had a huge collection loaned us all his albums, delivering them one day and collecting them the next day giving us time to photograph scarce cards to add to our records.
One of our early stumbling blocks was the difficulty of finding out anything about the postcards issued by the Falkland Islands Court at Wembley. This is the story of our researches into this very elusive set of post cards. At that time we knew of only one English collector who owned one single copy of a Falkland Islands Court Post Card.
In 1990 Mike had started corresponding with an American collector Henry R. Heburn who was the author of the standard work ‘Postcards of the Falkland Islands 1900-1950, and in his book he illustrated the only Falkland Court card he had been able to find. He told us he had visited the Falkland’s three times looking for cards and the one illustrated in his book was the only post card he had ever found. By a coincidence this was another copy of the card owned by the English collector. On one of his trips Heburn had managed to borrow from a Miss Madge Biggs living at Stanley a Falklands 1924 ‘British Empire Exhibition Guide to the Exhibits at the Falkland Islands Court’, which he had copied, and kindly sent another copy of this to Mike. In this 32 page booklet were eight illustrations taken inside the Court of the exhibits on display and one of the pictures and caption was identical to the two known post cards mentioned above. Heburn claimed there were eight post cards published, but for some time we had no evidence that apart from the one card known, that the other illustrations were in fact published as post cards.
My own researches had turned up a member of one of my clubs the Surrey Walking Club, he was Edgar Frost, who was an accountant by trade and his job took him to the Falklands once a year to audit the books of a company out there. He in turn had made friends with Phil Summers who was Deputy Financial Secretary out there in 1975. Phil was a local man born and bred in the Falklands.
Edgar wrote to me, “There were two classes in the Falklands the locals and the ex-patriates and the two did not meet socially. I made the big break through and suddenly Phil and Dot (his wife) asked me to dinner. It was announced on the local radio”. Edgar contacted Phil about my wanting information on Falkland postcards and in a letter to Edgar, Phil writes “Reference your request about the postcards of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 I am sure that it will be almost impossible to obtain the cards after such a long time. I cannot remember having ever seen any.
However as you mention postcards, we do have a volume of the ‘F. I. Magazine and Church Paper’ of 1925 which has the postcards illustrated in it. There appears to have been six. I took the book to work with me yesterday and photocopied them but I am afraid the reproduction is not very good. I also copied the article about the exhibition of which your friend may well be interested. I can remember seeing some of the displays in the old Stanley Museum which unfortunately was completely destroyed in the fire of 1944”.
I have printed this article in full as it shows what the Exhibit was like, as well as being complementary to our research. The six photographs were of such poor quality they would not have reproduced.
The British Empire Exhibition 1924. The Falkland Islands Court
an extract from a 1925 bound volume of the
F. I. Magazine and Church Paper
On the 23rd April 1924, the British Empire Exhibition was officially opened and on that date the Falkland Islands Court was ready to receive visitors.
May 14th. Their Majesties visited the pavilion accompanied by the King and Queen of Roumania.
June 23rd. The King and Queen of Denmark paid an informal visit to the Pavilion.
June 27th. The Right Hon. J. H. Thomas M. P., Secretary of State for the Colonies, visited the Court and spent some time with the Commissioner inquiring about the various exhibits.
July 14th. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited the Court and congratulated the Commissioner on the excellent show made by the Falkland Islands Court.
July 25th. Lord and Lady Olivier visited the Court.
July 30th. His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught visited the Court.
August 21st. Madam H. Middleton visited the Court.
August 23rd. Mr. W. A. Thompson the Commissioner handed over the Court to Mr. W. A. Harding.
The Falkland Islands Court occupied the South West corner in the West Indian and Atlantic Group Pavilion, and was directly under the Clock Tower. The Court was ‘L’ shaped. It had the Barbadoes Court next to it on the East, the Bahamas next on the north. It faced across the South Gangway, the two courts, British Honduras and Jamaica. The Court had the appearance of being divided into three sections, with the Diorama in the middle.
The Diorama formed a complete room in itself, and measured about 15ft by 15ft. It was in the middle of the court, at the extreme end of the West Gangway. The diorama was a model and painting combined. It depicted a scene in the Antarctic outside of Melchion Harbour, in the South Shetlands, and was illuminated by six large electric lamps. When viewed through its prencenium, or large aperture, the effect towards evening was most realistic, with the stuffed penguins standing on what appeared to be ice in the foreground, and the model of a whaler with three whales in the background, surrounded by pieces of floating ice.
A good deal of attention was given to the mounted Sea Lion at the entrance to the section next to the Bahamas Court, at the extreme end of the South Gangway, to the West of the diorama. That section of the court to the West of the diorama was devoted to exhibits connected with the Whaling Industry in the Dependencies. It contained specimens of the different grades of whale and seal oil, of ambergris and of baleen or whalebone. There were several models of whale-catching steamers and a model of the modern harpoon-gun. Also the various implements employed at the present date, in carrying on this industry, together with a short length of whale line and fore-runner. The enlarged photographs and illuminated transparencies also assisted to illustrate Whaling in the South Polar Seas.
The Eastern Section of the court which ran parallel with the South Gangway, and was between the diorama and Barbadoes. had a most striking model of a horse on which was exhibited a set of horse gear, made locally from raw hide, by Mr. J. McGill. It was the model horse which drew the attention of many a visitor to the court from the Centre Gangway. Next to the model horse, in the front of this section, in a large glass case was exhibited a model of Stanley Harbour in plastic relief, shewing the positions of the British and German Squadrons on the morning of the 8th December, 1914.
In the same section and next in front of the model of Stanley Harbour, there was a glass showcase containing a necklace, bracelet and earrings of Falkland Islands pebbles, set in gold; specimens of bone work, in the shape of walking stick and riding whips, a set of nine Sperm Whale teeth, also eggs of the Albatross, Molly Hawk, Giant Petrel, as well as King and Gentoo Penguin eggs. In this section there was also a model of “S.S. Discovery” in 1909 when she sailed in at Port Stanley, under the command of Captain R. F. Scott in connection with the British Antarctic Expedition.
On the partition between the diorama and this section of the court, there were the five Fur Seal Skins, showing the different stages of preparation, from the raw skin, ‘washed and dried’, to the finished skin, ‘dressed and dried’ and ready to be made up by the furrier. With these seal fur skins, a ‘Motor Rug’ made from the finished skins was also exhibited. Hanging from the centre of the court was a cast of Commersons’s Dolphin, which is found in the seas about Cape Horn.
On the dais at the back of this section of the court, there were specimens of selected fleeces exhibited in a showcase, with other fleeces by the side thereof together dressed and cleaned sheepskins. Also at the dais at the back of the court, a model of the Falkland Islands Battle Memorial was on view and stood on the case containing the model of the local coasting steamer ‘Falkland’.
Many excellent specimens of the different kinds of penguins were exhibited in this section of the court, the most prominent being the Emperor Penguin and the King Penguin. The Eastern Wall of this section of the court was practically covered by an enlarged South Polar Chart and the South Wall was similarly covered by enlarged charts of the Falklands Islands, the Dependencies and South Georgia.
We are greatly indebted to the Hon. W. A. Thompson for his kindness in enabling us to produce in this issue photographs illustrative of exhibits in the Falkland Islands Court in the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.
This did not take us much further forward as the origin of the six pictures mentioned in the last paragraph above are named as photographs and not postcards, although they were six of the eight illustrations in the Wembley Guide. We wanted proof that a set of either six or eight postcards were published, as apart from the two copies of the diorama, in nearly 70 years not a single post card had been recorded.
Another source of information whose name I unfortunately have not kept, told us that all the exhibits from the exhibition were taken back to the Falklands and put on display in the museum. The unsold postcards from the exhibition were sold in the museum at 1d each. He had been employed in the Falklands and remembered seeing postcards in the museum before it burned down. Unfortunately he could not remember details as he had no interest in postcards.
Then in 1991 I think it was, Nancy and I went to the York Two Day Postcard Fair. On the last day we had finished early and Nancy decided to go through Jack Stasiac’s cards. This was a dealer who we did not regularly patronise in those days, as from Nancy’s point of view it meant wading through about four or five feet of Kent cards as Jack then, as now, does not separate his counties into towns. While we were at his stand I decided to look at his exhibition cards, and there at £15 each were two Falkland Island Court cards. I don’t think I have ever been so excited over a postcard purchase in my life. The titles were ‘View of the Eastern Part of the Court as seen from the Western Gangway’ and ‘Visit of Their Majesties to the Falkland Islands Court on the 14th May, 1924, with the King and Queen of Roumania’.
When we got home I checked the two cards with the illustrations in the copy of the Wembley Exhibition Guide that Heburn had sent us, they were identical, even to the titles on the cards although they were in a different font to the captions under the pictures in the booklet. This established that the illustrations in the Guide book were from the photographs which were reproduced as post cards. Now we knew that three of the illustrations were published as post cards we took the decision that all eight illustrations were also published as post cards.
When our book was published in 1993 we were able to say that five out of the eight cards were known to exist. Today both Mike and I have six of the cards but we do not have a complete set, even between us, and I doubt very much if anyone has a complete set of eight cards.
In February 2004 a dealer acquired three Falklands Court cards and put them on E-bay where they all went to the same buyer for £92, £127.50 and £162.50. Later in October 2005 a collector friend obtained five of these cards paying £40.00 each this being a third over the current catalogue valuation of £30.00. He let me have three of them, very generously at what he paid for them and put the other two on E-bay where they failed to reach their previous heights and sold for £35.00 and £38.00 so he lost out on the deal. It is known that a collector in the Falklands is trying to complete a set but so far I believe he is still one card short, the Diorama.
Titles of the Post Cards
1 View of Back of Western Part of Court
2 View of Back of Court looking East
3 View of the Eastern Part of Court as seen from the Western Gangway
4 View of Eastern Part of Court as seen from the Centre Gangway of the Pavilion
5 Diorama, as seen from the Western Gangway, showing Melchion Harbour in the South Shetlands (the correct spelling is Melchior and it is not in the South Shetlands but in Graham Land)
6 Visit of Their Majesties to the Falkland Islands Court on the 14th May, 1924, with the King and Queen of Roumania
7 View of Back of Court looking West Vertical left.
8 View of Western Part of Court as seen from the South Gangway Vertical
Illustrations No. 5 and 8 are rather poor as they are taken from the Guide to the Falkland Islands Court, No. 5 is poor from a scanned image and No. 8 the title illustrated from the Guide is in a different font to the published post card. The numbers used are my reference numbers as the cards are not numbered.
This is copied from the official guide to the Falkland Islands Court. Since it is unlikely that any reader has ever seen a copy, as the guide must be even rarer than the post cards. It is of interest as it shows what a visitor would have seen if he could put the clock back and visit the Court at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924.
© Exhibition Study Group 2009