Postcards are carriers of text, and correspondence that bring images across boundaries of class, gender, nationality, and race. Through analyzing these pieces of visual culture, the audience confronts deep-seated prejudices, the way they visually function, and the manner employed in reconstructing their history.
This collection was originally created by Robert Sauber in 1898 and titled “Familiar Figures of London” features a series of 12 lithographs prints. Between 1906 and 1909, they were reproduced by the The Pictorial Stationery Co., Ltd. in their Peacock "pictorette" Post Card Series, and distributed in London, England.
The overwhelming majority of these compilations are nostalgic in tone and intent. They reflect anxiety about the accelerating rate of social and cultural change beginning in the late nineteenth century.
Figure 1 features a Postman delivering mail to a maid. Much like postal service contemporaneously, the postal service in the Victorian Period required postmen to walk great lengths. The postman outfit featured a military style frock coat and waistcoat with a red collar. This style was to be constant until 1910.
Figure 2 features a policeman talking to a maid in London, England. Known as "Bobbies", modern policeman were relatively new to England, and were established in 1856. Policing formed after the industrial revolution as a result of increased pressure on society and violence.
Figure 3 features a girl offering a flower to a gentleman outside of Westminster Abbey. Two classes of flower girls has been noted. The first, considered a "better class" of flower girls, worked very hard in wealthier areas. The second, were women who dressed coquettishly and took to the street later in the night.
Figure 4 features a Shoe-black blackening a gentlemen's shoes near the Thames River. Shoe blacks were children who cleaned boots and shoes for a living. This shoe shiner was most likely from the London Shoe-Black Brigade, who wore colored jackets based on the location they would occupy.
Figure 5 features a street vendor selling hot potatoes. They sold their food from mobile tin boxes that had a fire at the bottom to keep the potatoes hot. Also called "baked taties" they were "disabled tradesmen and laborers". Hot potatoes were sold seasonally and people would buy these to keep their hands warm.
Figure 6 features a crossing sweeper asking for gratuity from a lady near Trafalgar Square. Street sweepers would clear a path ahead of a person in exchange for money. Typically it was a low class child. Many considered them to be "one of those occupations resorted to as an excuse for begging" and it was punished with imprisonment.
Figure 7 features a Hansom cab driver directing his carriage near Charing Cross Roundabout. The driver, seated behind, can control the closely situated doors, and prevent passengers from leaving without paying. It was the most popular form of public transportation available during the era.
Figure 8 shows two ladies dancing to a street grinder play his barrel organ. Victorian street music represented a "festive disruption" from middle class musical preferences. Street performers were considered disgraceful, and a representation of lower classes.
Figure 9 shows "costermongers" on an animal drawn cart, selling fruits and vegetables. costers were known for their bright and colorful clothing, heavy use of slang, and negative sentiments towards police officers.
Figure 10 features a newspaper boy saying "extra extra, read all about it" referencing the daily paper. Located at the Corner of Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, this dynamic lithograph connotates child labor including newspaper boys and flower girls. Additionally featured is the statue of Eros which received a lot of controversy due its nude nature.
Figure 11 features a British Soldier and lady and their child walking around Hyde Park. Historically Hyde Park, operates as a site for middle and upper classes to see and be seen. An afternoon stroll like such also shows the growing prevalence of leisure time activities in daily life.
Figure 12 features a bus driver directing an Omnibus, a horse drawn carriage that revolutionized transportation, yet still had some downsides. One account notes that: "Here we are ... in all six and twenty sweating citizens, jammed, crammed and squeezed into each other like so many peas in a pod..."