Monday, 6 June 2011

Sunday Illustrated, Gillette, Cafe, and Iron Jelloids; Dalston

This is a real palimpsest and it took me a bit of time to figure out which paper was advertised there. Yet after a close look it all became clear.

The sign for the paper reads:
Picture Paper
24 Pages 2d

There was more text advertising this 1920s publication, but it is hidden by the blue background for Gillette. The Sunday Illustrated was one of several newspapers and magazines founded by Horatio Bottomley, MP for South Hackney. Followers of this blog may remember the name of this journalist, politician, and swindler from a post about the National News and Sunday Evening. Actually the former, having been a failure, was revamped and relaunched in July 1921 as the Sunday Illustrated. As part of the launching campaign, Bottomley convinced Silvanus Vivian, the Registrar General, to allow the amendment slip of the delayed 1921 census to carry an advert for his new weekly paper. The census had been planned for April 24 but was postponed to June because it was feared a coal dispute and the threat of a strike by railway workers would invalidate the results. Instead of reprinting 11.5 million forms, the Registrar General printed small slips with the new date at a cost of £2,000. Although this was not a large sum, it was decided to offset it by allowing an advertising agency to sell the space available on the back of the slip. In early 1921 Bottomley had already offered £100,000 to have an advert for his papers printed on the original census forms but that had been rejected. In May 1921 though, Bottomley's offer of £900 per million slip was accepted. As one can imagine, the presence of an advert on official material raised a few eyebrows and questions. In Parliament, some MPs argued people could mistake the slips for an advertisement and throw the forms straight into the rubbish bin. Others argued this could be seen as official endorsement by the government. When some of the enumerators refused to distribute for conscientious reasons the contentious slip carrying the advert for the forthcoming Sunday Illustrated, Vivian had to allow them to cross the date and write the new one instead on the original form. As a result the advertising agency that had bought the space from the Register General Office refused to pay and was sued by the Crown, while Bottomley also sued the said agency. Yet far more damaging for the Registrar General was the association with Bottomley, a crook and multiple bankrupt who was about to spend five years in jail for fraud, having sold just after the war Treasury's £5 Victory Bonds at a discounted price of £1 to readers of the vulgar and populist John Bull, another of his magazines. Many people subscribed but of course there were no bonds! This was the only time advertising was allowed on census material.

The other main ad on this wall, clearly recognizable with its typical blue background, was for Gillette. It reads:
British Made
Razor Blades

Written vertically on the right side and equally well-preserved is the word
Why was such a narrow space used on such a large wall? Cost may have been a reason.

The different ghost signs mentioned above don't account for all the words visible on this wall. One of the other products promoted here was the sub-carbonate of iron and jujube mass tablets Iron Jelloids. Although it is very difficult to see "Iron Jelloids" written there, part of the text of their typical adverts can still be read:
Re[liable] Tonic
Of All Chemists

A few more letters that don't go with the Iron Jelloids advert can be seen here and there, suggesting yet another ghost sign, but this one will remain a mystery.

Location: Kingsland Road / Pictures taken on: 01/04/2008

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