June 7, 2021

Bob Teevan

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match.”

There is a simple unused postcard in my collection that has an appealing image. I thought it would be a quick bit of researching and posting enabling me to go off and enjoy the sunshine. It didn’t turn out to be. I kept uncovering information that had me asking more questions and digging deeper.

Published by Bamforth & Co. Ltd of Holmfirth, England, it is part of the Witty Comic series. Albeit the card is unused and therefore undated, the card number (732) leads me to believe that it was published in the early 1920s. I am no authority on fashion although the headgear of the woman in the illustration supports this date.

You can read that the title is “I can’t send you matches, but here’s a box with some striking contents!”

I found the slogan amusing and thought it nothing more than a simple pun on the word striking. The image appeals for its simplicity and the coy look on the lady’s face. The artist is unnamed although, certainly it is someone skilled. I understand that the publishers used only four or five artists during the years between 1912 and the 1970s. Perhaps a reader can name the artist.

I tried to date the card by searching for England’s Glory on a well-known auction site. I thought the name on the box was another pun type reference to the beauty of the young lady, but I learned that this was not a generic box but an actual match brand.

The image on the face of the box is a naval vessel bordered by the words Moreland Gloucester. I also read that in 1913, Bryant & May took over the Gloucester match maker S. J. Moreland and Sons, who made and sold matches under the trade name England’s Glory.

I am now asking myself whether this is purely a comic card or whether it was intended as an advertising card? I look again at the young lady in the illustration and while I see a modern woman I wonder if she is fashionably dressed or whether she is representative of a factory employee wearing a burgundy and yellow overall. Is she in fact a matchmaker employed by Bryant & May?

I have never really understood the interests of phillumenists. I’m sure however, that a matchbox or matchbook collector would be equally bemused by my interest in postcards.

What I didn’t know until only this morning was that in the same way cigarette smokers were enticed to collect cigarette cards, purchasers of England’s Glory matches were encouraged to save the pictures on the boxes. I have no idea how extensive this practice was although I have seen an England’s Glory box with an image of an aircraft. Also, there is a set of six boxes with individual jokes which are perhaps more commonly seen in Christmas crackers.

The England’s Glory brand was a popular match and there are numerous newspaper adverts. The following is from the Shields Daily News, 17 June 1898.

“ENGLAND’S GLORY MATCHES. Save the Dozen Wrappers & send for particulars of Prizes to S. J. Moreland & Sons, England Glory Match Works, Gloucester.” The above brand of matches are made entirely by British Labour, and the public by buying them are helping to find employment for their own countrymen.

This advert suggests that not only box images were used to promote sales, but that S. J. Moreland & Sons were also using token collecting and prizes to encourage brand loyalty.

On the subject of loyalty, I was surprised how patriotic the advert was in respect to British labor, although the above advert pales into insignificance when compared with a full-page advert in Pearson’s Weekly, 26 October 1912. It is not possible to recreate the impact the advert has with its use of large block lettering although the following are the key points.

England Expects Every Man and Woman
This Day to do His and Her Duty,
and
Support British Industries and British Labour.
USE ENGLAND’S GLORY MATCHES
Every Match in the Box a Good One! No Striking a Dozen to Get a Light!
Made by British Workers and finds wages for England’s Husbands, Brothers, and Sons. Works: GLOUCESTER.

Ironically, England’s Glory matches are still manufactured today although following the demise of Bryant & Mays in the 1980s the match has been manufactured in Sweden by Sweden Match. Old Mr. Moreland must be spinning in his grave.

While not directly relating to England’s Glory matches the following short line in the Falkirk Herald, 27 May 1916, caused me amusement as I wondered if panic buying had hit the 1916 housewife in a similar fashion to that of 2020 when the great ‘Toilet Roll’ panic was with us.

We have it on good authority that the price of matches has again to undergo a lofty flight, and housewives would do well to secure least “a dozen” before they commence their rise.

The reference above to “No Striking a Dozen to Get a Light” was a reference to the type of match the England’s Glory was. It was a match type known as a ‘Lucifer’ – a dubious invention claimed by Sir Isaac Holden. It is suggested that he was getting tired of using flint-and-steel to light his lamps and was interested in the explosive properties of new chemical inventions which he thought might offer an alternative. The young son of a chemist overheard him droning on about this and told his father about it. Soon after the lucifer match was born.

Others claim it was John Walker (or possibly Samuel Jones) who first sold lucifer matches in the 1830s. Whether the truth, by the mid-19th century there was an enormous demand for lucifer matches. The lucifer is well known in popular culture since ‘While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag’ is a line in the World War I marching song Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag.

Popularity, efficiency, and safety don’t always mix and lucifers were well known for being too easy to strike and in the wrong hands were frequently reported as the cause of household fires. Additionally, and far more troubling was the poisonous chemical used in its manufacture.

The matches were cheap and easy to produce and worked by a chemical reaction when the tip was struck. The tip contained white — sometimes called yellow — phosphorus. That is important because phosphorus is highly toxic and what befell the matchmakers was permanent disfigurement and death because of a condition known as phossy-jaw. The phosphorus would attack the lower jaw and could be treated only by removal of the whole bone. If that was not done, they simply died of organ failure, a truly horrific way to die.

Of course, this was an era when there was a hyper-availability of workers and so if one person refused to do a job there was always someone else more desperate. Workers in factories regularly had jobs we would today regard as ridiculously dangerous, and many died. The working lives of the women who worked in the match factories were some of the worst found anywhere.

Also, “Sadly the working classes of 19th century England were typically considered disposable, to be used until they could no longer provide a useful service to the great industrialists, and then thrown away.” Initially this seemed such a callous comment although the link between lucifers and worker’s diseases was made in 1845, it took strike action by match-workers 43 years later to trigger the end of this dangerous manufacturing process.

A simple image on a postcard. A comic pun or an advert. It doesn’t really matter as this card was a doorway to discovery.

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I love this site more than words can express. Over and over again I find delight in not only the images of the postcards, but the words that explain so much about the images, the era the images come from and so much more. Sadly, as many folks that I have as “friends” I can’t seem to generate my enthusiasm for what is a bright spot in my world. Thanks to all those that put this out there. I am grateful from the bottom of my old hardened heart! Oh, and this particular article and images? Top shelf!!!!

Your article about a unique matchbox certainly opened a big door of information !
Very interesting and well written .

PS I remember that marching song because my dad lived in England during that war as a teenager and sang it to me when I was little.

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