Bow Wow

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Bob Teevan

Bow Wow

This sing-a-song postcard is part of a Popular Songs Illustrated series published by William Lyon of Glasgow. The evidence of this is the set of initials (LG) within a quartered shield, and the reference to the “Premier Series” inscription in the lower-left corner.

William Lyon founded his company when he was only 23 years old. It prospered, and by 1885, there was the shop at 385 Sauchiehall Street, a printing works nearby, and a retail branch in the Argyll Arcade. The company’s most popular products were the Popular Songs Illustrated and Popular Novels Illustrated postcards.

George Fyffe Christie (born, Glasgow 1878) was a freelance commercial artist who drew humorous postcards in the undivided back era. He had a long career during which he also wrote and illustrated children’s books. He was living in Bushey, Hertfordshire when he met and married Ethel, his wife, and in 1918 when their son, Fyffe Christie, was born. Around 1930 Ethel died and the family moved back to Glasgow’s Pollokshields district.

Christie had some commercial success with his creation of the cartoon strip Scottikin O’ the Bulletin in the popular Glasgow newspaper The Bulletin, but he struggled financially through the years of the recession and discouraged his son’s artistic ambitions. He later worked for the American-style comics published in Scotland by Cartoon Art Productions, including Razzle-Dazzle (1946-47) and G-Boy Comics (1947).

The title of the card is the song lyrics, All through riding on a motor. The words are credited to Vesta Victoria. I have found a recording of Vesta Victoria performing the song Riding on a Motor Car but have yet to find a copy of the lyrics.

The motor car would have been a recent invention in 1903 and it is easy to suspect that accidents were frequent at that time. I think the illustration shows the result of one such accident with the first two characters having torn clothes and missing shoes while the third character drags what’s left of the car behind him.

Vesta Victoria was born with the name Victoria Lawrence on November 26, 1873. Her parents, Joe and Emma were themselves entertainers. Victoria, billed as “Baby Victoria,” made her stage debut at age six weeks in one of her father’s sketches.

She was an English music hall singer and comedian. Her fame came from her performances of songs like Waiting at the Church and Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow Wow, both of which were written especially for her. Vesta’s comic laments delivered in deadpan style were also popular in the United States. It’s been reported that she was once one of the most successful British entertainers in America.

At her first London appearance in 1883, she was “Little Victoria.” Though Yorkshire-born, Vesta assumed a Cockney stage persona. Her singing career escalated in 1892 when the “Bow Wow” song became a huge hit. She sang it first at the South London Palace, a music hall in Lambeth, and to high success on her first trip to the United States when she appeared for eight weeks at Tony Pastor’s theatre in New York City.

Vesta married twice and had a daughter with each husband. First, she married music hall manager Frederick Wallace McAvoy. It lasted ten years. They had a daughter, Irene. Their marriage ended in divorce because McAvoy was a cruel, abusive, and adulterous husband.

In 1912, Vesta announced in New York that she was married to William Terry. In 1913, the couple had a daughter, Iris. But the 1912 “marriage” may have been invented, as English records show that Vesta and William Terry were married in Wandsworth in 1920. In any event, the marriage ended in 1926, when Vesta filed for divorce on the grounds of “Ill-usage and association with other women.”

“One of the most highly paid vaudeville stars, Vesta bought a considerable amount of property in America. By the 1920s, her wealth was estimated to be about £3.25 million.

She retired after World War One but re-recorded many of her hits in 1931 in a series of Old-Time Medleys and performed at the Royal Variety Show of 1932. She also appeared in a number of 1930s films. Unlike younger music hall contemporaries Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, Victoria remained principally a live performer in England instead of becoming a full-time film performer in the states.

Vesta died of breast cancer in Hampstead, north London, on April 7, 1951. She did not leave a will, and at probate her estate was valued at only £15,000. The large fortune she amassed by the 1920s is thought to have been lost in the interim partly to the scheming of handsome young men, and partly as a result of the news-making robbery of her famous jewelry collection.”

The comment about a robbery prompted some research in the newspaper archives. Among the pages of the Music Hall and Theatre Review of June 21, 1907: “Vesta Victoria has recovered 104 dollars from a New York hotel in respect of jewelry stolen from her room.”

And, from the Leominster News and North West Herefordshire & Radnorshire Advertiser of November 12, 1909: “MISS VESTA VICTORIA ROBBED AT THE SHOW. While the Lord Mayor’s procession was passing the Charing Cross end of the Strand on Tuesday afternoon, Miss Vesta Victoria, the well-known music-hall artist, lost her pearl and diamond necklace, which she values at £10,000. It was cleverly stolen from her in the crowd. The Scotland Yard authorities were at once notified of the theft, and a description of the missing jewelry was at once circulated. Miss Victoria, greatly distressed at her loss, told a press representative on Tuesday night how she was victimized. She said that shortly before the time the procession was due to pass, she was making her way from the Tube station to join some friends who had seats to view the procession in the Strand. Outside the post office at 447 Strand, opposite the South-Eastern railway station, she was hemmed in by the crowd and could not get out. As the procession came along there was a lot of pushing, and directly it had passed she found that someone had deftly removed her necklace. Miss Victoria described the ornament as being composed of three separate rows of fine pearls, one longer than the others, fastened with a valuable oblong-shaped clasp, set with diamonds. It was one of her prettiest ornaments. She bought it when on tour in America, and unfortunately, it was not insured.”

This is the third time my house has been broken into. The last time was about ten or more years ago, when I was living in Clapham Park, jewelry worth £21,000 was stolen then, and none was ever recovered.”

And the list continues. Every six to ten years, there was another robbery.

What an unlucky or careless(?) woman. You do realize that all these robberies could have been prevented if only Vesta Victoria’s Daddy had listened to her and bought her a “Bow Wow.”

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We all need a Bow-wow. Enjoyed reading about Vintage postcards, thanks.

Vesta Victoria’s estimated maximum wealth of 3.25 million pounds would equate to about 146 million pounds today.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bob Kozak

Past Article

Clarissa Ferraris


In the modern world that expects instant delivery to your home or your phone of everything from paprika and ponchos and the news on politics, the economy, and the weather, it seems silly to have a week devoted to something that must travel through the mail. Nevertheless, National Postcard Week keeps collectors busy from year to year making new cards. We toast the first week in May. Enjoy.

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