The Black List

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Bob Teevan

The Black List

As you can see, this embossed postcard features monkeys and a pig. It is unsigned but is believed to be the work of the French postcard artist Maurice Boulanger. Albeit Boulanger appears to have been active in 1903 with Kunzli Frères, Paris and in 1904, with Raphael Tuck & Sons, very little is known of him. His work for Tuck (some 72 cards) all feature cats, none of which are signed, and the same is true of Kunzli Frères cards.

Currently there is a small number of supposed Boulanger cards all of which feature monkeys and pigs. They are not to everyone’s taste, but they are amusing. The title was the deciding factor in its purchase.

The three monkeys (and the one watching from the window is too, I bet) are having a bit of fun with the pig in the same way that street thugs torment passers-by of other genres. They have tied a newspaper to the pig’s tail. How willing a pig would be to having this newspaper tied to his tail is debatable, but the circumstances may be explained by the French title of the set that reads Vins et Liqueurs, or in English, Wines and Liquors. This suggests that the pig has gone beyond its limit of alcoholic drink and the monkeys are having fun at the expense of the drunk pig.

It certainly is not meant to be a funny card but there is always some degree of humor when cruelty rears its ugliness in whatever game is played. But alas, more humor comes to light in lieu of the title, A Candidate for the B_ L_.

A considered opinion is that this is a reprint of a Kunzli card that was intended for sale in the British market. In France, this card was marketed circa 1904. On the UK version, there is a clue on the reverse as to its vintage in that a ½d postage stamp was used which would indicate that it can quite accurately be dated to the same era.

It seems that the title comes from the caption, which can easily be guessed to be, A Candidate for the Black List. Black List is a term first introduced to Britain as a consequence of the 1902 Licensing Act, which included a section that created a “prohibition of sale of liquor to persons declared to be habitual drunkards” and introduced penalties to owners of licensed premises who sold alcohol to the habitual drunks. The Black Lists resulted.

[“Black List” is yet another example of George Bernard Shaw’s remark on how Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language. In the UK, Black List is the preferred use of the term. In America, “blacklist” is used, as is blackbird, blackboard, blackjack, blackmail, etc.]

There is no assurance as to how widely spread Black Lists were, although there is this: In order to enforce the 1902 Sale of Liquor to Habitual Drunkard’s Licensing Act, the Watch Committee of the City of Birmingham provided licensed liquor sellers and clubs with photos and descriptions of people deemed “habitual drunkards,” who were not to be sold liquor. The 82 persons in the book were convicted of drunkenness between 1903 and 1906 in the Birmingham City Police Court.

The following is from the Leominster News and North West Herefordshire & Radnorshire Advertiser of January 2, 1903. THE BLACK LIST … the “black list” clause. The section creates an alternative or additional procedure for dealing with persons who are found to be habitual drunkards. The court, instead of sending the drunkard to an inebriates’ retreat, will be empowered to “black list ” him, and it will then be made an offence for any person while on the black list to obtain intoxicating liquors, and for any person holding a license or any person supplying intoxicating liquor on a registered club, to supply him with such liquor. The condition under which the court may black list a person is where upon the conviction of the offender the court is satisfied that an order of detention could be made under Section 1 or Section 2 of the Inebriates Act 1898.”

Hence, the habitual drunk would be unable to get a drink in any pub in the town.

And, from the Dundee Courier of October 20, 1904, this caught my eye, THE BLACK LIST. St Andrews has had to resort to the black list. The victim is John Allan, a laborer, whose street entertainments will now be discontinued. The indictment against John was certainly formidable enough to justify the action of the Magistrate. It is to be hoped the expedient will be found to work successfully at Andrews. It cannot be said, however, that the black-listing clause of the Licensing Act has been particularly effective. It is very rarely applied and does not appear to be popular with local authorities. It seems ridiculous to make a scapegoat here and there. Judging by the behavior of crowds in populous centers on Saturday nights neither ten o’clock closing nor blacklisting has had much effect in reducing inebriation. Restrictive measures have not as yet, unfortunately, proved of much value. Perhaps black-listing has not been carried out to a sufficiently large extent to make it effective. The qualification test, however, is a little too severe for ordinary “drouths” to have any chance of getting placed on the list and being saved from the infliction of having to absorb an inordinate quantity of liquor.”


Other postcards referring to Black Lists are rare, but a plethora of comics are available at every postcard show or fair poking fun at drunks, sots, and errant husbands. Comic signed-artists and illustrators like C. Ryan, Bob Petley and Donald McGill have all tried their hand at making us laugh at those who have had too many sips.

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The use of photographs to identify drunkards suggests the Black List was a precursor of today’s facial recognition software.

Here’s a card by Phil May on the subject. During the last year of his life (he died of liver cirrhosis in 1903) Phil’s wife and friends banded together to get him home safely during his nightly pub crawls- precisely because of the New Licensing Act.

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