Unknown "Green Back" Publisher

One of the big problems in researching comic post cards is that many were published with little or no information on the artist, the publisher or the printer and do not have any distinguishing logo or series name. This makes attributing such cards to a specific artist very difficult. In the case of "F S" the early cards, published by the London View Company Ltd, often appeared with different backs, some with a publisher name and some without. After the London View Company closed H. Vertigen continued to publish "F S" cards. but without a signature and often with two versions of the back, one of which omitted the name of any publisher. Until 1916 cards which were clearly by "F S" (but without signatures) with no indication of the publisher, along with other cards, some of which looked as is they might also have been by "F S."

 

This page explored 6 groups of "green backed" cards, with approximate dates,  which I have identified as  Lined Address (1908/9), Working Space II (1909/10), Working Space Dot (1910/11), Number Only [PC. I] (1913), Number Only [PC II] (1914) and Entirely British (1916).

 

The analysis consists of three parts:

  • Chains of reprinted cards, often starting with a card known to be by "F S". This process records cards in earlier groups being reprinted in later groups..

  • The origins of cards which are associated with each group is considered in details.

  • The assessment concludes that Spurgin must have co-operated in the production of the "green backed" cards and was probably the artist responsible for the majority of the cards published for the first time as "Green backed" cards. This includes a number of distinctive sets not previously attributed to Fred Spurgin.

Prior link to "F S"
Presenting a lady at Court  [The Law Set]
   

Signed "F S"  Early Saxony

 

Lined Address

 

Writing Space II

Note - This set is the only one with the Early Saxony back which was reprinted in this way

  Many Happy Returns  [Birthday Greetings Set]

   

Signed "F S"   Inland Germany

 

Lined Address

  Writing Space II

Note - The change of title

It is very breezy down here

 

   
Signed "F S"   No Logo back  

Lined Address

  [PC. I]  

 [PC II]

This card - which may be associated with the Down Here set, has a very complex publishing history, including versions redrawn by Donald McGill and Comicus. The ones reproduced here are the most relevant to the matters discussed on this page.

For more information see It is very Breezy

Not a Word to the Wife

 

Note that the the card has been redrawn.

 
Signed "F S"  F S Comic        426   [PC. I]

Do you want a bed warmer Sir?

 

 

 

Signed "F S"

 

Writing Space dot

 

 [PC. I]

 

918 Entirely British

Fleas   [Fleas Set]
   
 (Veritgen)   Writing Saxony  

Writing Space II

  695 [PC II]

Why Lucy did not get the letter

   

(Vertigen) 6074  Series 607x

 

Writing Space dot

 

668  [PC II]

Lucky Washee Man

   

Signed "F S"Series 100x back

 

534  [PC. I]

  147   [PC II]

Advice to Ladies about to be married  [Advice to ... Set]

       

Signed "F S"  Late Saxony

  1009  Crown Series   Writing Space II    

Also backs for the USA market

   
Oh George, I think this place is Ripping
   

Crown Publishing

 

Writing Space dot

 

Writing Space dot  (with Xmas message)

Don't Worry!

I have Millions at the back of me!

 

Signed "Dauber"  Satire Series

 

412  [PC. I]

No known prior link to "F S"
How they go home
 

Lined Address

   Writing Space II

I saw these last night - Are they yours?

        ?

Writing Space II

 

[Needs investigating]

 

[PC. I]

 

666  [PC II]

   

A soldier will follow his 'general' anywhere

[The General set]

 

The earlier version of this set was printed (probably in Germany) in early 1914, and an updated version issued during the war, printed in Great Britain, with the soldiers uniforms changed to khaki.

 
229  [PC II]     825  Entirely British
[Adam & Eve Set]
 

From one of two sets of 6 cards

 

 
704  [PC II]       916  Entirely British

[Society Gossip Set]

 

From a set of 6 cards

 
[PC. I]       904  Entirely British
Analysis by back type

Lined Address

1908/9 - Printed in @@@@@@

This group involved reprints of three "F S" sets ("The Summer Girl," "Barmaids," and "Down Here," which were "in press" when the London View Co Ltd collapsed. Two other "F S" sets may have been have sent to the printer for reprinting  - "The Law" and "Birthday Greetings" - the latter with new titles. The "Girls I didn't Marry" by E W may have also been submitted for printed by the London View Co Ltd (as UK agent for the printer) on behalf of H. Vertigen. It is possible that the art work for all the cards with this back was with the German printer at the time (August 1907) when the London View Co. Ltd went out of business in August 1907.

Unsigned reprint of "The Law"

(by "F S")

 

Unsigned reprint of "Girls I didn't Marry"

(by Ernest Edward Wise)

 

Unsigned, possibly new printing?

Might well be "F S"??

Writing Space II

1909/10 Printed in  Saxony

In addition to reprinting some Lined Address cards it also reprints three of the "F S" sets ("Mistakes will occur,"  "Take a friend's advice" and "Who said liar?") which were published in England as the "Popular series" and also by the short-lived Southwick company in New York not long after the London View Co Ltd had folded. Other cards are reprints of cards believed to be by "F S" (such as the Fleas series) and published by Vertigen (which went out of business 1909/10). There was also cards which were not by "F S" ("The Typist") linked to Vertigen and the Early Saxony printer.  There are many other single cards (some linked to Vertigen) which are in the "F S" style.

Reprints of "Mistakes will occur"

 

The Fleas set - linked to Vertigen

 

Unsigned, possibly new printing?

Might be "F S"??

Writing Space dot

1910/11   Printed in Germany

Perhaps it is not surprising, in view of the preceding history, that, shortly after the Crown Publishing Company disappeared from St Albans, associated sets , such as  "Advice to Men in Love ," "Breach of Promise" and "Every Picture tells a Story" started to be reprinted with this back, together with many other similar style un-setted cards which could have been prepared by "F S" and not used.

   

Unsigned, possibly new printing?

Might be "F S"??

Number Only [PC. I]

1913/4 - Some cards printed in Germany

In addition to rolling over cards printed with the earlier backs, at least one card by "Dauber" (Fred Spurgin) was reprinted, after the firm Watkins and Krake had broken up. The number of new (i.e. not previously published cards) has increased and shows greater variety - and some, showing harem dresses could reflect the interest in harem dresses shown in Inter Art cards being produced by Fred Spurgin. There is evidence of completely new sets such as "Adam & Eve [1]" and "Society Gossip"..

 

Crown series expanded to form "Advice to Men in Love" series

"Dauber" card (by Fred Spurgin)

   

Unsigned, possibly new printing?

Might be "F S"??

Compare Fred Spurgin's "Harem" cards

 

 

 

 

 Possible new series by "F S" (Fred Spurgin)

 

 
 

Note distinctive use of ribbon to split picture into before/after halves

 

 

Number Only [PC II]

Early 1914

There is no additional "F S" sources (although one card appears signed "F S") and it is clear that the output includes many new series of original cards - such as "Adam & Eve [2]," "Beside the Sea-Side," "Doctor's Orders," "Everybody's doing it," "Get Married," "I hear you are," "In our Office," "Sea-side  Weather," "The Nut" and "When you are." There is no clear indication of any new artist becoming involved. One set, Policemen Comics, was printed on a different back (but with the same numbers) and sold by the East London Printing Co. and several other cards had a similar variation in the back.
 

Signed "F S" - Every picture tells a story

 

The General - probably "F S" series

 
 

Possible new series by "F S" (Fred Spurgin)

 

 

Entirely British

1915/16

The number of cards being reprinted from earlier years is lower than during the previous stages and it may even be that most of the master art work was held with a printer in Germany and were "lost" due to the war. There is also no evidence for further reprinting of cards from companies which had gone out of business. Another change was the introduction of signed cards by a new artist, "F P".

What seems clear is that none of the cards published by this "unknown" company were republished after the war, suggesting that the company may have stopped operating at some time during the war period.

 

The General updated with WW1 uniform

 

 

Possible new sets by "F S" (Fred Spurgin)

 
  Only early "F S" card still being reprinted    

Assessment

It is very difficult  to understand what was going on unless Fred Spurgin was fully aware of what the "unknown" company was doing. The early stages suggest that the de facto business of the company was to reprint popular "F S" cards in cases where the original publisher had gone out of business! While two other artists were caught up at the beginning, they were involved in the same business failures. Most significantly there is no evidence that the company ever acquired and republished cards from any company failures which did not involve a publisher that also published cards produced by Fred Spurgin under one name or another. Initially the failures could have involved the artwork for sets that had not been converted into post cards at the time of the collapse, and this could explain some of the first time publications in the early years of the company.

Obviously the supply of rescued "F S" art work from the failure of publishing companies was limited - and what better to increase the range of cards on offer than to get "F S" to produce complete new cards in an extension of the "F S" style. Until the cards by "F P" produced circa 1916 with the Entirely British backs there is no obvious evidence of a new artist being introduced by the company, which seems to have closed shortly afterwards.

What is unclear from other areas is the nature of Fred Spurgin's commercial arrangements with the publishers and printers involved in his successes. It is likely that the early "Fred Stone" cards were submitted by Spurgin to the publishers on a freelance basis as complete sets. The major contract involving the Early Saxony backs and the London View Company Ltd were almost certainly on a more formal basis, and when the London View Company folded Spurgin realised that he had no control on what happened to his art work if he had sold all rights to the publisher.. Did this somewhat mysterious company start with an agreement between Spurgin and the German printer about art work (possibly not paid for) which had ended up in Germany following the closure of the UK publisher? From this point on Spurgin may well have worked to ensure that he kept some control of the art work, possibly working with a printer, rather that outright selling the art work to the publisher named on the cards. A similar arrangement with Delittle Fenwick & Co may explain the Spurgin cards with DEFCO backs.

If the rather strange company involved arrangements with a German printer the war would have broken the link - and it would only be possible to reprint cards where the art work was still in England in the Entirely British cards. In addition by 1916 Spurgin would be moving to work with his brother in the Art & Humour Co - and concentrated on the "better class" end of the market, rather than the brasher end represented by continuing the "F S" style approach.

There is an important conclusion if this assessment is correct. It raises the possibility that Spurgin produced perhaps a thousand unsigned "green back" comic post cards between 1908 and 1916, which had previously not been recognised as his work.