Walter Scott - photographer - 1878-1947

Article published in the August/September,1990,
issues of Picture PostCard Monthly


Anthony Eden looks at the postcards
of a top publisher from Bradford

I hope readers in Scotland will not be disappointed when they read that this article is not about THE Walter Scott but about OUR Walter Scott, the postcard publisher. Our young Walter moved to Bradford from the south towards the end of the 1800's and worked, apparently as an apprentice, for the photographer and postcard publisher, Alfred Coe who was then operating from his studio at Barkerend Road, Bradford. Around 1904 it seems that Walter Scott himself started trading from the Barkerend Road studio and at the same time bought another photographic business called Sachs, also in Bradford. His company was established in 1905 following the same lines as Alfred Coe's company, producing postcards both pictorial and current affairs with the photographic studio for personal portraits.

THE FIRST WALTER SCOTT POSTCARDS

The postcards were in b/w and sepia and originally were of Bradford and the surrounding region but gradually new areas were covered. The "current affairs" were produced in the fashion so typical of the early 1900's, to cover local events with an immediacy virtually unknown today except for television coverage; the local events covered, for example, Saturday summer fetes with postcards on sale on the following Monday or, in at least one case, a postcard of a tram which, having run off the rails, caused a major disaster.





It is not clear how early Walter Scott included his name on postcards but a lovely Real Photograph (RP) postcard of the local Bingley Wood includes the initials WS on the front so perhaps this is one of the first. This postcard is printed in a warm, almost black, sepia and the detail is outstanding.





An example of the personal portrait side of his business is in my collection and this postcard is postmarked Sheffield, 14th June 1909, with WALTER SCOTT BRADFORD at the foot; it is printed on photographic card with a standard, anonymous, POST CARD back though the sitter's name is not given apart from his initials, ES, signing the message to ‘Miss Eileen A ..., I hope you like the P/C. I said I would send you one you know’. I have yet to come across any of the more elaborate carte de visite or cabinet cards with advertising backs, though these were popular somewhat earlier in time.

By 1911 a series of County Capitals included places obviously further afield e.g. Chester. These early years would have seen Mr Scott out and about the country, taking photographs and seeing potential customers for new cards.

Various premises were occupied by the firm, including a shop and studio at 26 North Parade in Bradford with the stylish Walter Scott signature, which adorned his postcards from the 1920s, above the shop-front windows.

By the 1920's Mr Scott had two or three photographers and he now concentrated on the day-to-day running of his expanding business. The 1920's to early 1930's saw both elements of the business in full swing with the company employing about 100 staff using two premises for the production and studio work. Postcards were produced by a simple photographic 'contact' process; the original negative was either whole plate (8½" x 6½") or half plate (6½" x 4¾ ") from which a positive image was produced in the correct proportions for the intended postcard and picture content. The Walter Scott signature and the scene's caption were combined to the positive image, then a copy negative produced to make the printing negative.

Using the printing negative in the contact printer, rolls of photographic paper were exposed, then processed (developed) to produce the Real Photograph postcard. This process allowed for very small print runs when com-pared to today's more involved colour lithographic process. As a result, towns and villages, churches and cathedrals, could each have a large number of views printed, whereas today the range is far more limited.

Real Photograph postcards were produced in both b/w and sepia, invariably incorporating the logo of the Walter Scott signature on the front, at bottom right, as well as a view serial number. The backs, though, varied little. Some of the earliest postcards carried a logo of an inter-twined smooth, string-like, WS: later, that logo disappeared to be replaced by a very utilitarian back simply stating POSTCARD and REAL PHOTOGRAPH etc. An exception seems to be an angular inter-twined WS on a postcard produced for the Castle Museum, York. My example shows the famous full-size street, Kirkgate, created inside the museum complete with horse and coach and actors in period costume; this must have been staged just for the postcard photograph.

The output of postcards for Yorkshire alone was prolific. Serial numbers were allocated to areas starting at number 1 and increasing to 27899 (though it is unlikely that every number was taken up). Then the numbers were preceded by a letter and sometimes double letters, e.g. A1 - A999 for North Riding, MM1 -MM199 for Bradford. A list of the Yorkshire numbers is appended.

A PUBLISHER OF MERIT

Walter Scott was not afraid to publish the more mundane views but even these he was able to turn into attractive postcards by careful framing of his subjects. A black and white RP view (662) of the River Wharfe at Otley with a single rowing boat some distance off, the hazy light seeming to come from directly ahead, produces a calm, thought-provoking scene. A scene so deceptive in its quality that it is so easily overlooked. And that sort of ordinariness was typical of his views: Edinburgh Castle and Trafalgar Square may be all right for the mass-producers such as Valentine and Woolstone Brothers but Walter Scott searched out the byways and overlooked scenes - like a sepia RP (1036) of a lane leading to Fewston Reservoir near Harrogate: every blade of grass is visible in the verge and again he has used sunlight as part of the scene.

Despite the quantity of views, Walter Scott was a photographer and publisher of some ability, continuing the Edwardian role of photographic commentary at the time when many others had given up. However, an obvious contemporary were the Judges cards from Hastings, printed in an identical style, even down to the narrow white border, the positioning of the picture title and 'Judges', and the very utilitarian back. Probably the same type of contact printing machine was used; and, of course, the comparison continues with the prolific output of views.

Of course there were others producing real photographs but perhaps not on the scale of Walter Scott; G.P. Abraham in Keswick had some of the most beautiful scenery in the country on his doorstep and he and his successors rated highly. And, like Walter Scott, though Abraham's views tend to be of his own area there are ventures further afield as Abraham cards of Snowdonia show.

But to return to Walter Scott, the views of Yorkshire seem to predominate yet there are other counties to be found. There are a number of cards from Edinburgh. Durham and Northumberland or from Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight, in the south, to Devon in the south west. Oxford was the subject of many of the sepia and b/w RPs of the 1930's and, as with all of his RPs, a magnifying glass is essential in order to see all the detail he included.

Sepia RPs were also available of Westminster, as are modern colour postcards by Walter Scott - my copy of the Peers' Chamber really does need a magnifying glass to see all the detail in the photograph. The sepia and b/'w cards continued even when the colour postcards started to be produced well after the Second World War.

OTHER PROCESSES

I have not yet come across any of the distinctive browny-green collo-type cards as produced by Frith and Valentine in the middle years until about 1955 so perhaps that relatively short-lived process was not used by Walter Scott. In-deed Scott's production process was limited to photographic cards until the late 1930's or early 1940's when sepia photogravure postcards appeared, as they did from other publishers such as Salmon. The backs continued to bear simply the entwined WS logo and the bare essentials of POST CARD, Published by Walter Scott, Bradford, etc. One of these sepia photogravure cards, a view of City Square, Leeds, provides a nostalgic look back to the late 1940's, with Morris taxis queuing up in front of the fairly new Queens Hotel, a group of passengers waiting for a tram and a general hustle and bustle visible in Boar Lane; little Lowry-like figures complete the scene.

Around the time of the Second World War several publishers included quotations from the Prime Minister and others, and a sepia Walter Scott photogravure postcard of an interior view of Westminster Abbey includes. ‘Help to make the world a better place and life a worthier thing.’ His Majesty King George VI.

Scott also printed postcards for publication by other firms, though these seem to be more of an exception. Edwin Story Ltd., York, was one such publisher for the sepia photogravure cards of York Minster.

For about thirty years the firm's negative library rapidly expanded whereas the firm now produces only one postcard of Grassington in Wharfedale, over 40 different views were produced in real photograph postcards. That library is now an invaluable source of views of a time past and is included in the National Buildings Record. The Frith collection is one of the other rare libraries; how many other postcard publishers claim such a collection?

Of course the photographs of many publishers photographers appear in books, calendars and so on and Scott's were no exception: look for the picture credits and Walter Scott, with Frith, Valentine, Raphael Tuck, Reece Winstone and Bertram Unne etc. etc. appear often in both local and national publications. In looking back we must remember that postcards were not necessarily the sole outlet - or income for the photographer, and that the sale of rights to print may have been more profitable.

Walter Scott died in 1947 and the business was sold though it has still retained his name to this day; in 1950 the town-centre shop and studio were sold and all the work moved to a single studio and production site still within Bradford.

By the 1960's the firm started production of postcards in the colour photogravure process; this paralleled other publishers, notably J. Arthur Dixon, but the size of card differed, being an unusual 5½ " x 4" (139mm x 100mm) when compared to most other publishers' standard size of 5¾” x 3¾" (145mm x 97mm). These Colour Series Natural Colour Post Cards now carried a large Walter Scott signature prominently on the back whilst a small crest with WS appeared on the front of the postcard. A distinguishing feature of these photogravure colour cards was the narrow white border around the picture, reminiscent of the sepia postcards of Judges and indeed Scott's own sepia and b/w postcards which these coloured ones were to replace.

The postcard serial number was prefixed with, for example, CY for colour Yorkshire and, for the first time on Walter Scott postcards, a brief description of the scene on the back as was becoming customary with the Dixon photogravure cards. The colour photogravure process produced cards of a high quality with a realistic, though slightly 'hard', colour balance and, to me, did not quite match the excellence of the Dixons. It is worth mentioning that Dixons was at this time still relatively new to the postcard publishing business.

In complete contrast to almost every other major publisher the naming of the colour postcard series seems to have been the only time so far that the firm identified its cards with a series name. The Carbo Colour, Art Colour, Phototone, etc.of such firms as Valentines never complicated Walter Scott's production line. Depending upon one's point of view this absence of series over the years could be taken as an unadventurous and perhaps boring publisher, or alternatively, a value for money, no-nonsense publisher continuing to produce local views at a time when postcards were generally in the doldrums.

INTO THE 1970's

In common with other volume publishers, Walter Scott turned from colour photogravure in the late 1960's to the four-colour half- tone lithographic process and changed the size to the standard modern size of 5.88" x 4.13" (148mm x 104mm). The WS in its shield now seems to have vanished from the front, the white border around the picture is gone but the back continues as before with Walter Scott's signature in a dignified burnt umber brown.

You might think that the old trick of tidying up a Real Photographic postcard negative by retouching and removing tram wires etc. has died out; not quite.

One of my favourite contemporary Walter Scott cards, a view of Appletreewick, Wharfedale, on a hot summer's day, has been got at by removing a telegraph or power-supply pole with overhead and supporting wires from the centre of the picture. Being a coloured litho card this editing is made all the more complicated. There has to be a balance between selling an appealing postcard (and remaining in business) and (trying to) sell the hard facts of life with pictures including yellow no-parking lines, litter and so on. As a topographical collector I would prefer the reality of the latter view - but then the general public simply may not buy the cards and another publisher would vanish. Oddly enough I've not yet noticed any retouching on Scott's Real Photograph postcards.

In contrast to the method of printing the Real Photograph postcards, where cards came off a roll, one after the other, today's postcards are printed on card sheets, or 'signatures', of 8 or 16, usually each sheet being 8 or 16 different postcards. The card sheets pass through four lithographic rollers where yellow, magenta (red), then cyan (blue) and finally black images are superimposed to produce the full colour picture in a mass of tiny dots of colour. The backs are then printed, the sheets guillotined into individual postcards which are now automatically in batches ready for wrapping and distribution. A typical print run may be of 6,000 sheets and a more popular postcard may appear more than once on a sheet.

Like virtually every other large-scale producer of postcards, the Walter Scott business is involved in a whole variety of other forms of printed matter; with its involvement in photographic processes, one of these other aspects is the duplication of 35mm slides for art galleries, museums and the like but new postcards are still being produced either of Yorkshire or for concerns across the country.

A more recent venture has been the Nostalgia Series of postcards, using negatives from the aforementioned extensive Walter Scott library, printed in light sepia; these conform to the standard modern size of their other cards and despite the screened half-tone lithographic process they still manage to show off the vast amount of detail included in the original photographic negative.

THE BACKS

As already mentioned, this publisher did not really go in for the variety of series favoured by so many publishers. The postcard backs of the 1920/1930 period are quite simple with an entwined large WS printed in mid grey, with POST CARD in a curved typeface; this was for the black & white and or the sepia RP cards. A similar design, though, with POST CARD in a serif typeface was used for the sepia photogravure cards. The Second World War years seemed to have caused some disruption to photographic card stock as several varieties appear without the entwined WS logo and anonymous except for the Walter Scott signature on the front. It was probably a question of using whatever stock came along.

The 1950's continued to see the black & white Real Photograph cards, at first with a variety of very utilitarian backs saying POST CARD and not much else. Seemingly for the first time, glossy surfaces were used for the b/w postcards and these now carried the Walter Scott signature boldly on the back in place of the entwined WS logo. About this time the angular WS appeared on a few cards.

The era of colour entered in the 1960's with the photogravure cards bearing the brown signature prominently on the back and, for the first time, reference to a Series, the Colour Series Natural Colour Photograph, or the Colour Series Natural Colour Post Card. This same back continues with the contemporary colour half-tone lithographic process, and with the Nostalgia Series sepia half-tone lithos, both having the standard Post Office Preferred logo in the stamp position.

ANOTHER SCOTT

But was there any connection with Sir Walter Scott? The answer is - no. Our Walter Scott must have had some affinity for Sir Walter as he named his works the Ivanhoe Works, a name which the present directors believe goes back to the 1920's and is still used to-day.

Despite there being no family connection, an article such as this must include mention of a couple of postcards bridging that gap. Who has not come across a postcard of Princes Street, Edinburgh, with the Scott Monument so prominent? My own collection includes most national publishers, with views of the Castle, Princes Street and the huge Scott Memorial in the foreground-despite publishing various views of Edinburgh, Walter Scott chose not to publish a postcard showing Sir Walter's Edinburgh Memorial; perhaps he did not think of the humour of publishing a Walter Scott of the Walter Scott Memorial-or perhaps he was sensitive to any ill-feelings that move may have provoked?

One thing leads to another. The article on postcard backs in the October 1989 PPM produced a follow-up article by Bob Mason on the borders photographer Robert Jack and the frequent publisher of his views, A.R. Edwards & Son, Selkirk. I have an Edwards' postcard postmarked Aylesbury 1907, entitled On the Tweed at St Boswells, a rather pleasant, calm, wooded view of the river with the message:

"This gives you a little idea of the district in which I live. My home is only 100 yards from where this view was taken. Sir Walter Scott is buried about 300 yards from the bank on the right - Dryburgh Abbey."

May 1987 PPM carried a detailed article by Graham Hall on the photographer and postcard publisher Alfred Coe with whom Walter Scott worked in his early years.

The firm continues to bear his name, and, as previously mentioned, the name of the Ivanhoe Works. Still in use is an old horizontal enlarger designed by Walter Scott; made of wood construction, the only parts purchased would have been the lens and it is as good today at reproducing the black & white prints as it was when new.

I am most grateful to J.M. Palframan, the co-director of Walter Scott (Bradford) Ltd., for assistance in researching this article and providing the list of Series Numbers. Mr Palframan paid tribute to the firm's creator by saying,

"Walter Scott as a day-to-day person may be forgotten but his legacy of photographs and even the way we run the business today has direct lines back to him."