“FAMOUS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD” was the trademark logo of Valentine’s Co. Ltd. (Valentine & Sons) 1825-1963 Dundee, Scotland and London, England. In working on my lists of postcards relating to Matlock Bath “Valentine’s” is a name I come across regularly, so I thought I’d find out a little more about the firm. Valentines 006a The Valentine Company, a lithographic printing firm, was founded in 1825 in Dundee, Scotland by John Valentine an engineer of wood blocks for linen printing. His son James (1814-1879), became an early pioneer of Daguerrotype photography, first as an amateur as an aid to engraving.

He became highly proficient and began to take views and portraits c.1850. He went to Paris to train under M. Bulow, one of the most skilful photographers in that city. On his return to Dundee he set up a studio in the High Street. He received a commission from the Queen to photograph a set of 40 views of Highland scenery and in 1868 was appointed as the Royal Photographer. Valentines 005a By the 1860’s James’ work was being reproduced by the Valentine Company as prints and stereo-views. After his death in 1879 his two sons, George Dobson and William Dobson took over the Company, but in 1884 George moved to New Zealand where he became a landscape photographer.

Until 1882 they only published views of Scotland, but then began rapidly expanding into other tourist markets with offices opened in Jamaica, Medeira, Norway, Tangier, Canada, and New York.

They produced a great range of view-cards that were mostly printed in Scotland in tinted halftone lithography or issued as real photo cards.

By 1896 they had begun printing what we’d recognise today as postcards. In 1897 the government allowed correspondence to be written on the reverse of a postcard. This coincided with the Valentine Co.’s success in collotype printing, a lithographic technique which mechanically reproduced images for printing as postcards.

All interests outside of Great Britain were sold in 1923 and by 1929 they had given up their photo portraiture work to concentrate solely on postcard production. After a period of expansion and success and mainly as a result of not anticipating the public’s growing demand for color postcards sales declined and they turned their attention to the production of greeting cards. They were purchased by John Waddington & Co. in 1963, which passed on to Hallmark Cards in 1980. The Dundee operations closed in 1994.

Their cards are numbered on the front in bottom right hand corner.

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The is the earliest version I have of the Valetine’s card: J-V-79514. It’s likely to have been from the first decade of the twentieth century.
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The back of the card has loads of information such as the fact that it’s a ‘Phototype’ Postcard. Valentine’s seem to have enjoyed creating quasi-scientific names for their postcard printing processes. This postcard also includes a cryptic quotation: “The strength of all the good and great is theirs who boldly challenge fate.” Quite why it was seen as a pertinent quotation on a holiday postcard of pleasure boating I’m not sure…
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Here’s a slightly later version of the same card, the same view of the old ferry landing stage, the same rowers, all that’s changed is the font for the title, and the image has been copped a little more tightly and shaved the end off the moored boat in the foreground.
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By this point it seems that the fact that it was a ‘real’ photograph was more important than the quote…
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And here’s a tinted version from 1923, one of Valentine’s ‘Colourtone’ series. Despite the fact that the white border has been removed the image has been cropped still further and a larger section of the bow of the boat in the foreground is missing.
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This version is graced by a lovely message from the mysterious ‘M’. I wonder who ‘Peter’ and ‘Pirate’ were???

In some aspects of life the ‘devils in the detail’ but when it comes to a Navigation Project the opposite’s invariably true in that there’s a ‘delight in the detail’ and there are stories too, even in the most mundane of objects.

Through taking the time to look carefully and closely at such objects it’s possible to bring stories out of the shadows… and I feel that every story enriches my navigation of Cyril and his world. IMG_5900 (3)

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