One of the best sources of information about Jersey life in the early 20th century is the postcard.
Several decades before local newspapers began to include photographs, postcards were being printed in their thousands for holidaymakers to send messages home to friends and family. They were also widely used within the island for exchanging messages before the telephone became widely available. When postal services were faster and more reliable than today it was common to send a postcard to arrange a meeting the following day.
Many of the photographs from the late Victorian era and the early part of the 20th century which survive today were printed as postcards. They are very collectible items and many suppliers have catalogue listings on line.
Among the most useful sites for those seeking to buy postcards of the island are the following:
- Delcampe, who usually have upwards of 4,000 island cards on offer at any one time, with many new additions daily
- Ebay usually have several hundred cards on offer. Be sure to use the UK site to avoid a search for Jersey revealing New Jersey cards
- Bidstart usually has over a hundred cards on offer, but those listed change infrequently
Details are rarely available of when cards were published. Dating of cards is usually done using the date stamps on cards that have been through the post. The earliest recorded cards of the islands, according to the Picture Postcard Annual, are Jersey: 15 July 1895; Guernsey: 25 April 1898; and Sark: 21 July 1899. So far no cards, dated before 1900, have been found for Alderney.
At a time when the postal service was the main means of communication, postcards proved instantly popular, and from their introduction until the outbreak of the First World War thousands of cards with Channel Island views were produced by a large number of business, most of which disappeared after a few years, but a few continue to produce cards today.
In Jersey in the early 1900s a number of local photographers published their own cards. Most prolific of these was Albert Smith. Over 1000 real photo and printed cards, many of which were numbered, were produced. The firm that bore his name continued to produce cards into the 1930s. There is some doubt, however, that Smith actually took all the original photographs, because he bought out a collection of negatives taken by Ernest Baudoux. Of a total of 3298 images attributed to the Albert Smith studio in the photographic archive of La Société Jersiaise, it is estimated that as many as 500 are in fact by Ernest Baudoux, and a project is under way to try to correctly identify the photographer who took each image.
Francis Foot also published and printed real photo cards and is best known for his Pitt series of nearly 100. A set of over 100 real photo cards with the initials WED is also to be found. As yet no one has definitely identified this publisher, but the cards, most of which have images not replicated by other publishers, were produced between 1905 and 1911. Two tobacconists also produced a number of cards. Some time after 1905 H G Allix published a series of nearly 200 printed monochrome numbered cards, almost certainly from prints produced by Frenchman J Bienaimé. Some of the same numbers have two different images and coloured cards were produced later.
Other local photographers who produced Jersey cards include George Barré, C H Cristin, E Dale, W de Guerin, A G le Moer and P Godfray.
Inevitably the most popular subjects for Jersey postcards were (and still are) the regular haunts and activities of visitors. Mont Orgueil Castle and Corbiere are inevitably the most frequently found locations, followed by Havre des Pas, Plemont, St Brelade's Bay, Devil's Hole, Greve de Lecq and other places around the coastline.
Traditional 'saucy' seaside postcards were also produced for Jersey, but these were part of nationwide issues, overprinted for sale in Jersey and many other seaside resorts around Britain.
Some more unusual subjects to be found on Jersey postcards include early traffic accidents, military manoeuvres and displays, and a wide variety of photographs of important events from the early years of the 20th century which were printed as postcards for sale to local people in the days before they could see pictures in their newspapers.
An important contributor to the postcards of Jersey was Henry Bowser Wimbush (1858-1943) who was one of publisher Raphael Tuck's most prolific artists, but despite his very high postcard output, he remains a shadowy figure, only briefly chronicled in art dictionaries and reference works.
Although he first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1888, he was not famous as a painter, and his work was not very well known. Among his Royal Academy exhibits were:
- 1889 - Petit Bot Bay, Guernsey
- 1904 - Grosse Tete, Jersey
Edith Carey's The Channel Islands was published in 1904 and contained 76 colour plates by Wimbush, which exhibited his work to a much wider audience.
His watercolours were published by Tuck between 1904 and 1908, the majority in the "Oilette" series, although a few do appear as "Aquarettes". The Wimbush postcards are distinctive, characterised by soft colours and lines. He had a liking for water, and some of his finest work appeared as seascapes and river scenes. See gallery below.
The artist's work is highly collectable as his postcard output is clearly numbered in sets of six cards, with many town scenes as well as coastal views in the 162 Tuck sets.
One of the most popular series of postcards with collectors is that produced by Levy Fils of Paris, known as the LL postcards. Some of the foremost authorities on postcard collecting, both in Jersey and wider afield, still refer to these postcards as the work of Louis Levy. As recently as 2006 Jersey postcard collector Charles Larbalestier, writing in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise about collecting Jersey postcards referred to his collection of Louis Levy images, but researchers had proved some years before that there was no such photographer.
- Beechams island views were part of the promotional activities of the pharmaceutical company in the early 20th century
- Drawings of Jersey scenes Added 2016
Galleries of postcard series
- John Hinde postcards
- A C Gallie postcards
- ET postcards
- EL Postcards
- Beresford Library Series New - added 2017
- Jarrold postcards
- ND Postcards
- A set of embossed frame postcards
- Postcards of Henry George Allix
- Dennis postcards
- Early shield postcards
- Early circle postcards Added 2016
Postcard posted during the German Occupation
Rene Jouan, who would eventually command a French Navy submarine, spent some time in Jersey in the closing years of the 19th century, perhaps attending the French Navy school at Highlands, which would later become Notre Dame du Bon Secours. He sent postcards to his family in Rouen, and as far afield as Madagascar, a number of which have survived. They include a rare postcard posted on 31 December 1899, the last day of the century.
This postcard is something of a mystery. It was sent with New Year wishes, and also for the new century, so was presumably posted just before the end of 31 December 1899. But the postmark shows 11.45 pm on 31 December 1900. Did the post office in Jersey turn it's date stamp to the new year a little to early?
These cards were not exclusive to Jersey. They were overprinted with the names of many seaside holiday resorts<center>