The Swedish Nightingale. Guest post by Sally Rumsey

Volunteer Sally continues her musical journey through the John Johnson Collection with a post on the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind.

Continuing with the musical theme of recent blogs (see pianolas and the rock harmonicon), this time I’m featuring a performer. Not just any performer: one of the musical megastars of her time, the Swedish soprano, Jenny Lind (1820 – 1887). There are a number of items associated with Jenny Lind in the John Johnson collection, the digital images of which are freely available online in the UK (and by institutional subscription elsewhere).

Jenny Lind, born Johanna Maria Lind, was a Swedish opera singer. Her voice was reportedly remarkably pure toned and pitched at the higher end of the soprano range. She was a coloratura soprano, which indicates a voice of peculiar lightness and agility, and often able to sing the very highest notes for a human voice. Her range was reported to be two octaves – d’ to d”’ with a few extra higher notes on occasion. It was the beauty of her voice that earned her the familiar name the ‘Swedish Nightingale.’

Jenny Lind was a diva, the Victorian equivalent of a rock star, appearing in many operas including the main role of Amina in the opera La Sonnambula (the Sleepwalker) by Bellini. The high range and the difficulty of the role that enabled her to exhibit the extend of her phenomenal voice.

Two items in the John Johnson collection show her as Bellini’s Amina. The first, a steel engraving portrait of her by Benjamin Holl from around 1840-50. The portrait is ‘signed’ by Jenny Lind. One noteable feature is the length of her hair which is fashioned in two phenomenally long plaits. The title is spelled ‘la somnambula’ which is probably a mis-spelling conflating the Italian for sleepwalker (la sonnambula) with English (the somnambulist).

The other lithograph image is from the sheet music of “The Somnambulist’s song composed for and sung by Madlle. Jenny Lind,” published in 1848 and priced at 2/- (two shillings). The statement that the song was written for Mlle Lind, is unclear to me – it has been claimed Bellini originally wrote it for the Italian soprano Giuditta Pasta (Wikipedia). Perhaps the reference to Jenny Lind refers to Jeffery’s English translation. In this version, the English words are by Charles Jeffreys of 21, Soho Square, London. The enterprising Mr Jeffreys was clearly making the most of Mlle Lind’s fame and popularity. He proclaims that he is “Publisher of Jenny Lind’s song of ‘Fatherland’ by Felix Gantier – with the best portrait published of the illustrious vocalist

This ‘best portrait’ shows Ms Lind, this time without the lengthy plaits, dressed in a calf-length dress, presumably sleepwalking on a rickety wooden plank, which looks like a health and safety nightmare.

Sheet music cover of The The Somnambulist's song. John Johnson Collection Music Titles 9 (75)
Sheet music cover of The The Somnambulist’s song. John Johnson Collection Music Titles 9 (75)















The publisher and composer, Mr Charles Jeffreys crops up again having written the English words for “England, home of friends, farewell!” This sheet music, again from 1848, states that it was for “Jenny Lind’s last night in England.” Jenny is dressed in glossy satin or silk, her hair decorated with flowers, and looking dreamily into the distance. This piece was priced 2/6 (two shillings and sixpence). The original German words are printed on the title page:

Nimm dies kleine Angedenken. / Freundschaft, Liebe reicht es dir!” / Konnte ich das Shicksal lenken / Immer bliebest du bei mir.”

[Take this little keepsake / Friendship, love is enough for you / I could steer destiny / you always stayed with me]

The original image is a lithograph by John Brandard and the sheet music was published in 1848. Jenny Lind returned to England later in her life, living her final years in Herefordshire, and she is buried in Great Malvern cemetery.

Featuring the famous singer on the front cover of sheet music of the time must have been intended as a sales draw. The images of her on most of the items are somewhat exaggerated. Tiny feet and a minute waist, probably the result of that most tortuous of Victorian fashion paraphernalia, the corset or stays. One wonders if she did succumb to such fashion pressures – it would have been a miracle if she ever managed to have enough breath to sing wearing such a garment. Compare the images of her on the copies of sheet music to the daguerreotype of her taken in 1850

Another piece of sheet music featuring Jenny Lind and by engraver or lithographer John Brandard is La figlia del reggimento polka (The daughter of the regiment) published in 1847. The image is a “Portrait of Madlle Jenny Lind in the character of Maria in Donizetti’s opera La Figlia del Reggimento.” Jenny is portrayed again in a calf-length dress, this time in black and red, with military-like epaulettes, and a smart hat with red ribbons. Yet again she is depicted with impossibly tiny feet and waist. Her rosy complexion is enhanced with pink colouring on her cheeks. She has obviously attracted the attention of the three soldiers posing behind her, looking on admiringly as she salutes onlookers. The polka is ‘composed on the most admired melodies from Donizetti’s opera by Jullien,’ who is also the publisher of the music (Jullien & Co, 214 Regent St London). I presume this is an arrangement of Donizetti’s original, but Jullien is keen to take the credit having labelled the work ‘Jullien’s celebrated Polkas, No 16.

Sheet music cover for La figlia del reggimento polka. John Johnson Collection: Music Titles 5 (88)
Sheet music cover for La figlia del reggimento polka. John Johnson Collection: Music Titles 5 (88)















Jenny Lind appears on the title page of another piece from the same work “The songs in La figlia del reggimento” translated by Charles Jefferys who appeared to be doing well out of Ms Lind’s fame. This item is a chromolithograph printed in colour with gold embellishment. The songs are from the second act of the opera, and Jenny has foregone her military outfit for a spectacular pale blue dress with ruching, lace and decorated with pink roses. Looking like the belle of the ball, a satin clad toe peeps out from under the hem, and she holds a large white handkerchief trimmed with lace.

Such was Jenny’s fame that her name was used to attract purchasers to buy ‘Two fantasias for the pianoforte on the favourite airs sung by Madlle. Jenny Lind.’ The fact that the melodies were Jenny’s favourites was enough to attract people to buy this piano music.

Jenny was reported to be friends with the composers Mendelssohn and Chopin, but was famous in her own right. She topped the bill on a booklet listing the programme of events for 1847 at Her Majesty’s Theatre above ‘that great composer The Chevalier Meyerbeer’ and even above the planned visits by composers Mendelssohn and Verdi.

She sang to Queen Victoria, and her likeness was added to the spectacle of Madame Tussaud’s waxworks alongside other new additions, William Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon. According to the advert held by the John Johnson collection, if one visited the exhibition between 12am and 10pm there was ‘Increased orchestra.’ In 1882 Jenny Lind was appointed professor of singing at the Royal College of Music in London.

Jenny Lind went on tour to the USA, a visit arranged, somewhat surprisingly given her choice of repertoire, by the famous circus impresario, P. T. Barnum. Sadly there are no surviving recordings of Jenny Lind singing – we can only imagine the beauty of her voice. She is commemorated by a marble monument in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.

To see the items featured above together with a number of other works that feature Jenny Lind, go to ProQuest’s The John Johnson Collection: an archive of printed ephemera

Hint: open the ProQuest database before clicking on the hyperlinks.

There you can discover plenty of images for other ephemera too – for inspiration try clicking on the ‘select from a list’ links.

The Rambles of a Researcher in Oxford. Guest post by Jessica Terekhov

We are very grateful to Jessica Terekhov for this post on one of our (possibly unique) novels in parts

Late last year, I began my first-ever visit to the Bodleian at the Weston Library, where I would view a selection of nineteenth-century novels in parts – or more precisely, what remains of them. These were titles issued in installments, usually appearing monthly for the price of a shilling each, in colored paper wrappers with one or two illustrated plates per number. Many no longer exist in their serial form, which was historically considered ephemeral and, bibliographically, inferior to first editions, and some I had traced to the Johnson Collection only. This rarity, combined with a period of COVID-related delays generously accommodated by my research sponsors, made me especially eager to begin.[1] My project is a bibliography of Victorian fiction originally printed in monthly installments, which narrows my focus to titles published after 1836, but it was a pre-Victorian item that impressed me most on this trip.

Misattributed to Pierce Egan and misdated to 1821, as I later learned, was the first and only part of “Life in Paris; Illustrated with Scenes from Real Life, drawn and engraved by Mr. George Cruikshank” and published by John Cumberland. Usually, exceptions to the shilling number norm are noticeably different – more or less expensive, physically bigger or longer, shorter or smaller – even as they always give me pause over the parameters of my project. This time, I lingered particularly long over the convention of dating part publication, where new fiction was concerned, to the serialization of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers in 1836–37. Of course, this installment of Life in Paris featured only one plate and ran to 24 pages for a shilling – but then, my record of titles departing from the 32-page, two-plate Dickensian paradigm had the makings of a bibliography unto itself. And here was a work of original fiction that looked suggestively like the part issues inaugurated, in their Victorian form, some ten years later.

It was only on peering inside the foxed and flaking wrappers that I perceived a different set of distinctions between the Victorian novels so familiar to me and their near precursors.

Fig. 1 Pages from the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. John Johnson Collection: Novels in Parts 8 [2]
Fig. 1. Pages from the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. John Johnson Collection: Novels in Parts 8 [2]

Notice the typographical emphasis, in the pages pictured here, on proper nouns, such as LYDIA SERAPHINA MOLLY and, that virtuosic combination of irregular fonts, Sir HUMPHREY. Even the eponymous DICK (of the unabbreviated title) would not go disregarded by the time-thrifty compositor. Note, too, the breezy spacing of the paragraphs, as well as the exuberance of the footnotes occupying the better half of the right – and the following! – page. It is by no means the case that such typographical embellishments and narrative techniques went missing in the Victorian era. But it must be admitted that there was more space, as it were, both figuratively and physically, for this sort of textual dexterity in eighteenth-century novels, before the explosion of popular readership in the mid-1800s took place, bringing into fashion a new set of visual and literary conventions.

One of these, a trend towards paratextual brevity and uniformity of type, can even be observed from the title page of “Life in Paris” as it evolved over the 1820s. I learned after my Bodleian visit, on researching this title, that it was reissued by John Cumberland in 1828 from an edition, by John Fairburn, that finished serialization in 1822. The earlier version, I found, is more readily available, in volumes as (albeit less so) in parts, whereas the Johnson copy of the Cumberland serial at its inception appears to be the only relic of the later serialization. On the original title page, the novel is called “Life in Paris; Comprising the Rambles, Sprees, and Amours, of Dick Wildfire, of Corinthian Celebrity, And his Bang-up Companions, Squire Jenkins and Captain O’Shuffleton; with the whimsical adventures of the Halibut family; including sketches of a variety of other eccentric characters in the French metropolis.” This is compressed to “Life in Paris: Or the Rambles, Sprees, and Amours, of Dick Wildfire, Squire Jenkins and Captain O’Shuffleton; With the Whimsical Adventures of the Halibut Family; and Other Eccentric Characters in the French Metropolis” in the Cumberland issue, which makes additional redactions to the Fairburn title page, as seen below.

Fig. 2. Title page of the first, volume edition of “Life in Paris,” Hathitrust
Fig. 2. Title page of the first, volume edition of “Life in Paris,” Hathitrust [3]






Fig. 3. Title page of the 1828 edition of “Life in Paris". Hathitrust
Fig. 3. Title page of the 1828 edition of “Life in Paris”. Hathitrust [4]









What Victorian publisher would print an “explanation of the plate” and the wood-cut accompanying each number of a comic novel on its inside front wrapper? To the average, market-savvy pressman, this space would be wasted without some form of advertisement, whether of in-house or other trade goods; occasionally, inside wrappers would indeed appear blank, but this was indeed occasionally. What Victorian writer, for that matter, would italicize the words “life,” “desirable,” “to boot,” and “tailor” on the same printed page of expository text?

Fig. 4. Inside front wrapper of the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. John Johnson Collection: Novels in Parts 8
Fig. 4. Inside front wrapper of the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. John Johnson Collection: Novels in Parts 8

Any bibliographer or print historian will attest to the value of a composite picture: this is the premise behind comparing duplicates and distinguishing issues, from editions, from states. It is a version of the case for understanding something by considering it in the context of what it is like and what it is not. The same logic applies to period scholarship, of literary as of book history. My research on installment fiction at the Bodleian turned up a token of the transformation in print that precipitated the Victorian shilling monthly novel. It was a matter of looking between the covers, as both a (somewhat) bibliographer and a (somewhat more seasoned) reader, to appreciate this unexpected highlight of my trip.


Fig. 5. Front wrapper of the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, Novels in Parts 8.
Fig. 5. Front wrapper of the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, Novels in Parts 8.
Fig. 6. Back wrapper of the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. John Johnson Collection, Novels in Parts 8.
Fig. 6. Back wrapper of the first installment of “Life in Paris,” in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. John Johnson Collection, Novels in Parts 8.











[1] I owe many thanks to the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals and the Bibliographical Society of America not only for sponsoring my research visit under the Curran Fellowship and Short-Term Fellowship programs, respectively, but also for extending my award term by an entire year to allow for safe travel. Jennifer Phegley of RSVP and Erin McGuirl of the BSA were specifically understanding throughout our intermittent exchanges. Having had my project as enthusiastically received in the first place was and is a special honor. These thanks would not be complete without an acknowledgement to Fionnuala Dillane of RSVP, who kindly suggested that this post appear on the Johnson Collection blog while RSVP updates its website.

[2] I am deeply grateful to the Librarian of the John Johnson Collection, Julie Anne Lambert, for her responsive and encouraging assistance before and after my visit, and at all times in between.

[3] Available at

[4] Available at

Let’s buy: Some Cordial Balm of Gilead. Guest post by Lynda Mugglestone

Very many thanks to Lynda Mugglestone for this analytical post on an advertisement for Solomon’s Cordial Balm of Gilead. This item is not in the Art of Advertising exhibition.

In Jo Baker’s Longbourn (2013), a novel in which the events of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are vividly retold from below stairs, it is perhaps fitting that Mrs. Bennet, sorely tried by the refusal of her daughter Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins, retires to her dressing room in the company of a bottle of Cordial Balsam of Gilead. As an early nineteenth-century advertising in the John Johnson Collection persuasively asserts, this was an ‘admirable remedy’, suitable alike for ‘debilitated conditions’, ‘nervous weakness’, and ‘hypochondriacal afflictions’.

Two page advertisement for S. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead, c. 1804. Page 1
The Cordial Balm of Gilead. S. Solomon, [c. 1804].
John Johnson Collection. Patent Medicines 6 (34a)
Female vulnerabilities were overtly addressed. Any women ‘affected with Langour, Headach, or Hysterical affections’ would benefit, contemporary readers were assured. So, too, would anyone in need of ‘relaxation from juvenile indiscretion’. Given Elizabeth’s intransigence, Mrs. Bennet’s self-medication is generous and abundant. In Baker’s novel, half a bottle swiftly disappears.

Two page advertisement for S. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead, c. 1804. Page 2

The medicinal qualities of balms can, in term of language, be traced to medieval times. A balm is an ‘aromatic ointment for soothing pain or healing wounds’, the OED confirms. Balm of Gilead has, however, its origin in Biblical authority. ‘Is there no balme at Gilead? is there no Physician there?’ as Book 8, Verse 22 of Jeremiah demands. The Liverpool-based Samuel Solomon (c.1768-1819) would, from c.1796, provide a very profitable response. On one hand, Solomon’s tactical appropriation of Balm of Gilead was used to denote one of the most prominent quack products of the late eighteenth century  and nineteenth centuries. On the other, a decision to appropriate the status and learning of the ‘physician’ was deployed to equally good effect, as in the ‘M.D.’ which followed Solomon’s name in the various promotional publications and pamphlets he produced. A quack, as Samuel Johnson had stated in 1755 was, by definition, ‘a Boastful pretender to arts which he does not understand’. A doctor, in contrast, brought an undisputable claim to authority.

Boastfulness is perhaps an inevitable property of the language of advertising. Even so, Solomon’s preferred diction in advertising his ‘Cordial Balm of Gilead’ remains striking. Prefixes (‘inestimable’, ‘unprecedented’) deftly remind of the unparalleled qualities now offered to the consumer. Efficacy (‘wonderful success’) is extolled in similar ways, in remedial effects marked by their speed (‘instantaneously receives’) and unqualified strength (‘braces the nervous system…disburdens the viscera’ while throwing off ‘viscid strong humours’). Its popularity was lauded to equal effect. Sales, Solomon declares, have been ‘wonderfully great’, with ‘demand far exceeding any medicine ever published’, and a geographic range that includes ‘Europe’ and ‘America’. Advertising can easily become eulogy: ‘Thousands at this moment live to praise the day they first applied to this remedy, and enjoy the blessings of health, who might have dropped into an untimely grave’. A balm, Solomon stresses, can be a ‘social benefit’. The Cordial Balm of Gilead, was undoubtedly expensive —but, given its range of uses, it was also promoted as a bargain at half a guinea a bottle.

As a cordial balm moreover, its branding usefully harnessed antithetic qualities. Balms are conventionally solids, applied externally in order to soothe and restore. Cordials, in contrast, were traditionally depicted as fortifying from within, quickening the circulation or increasing the power of the heart. A cordial is ‘any medicine that increases strength’, Johnson explained in 1755. A cordial balm, at least rhetorically, could suggest its own innovatory synthesis, able to calm as well as fortify, sooth as well as invigorate — in ways that gave substance to the diverse lists of ailments for which restitution was promised, whether ‘Flatulence’ or ‘Palpitations’, ‘pain’, or ‘Difficulty of Respiration’. A conspicuous clustering of Latinate terminology (‘viscid’, ‘viscera’), and a catalogue of diagnostic nouns (deglutition referred, for example, to ‘The act or power of swallowing’) brought their own implied authority. Price and polysyllables both reinforced the elite status of the patent medicine purveyed.

We might note, even so, some interesting absences. The advertisement details, across two pages, the diverse conditions for which remedy is now apparently provided. The rhetorical power of lists, and their cumulative effect, is plain. So, too, is the range of human debility and the anxieties that can thereby be manipulated, as in the deliberately affecting details by which, for those denied this medical miracle, ‘the body is weakened’ while other symptoms (‘paleness, bodily decay, emaciation, and the eyes sink into the head’) await the hapless sufferer. The power of purchase might intentionally be secured on several levels. But the purchaser is, in reality, no wiser about what is being bought. Conviction must rest on credulity, rather than on a list of ingredients and their tried and tested benefits. If, in other accounts, Solomon stresses the presence of ‘some of the choicest balsams and strengtheners’ as components of his ‘noble Medicine’, alongside its scientific basis (‘reiterated experiments, and close application to practical chemistry’), advertising maintained a determined non-specificity. As William Helfand suggests, the ‘Cordial Balm’ was, in reality, probably a composite of ‘a few herbs and spices dissolved in a substantial percentage of old French brandy’. Certainly, Mrs Bennet in Baker’s fictional account, quaffs it with alacrity, finding her troubles eased. A cordial, as Johnson added, can be ‘anything that comforts, gladdens, and exhilerates’. Ease can, however, also be addictive – evident perhaps in the invitation to purchase by the case for those who, whether by accident or design, had become regular consumers.


William Helfand, ‘Samuel Solomon and the Cordial Balm of Gilead’, Pharmacy in History 31 (1989), 151-59.


A War Bride Story: a guest post by John G. Sayers

A very tiny piece of ephemera in The Sayers Collection represents a very big story.

Queen Mary cabin assignment for E. Appell, recto
Queen Mary cabin assignment for E. Appell, recto

The document, a piece of cardboard 3 x 2 inches, appears to be nothing more than a cabin assignment on board Cunard’s wonderful Queen Mary for a person named ‘E. Appell’.

This person was assigned to Cabin M71, in an Upper Berth. The possibility of a lower berth has been crossed out. “So, what”, you may think. “What makes this so special?”

What makes it special is the stamped franking on the back. It was applied in Southampton, so the passenger was travelling westbound. And the date? On 22 May 1946, the Queen Mary was totally engaged in ferrying War Brides – thousands of them – from Britain to North America at the end of the Second World War.

Queen Mary Cabin assignement for E. Appell, verso
Queen Mary Cabin assignement for E. Appell, verso

It took a lot of courage to travel from the U.K. to join a man who would not be wearing a handsome uniform when you were reunited with him, in an unfamiliar town or city where the language was the same but the houses and cars were different and people had a ‘a funny accent’.

In The Sayers Collection there is more ephemera from War Bride journeys – menus, postcards, Cunard Captain greetings, and even a note from one of the cabin crew reminiscing that they carried War Brides westward, and on the eastbound return trips they carried German Prisoners of War being repatriated to their homeland.

Ephemera brings new life to historical events. If a member of your family was a War Bride, you can now add more information to your genealogical resources.

This ephemera and a large number of other Ocean Liner items is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.


On board the S.S. Euripides. The long voyage from Australia. Guest post by John G. Sayers

Thanks to John Sayers for these insights into the long voyage from Sydney to England.

I can’t resist a group of photographic images related to my collecting passion of Ocean Liners. So, when I saw a combination of a dozen postcard and photograph images taken on board the SS Euripides of the Aberdeen Line as she sailed from Australia to England in 1921, I couldn’t resist. My wallet came out and money flowed to the happy dealer at the speed of light (well, they weren’t very expensive!)

S.S. Euripides. Event or Costume Party
Fig. 1. Event or Costume Party ‘Crossing the line?’ (on verso)
S.S. Euripides. Fancy dress. Crossing the Line
Fig. 2. ‘Crossing the Line?’ (on verso)

There are six photographs and six postcards, with no attribution to any photographer. Several have penciled captions which may not have been made by the original traveler. One gets that impression when a caption has a question mark after it. Figures 1 and 2 carry the caption of “Crossing the Line?” which makes me think that it may be a dealer’s guess rather than reality. Clever costumes, but were they instead for an onboard costume party, which was a normal feature of almost any voyage?

The pirate’s hat in the background to Figure 2, and the elaborate elephant outfit in Figure 1, suggest that it was an event planned by the ship’s crew and carried out by them as the ship ‘Crossed the Line’ i.e. crossed the Equator from the Southern to the Northern Hemisphere. This ceremony, featuring King Neptune, occurred as a matter of tradition and continues to this day. These costumes could have been used many times by the ship, for many ceremonies.

One of the stops on the route to England would have been in Durban, South Africa and this is probably where the photo in Figure #3 was taken. Photos 4, 5, and 6 were all taken ‘at sea’, including the jaunty First Engineer in #6.

Rickshaw ride
Fig. 3. Rickshaw ride


S.S. Euripides. At sea en route to England
Fig. 4. At sea en route to England


S.S. Euripides. At the wheel en route to England
Fig. 5. At the wheel en route to England








S.S. Euripides. First Eng[ineer]
Fig. 6. First Eng[ineer?]










S.S. Euripides. Departure Festivities
Fig. 7. Departure Festivities (1)


Figures 7 and 8, postcards picturing the departure, are wonderful at capturing the emotions of the moment. You can almost watch the streamers float to the dock and hear the good wishes shouted by those on shore to those standing on the deck of the S.S. Euripides. This was an important event, considering the distance to be covered and the long time to be spent and the risks faced at sea.

S.S. Euripides. Departure Festivities (2)
Fig. 8. Departure Festivities (2)


S.S. Euripides: Crew: Dining Room Stewards?
Fig. 9. Crew: Dining Room Stewards?

The men pictured in postcards 9 and 10 are crew, but why would one want photos of groups of the crew? One’s Room Steward perhaps, and one’s Dining Room Steward(s), but why the entire lot of them?


S.S. Euripides: Crew: Cabin Stewards
Fig. 10. Crew: Cabin Stewards

Of course, Sydney to England by sea, with stops at several ports en route, would be a long voyage and a gregarious young man such as the one in Figure 12 would get to know many people. Note that there were no women in the crew. Men only at this stage of passenger shipping.

S.S. Euripides: Dinner event
Fig. 11. Dinner event

One of the bridges to get to know fellow passengers was mealtime and the grouping around the table in Figure 11 gives us a feeling for the moments when the ice was broken. Welcome Dinners, Gala Dinners, and other dining platforms all helped to pass the time. And of course, the Farewell Dinner, when table mates signed each other’s menus and vowed to keep in touch, brought down the curtain on the voyage.

Unfortunately, we do not know the name of the gentleman who made this voyage, but we do have a probable photograph of him on the postcard in Figure 12.

S.S. Euripides: The intrepid traveller
Fig. 12. The intrepid traveller

At the time of this note, the voyage was 96 years ago. The dashing young man, now no longer with us, who had perhaps already made his fortune in Australia, was heading to England to purchase an enormous country estate – or a Town House in London – or to claim an inheritance – or??? We do not know, and we will never know, but at least we have been able to enjoy part of his journey to England, almost one hundred years later!





Congratulations, Captain Cüppers. A guest post by John G. Sayers

We are grateful to John Sayers for this intriguing post, which ideally demonstrates the way in which ephemera can provide pieces of the jigsaw of social history.

Cigar case presented to Captain Cüppers, 1908
Cigar case presented to Captain Cüppers, May 1908

One has to wonder who gave the captain this charming gift. Was it the shipping line itself, or a frequent passenger who always tried to sail with Cüppers? Captains had the power of medieval kings on board their ship. No doubt if you could ingratiate yourself with the captain, you would be given whatever you wanted. But what ship was he on when he received this presentation? Pictured is a fascinating piece of ephemera – a cigar case presented to Captain Cüppers of the North German Lloyd line on the occasion of his 100th voyage. It appears to be made of Papier Mache shaped into the form of a convenient-sized cigar case that would fit easily into a pocket of the Captain’s uniform. On one side is the inscription shown here, and on the other side is the name and the crest of the North German Lloyd shipping line. The lettering is very professional, so it may have been made and presented on shore prior to the voyage.

Postcard (undivided back) showing Kapitain O Cüppers and his ship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, n.d.
Postcard (undivided back) showing Kapitain O Cüppers and his ship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, n.d.

Postcards give us the answer. A colour postcard picturing Cüppers is undated, but the undivided back places its age near the beginning of the career of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse which made her Maiden Voyage in 1897 and captured the Blue Riband that year. Was this Cüppers ship? Another card showing Captain Cüppers has a divided back, pictures the newer Kaiser Wilhelm II, is postally used, and the year ‘1908’ can be discerned from the postmark. We hit the proverbial Jackpot! The date matches our cigar case.

Postcard (divided back) showing Kapitän O Cüppers and his ship Kaiser Wilhelm II, dated 1908
Postcard (divided back) showing Kapitän O Cüppers and his ship Kaiser Wilhelm II, dated 1908

Was the Kaiser Wilhelm II a prominent ship, or just an ‘old tub’? Not just an ‘old tub’. When you name your ship after the Kaiser, it has to be the best. The Kaiser Wilhelm II made her Maiden Voyage in 1903, and in June 1906 she captured the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the North Atlantic. But Captain Cüppers already had a long-standing record as a captain. In an article in The Illustrated American of March 8, 1895, Captain Cüppers was pictured and included in an article profiling important German ship captains.

We can’t find what became of the Captain, but six years later the Kaiser Wilhelm II was interned in New York on the outbreak of the First War and if he were still its captain, Cüppers would have been detained in America and been subsumed into American history.

This ephemera and a large number of other Ocean Liner items is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, will continue to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection after lockdown!