Arthur John Carter (Carter and Co.)


Wilmington, feeding the geese (C & C Series)

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Stationers and newsagents, 17 Terminus Road, Eastbourne (and from 1915 to about 1927 also at 4 Terminus Buildings). Garland's 1905 Eastbourne Directory is the first to list Carter & Co., which suggests that they opened for business during 1904. By March 1905 they started to publish their own "C & C. Series" of collotype cards with distinctively blue-toned (sometimes grey-toned) pictures, several of which have a hunting theme. Examples include "Wilmington, Sussex - feeding the geese", "The lifeboat returns at eventide", "Foxhounds in Hampden Park, Eastbourne", "The Crowhurst Otter Hounds at Michelham Priory", "Friston Place - Meet of hounds", "High Street, Hailsham (The Harriers), "Wartling Hill, Sussex (Hailsham Harriers)", an artist on Eastbourne beach creating a cathedral out of sand, and "The town crier and dog, Eastbourne". Other collotype cards were issued with black and white pictures, featuring for example the Royal Sovereign Lightship off Eastbourne and Filching Manor at Wannock. By 1910 at least some of the blue-toned collotype cards were being marketed as "Carter's Series", with their own logo.

Carter & Co also sold coloured halftone views of Eastbourne and district (e.g. Beachy Head) of mediocre quality. In some cases the halftones occupied only half the fronts of the card; the remaining space was taken up by chromo-litho reproductions of coats of arms. Much more interesting are the "Carter's Photographic Series" of real photographics, which cover a strangely varied range of subjects. One card popular with collectors shows Chapman's charabanc arriving at Hankham Tea Gardens. Another well-known real photographic in the series records the funeral procession of Police Inspector Arthur Walls on October 16, 1912, which was watched by huge crowds. The burglar who shot Walls was hanged for his crime at Lewes in January 1914. On a happier note, the series also includes several views of Hankham (mistakenly spelt Handcome on one card), including a study of a flock of sheep contentedly grazing in a field.

The captions on Carter & Co. real photographic cards are written in neat blocky capitals. Most letters lack any embellishment, but often "A"s, "K"s, "M"s and "R"s have short, right-hand descenders. A horizontal spur sometimes projects a very short distance to the left from the base of the letter "B". Frederick Cooper published real photographic cards with captions written in exactly the same manner, and, where there is no publisher's label or initials, the two sets of cards appear indistinguishable. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the same person wrote the captions on both the Carter and Cooper cards.

Street Directories give no indication of who was in charge of Carter & Co. However, the 1911 census and 1923 Electoral Register list Arthur John Carter and Florence Carter, his wife, at 17 Terminus Road. Arthur had been born in about 1876 in St Neots in Huntingdonshire and Florence (whose maiden name had been Crow) in about the same year at Graveley in Cambridgeshire. In 1901 Arthur was living at 13 Sutherland Road in Tunbridge Wells while working as a stationer's assistant, no doubt with an eye to learning the trade and eventually setting up in business on his own account. He and Florence married in Cambridgeshire in 1904 and had a daughter, Mabelle, who in 1911 was aged 4.

After successfully setting up in business as a producer of printed and real photographic cards of Eastbourne and district, Arthur Carter turned his attention to publishing colour printed comic or novelty postcards and distributing them on a national basis, with the help of a London agent, William Eric Mack of King Henry's Road in Hampstead. Best known are his light-hearted "Coming Home" cards (see Gallery), which declared that the sender, having had a "ripping time" at a particular town or tourist resort named on the front of the card, now had only sixpence and the return half of his or her rail ticket (both illustrated), and so would be returning home. In addition to Eastbourne, the places named included Bexhill, Brighton, Bognor, Littlehampton, Hastings, Dover, Maidstone, Blackpool, Ilfracombe and Plymouth. On the back the cards were labelled "The A J C Series", and some carried the additional message "Printed and published by A. J. Carter, 17 Terminus Road, Eastbourne. Sole London agent E. Mack, King Henry's Road, London NW". Three 1911 postmarks are the earliest seen to date, and the cards seem to have remained on sale until 1914 or later. Circulating at about the same date were some other cards showing a man with a wide grin peering out of a trunk or holdall labelled "1'- Advance Luggage". The caption warned "Look out for Me! I've only a Shilling left! So am coming home this way from Eastbourne" (Ramsgate or other named town). Yet other cards featured a facsimile label marked "Passenger to Eastbourne" (Brighton, Chichester or some other place) with the message "Tie this round your Neck and come at once. Pack your Bag! Do not Lag! Here's the Tag!" Carter also marketed cards with an outline map of England and Wales in pale blue, and a named place such as Brighton marked in red and further emphasised by an arrow sign. These cards carried the printed message "This is where I am just now. I'm still 'on the map' you see!"

Carter was fond of enlivening his cards with quatrains that employed a very basic ABCB rhyming scheme. A card entitled "Picked up at Eastbourne", for example, portrayed a discarded boot, adding
   "An old boot lay on the shore to-day,
     When I saw it, I had to pause,
   For a familiar object it seemed to me,
     And I hasten to ask - IS IT YOURS?"

When Eastbourne council passed a bye-law prohibiting dogs from barking on the beach, Carter mockingly issued a card with a cartoon of the Mayor in full regalia accompanied by an official and uniformed police all waiting for a small dog on the beach to bark:
   "Unhappy Dog!
     Here comes the Mayor in State.
   One little bark -
     And sad will be thy fate!"

With few exceptions, the Carter comic and novelty cards were initialled and numbered in very small print in their bottom right corners. The "Coming Home" cards, for instance, were marked "A. J. C. 204" and the luggage label cards "A. J. C. - 236". Others carried the numbers 213, 231, 243, 245, 246, 257, 258, 263 and 268. No doubt further types remain to be discovered, but it would be wrong to assume from the range of numbers that over sixty different types of novelty cards were published. Evidently, there were major gaps in the sequence. A further complication is that some cards (for example, "You'll lose 'The Blues' at Yarmouth") were unnumbered.

The Carter novelty cards competed nationally with the Titchfield Series of colour printed cards marketed by a rival publisher. With their somewhat contrived and juvenile humour the Carter cards are of only minor interest to today's collectors, but evidently appealed to many members of the travelling public in the twilight years before the Great War, and must have provided Arthur Carter with a useful source of extra income.

A printed card marked "A. J. C. - 292" and entitled "Beachy Head" is unusual in that it gives a brief history of the famous landmark with no picture. Textual references indicate that it was published no earlier than 1912.

Arthur Carter died in March 1953 in Eastbourne, aged 77.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are due to Peter Allibone (Haywards Heath) for sharing his research findings concerning the "Coming Home" cards.

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