Bartholomew, Biscuits and the First World War
As the Project that brings you these posts is due to end in March of this year, I wanted to share with you, whilst I can, some of the more unexpected items I have found in the Printing Record from the First World War.
Like many of us perhaps, my understanding of this brutal conflict is largely derived from the jerky black and white film footage of the trenches and No Man’s Land and the haunting poetry of the time. So, imagine my surprise to discover that for some, this War was also something of a marketing opportunity.
This attractive item was printed by Bartholomew on 24th November, 1916 for the Leith and Liverpool-based biscuit manufacturer, William Crawford & Sons, Ltd. However, it was not the first thing Bartholomew printed for Crawford; some two years earlier they printed this map.
Bartholomew printed 50,000 copies of this map on 8th September, 1914. It is a fairly standard Bartholomew map of Europe but repurposed here as advertising for Crawford’s Cream Crackers and branded as ‘Crawford’s War Map’. There’s even room for a little boasting about their biscuits.
However, it would be entirely unfair to Crawfords to suggest that they alone exploited this opportunity, as another item printed by Bartholomew proves.
Yes, Sunlight Soap were at it too with Bartholomew producing 25,000 copies of this map on 21 October, 1914.
That maps such as these exist certainly surprised me but perhaps they begin to make sense when considered in context. The Crawford map was published only five weeks after the official outbreak of the War and the Sunlight map came six weeks later. Both maps, then, were produced very early on in the War, a period typically characterised by the belief the War would be ‘over by Christmas’ and volunteering to sign up was still prevalent. So, rather than cynically exploiting the War perhaps these maps reveal something of the confidence that was felt during the first few weeks of the conflict. I find this an interesting perspective. With our benefit of hindsight we can only ever perceive the First World War with the burden of knowing how it unfolded and the horrors that were to come. It is easy to forget that this wasn’t the case for those who lived through it. The tragedy we attach to the First World War sits in stark contrast with the enthusiasm, naivety and matter-of-fact-ness of those who were entering the unknown, a bit of which is captured in maps like these.