Henry John Smith (Smith's Library)


Brighton from the Palace Pier

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80 Kings Road, Brighton. Smith was a bookseller, newsagent and stationer, who also ran a lending library. He started his business in 1896 or 1897, for a year or so sharing the same premises as the short-lived Artistic Photographic Co. Anthony Byatt in his book Picture postcards and their publishers (1978, Golden Age Postcard Books, Malvern) reviews Smith's postcard publishing activities in a national context. By 1901 he had become a major importer of cards published in Paris and elsewhere in Europe featuring artists' portrayals of glamorous, often imaginary women, scenes from operas and similar fashionable social events. He is sometimes credited with issuing the first postcards in Britain with printed Christmas greetings, but this was not the case, as Byatt explains. In 1903 he imported a range of woven silk postcards from France.

By 1900 Smith published some postcard-sized views of Brighton, though these could not be sent through the post without first being enclosed in envelopes. He quickly started selling cards with undivided backs when these were first authorised, including collotypes of Brighton printed by Wilhelm Hoffman AG in Dresden. Hoffman also supplied Sydney Hellier with cards of identical design.

By January 1904, if not earlier, Smith switched to divided backs. Some of these newer cards, marked "Copyright Newman. Brighton", were printed by Osnabrucker Papierwaaren Fabrik, Berlin (O.P.F.) and have wide white borders at the base of the pictures. Still later collotypes have blue-grey pictures occupying the entire front of the cards. A blue-grey panorama of Brighton seafront, as seen from the West Pier, was the subject of a double spread card manufactured by Stegel and Co. of Dresden, which presumably needed to be placed in an envelope before posting. Smith also sold coloured collotype cards, for example, a view of the Palace Pier and fishing boats on the beach (1905 postmark seen).

In addition to the printed cards, Smith published a range of sepia and black and white real photographics, which he appears to have commissioned - these have his name and address embossed at the base of the pictures. The captions are written in unusually small, neat capitals. Subjects include Kings Gardens in Hove, the Countess of Huntingdon's Church in Brighton (a 1906 postmark has been seen), the Dyke Hotel, Stanmer Church and pond (reputedly issued in 1904), and the Naval Fleet off Brighton in 1905 (this card is unusual in having a rather prominent caption). In addition, Smith sold real photographic cards published by the Brighton View Co. that he embossed with his name and address.

Smith is listed in 1909 Directories, but retired during the year. Sydney C. Dickson continued the business until at least 1927. There is no evidence that Dickson published any new postcards, but postmark evidence suggests that he acquired large stocks of cards from Smith that he continued selling for several years.

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