As lithography in the nineteenth century grew in complexity and printing capabilities expanded, so did the public’s demand for graphic images. Raphael Tuck, a Jewish immigrant from Prussia trained in the graphic arts, saw an opportunity to capitalize on people’s desire for visual stimulation by opening the print shop of Raphael Tuck & Sons in London in 1866. Tuck quickly established himself as a distributor of quality graphic art printing that included chromos, oleographs, and black and white lithographs. As business took off, Tuck established offices in Paris, Berlin, Montreal, and New York to satisfy the public demand for Victorian greeting cards, calendars, paper dolls and toys, jig-saws, and of course, picture postcards.
I’d never heard of Raphael Tuck & Sons until I came across the following postcards, which were printed circa 1900. The series of four images tell the story of six children (siblings? cousins?) crammed together in a bed. In the first picture, some sort of offense seems to have taken place between the two boys in the middle.
Retribution for the mystery transgression comes swiftly in the picture that follows.
The damage has been done by the third vignette: Pillows have been hurled, shoes and clothes are scattered to the four winds, and the “Love One Another” placard has been knocked askew.
By the time Mom arrives–presumably returning from some gay Victorian date night with Dad–there has been some attempt to put the room back in order. Stockings have been hung over the foot of the bed, shoes lined up underneath.
Mom must have had a good night, because she looks more concerned than perturbed at the havoc wrought by her little charges. The younger children gather around her, probably eager to turn the two older ones in–after all, they started the whole melee. In fact, the instigators seem quite satisfied with themselves, unconcerned about the potential for punishment which clearly, they deserve.
If only there were a fifth card in the series.