Tag Archives: lantern slide

The London Postal School

Regular readers of this blog will have seen our recent post about the digitised lantern slides of Foreign Postal Workers we recently added to Flickr. We have now added more digitised lantern slides to Flickr, this time related to the London Postal School (LPS).

'London Postal School. Postmens Retiring Room. Tea Time' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049/13)

‘London Postal School. Postmens Retiring Room. Tea Time’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049/13)

The London Postal School was, as the name suggests, the General Post Office’s training facility for postal workers. The School taught trainees how to perform a variety of tasks and functions, from serving on a Post Office counter to sorting and delivering the mail.

As in today’s workplace training sessions students at the London Postal School attended illustrated presentations related to their work, but this being the first half of the 20th Century the students viewed lantern slide shows rather than PowerPoint presentations. The slides from these shows are now part of our Museum Collection, and they give an interesting insight into postal operations of the period.

One lantern slide shows the Post Office branch at Charing Cross, which is described as “very old”. With its ornate exterior and cramped interior it is markedly less modern than the Post Offices at Kentish Town and Albemarle Street.

'London Postal School. Very old P.O. Charing Cross B.O. Exterior' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049/17)

‘London Postal School. Very old P.O. Charing Cross B.O. Exterior’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049/17)

There are also a number of slides showing airmail operations, then a new and groundbreaking mode of postal delivery, and some showing the mail bag exchange system used on the Travelling Post Offices, rail services on which mail was collected, sorted and dispatched on the move.

'London Postal School. T.P.O. Bags in Position. Net down' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049-27)

‘London Postal School. T.P.O. Bags in Position. Net down’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049-27)

Finally, there are a variety of slides showing sorting offices and the various technologies employed there such as chutes, the “Creeper” conveyor belt system (below), and the stamping machine and facing table. What the trainees made of all this we’ll never know!

'London Postal School. Mails being conveyed by ''Creeper'' from/ the Landing Stage to Customs Baggage Room' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049/40)

‘London Postal School. Mails being conveyed by ”Creeper” from/ the Landing Stage to Customs Baggage Room’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049/40)

Visit our Flickr site to see the London Postal School lantern slides.

Foreign Postal Workers

Like many Museums and Archives, we have a number of items in our collection which we don’t know very much about. The recent cataloguing of lantern slides, mostly dating from the early 20th Century, brought to our attention a number which show images of postal workers from around the world. While many are illustrative of the British Post Office’s international operations (there are a few showing Indian postal workers and the Indian Post Office was under British control at this point) it is unclear exactly why these lantern slides were produced.

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a group of men and women Post Office officials. (2012-0030/19)

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a group of men and women Post Office officials. (2012-0030/19)

One theory is that they could have been shown to students at the London Postal School (LPS), which trained postal workers in a variety of duties. Perhaps the slides were used to highlight to the trainees that by working for the General Post Office (GPO) they were part of a global communications network? However, this does seem a little counter to the very practical emphasis at LPS, where a typical lesson saw students role-playing various scenarios, including counter transactions.

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a Landes postman on stilts delivering a letter to a woman, France. There is another woman standing on the door-step behind and a man seated in front of a spinning wheel in the bottom right hand corner. (2012-0030/04)

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a Landes postman on stilts delivering a letter to a woman, France. There is another woman standing on the door-step behind and a man seated in front of a spinning wheel in the bottom right hand corner. (2012-0030/04)

Another theory is that the slides were used in magic lantern slide shows, which were a very popular form of entertainment at the turn of the 20th Century. Lanterns shows could cover a variety of subjects, and slides such as the ones in our collection may have been produced for GPO lantern shows or acquired from other shows due to their postal connection.

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a parcel postwoman standing beside the horse of the horse-drawn mail coach, Germany. (2012-0030/02)

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a parcel postwoman standing beside the horse of the horse-drawn mail coach, Germany. (2012-0030/02)

Whatever the reason for their existence, these slides give us a fascinating insight into postal operations around the world, including the myriad of uniforms and modes of transport employed by different postal administrations. One particularly nice example shows a postman in a top hat riding a donkey!

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a rural postman in Dominica, British West Indies, wearing a light blue top hat, white trousers and a blue jacket whilst riding a white donkey. (2012-0030/16)

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide of a rural postman in Dominica, British West Indies, wearing a light blue top hat, white trousers and a blue jacket whilst riding a white donkey. (2012-0030/16)

In addition to the images illustrating this blog we have uploaded a number to our Flickr site. Search our online catalogue to see more of our lantern slides.

London Postal Service School

Continuing the recent lantern slide theme on our blog, I thought I would share one of my favourite slides we have in our collection relating to the London Postal Service School (LPS).

This is one of my favourite slides from this group partly for the atmosphere of the picture, not to mention the man in the bowler hat who seems to have been momentarily distracted from his duty. One of the more surprising elements perhaps is the use of a ‘creeper’ – a series of rollers – for transporting mail, now more commonly associated with airport security, but which is likely to have been a very ‘modern’ method of transport at the time.

Mails being conveyed by "Creeper" from the Landing Stage to Customs Baggage Room', c.1930-c.1940 (2012-0049/40)

Mails being conveyed by “Creeper” from the Landing Stage to Customs Baggage Room’, c.1930-c.1940 (2012-0049/40)

If this image looks familiar, it may be because many of these slides also appear as photographs in the Royal Mail Archive. Lantern slides were used extensively by the Post Office during the 19th and 20th Centuries, for a variety of purposes including staff training. It is likely that many of the images were used as lantern slides as a means of instructing new recruits.

The training schools were established to train staff in Post Office procedures and to ensure standardisation of service. The first was the London Postal Service Counter School in Roman Bath Street, London for the training of counter clerks and telegraphists, with other departments later opening schools with specific areas of training.

The emphasis in the schools was on practical training and classrooms were equipped to resemble real-life post office counters. Students took part in role-play were provided with copies of example documents, which were also displayed around the room.

I am particularly fond of the London Postal Service School slides as they convey not only the scale of the Post Office operations, but give a sense of the people behind the post – many of whom can be seen enjoying a well earned tea break in the picture below!

L.P.S. Postmens’ Retiring Room, Tea Time, c.1930-c.1940 (2012-0049/13)

L.P.S. Postmens’ Retiring Room, Tea Time, c.1930-c.1940 (2012-0049/13)

More of these slides will soon be available on our online catalogue.

Sarah Jenkins – Assistant Cataloguer

Miss Walton – Post Office Heroine

Over the past few months, I have been cataloguing many of the lantern slides in the BPMA’s collection as part of our documentation backlog project and scanning the slides ready to be added to our online catalogue. The slides cover a wide range of subjects, from Post Office buildings around the world to the hustle and bustle of the Sorting Offices, providing a snapshot of a variety of postal activities. Many also contain some interesting and surprising stories, such of that of Miss Walton, a ‘P.O. Heroine’.

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide with a oval portrait of a woman in a high collar in the top half of the image, with the caption 'MISS WALTON' underneath. (2012-0157)

A hand-coloured photographic lantern slide with a oval portrait of a woman in a high collar in the top half of the image, with the caption ‘MISS WALTON’ underneath. (2012-0157)

This unassuming hand-coloured slide shows a single storey building below the portrait of a woman in Victorian dress. Curious to know who Miss Walton was and what she had done to earn the title of ‘P.O Heroine’, I started to investigate a bit further. Miss Walton was Postmistress at Van Wyk Vlei, in the Northern Cape of South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902) and bravely refused to hand over the keys to the Post Office when armed rebels arrived in the village.

Her account of the incident on 13th March 1900 states:

I was told it was of no avail trying to stand against the force, and commanded to hand over the keys of the offices and safe. I placed myself against the door to guard it, whereupon one of the party pointed a rifle at me and exclaimed “I will shoot you dead!“ I replied, “Shoot, coward, and kill me; then you can have the keys, not otherwise”.

The rebels broke down the door of the Post Office, cut the telegraph wires and took the telegraph equipment but left Miss Walton unharmed. She recovered the office valuables and travelled safely with them to the town of Carnarvon two days later.

Miss Walton – Post Office Heroine (detail) (2012-0157)

Miss Walton – Post Office Heroine (detail) (2012-0157)

Miss Walton’s plucky conduct was honoured in a song in Punch magazine later the same month:

This is the song of a heroine,
Mid the heroes of the war
The song of a maid, who was not afraid,

But stood to her trust as a man should stay,
Who scorned the threats of the rebel raid,

And looked down the rifle without dismay,
British born! True to the core!

I’m not sure many employers today would expect such commitment from their employees!

Sarah Jenkins – Assistant Cataloguer

HMS Agamemnon and friends

As part of my recent work on the BPMA lantern slide collection, I have been looking further into some of the slides to help make an informed decision as to whether they should be formally accepted into the collections.

In many cases, it is possible to draw on the knowledge and expertise of my colleagues to provide a starting point, in addition to our online catalogue or Archive holdings. In others, additional expertise is required, such as in the case of several lantern slides of ships. Although lovely images in themselves, it was difficult to determine the slides’ relevance to the collection without any further information to go on, so I approached the National Maritime Museum (NMM) for help with identification.

HMS Agamemnon shown embarking on the English portion of the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/01)

HMS Agamemnon shown embarking on the English portion of the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/01)

The curatorial staff at the NMM were very helpful, providing several identifications of vessels and other points of interest. For example, HMS Agamemnon (shown above) was involved in the first attempt by the Atlantic Telegraph Company to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable in 1857. The initial attempt failed, but HMS Agamemnon and its counterpart, USS Niagara were successful in laying the cable the following year. One of the slides shows the two ships embarking cable, in an image that originally appeared in the Illustrated London News in May 1858.

USS Niagra, which participated with HMS Agamemnon in the 1857 and 1858 attempts to lay the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/02)

USS Niagra, which participated with HMS Agamemnon in the 1857 and 1858 attempts to lay the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/02)

The positive identification of several of these ships and their involvement in the laying of early telegraph cables has meant that our curators have been able to make an informed decision about the slides’ place within our collections. The slides – along with many others – have now been catalogued and scanned and will be appearing in our online catalogue soon, so do keep an eye open for them!

Sarah Jenkins – Assistant Cataloguer

Visit our Flickr site to see a selection of lantern slides showing transatlantic cable ships.

Lantern Slides: Post Horses

I have recently been working on a project to scan and catalogue BPMA’s collection of lantern slides. Lantern slides were used in magic lanterns and were the predecessors of modern slides for projectors. They were first invented in the mid 16th Century, originally using candles or oil lamps to throw the images. As time progressed brighter light sources such as limelight were discovered making the devices much more efficient at projecting.

The lantern slides were made out of two pieces of glass coated with a photographic emulsion resulting in the image appearing in-between the plates. The slides could then be hand tinted if required or left black and white.

Lantern slides came into popular use in the 19th and 20th Centuries and the BPMA’s collection of over 500 also date to this period. The Post Office used them extensively, with a variety of purposes from staff training to documenting what the organisation was doing.

A large part of the collection focuses on postal transport, and unsurprisingly horses feature in many of the earlier slides – in the form of drawings and photographic images, of either the animals or artwork of them. I have selected some of these to share with you today.

Tickets used to hire post horses from postmasters or innkeepers. (2010-0411/08)

Tickets used to hire post horses from postmasters or innkeepers. (2010-0411/08)

The image above shows a photograph of tickets used to hire post horses from postmasters or innkeepers. As the title states, surviving examples are rare so the record in the form of a lantern slide to document this process is highly valuable.

Australian telegraph worker riding a horse. (2010-0450)

Australian telegraph worker riding a horse. (2010-0450)

This next slide, shows a late 19th Century drawing of an Australian telegraph worker, distinguished by his different uniform, riding on a horse. This could possibly have been used to educate British staff of postal practices around the world.

Postal worker with his horse. (2011-0443/08)

Postal worker with his horse. (2011-0443/08)

A much more human touch in this next image shows an older postal worker with his horse or pony. The familiarity in the shot is endearing and shows a more informal side to the use of the slides.

More catalogue records complete with images will shortly be available on our online catalogue so do look out for them soon.

Laura Snowling – Volunteer

Virtual Advent Calendar – 6th December

In the lead-up to Christmas we are showcasing some of the festive items in our collection across our social networks. Behind the door of our virtual advent calendar today is…

Christmas Greeting from The Army Post Office Corps Bloemfontein (1890s-1920s)

A black and white lantern slide of an image of a map, with a group photo in front of Field Post Office in the centre.

A black and white lantern slide of an image of a map, with a group photo in front of Field Post Office in the centre.

See larger images of all the items in our Virtual Advent Calendar on Flickr.