A Girls’ Night Out?

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This intriguing postcard begs a few questions. Who are these women? Do the costumes hint at a theatrical production, or perhaps a fancy dress party? And is that a toy balloon, seen between the two women sat on the floor?

Here is a close up view:

postcard usa a balloon

It appears to have an eye, so perhaps there is a face drawn on it.

Published by the U.S.A. Studios, the stamp box design on the postcard dates it to 1907-1911. Mass production of toy balloons did not start until the 1930s, although hand-made rubber balloons were available before then and extremely attractive (and sometimes dangerous!) to young children.

Edwardian newspapers reported the dangers of toy balloons, including a young boy who followed his balloon out of an upstairs window and somehow lived to tell the tale. Another young child swallowed a balloon, which then inflated each time a breath was taken (it was quickly extracted and the child survived). And the following report tells of a boy who swallowed the wooden whistle attached to his balloon, and thereafter whistled when he breathed. Thankfully the whistle was later ejected during a coughing fit:

Belper News - Friday 05 June 1908Belper News – Friday 05 June 1908

But our balloon doesn’t look like a rubber one. It has texture. Perhaps the following newspaper extract, which describes how to make a balloon from strong tissue paper, provides a clue:

Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser - Friday 06 March 1903 copySevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser – Friday 06 March 1903

Of course, none of this tells us who the women are or what they were doing, but they have provided a journey of discovery and the enjoyment of their wonderful photograph.

And I thank them very much for that!

Newspaper clippings from The British Newspaper Archive  © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Lady Mabel Bridgeman

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This cabinet card of Lady Mabel Bridgeman is a copy of the original, although not a recent one. She was born in 1855 (the eldest child of the 3rd Earl of Bradford), so I would guess the photograph was taken around 1880.

In 1887 she married William Kenyon-Slaney who, having excelled at football at Eton, was selected to play for England. And in 1873 he became the first footballer to score a goal in an international match. Perhaps this makes Mabel the original footballers’ wife? Although, by the time they married his footballing career was over and from 1886 until his death in 1908, Kenyon-Slaney acted as Member of Parliament for Newport, Shropshire.

mabel bridgeman - the shrewsbury chronicle fri may 1 1908The Shrewsbury Chronicle – Friday 1st May 1908

There are numerous mentions of Lady Bridgeman (later Lady Kenyon-Slaney) in the newspaper archives, most of them being society reports. She mixed in the same circles as the British royal family and met Queen Victoria on more than one occasion. The photograph below was taken on a visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales to Bradford, with Lady Bridgeman sat on the front row, next to Mary of Teck (Princess of Wales and later Queen consort).

The Sphere - Saturday 14 May 1904The Sphere – Saturday 14th May 1904

(A. Prince of Wales   B. Princess of Wales   C. Lady M Kenyon-Slaney)

Mabel passed away in 1933 at the age of 77. She was buried next to her husband at Ryton Church, Shifnal, Shropshire. According to the Staffordshire Advertiser 4th February 1933: There were many floral tributes, one from Lord Harewood and the Princess Royal being of pink carnations, with the inscription “In loving memory from Harry and Mary.” The ‘Mary’ in question was the daughter of Mary of Teck.

Various information from Ancestry.co.uk

Newspaper clipping/quotes from The British Newspaper Archive  © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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A beautiful old photograph of Daisy, who has written on the reverse Your Loving & Affectionate Sweetheart. She wears a wedding ring so presumably sent the postcard to her husband. In brackets she has included her nick-name, possibly Mamie or Marnie? And someone else has added the surname Spencer, but since there are too many Daisy Spencers’ to decide between I have not yet been able to identify her.

Published by the Curzon Studios (Stratford, Manor Park and Kilburn).

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Victorian Cyclist

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At a guess, this postcard dates to the late 1890s. The man on the bicycle obviously means business and is possibly even training for an upcoming race or two. Yet the background, which looks like a back yard, seems somehow at odds with the pose to me.

Notice the shoes. They are similar in style to the ‘Shorland’ cycling shoes in the following advertisement:

Norwich Mercury - Wednesday 23 May 1900 Norwich Mercury – Wednesday 23 May 1900

I love how the cycling suits were described as ‘sanitary’, to ‘safeguard cyclists from the effects of damp and cold’. And that there were cycling stockings specifically available for thin legs!

It would be great to identify the cyclist on this postcard but the back of the card lends no particular clues. If anyone out there can help, please let me know.


Newspaper clipping from The British Newspaper Archive  © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

‘Love From M’

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I wish we sent more postcards these days. They are such a tangible connection to the past. This one was sent to Miss Gilbert, on the occasion of her birthday, and is simply signed ‘Love from M’.

‘M’ is posing in the garden, perhaps using the chair to keep her still, and it looks to be winter judging by the bare trees and the hat and gloves.

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The postcard is addressed to Miss Gilbert, Bradney, In Bridgwater, Somerset, and is dated April 14th 1907. A search of the records on Ancestry leads me to Jessie Ellen Gilbert born 15th April 1885, so this card would have been sent for her 22nd birthday. In 1901, Jessie was living in Bradney with her parents William and Ellen.

But who is ‘M’? She lived in the same area (the card is postmarked Bridgwater) but there are no other clues. Perhaps someone will come across this blog post and recognise her from old family photos. Fingers crossed!