Which lead on to other things.  Like this greetings telegram.

Claudia Freedman greetings telegram 1950

It came from the local ‘Antiques and Collectors’ (i.e. 1970s cookery books, artificial flowers and old tools) market just near me.  A rare gem in amonst the flotsam, then.

Its main story – and why this telegram exists at all – is that it was sent by some people to someone else.  To John Rees, in fact, in Troedyrhw in Wales who was celebrating his 90th birthday.  He must have been well-loved, because he got a whole clutch of these, all written in the same hand by his local Post Office.  I hope he had a lovely day.

He was lucky to get anything as decorative, because it turns out that this design was the first Greetings Telegram to be produced after World War Two; his birthday was 22nd Jan 1951, and these were only reintroduced on 20th November 1950, as paper rationing was finally eased.  So it’s also a historical document of sorts, a reminder of a time when the world of austerity was finally ebbing away and pretty things just for the joy of themselves were permitted once more.

He was twice lucky because the first design they chose was also very good.  There’s a tiny signature in the bottom right hand corner which, when I squinted at it, seemed to say Freedman.  The lettering also looked a bit like his work, at which point I started to wish that I had bought the whole batch.  But I couldn’t quite persuade myself (or Mr Crownfolio) that the first word was Barnett, so went off to do a bit of digging.

What I discovered was that my instincts were not far off, as the design is actually by Barnett Freedman‘s wife, Claudia.  There’s a very good article on the blog Adventures in the Print Trade about both of their work, which gave me this biography:

She was born Claudia Guercio in Formby, Liverpool, of Anglo-Sicilian parentage. She studied at Liverpool School of Art and the Royal College of Art. Working initially under her maiden name, she took the name Claudia Freedman on her marriage to Barnett Freedman in 1930. Compared to her husband, Claudia Freedman’s output was relatively small, but works such as the autolithographed book My Toy Cupboard (undated but published in the 1940s by Noel Carrington’s Transatlantic Arts) show that she had a talent equal to his.

Which then led me to finding the telegram in Ruth Artmonsky’s book Bringers of Good Tidings: Greetings Telegrams 1935-1982 where it is listed under her maiden name of Guercio.

The piece on Adventures in the Print Trade makes two crucial points, that her work, unlike her husband’s, is now pretty much unknown, and that there was never very much of it in the first place.  These two things may be connected.

They illustrate her very rare wartime book, My Toy Cupboard and it’s worth going over to the blog to see the rest of it, as it is wonderful.

My Toy Cupboard Claudia Freedman from Adventures etc...

But there is a bit more out there to be found.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the trail also led me to Mike Ashworth’s Flickr stream (which will one day be declared a National Monument of Ephemera and preserved for posterity).

Claudia Freedman Shell advertisement 1950

Claudia Freedman designed this ad for Shell in about 1950, he tells me.  It’s a fantastically complex thing and must, I guess, have been designed for magazines as it could never have been reproduced in newsprint.

And finally, I came back full circle to not only a blog I have visited before but also another telegram.  This one was sent to A. Muriel Pierotti on her appointment as General Secretary of the National Union of Women Teachers in 1940, and so is now kept in the archives of the NUWT.

Claudia Freedman greetings telegram 1940

Despite the fact that it was sent during wartime, it is nonetheless decorated – the ban on these didn’t come into force until 1943.  I hope Muriel Pierotti enjoyed her appointment as much as Mr Rees enjoyed his birthday.

Not all objects are so forthcoming however.  I also bought this map of Ontario at the same stall.

Esso map montreal quebec 1950s

There is no artist’s name, no clue at all, just a very endearing town and the name of a garage on the back.

Esso montreal map back

The only story here is mine; I bought it mainly because I have a stack of my father’s old maps teetering on the windowsill in the bedroom waiting to be sorted through one day.  My father loved maps very much.  Top of the pile is this Stockholm map, which he must have had when we used to live in Copenhagen and he travelled to Stockholm for business quite regularly.

Stockholm map from I do not know when but courtesy of ALN Walker

The Swedes clearly have no problem with being both historical and modern at the same time.  Unlike us Brits.

When I saw the Ontario map, it reminded me of the Stockholm one because it seemed to have the same sunny optimism about the city it portrayed, so I bought it.  And that’s the end of the story.

  • On a slightly different tack… If you would like to see Barnett Freedman at work there is a GPO Film Unit short entitled The King’s Stamp (supposedly?) showing him working on the design for the 1935 Silver Jubilee stamps. He only appears at the start of the film because it drifts off into the story of the introduction of postage stamps after that. Some of it is quite amusing though…

  • I seem to recall reading somewhere that Shell sent Valentines Day cards to its lady customers for many years – the beautiful ‘shell grotto’ design must be for one of these

  • Considerably better than the emails we get these days. World, gone to the dogs, that’s what I say.

  • I sold the Claudia card some time ago, but it was simply the design you showed, with nothing on the back. I was puzzled as to how it was distributed, but the suggestion that it was sent to certain customers, like the Guinness booklets were, makes a lot of sense.

  • That does indeed make sense. It also makes me wonder just how much design-related ephemera of that kind has disappeared for good, and with no way of knowing that it even existed.

  • Yes, designers & design studios in particular liked showing off their skills, particularly at Christmas time, by sending out beautifully designed Christmas cards and calendars to clients which were never seen by the general public.

  • Delighted to see that my mother’s work is still appreciated!

    Kindest regards

    Vince Freedman

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