Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Manchester Amateur Photographic Society, Mr Morris and the mystery of that postcard from Chorlton-cum-Hardy

The request from Mr Morris, 1907
The Manchester Amateur Photographic Society is one of those societies, that continues to interest me and today I have been drawn back by Mr George Morris of Chandos Road.

He was the Honourable Secretary of the Photographic Society and in 1907 requested 30 copies of the prospectus for Art of the Camera which “appears to be one well worth the consideration of all serious photographers” adding that “my society is one of the largest in the Kingdom (nearly 400 members)” and intended distributing them “at our next monthly meeting on September 10.”

He was also keen to request that they should not be sent until “August 10; as I shall be away until that date.”

Now I like that little bit of detail more so because it fits with the fact that he was a head teacher and so I guess was on holiday.

I would like to know where he taught and perhaps his staff records will be in the Archives and Local History Library at Central Ref.  In 1911 he was working for the Manchester Education Committee and details of other Corporation employees are available.

There will be those who mutter that this is bordering on being too intrusive, but not so because it will throw a little more light on the Photographic Society which did some fine work recording the twin cities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Blackfriars Street, 1894
One of the foremost of its members engaged in this work was Samuel L Coulthurst many of whose pictures are in the digital collection of Manchester Libraries.*

So I am intrigued as to who else turned up at those monthly meetings to share their pictures and learn more about the art of photography.

And I come with no preconceptions that this will be the preserve of the wealthy or the middling people.

It may be that the Society itself can help and I shall be seeking their co-operation in getting an idea of the membership and in particular Mr Morris.

He was born in 1867 in Jersey, married Constance Blanche Goodwin in 1898 in Hackney and in 1901 they were living in Northern Grove in West Didsbury before settling down at Chandos Road by 1907.

His father was a tailor and at one point George Morris was teaching in Byker in Northumberland which was a long way from where he  grew up in Berkshire.

So I suspect here is an interesting life and I would like to know more about his contribution to the Society.
What also intrigues me is the way his postcard sent to London to the offices of George Bell & Sons,  York House Portugal Street, London has survived.

George Bell & Sons, 1907
"The firm began  as an educational bookseller, with the intention of selling the output of London university presses; but became best known as an independent publisher of classics and children's books.

One of Bell's first investments in publishing was a series of Railway Companions; that is, booklets of timetables and tourist guides. 

Within a year Bell's publishing business had outstripped his retail business, and he elected to move from his original offices into Fleet Street.

There G. Bell & Sons branched into the publication of books on art, architecture, and archaeology, in addition to the classics for which the company was already known. Bell's reputation was only improved by his association with Henry Cole.**

It closed in the 1980s and just how our postcard was saved from being destroyed would make a fascinating story.

Suffice to say it did and was bought by David Harrop.***

As for the Art of the Camera, by Anthony Guess, well it is still available and copies range in cost from £38 upwards.

A far cry I guess from when it was published in 1907.

Pictures; the postcard from Mr Morris, from the collection of David Harrop, and Blackfriars Street, 1894, Samuel L Coulthurst, m 80496, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

*Samuel L Coulson,

**George Bell & Sons,

***David Harrop,

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