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Saturday, 17th May 2008
Cry Fowl

I can never resist a poor pun.

Even if it is a poultry one.

Amongst the many request I have had one stood out as being unusual. Football and sport dominates the requests (England doing so well helps this side of things). Then of course there are the railway sets but one woman was looking for the Poultry set, Players. Apparently this framed set had generated a good deal of interest in the kitchen of a show house.

Well it got me thinking (along with a heated debate about which chickens flew and which did not.) about the coverage fowl got on cigarette cards. This as opposed to birds (feathered) of which there are many.

I was actually quite surprised how little the subject was covered, especially given the fact most people kept a few chickens in their backyard during the war years for an egg supplement to their diet.

Players, Poultry [1931] is quite possibly the most colourful set and it covers almost every breed you ever wanted to know about in its 50 card series. It was actually issued as both a transfer and a non-transfer set. It has to be a good set as it has the honor (?) of being issued as a reprint in 1993. Please note: I only deal in original cards unless expressly asked to acquire reproductions.Players had examined the area before in their Game birds and wild fowl [1927] series which again was 50 cards and the following year issued a large format series of 25.

Although Players Poultry was probably the definitive set Ogdens were early on the scene with a whole raft of fowl sets Poultry [1915] 25 in the set. This came in two varieties, one with Ogdens on the front and one without. Obviously Ogdens felt that the set was worth a second series and this was issued the following year.

Keen to keep one eye on the Poultry business Ogdens also issued the very educational Poultry rearing & management 1st series [1922] again a set of 25 cards which was followed up the very next year with the second series. Poultry Alphabet [1924] (25 not 26 in the set) was one of their last efforts along with Fowls Pigeons & Dogs [1924]. Luckily as far as I know the theme was then dropped before the titles became any more surreal. Of note is the fact that the final set was an 'alike' set of a much earlier series by FJ Smith, Fowls Pigeons & Dogs [1908] this was a series of 50 cards rather than Ogdens typical 25.

Another early set from over the pond was the silk series from American Tobacco Ltd, Breeds of Fowls [1910] the series was large format and only ran into a series of ten. On a rather different theme there was the set fromBAT, Cock fighting [1911] this is a set I have not actually seen so cannot comment on. In the present climate I might not be able to see it either.

Fowl fell out of favour in general domestic life, the commercialisation of the business probably not helping. I might be wrong (and believe me it is not the first or last time that is going to happen) but I cannot think of any later trade cards series which dealt with this theme. There was the odd card for the theme collectors such as in Ewbanks, Animals of the Farmyard [1960] and Kane, National Pets Club [1958]

So well done Karen for requesting the set and reawakening my grey cells to the world of feathered cigarette cards. You never know closer inspection of these sets might solve the arguement about flying chickens.