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Leaders of the Gang

T he political system of democracy

may well give us a sense of individual empowerment but it does not really stand up to much scrutiny. In the UK we are rapidly getting to the stage when only a minority of eligible voters actually bother too. Of those that do vote it is almost inevitable the majority do not get the government they voted for and within a few months it becomes obvious to everyone, nobody actually got the government they thought they were getting.

Socrates came to an unfortunate end

All this is rightly held up as the model of modern political systems and something a lot of the world aspires to, so think how bad the rest of it is, rather than how good we are.

Slightly concerning is the fact the politicians we elect to represent us are almost insignificant proportion of the people that actually control our lives.

So when in 1924 Ogdens produced the set Leaders Of Men very few of the 50 cards depict men that were elected by their fellow men, although as political animals many people within this set were involved in politics. Admittedly that is more cards than the solitary woman in the set, Joan of Arc.

GALILEO GALILEI (Cool name award winner)
OGDENS, LEADERS
OF MEN [1924]

Presumably this means the set had nothing against politicians or women but just considered they were not good enough to be included. Don't complain to me about this situation complain to the people that produced the set eighty years ago. Mind you if your blood is boiling you can always send me a list of the five most prominent female leaders of men before 1924 but first read the rest of this page as it will give you some ideas of who might be included in the list. You will find they could have included a few more than one. I give my thoughts on this at the bottom of the page (well did you think I was not going to inflict you with my weak brained ideas).

Two of the politicians in the set are American, Abraham Lincoln is on card 28 and George Washington on card 46. Certainly this set has some pretty good international credentials.

49 of the 50 cards depict people that are dead, and many such as Attila (card 3) and Alexander the Great (card 1) long dead. Perhaps not the two best examples to give if I am trying to convince you the set has a non-military element.

So without any further ado, let us do away with this militaristic stuff and present card 9, Confucius, a leader of men's minds as was Plato (card 14) and his teacher Socrates (card 45).

Socrates came to an unfortunate end having been accused of denying the state gods and introducing new divinities. He was sentenced to death and died after drinking a cup of hemlock. His maxim was "to want nothing is divine; to want as little as possible is the nearest approach to divine life." Clearly a fellow that would feel a bit ill at ease with the modern consumer culture.

Potentially I am being a little unfair to suggest such characters would not appear in a similar set if it were issued today. It would be foolish to even suggest another manufacturer in 1924 would have included such people.

Poets appear in the set, in rather more abundance than do writers. Combined with the philosopher cards it is now heading towards some sort of cultural elitism. It is difficult to square that circle with the fact these are giveaways intended to create a brand loyalty in a mass produced product.

The first three cards are traditional fare, Alexander the Great, Alfred the Great and Attilla. The most important reason for these three to open the set being the same reason you would find them at the front of the phone book, they have names that begin A.

It seems the first step towards world domination is to have a name beginning with A. This theory falls into disrepute a little later in the set when Napoleon and Peter the Great arrive. "Great" is something a lot of people seem to have been.

For some reason, at the moment, I am going through the rather unhealthy obsession of exactly how sets are organised. I suppose you have to do something if you do not enjoy gardening. This one could not be easier, alphabetically. The trouble being there seems to be some disagreement during the set as to whether to order the cards by first name or last name so we get on card 25 Joan of Arc followed by Julius Caesar followed by John Knox. So although there is a sort of consistency it is not perfect. What is?

 

SIR ISSAC NEWTON
OGDENS, LEADERS
OF MEN [1924]

There is room for explorers such as Captain Cook (card 11), Sir Francis Drake (card 16) and David Livingstone (card 29) who must be the very epitome of a Victorian explorer and inspiration for many "boys own" adventures. Also included is Sir Walter Raleigh, favourite of the Elizabethan court and credited with the introduction of tobacco, a feat which must insure his inclusion in just about any cigarette cards set.

Mention of Elizabeth I, if only obliquely, brings us to religion. The subject, not un-naturally gets a fair shake of the stick but it seems a bit off that Cardinal Richelieu gets inclusion presumably at the expense of England's very own Cardinal Wolesley. Equally John Knox and William Penn appear in the set but there is no room Martin Luther.

By any stretch of the imagination this set covers a lot of ground and it does it in some fine style. The artwork on the front the cards is first-rate and the text on the reverse even better.

I almost forgot, Thomas Alva Edison is the one person included that does not have a date of death after his name.

Finally given the scope of this set here are five additional women that could appear in the set; Elizabeth I, Boudicca, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie. Still alive at the time but so was Edison and perhaps the most controversial from a Leaders of Men point of view, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928). Men might not have wanted to be lead by her but tough, now that's leadership.