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ABDULLA / ARDATH
LAMBERT & BUTLER
|I||did warn you|
in the introduction to this series of cards without peer I had made enough rules and regulations to ensure just about any set I wanted to write about could be. With this in mind I start as I mean to go on.
The Bonzo Series of cards. Peerless as there is no other set of cards which deals with the fellow but not exactly peerless as the series was issued by a number of manufacturers. Players is perhaps the most well known of the issuers but there were others such as Spratts, an animal food company.
There is not a lot to say on the reverse of a Bonzo card so not a lot is said. Players writes, 'This picture is one of a series of 25 now being packed in these cigarettes.' Spratts make more of an effort with 20000 Dealers sell Spratts Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes. 'The backbone of the canine race.' It continues, 'For over 60 years the standard dog food suitable for the largest dog down to the Airedale. They require a degree of mastication which ensures clear strong teeth, hard gums and a healthy system.'
an unguarded coal fire burns in the background
Spratts issued the set in 1924 when obviously dog sizes were slightly different, perhaps due to nutrition. Would an advertiser now claim the pet food was 'the backbone of the canine race,'? It seems rather unlikely even if it might be. Spratts did not just produce Dog food and the reverse of the card also has such beak smacking goodies as C.L.O Cagebird Food. Reading on C.L.O stands for cod Liver Oil which was ideal as a food supplement every fourth day, especially for 'weakly birds'. Then there was Chicken Meal and Chikko (how easy it was in the early days of brand names). The Chicken Meal contained full cream dried milk. Chikko was rather more frightening as ingredients included 'ants eggs, dried flies, egg flake but not a single indigestible seed'
Imagine a dried flea or demanding to know how an 'indigestible seed' had got into the food.
It is a shame there is nothing of any real significance on the reverse of the Players cards as at least half the pleasure of collecting is reading the nonsense on the back. It would have been so much better if there had been a potted history of Bonzo and his creator. It would have taken no real effort to do and would have made the set so much more interesting 80 years later.
The sharp of thought as well as tooth will know Players, Bonzo Series was issued in 1923 and was a non-UK issue. Hence I am clinging onto the Spratts issue as I try to keep the site as closely as possible within the boundaries of UK cigarette cards. Not always successfully given the fact these are trade cards.
Some of the cards would seem to have a very small scrawl in the corner which suggests the illustrations were done in 1922 but not all of them show this. Seems reasonable though, it takes time to get a card from drawing to product they are given away in, some seem to take an incredible length of time to go through this process.
I read a personal piece that suggested this was one of the worst sets of cards the fellow had ever seen. He was writing from a cricket perspective and had managed to work the set in because of the card, 'A Pull to Leg' #16. He must have felt strongly on the issue as you really do have to go out of your way to mention the set on a cricket page.
Having read that it is difficult to determine what the person that said the set was 'laughable' was meaning.
It was always a set I had a yearning to get my hands on in those early collecting days when an overseas set was a world away an 'expensive' cards were out of my league.
Before Bonzo was a Doo-Dah Band, even before he was a chimp upstaging Ronald Reagan during his amazingly prolongued film career, he was a little dog. I always imagined him a mongrel but in the cards illustrated there are an awful lot of other dogs which look just like him, which suggests he is not. Bull terrier seems most likely.
G.E Studdy (the hand behind the dog) also drew in a rather limited colour range. red carpet, red chairs, red tablecloths red clothing and red lamp-posts. White dog and pretty much shades of grey everything else. This must have been the colour range of the artist as there were no such limiting factors when it came to sets of cigarette cards.
Still that is the way it was and that is the way it will stay.
The basic premise of the set is Bonzo is a puppy type thing with a puppy temperament and gets into all those scrapes you expect such animals might get into (without the need for newspaper to clear it up I have to say).
I have already mentioned Bonzo can be worked into a cricket page but the fellow is a deal more versatile than this. The CB Fry of the dog world he is also seen in enjoying a bit of tennis, collecting golf balls and not enjoying a boxing match.
This might explain why a series of cards about a half-forgotten cartoon character in a set which has its fair share of detractors turns out to have quite a price tag applied to it.
On a totally different level I like watching old films (1920 - 1930's) not because of the usually feeble acting or because of any real feeling they are in any way better than modern films but because of all the old props, which were at the time quite normal. The beaten furniture, the wall mounted telephones, the clothing, it really is a different age and so it is the same with this set.
The first card illustrates an old gramaphone, card 3 has a bobbin turned table. Card 4 has the sort of chair you would have thrown out long ago but did not in the 1920's. Card 5 has an illustration of modern art which obviously horrified as often as modern art still does. Card 6 has an old fashioned glass baby feeder which today would house enough germs to wipe out an entire kindergarten whilst an unguarded coal fire burns in the background. Card 14 shows the mummification of a dog, the Egyptian finds being pretty exciting then as they are now. On Card 18 our hero is kicked from a butchers/greengrocers by a hob nailed boot. On card 20 Bonzo is being held up by the lady of the house to have a smack adminstered by the man of the house. Both people are wearing white evening gloves.
Little things which would never appear in a cartoon today because they just do not exist today.