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Old Photographs - StickyBacks
This page is about a movement by some practitioners towards cheaper photographic portraits for a wider mass market - a kind of "stack them tall and sell them cheap" mentality which was all about higher volume sales, reduced use of materials, small novelty end-products and affordable prices. This movement perhaps started as early as the 1860s with the novelty stamp photograph and the miniature (and therefore cheaper) version of the carte de visite. Along the way it included the "sticky back" photograph, the gem tintype, the "walking pictures" seaside photographic trade and finally ended with the Polyfoto and the introduction of the automatic photo booth. One difficulty encountered by photographers who took on high volume work and employed different people in different roles, was how to be able to relate images to specific customers or customers' ticket numbers. One way of doing this was to photograph this information as a part of the portrait. This could be done either by physically displaying the information alongside the subject or by using a special camera to simultaneously capture the portrait and a unique number which then appeared at the top or bottom of the print. Another issue frequently encountered with this type of product was the variable quality of the portraits produced, giving rise to the term "StickyBacks Photographer" being applied to someone who was not very good at the photographic arts.
Examples of miniature cartes de visite, 1890s.
Left to right, Polyfoto from the 1950s, tiny carte on embossed unprinted mount, c.1910 and Gem tintype from the 1880s
Two examples of "Walking pictures" 1930s
Definition of StickyBacks
According to a photographic journal of 1912, "A Stickyback Photograph is one that has adhesive matter spread on the back, which it is simply necessary to moisten and then stick the picture on the mount. 'Stickyback' is the name by which small gummed-photographs, not much larger than a postage-stamp, are known." [Photo-era Magazine, Vol.28, 1912].
StickyBack photographs may crop up in family albums, and there was a StickyBacks photographic studio in Peterborough early in the 20th Century. It is hoped therefore that this background to StickyBacks will be of interest. The phenomenon has its roots in the 1860s but the "StickyBack" name appears to have originated in the late 1890s and to have survived almost up to the 1920s.
This example stickyback photograph of two unknown young women is from a Stickybacks photographer in Oxford.
Size 2.25 x 1.6 inches, studio information printed across the top, including negative number.
Portrait Stamps or Photograph Stamps or Stamp photographs
The precursor to the StickyBack photograph was the photographic “portrait stamp” originated in 1863 by Alexander Bassano (1829-1913) of Regent Street . By April 1863 these stamp sized photographs were described as a great success and already several young ladies had commences portrait-stamp collections. (Illustrated Times - Saturday 25 April 1863 p10.) Later that year others were taking up the idea. An advertisement for Mr Aldis, photographer of the Portman Studio Baker Street, near Madam Tussaud's listed among his offerings "the greatest novelty in photography - the new penny signature portrait stamp, 120 for 10s., adhesive and perforated." (Marylebone Mercury - Saturday 26 September 1863 P1). The following year the North of England Photographic Company 6 Ridley Place, Newcastle and Henry Street Carlisle were advertising: "Your portrait for a penny. The new penny adhesive portrait stamp used instead of signatures in writing to friends, 8s 4d per hundred" (Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury - Saturday 18 June 1864, p1).
The stamp photograph or portrait stamp was proclaimed as a popular photographic novelty many times in subsequent years and was offered as a product by a number of photographers. A few examples are listed below:
||Advertisement / Reference
Portrait stamps 12 for 1s 6d
|Edinburgh Photo Company 7 Leith Street, Rutherford’s Stair, Top flat.
The Scotsman Tues 25 July 1871 p1
Beautiful postage stamp photographs of actresses 100 post free for 1s 8d; 25 for 6d.
|E.McCabe, Lurgan, Ireland.
Western Daily Press Tuesday 2 January 1877 p1, 5 Jan 1877 p1, 6 Jan p1, 8 Jan p1,
The Postage Stamp Photograph for heading letters, 2s per dozen (now very popular in England)
J. MACK, Artist, &c., Proprietor. 84 York Street Belfast
Belfast Telegraph, numerous entries from Mon 17 May 1880 p2, - Wednesday 19 June 1880 p1
|The new patent postage stamp photographs, printed by a special process, price 4s per 100
||George Lawrence, the inventor and patentee, 57 Queen Street, Cardiff
Cardiff Times Sat 1 Oct 1887 p8
|A curiosity. Your picture reproduced by photography and made in sheets perforated and gummed the size and style of postage stamps. By using the novel portrait stamps you can affix your portrait to all your letters cards, books etc .
||J.F.Foot and Son 44 Camden road London NW
||Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - Saturday 29 September 1888 p26
|Your picture reproduced by photography and made in sheets, perforated and gummed, the size of postage stamps. By using these novel portrait stamps you can affix your portrait to all your letters cards books &c.
||James Wylie, photo artist, 27 Eglinton Street Beith
||Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald - Friday 11 January 1889 p1
|Your photograph reproduced in the style of portrait stamps 50 for 3s 6d perforated and gummed.
||Cork Constitution - Friday 22 February 1889 p1
Photographs reproduced in style of portrait stamps 50 3s 6d; 100 4s 6d
|C.Fanner, Botley Station.
||Portsmouth Evening News - Saturday 23 February 1889 p4
50 PO R T R A I T S, 3s.
A Crowning Triumph. Any Photograph reproduced in the novel style of Portrait Stamps, made in Sheets, Perforated and Gummed like Postage Stamps. Thus you can put your Photograph on all your Letters, Cards, Circulars, Books, goods, &c. An unparalleled success. Everywhere receives the highest commendation
|J. E. Foot and Son, 44, Camden road, London, N.W
The Era - Saturday 20 April 1889 p11
|New POSTAGE STAMP PHOTOGRAPHS, which are equal in every respect to a first-class Cabinet or Carte. Being perforated and gummed, like postage stamps, they can be stuck on Visiting Cards, Envelopes, Programmes, &c,, thus forming an excellent advertising medium.
W. FRANCIS, 104, Mallinson-road, Wandsworth-common, S.W. Later Francis and Co 29 Ludgate Hill, London
The Era Saturday 5 Oct 1889 p18
plus numerous other advertisements through to 1900
|They are similar in size to the ordinary postage stamp and in a neat artistic border bear a well executed reduction of the carte de visite or cabinet photograph of the person who desires to use these admirable mediums of personal advertisement by affixing them to letters, circulars &c.
||Messrs Green and M. Allsan of 3 Ludgate Circus
The Era 21 June 1890 p18
|the latest novelties hit upon by the ingenious photographer. As a work of art the portrait-stamp has much to recommend it; to egotistical persons and adventurers it ought to be treasure. You simply send in your ordinary carte to have it reduced, and the result is surprising.
||Photo Novelty Company, Eden-quay, Dublin
Flag of Ireland Sat 4 Oct 1890 p6
Photograph of a design for producing stamp photographs, an oval in a rectangular border.
|Copyright owner and author of work: George Piner Cartland, 7 High Street, Eton.
The National Archive COPY 1/404/441 and similar at COPY1/404/473 Registration stamp: 24 June 1891.
“An elaborately planned suicide” - reporting on the death of Sergeant Horace Tarrant. "Much sensation was also caused by the production of a number of visiting cards which were found on the deceased. Each card bore a loving memorial inscription to members of the family and friends, and pasted upon each card was a small stamp photograph of himself."
Hampshire Telegraph Sat 2 Jan 1892
|Your photograph reduced to size of postage stamps 50 2s 9d,
||The Portrait Stamp Co 2 River Street, Bedford.
Bedfordshire Times and Independent - Saturday 03 December 1892 p5
|Stamp sized photographs. the finest reproduction obtainable in Lincoln and County from carte, cabinets or sittings, for Xmas cards or presents, 1s per dozen
||Seaman's, Mint Street, Lincoln. See our page of additional information about the Seaman family. Edward Seaman patented a printing frame for stamp sized photographs in 1895.
||Lincolnshire Echo - Saturday 18 December 1897 p1
Photographic Stamps. These little oddments have been found useful in many ways and for several purposes. As the title signifies they are generally portraits akin to postage stamps in size and appearance . They are issued ready gummed. 45 – 2/6d, 90 - 3/6d, 180 - 5/6d
|W Tylar 41 High Street Aston, Birmingham.
The Photographic Annual 1898 Henry Sturmey Ed, London, p621
|Palace New Brighton. At this popular place of amusement all the attractions are in full swing, the one constant round of entertainment is provided for the visitor. Attractions included the photographic stamp studio
Liverpool Mercury Thursday 22 June 1899 p8
|In around 1900 James Whyte designed and sold a "Photo Stamp Album and Autograph Book". The book measured 9.5 x 6 in and had a thin card cover - reminiscent of the kind of albums used for cigarette cards. The book was marked out in rectangles for 180 stamp photos up to 1.25 x 1.5 inches in size with a space beneath each for a signature. The album was printed by J and J Murdoch of Glasgow and sold for 6d. A non perforated stamp sized photograph of Whyte appeared on the flyleaf, where he also offered "Your own photographs 12 for 1/-"
||James Whyte, photographer, 37 Jamaica Street, Glasgow. More details about Whyte's work are here: on this excellent site on Glasgow photographers:
Cambridge University Library 1900.9.87, acquired in 1900.
This stamp photograph is reproduced by kind permission of Daniel from Cinderellastampforum.com. The border is believed to be copied from the penny lilac issued from 1881 to 1901 with the dots in the corners and an oval frame. Photographer and subject currently unknown.
We would welcome more examples in the hope that we might eventually be able to associate particular styles with individual photographers.
The photographer working from the customer's carte de visite would have to copy part of the original carte, then make a number of prints from the negative, cut these out and paste them into a sheet of empty frames, re-photograph the whole sheet then print whole sheets from the resulting negative. Finally the sheets would need perforating with a hand or treadle perforator. Later it became easier for photographers to produce these stamp photographs, but by then they were going out of fashion. In the Photographic News Yearbook of Photographs and Amateurs Guide for 1907/8, Messrs Butcher and Sons of Camera House, Farringdon Ave London EC were offering a "Royal Mail Stamp Camera" (shown below) which simultaneously took 15 portraits or views on a quarter plate film. Ready perforated photographic print out paper was supplied so that a print taken from the negative was ready immediately for forming into postage stamp portraits. The complete kit cost just twenty five shillings. A better illustration of this camera and its operation can be found on the fabulous earlyphotography.co.uk site.
The name "StickyBacks"
So postage sized photographs, some with printed postage stamp like borders, with gummed backs and in perforated sheets were generally available from the 1860s until the start of the 20th century. The description of small photographs as " StickyBacks" seems to have its roots on the Isle of Man. In the Chemist and Druggist Magazine June 10, 1933 p 615 " Dal " Williamson's autobiography appears, entitled "From Behind the Drug Counter" Dal began his career in 1892, with W. A. Brearey & Son, pharmaceutical chemists, of Douglas, Isle
of Man, as a bound apprentice and wrote:
"One day early in the season, probably in 1895, (Editor's note - this may have occured a little later than the writer recollected) a young man very much down at heel came to interview
the boss. They spent nearly two hours together in the private room, the upshot of which was that an order was placed for, I think, one gross packets 12 X 10 plates, and I forget how many 50-foot rolls of paper, which would be 12 inches wide. The young fellow had not the money to pay for all this, but the boss had agreed to let him have supplies as required, the goods being paid for as he went along. This business, which originated the stamp photograph, became all the rage; and as the young man was first in the field for that season he had a monopoly, and from being down at heel blossomed forth in frock coat and tall hat, whilst the business necessitated a greatly increased staff. The result was that the camera manufacturers had to design a new type of camera to do this work.
The following year he came over again, with a big staff, commissionaire, boys in buttons, and nearly all
his male staff in uniform, and took a large lock-up shop, one of a few that had just been built in front of the Palace grounds. He placed a bigger order than ever for the season, and began to do a roaring business right from the start. One of the staff he had brought over that year was a poor half-wit, a " simple " as they say in some parts of the country, whose duty it was to distribute bills to the crowds of passers-by. A new idea had just been adopted by the young man for his stamp photos, and this was that they were all furnished with adhesive backs. The poor simpleton was instructed to shout out this fact to the crowds of holiday-makers, but he did not understand till it was explained to him, when
he began to yell at the top of his voice, " They've all got sticky backs? Have you got a sticky back?" This caught the crowd's fancy, and the catchwords that season were, " Have you got your sticky back? We've all got sticky backs." The young photographer immediately realised the publicity of these catchy phrases, and had reels of white paper printed in black lettering with all these sentences on them, which were freely distributed amongst the visitors. They decorated their hats and coats with these streamers, and so the " sticky back " photograph came into being."
There was also a music hall song of the time "They've all got Sticky Backs" which no doubt helped to spread the catch phrase. The words and music were by JW Knowles - published in Feldman's Second Giant Budget of Copyright Songs 1900..
When first I went to Douglas
I thought what a pretty place.
I thought by jove I'll cut a dash
And mash some pretty face.
One evening by the Palace Gate
I met a dear old pal and with him entered into conversation
I said "What are the girls like here
Are they very fond of chaps"
When a man stood by me yelled in my ear
"They've all got sticky backs"
As the words rang in my ear
I thought, My word, how queer
Girls may be fair, have golden hair
Blue eyes and skin like wax
But they're not the sort I fancy
If they've all got sticky backs.
I asked my pal if it was right
What the man had shouted out
I said "The girls wont like it
if that story gets about"
Just then two pretty girls passed by
My pal said "Here's your chance"
I said "They're nice but answer me one question
Is kissing ladies over here a most expensive job"
When the man stood by again yelled out "They're twenty five a bob
and they've all got sticky backs
And what we say are facts."
Girls may be fair, have golden hair
Blue eyes and skin like wax
But they'll want some getting rid of
If they've all got sticky backs.
I'm fond of girls. By that I mean
That I am fond of girls
the reason that I like them is
Because I'm fond of girls
Last night I took one for a stroll
We found a shady nook
And soon in me my charmer was confiding
She said I have five sisters and they're all engaged to chaps
I said "My darling tell me true, have they all got sticky backs?"
She screamed aloud and fled
I watched her go then said
Girls may be fair, have golden hair
Blue eyes and skin like wax
But I think that I'll keep single
If they've all got sticky backs.
The Stickyback name first appears in print, again in the context of the Isle of Man, in an extensive advertising campaign across a number of provincial newspapers in April and May 1901. The advertisement below appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo, Lichfield Mercury, Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle, Cambridge Daily News, Peterborough Advertiser, Warminster & Westbury Journal, and Wilts County Advertiser, Kerry Evening Post, Cornish & Devon Post. This is the range of the campaign picked up by the indexing of the British Newspaper Archive - there were probably advertisements in additional newspapers not included in the Archive or found by its index. Interestingly Cambridgeshire was clearly targetted by the campaign, and so some of these early stamp photographs are likely to crop up in Cambridgeshire family albums.
77 Paradise Street Liverpool was the home of the Grossi family - hence the business name "Grossigraph". John Baptista Grossi was an Austrian b 1832. In 1867 John Baptista Grossi was listed in a local trade directory as a photographer in Paradise Street Liverpool. Later John became a gents outfitter at 77 Paradise Street and also ran the Argyle Refreshment Room 10 Houghton Street, Liverpool. In 1874 John Baptista Grossi married Margaret Hearne. They had a number of children. John Baptista Grossi died in 1895 in Liverpool. By 1901, when the Grossigraph advertisements appeared, the family at 77 Paradise Street comprised: Mary E Hearne, single, an outfitter, clothier and an employer, b: 1863 Liverpool, Margaret Grossi her older sister, John Baptista's widow and an ex school mistress b: 1858 Liverpool, her single nephew, Spiro Grossi b: 1877 Liverpool. Spiro was a photographic printer, working from home on his own account. Also present in the household were: Cissie Grossi, neice, b: 1878 Liverpool, George Grossi, a steamship steward, b: 1882 Liverpool, Stella Grossi, a typis, b: 1884 Liverpool and Charles Kitching an outfitter's doorman b: 1836 Dundee. Spiro, the oldest son, was clearly the man behind both the Grossigraph adverts and, by implication, was the sticky backs photographer on the Isle of Man (or involved with him).
Grossigraph were already operating in the area of inexpensive adhesive backed copy photographs, but in 1900 hadn't coined the Stickybacks name - the following advertisement is from The Stage 25 Jan 1900.
Note that the StickyBack was different to the stamp photograph in that it dropped both the stamp-like border and the perforation, but retained the small size, the gummed back and the low price.
Who were the StickyBack Photographers?
What follows draws heavily on the extensive research undertaken by David Simkin and included on his invaluable site http://photohistory-sussex.co.uk. Spiro Grossi was listed in trade directories as a professional photographer in Liverpool in 1906 and 1908, and by 1909-11 he was operating in Manchester. Between 1910 and 1911 Spiro ran a studio at 54 North Street, Brighton. It appears that he operated for a short while in 1906/7 in Grafton Street Dublin. Spiro was also something of an inventor and patented a camera back which held strips of photographic paper and exposed these in a series of movements leaving between 4 and six small images on a strip.
The StickyBacks idea was taken up by others - the three unique selling points of these photographs were: tiny size, gummed back and probably most important - very low price - at times you could get a dozen StickyBacks for 3d. The clientele attracted to the StickyBacks establishment would have been very different to those attracted to a top photographic studio; hence the advertisement listed below for a doorkeeper at a StickyBacks establishment in Kidderminster.
There was a StickyBack studio in Midgate Peterborough, which is listed on our site. David Simkin lists here http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/BoultwoodStickyBacksStudio.htm a number of StickyBack photographers which he discovered.
The following StickyBack advertisements and articles have been found for the period 1900-1919.
- Bedfordshire Times and Independent - Friday 27 March 1903 P8
"24 Stamps or 12 Victoria's (sticky backs), for 1/-. send carte or Cabinet Photo (which will be returned uninjured) with 1/- P.O. and Id. stamp to Henry’s, 5, Horsemarket, Northampton".
- Western Daily Press - Tuesday 22 December 1903 P7
"The've all got sticky backs at the Polytechnic Studio St Augustine's Parade" (Bristol)
- Bolton Evening News - Friday 08 January 1904 P3
"Sticky Backs, Pleasall Photo Co, 28 Newport Street, Bolton."
- Western Daily Press - Friday 08 January 1904 P8 through to Mar 1904
"They've all got Sticky Backs except you. Call early and get them at 10 St Augustine's Parade, Bristol".
- Northants Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 01 March 1904
"Stickybacks medallion ovals 18 Henry Street (Northampton) are taking the above at 4d per dozen. Brooches or pendants. 4d Why pay more"
- The Era - Saturday 17 December 1904 P27
"Wanted Sticky Backs on sharing terms in good positions Bradford and Manchester. Applicants must be able to provide everything except room and gas. Room for other novs on same terms. Pike 83 Stratford Road Manchester."
- Gloucester Citizen - Saturday 10 June 1905 P4
Notice Benson's Photo Studio, 7 George Street, Stroud. Special prices during Whitsuntide Highly finished enamel four cabinets 2s 6d; sticky backs 6d per dozen.
- Derby Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 19 September 1905 P1
"Partner wanted for that lucrative branch of photography known as "sticky backs" methods entirely new advertiser's profits last 18 months £40 - £60 weekly; capital about £70 address Winfield 2 Litchurch Street Derby."
- The Era - Saturday 23 September 1905 p27
Same ad as above, but address shown as "Hardy 2 Litchurch St Derby."
- Western Daily Press of Friday 03 November 1905 P9
Theft of "Sticky-Backs" promotional discount tickets value one shilling from H.O.Seaman's photographers, 27 Castle Street, Bristol - offender sentenced by court to 5 years detention.
See our page on Seaman photographer's.
- Edinburgh Evening News 27 November 1905 P3
"Identified by a sticky back photograph. The farmer at Cults Mill, Fife, has for some time been lodging complaints with the police about the disappearance of his poultry. While investigating the latest complaint the police found a "sticky back" photograph in the hen-house and following up the clue they apprehended one of the limestone miners named McKinney, who resides at Pitlessie. He appeared at Cupar today, admitted stealing one hen and was fined 10s or three days' imprisonment."
- Belfast News-Letter - Thursday 28 December 1905 p2
"For sale. Sticky Backs are making a speciality of copying from old or faded photographs 9d per doz; enlargements at remarkably low prices; 1/2 doz American panel cabinets 1s. Sticky Back photos only 6d per doz. Sticky Backs 146 Upper North Street." (Belfast)
- Kirkintilloch Herald - Wednesday 07 February 1906
"Sticky backs. There was a time when a photograph was the monopoly of those possessed of a superfluity of cash, but no such excuse now offers for an empty album. The Sticky Back Co who have taken up temporary quarters in East High Street have bought the coveted photo within reach of all and for the humble "tanner" no fewer than a dozen midget photos may be had a ha'penny a piece. The Co is meeting with liberal encouragement and from what we have seen of their productions they certainly deserve it."
- Kirkintilloch Herald - Wednesday 07 February 1906 P4 - similar ad to above but includes in the description "late of Earl's Court, London"
- Kirkintilloch Herald - Wednesday 07 March 1906 P 7 - above firm offering ladies and gents watch to the lady or man collecting the largest no of midget or stamp photographs by the end of March.
- The Era - Saturday 07 July 1906 p27
"Wanted to sell, sticky back outfit, complete, together with full instructions to beginner (cheap). Good living for steady man. Present owner going abroad. Apply West, 156 Kentish Town Road, London."
- The Era - Saturday 04 August 1906 p27
"Wanted. Quick operator and finisher for StickyBack photos. No learners need apply. Reference and full particulars to the manager, Worlds' Photo Co 64 Waterloo Rd South Shore, Blackpool."
- The Era - Saturday 11 August 1906 p27
"Stickybacks. Wanted a thoroughly experienced man for stamp and midget photos, to operate and develop. Permanancy. Manager, 1 Gallowgate, Rothesay, N.B."
- Evening Star - Friday 16 November 1906 P2
"Wanted, smart, active, youth at once. Apply Sticky Backs, St Matthews." (Ipswich)
- Evening Star (Suffolk) - Monday 07 January 1907 p2
"Photographs by the mile. 12 for 4d. They've all got sticky backs. Don't mistake the address: Masons, 59a St Matthews." (Ipswich)
- Irish Times - Monday 28 January 1907 p7
"CAR ACCIDENT IN GRAFTON STREET. In Nisi Prius Court on Saturday, before Mr Justice Gibson, the appeal of the plaintiff in the case of Grossi v Collins was heard. It appeared that in August last the pony and cart of William Collins, of Fishamble street, was in Grafton street. A passing motor car frightened the animal, and sent the cart against Sticky Backs plate glass window, smashing it and doing damage to goods in the shop. Spiriodne Grossi, popularly known as "Stickyback,” the owner, brought action for damages against Mr. Collins before the Recorder, and his Honor gave plaintiff decree for £20 6s. 3d. Against this decree the defendant appealed. After hearing the evidence of Police Constable O’Brien and other witnesses, Mr. Justice Gibson affirmed the Recorder's order, with costs."
- Evening Star - Tuesday 05 February 1907 p2
"Your photo on postcards 1s 9d per doz, highly finished cabinet 4s per doz, Sticky Backs 4d per doz: same address - Masons 58 St Matthews." (Ipswich)
- The Cornish Telegraph - Thursday 24 April 1913 P1
"The original sticky backs will open on Thursday April 24th at Causewayhead Penzance. In order to advertise our American Automatic Photography. By presenting this coupon you are entitled to 1 doz photographs of yourself at half price 3d."
- Gloucestershire Echo - Monday 01 June 1914 P4
"YOU MUST VISIT the original Mr Stickybacks ELECTRIC STUDIO With its novel methods of CINEMATOGRAPH PHOTOGRAPHY. CINEMATOGRAPHIC SNAPSHOTS OF YOURSELF. ENORMOUSLY POPULAR The Original Mr. STICKY BACK'S STUDIO From 420 Strand, London, Brighton, Oxford, etc., 84 HIGH STREET (near Bath Road) CHELTENHAM."
- Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Saturday 21 November 1914 p1
"Post all sticky backs lately taken to be enlarged for Xmas cards . Permanent process Willway enlargement Specialist Beechen Cliff Bath. One cabinet 2s"
- Evening Despatch - Friday 11 December 1914 p2
"Smart reliable man wanted as doorman etc good wages to the right man Stickybacks studio Church Street, Kidderminster."
- Chester Chronicle - Saturday 18 August 1917 p4
Notiification of the sale of equipment from the Midland Photo Co who were retiring from business. Included Gossi's (sic) patent sticky back repeating back slide and camera and Gossi's patent sticky back and postcard printer .
- Liverpool Echo - Thursday 08 August 1918 p1
"Photography lady or youth thorough knowledge bromide printing and developing £2 weekly. Full particulars Tofiss Grossi Stickybacks 14 Foregate Chester."
- Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday 21 August 1919 p4
"Young lady assistant required about 20 for Ilkeston branch. Wages &c Stickybacks Ltd 66 St Peters Street Derby."
Recognising StickyBack photographs.
1. The early "stamp photographs" were 1¼ inch square - those of taller subjects could be up to 2½ in tall.
2. They had lickable gum on the reverse.
3. Those produced with Grossi's patented system usually had the studio name/address and a strip or image number at the top - image sizes were 1¼ inch x 1½ inch
4. Uncut strips might contain 4-6 images.
5. Larger photographs and postcards produced seem to have been framed with too much background in the top of the image, and they often contain numerals just visible inside the edge of the image as a permanent record of the job / image number. These were probably provided as cheap proofs with a better framed image on offer as the final product. Because of this intrusive part of the image often postcard sized proofs have been cropped to a smaller size when they are pasted into albums.
6. The subjects of these portraits are usually from the less well off.
7. In many instances keeping down costs also adversely affected quality and it soon became the habit of other professionals to use the term "StickBack" in a derogatory fashion. For example: Fife Free Press and Kirkcaldy Guardian 1 Jan 1919, in an advertisement for Campbell's Studio in High Street Kirkcaldy boasted "Photos taken by Electric light in all kinds of weather from 10am to 9pm. No sticky back gaslight effects on the faces".
Below are some examples of Stickyback or Sticky Back photos from the author's collection.
The first three postcards are from the same firm, The first is from "Sticky Backs 129 High St Chatham", the second and third are by "Stickybacks 129 High St Chatham and 80 High Street Sheerness, Managing Director N.Mason". The addition of the second address might be supposed to indicate that the first is the older of the two, but this is not necessarily the case. All three are full length portraits.
These have divided postcard backs with the firms address or addresses thereon. Although the images are sharp and clear, they are poorly composed in that there are numerals printed on the right hand side of the image. The numerals could represent a year followed by a negative number. In which case the examples with the two addresses might be from 1912 while that with the single address could be from 1915.
The numerals appearing on the image could be part of the dark slide holding the negative in the camera, some numbering device inside the camera itself, numerals stuck onto the negative before printing, or numerals on a stand held just within the camera's field of view. It seems likely that the numerals were included this way to avoid any later muddling of image and negative or job number. This means that it is likely that these postcard sized images are in fact proofs, from which final cropped and better composed enlargements might be made.
The next postcard is very much of a similar type. The full length portrait of a boy and a girl is poorly composed in that there is a lot of backdrop above the children who mainly take up only the lower half of the image. Numerals appear in this image on the top edge. On this occasion it appears that the numerals were stuck onto a stand just within the camera's field of view. This image is from the ""Original Sticky Backs" 69 Wellington Street, Woolwich". The poor composition has presumably prompted the text on the reverse, where someone has written "Dear John, I don't know what you will think of this but I don't think much of it".
Next is a postcard cameo portrait of an unknown man with moustache. This is from Sticky Back and Modern Studios 54 North Street Brighton. This appears to be a more finished well composed product, as does the following postcard from the same studio with a group of three sitters. .
Next is a nicely composed portrait of a young girl, taken at another Brighton StickyBacks Studio at 19 North Street.
Next is a postcard print of an unknown lady in a shoulder width brimmed hat, c.1910. The number 321 is intruding into the mid right of the image. This is by the Sticky Back Studio, Market Street Manchester and at 83 Briggate, Leeds. They use an SB monogram in a scroll design.
Next is a small portrait about 2 in x 1.5 in in an ornate embossed card mount 3 in x 2.25 in. The mount is labeled "The Royal Miniature" and on the reverse is "Sticky Backs, 48 Biggin Street Dover and Atlanta Pier Road Ilfracombe". Again this could be a finished product possible extracted from a larger proof. The mount is similar to that used for tiny tin types.
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