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The Tower as talisman

The Tower as talisman.

Date Sent:   2 June 1911     

Sender: Jack 

Recipient: George Stockman, 37 Lawson Road, Southsea, Hants 

Transcript: No bunkum mind! Shall expect to hear that you have done well, Best luck, Jack. 


Hand written text on a postcard with a green stamp

As good luck charms go, the Tower of London is probably not the first one to spring to mind.  The site retains a touch of the Gothic, and the Victorian fascination with Tower tales of torture and death still lingers today. Quite how young George Stockman felt when Jack’s good luck postcard landed on number 37’s doormat is anyone’s guess, but the very direct, rather clipped tone of the good wishes seem very much of the period. 

The oval view card – here within an embossed riband border – became popular from about 1907, and the producers of the National series, Millar and Lang Limited of Glasgow (London office in Queen Victoria Street) claimed to be one of the most prolific of view card publishers capable of producing a million a week.  Their trademark lion crouched atop a shield aimed to see off German imported cards, considered by many at the time to be superior.   

The White Tower and surrounding buildings on a postcard in a oval frame

The view of the Tower from the Wharf is pretty standard but well executed – for once the colourist has managed to keep the White Tower pale (it was so grubby at the time that white is a little optimistic), and the New Armouries, a brick building, suitably red. Millar and Lang’s colour processing made them gold medallists at the 1905 Earls Court Exhibition, and the muted tones of this card have lasted well. To the west a golden sky suggests the close of the day, while the Thames achieves a clarity and blueness that any 21st century conservationist would be proud of. The indicator that the image might predate the postmark is the crenelated Main Guard which was demolished and replaced by a gabled version in 1898-1900. 

We’ll never know if eleven-year-old George noticed such detail – or cared.  June is traditionally the exam season and offers the most obvious explanation for Jack’s encouragement. The eldest son of Daniel and Louisa Stockman, George lived with his younger sister, Olive, and septuagenarian grandfather Thomas Knyvin. Despite our best detective efforts, Jack with his American slang remains anonymous – he doesn’t appear to be one of George’s immediate uncles, although Louisa had a brother Thomas J Knyvin.  If there’s a member of the Stockman or Knyvin families out there who can cast light on events, please get in touch – we’d love to learn more! 

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