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Vintage radio and art deco elegance at
the 2011 Ephemera Society Easter fair


John Sayers, Ephemera Society member and keen long-time collector of ocean liner ephemera, shares his experience of
a visit to Ephemera Society Easter fair.

When the renovations to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel on Southampton Row are completed, life will be much better for the stall holders, and I was assured by hotel staff that this will be the case by the time of the next event there. In the meantime, collectors such as I had no trouble navigating the four rooms over which the fair was spread (although I almost missed one of them).

For British readers, there is no doubt that you will find excellent things to add to your collection. Helpful and knowledgeable vendors such as John Hall, pictured below, do their utmost to find what you're

Photograph of John Hall's table of ephemera

looking for - or more importantly, will just let you browse through their extensive displays if that's your preference. As a collector of Ocean Liner ephemera, I can find items in many places, but this fair was one of the best in a long time.

Lighting was good, the tables were spaced to permit easy circulation, and the ventilation system made for a comfortable experience. Experienced readers will understand what happens if these preceding conditions are not 'user-friendly'. So I bought several things, and the proof of the proverbial pudding is in the discoveries - in this case, Ocean Liner discoveries.

Vintage Radio Installations

Information about the 'back of the house' features on ocean liners is hard to find. So when there's a 16-page illustrated booklet about the 1936-era radio installation on the RMS Queen Mary, which is a cross-collectible with technology and vintage radio collectors, you grab it. As can be seen in the picture below showing two of the illustrations in the booklet, this was a major installation.

Photographs of Post Office shore stations

Titled as a Radio Souvenir of the RMS Queen Mary, the booklet was produced by the International Marine Radio Co., Ltd. ("IMRC") and no doubt Cunard was pleased to cooperate with IMRC to remind travelers that communications facilities were of the highest standard. After all, the Titanic disaster was only 24 years earlier!

Art Deco Delight

I would have expected to find a brochure on "The New Sovereigns of the Pacific - Mariposa and Monterey" at a fair on the west coast of America, so it was a very nice surprise to find ephemera of America's Matson Line in London! In excellent condition with profuse illustrations of the interiors, the date of the booklet was 1932, the year of the Art Deco era in which sister ships Mariposa and Monterey both went into service.

The images of the interiors include figures in appropriate attire for the room or event, which is unusual for such booklets which often limit themselves to portraying only the actual room. With figures, you have the added insight to style and fashion - and social customs - as portrayed by the shipping line. The First-Class Smoking Room, pictured below, is accompanied by a lyrical description which trills about

Photograph of First-Class Smoking Room

"A dome for dignity, a fireplace for good fellowship and deep chairs for comfort...the smoking room...ship's center of conviviality!."

Women are shown in the room and are apparently allowed in, which would be unusual for the era, but we note the later assurance for male egos that "Just off the smoking room is the Men's Club, a retreat that is politely but firmly immune from feminine intrusion...where masculine pastimes alone hold sway."

If you weren't at the fair, now you know some of the fascinating material that you missed. Make a note in your diary of the next event held in fashionable Bloomsbury.

Copyright © John G Sayers 2011. All Rights Reserved.


Further evidence of the complex organisation needed to deal with the radio traffic of the "Queen Mary" is afforded by these interior views at the Post Office shore stations at Portishead and Burnham. The upper view shows part of the equipment at Portishead. In the other picture operators are seen handling ships' radio messages at Burnham.