I recently received an album and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I had seen some pictures of its contents and assumed it was simply an unusual, promotional, branded photo album. I took it out of the envelope. It was a genuine antique — the cover was coloured deep sepia with age, dog-eared, cracked and fragile at the edges.
I opened the first page. The album’s original purpose was to feature themed decorative stamps published by the Swiss chocolate company Tobler, the confectioner famous for producing the Toblerone bar, in 1914. On this occasion, the album had also been used to show 270 photographs ranging in date from 1914 to 1928. It is the largest single volume collection of images in our archive.
There were six photos on the first page, all group shots. Five included the same young woman. I was drawn to her immediately. She had poise in front of the camera, and a confident gaze.
She appeared again and again, page after page. On the fourth page, her portrait sat next to a cabinet card photo of another young woman, who had written across her photo, ‘Love to Gladys from Pattie’. Gladys had curated the album. Its makeshift and creative nature, its often profligate, higgledy-piggledy arrangement and the relaxed poses of the young people in the photos, all attest to its creator’s youthfulness.
I believe that Gladys may have been from Hebden Bridge or perhaps Blackpool. There are photographs in the album of Hardcastle Crags in Hebden Bridge, and Blackpool Tower features in a few. There are half-a-dozen photos taken outside a house called Caldene, which has a plaque on the wall reading:
Teacher of Music
There are another couple of unfinished pages of decorative stamps, then some empty pages. At the back are several news clippings. One features a Blackpool United Temperance Council garden party and another a women’s Blackpool Total Abstinence Union trip to Buxton.