The History of Raphael Tuck & Sons

In a little shop in Bishopsgate over a century ago, began a business that would have an artistic effect on most of the civilized world. Raphael Tuck and his wife Ernestine worked together. The little shop opened in October of 1866 on Union Street in London, and the influence of that event was to be felt on two continents.
author Grace C. Floyd sitting at her desk, Raphael House editorial department
Ernestine was a wise and competent businesswoman and Raphael an artistic perfectionist. The business began with the sale of pictures and frames but within a few months of their arrival Raphael has established himself as a distributor of graphic art printing which included chromos, oleographs and black and white lithographs. A native of Prussia, he and his wife displayed reproductions of famous and popular art along with those Victorian greeting cards that were available at the time. Tuck had made contact with lithographers in his native country to supply him with work from their presses suitable for British and American sale.

Tuck was born August 7, 1821 in Koschmin Poznan where he devoted his early years to the study of Judaism, including a working knowledge of Hebrew. His interest and enthusiasm for Orthodox Judaism led him to become an accomplished Talmudic scholar; and, although he spent the middle years of his life in business, he never fully left his study of the Talmud and Hebrew history.

Two miniatures of Raphael and Ernestine
Raphael was married to the former Ernestine Lissner in March of 1848. She gave birth to seven children, four boys and three girls, -all born in Prussia prior to their migration to England. As the family of seven children grew, the children provided more help to the business. Raphael sent out his sons, Herman, Adolph and Gustave to bring in more business. Herman and Adolph also went on selling trips, and at the end of the day they would check the results of the days work. The one with the higher sales would have the bigger egg next morning for breakfast. Christopher Tuck has provided the only known photograph of Raphael and his family and portraits of Adolph and his wife.
Adolph and Lady Tuck
Three of the four sons participated in the firm established by their father. Their second son, Adolph, was chairman and managing director of Raphael Tuck and sons, Ltd. until his death on July 3, 1926. He was honored by being made a baron on July 19, 1910, which honor also fell to his first son, William Reginald and to William's first son, Bruce Adolph Reginald Tuck.
Portrait of Reginald Tuck in uniform
In the early 1900's Tuck opened several offices in addition to the headquarters in London the New York office seems to have been especially important. There were others at various times in Montreal, Berlin, Paris, & Toronto. Little has been written about the satellite offices & we would welcome information about them. We show photographs relating to the Paris office, **Herman Tuck before the Parisians offices Raphael Tuck Company 19/21 Rue du Paradis.
Adolph Tuck’s seventieth birthday
The Tuck coat-of-arms features a shield with a flaming antique lamp above which are two hands in the attitude of prayer, with two crossed F's in a circle at the lower part of the shield. The crest shows a seated lion supporting an artist palette whereupon is inscribed the work "Thorough". The Tuck motto inscribed on a ribbon below the shield is "Cum Deo".
Coat of Arms
Raphael had received training in graphic arts in his home country; and, although he was not an artist himself, he had a flare for commercial art that prompted his interest in this new field. Upon coming to England, he caught the imagination of the public in such a way that he was able to create a new graphic arts business. He was so successful at it that, according to the "London Times", he "opened up a new field of labor for artists, lithographers, engravers, printers, ink and paste board makers, and several other trade classes".

It might be recorded as one of the ironies of history that a Jew, a respected Talmudic scholar, would be remembered as the chief exponent and promoter of the Christmas card. Raphael discovered that Christmas card designs were mainly secular; and in spite of the increased religious consciousness of the Victorian age, these cards featured the gaiety and revelry of the holiday season. In 1871 Tuck supervised the design of Christmas cards featuring the religious aspects of the season: Jesus Christ, the Holy Pair, the Magi, the Nativity scene, as well as the traditional Santa Claus, holly and mistletoe.

The president of the Royal Academy, who visited the remotest corners of Scotland each year, expressed his opinion concerning Tuck's influence on art. He said, "Mr. Tuck's graphic productions were likely more effective than all of the art galleries in the world." Tuck postcards decorated drawing rooms in elegant mansions as well as country cottages with their uneven, smoky walls. This art connoisseur observed that the world's art galleries could only reach a few people while Mr. Tuck's postcards went to millions of individuals at every level of society.

In 1880, son Adolph launched a nationwide contest offering 5,000 pounds in prizes for the best Christmas card designs. Over five thousand paintings were said to be have been entered in the contest. Entries were displayed in the Dudley Galleries and vast crowds visited the exhibition. Over 2,500 pounds was spent in buying entries and launching the Christmas card industry as an annual custom throughout the world. Both amateur and professional artists submitted entries for the close scrutiny of the judges Literary merit was also considered with Grant Allen serving as judge of appropriate texts. Marcus Stone headed a committee of well known artists in the selection of the designs.

Tuck's continued to run very successful postcard competitions through the early 1900's with the focus changing to collectors of Tuck postcards rather then the artists whose work was depicted. The top part of the 1903 Tuck Exchange Register pictured above announces the second of Tuck's prize competitions which began in 1900. The prize competitions aroused much interest. The first contest winner turned in a collection of 20, 364 cards over the 18 month duration of the contest. The second prize competition winner submitted 25, 239 cards. In 1914 the fourth prize competition was announced. We have pictured below an advertisement on the back of a Tuck card for the fourth prize competition. Note in the small print on the bottom that all entries and communication must be submitted on a Tuck postcard. And, also note the additional advertisement for the Tuck exchange register. The competitions were a novel and effective marketing technique.

Although the Tuck firm did some black and white printing in their London offices, the majority of color work was contracted for in Germany, Raphael's home country. This is evidenced by the printed (or chromographed) in Bavaria, Germany or Saxony inscribed on the majority of the early Tuck postcards.

The greatest period of expansion of the Tuck firm came under direction of Adolph who had joined his father in 1870. Gustave and Herman soon followed their brother in 1871. Adolph became managing director, which included control of the art department. Gustave directed the book and calendar departments, while Herman handled the financial end of the business.

Around 1880 the company moved again, this time to Coleman Street with a branch in Chiswell Street. Tuck established offices in Paris, Berlin, Montreal and New York. The Paris branch opened in 1882 and the New York office opened in 1885. An early advertisement in the June, 1886 issue of "The Art Amateur" offers "4 fanciful and 4 dreamy studies from Fairyland after celebrated originals by W. S. Coleman" being on display "at all Art Stores" and at the Tuck office at 298 Broadway, New York. The Broadway office is thought to be Tucks first American branch. Later, in 1900, the firm moved to 122-124 Fifth Avenue. The 1903 "Collector's Exchange Register" lists the Fifth Avenue address as the American headquarters for Tuck sales and activities.

In 1883, Queen Victoria granted the firm the Royal Warrant of Appointment. Tuck cards thereafter bore the message, "Art Publishers to Her Majesty the Queen". Future sovereigns continued the warrant of appointment.
In 1895 Ernestine died and Raphael's health began to fail. As stated, the firm first established in Union Street (now Brushfield Street), Bishopsgate. During the late 1800's, the Tuck firm occupied various quarters in City Road and Coleman Street. In 1888 Raphael laid the cornerstone of a splendid building on the corner of Moorfield and Tener Street. On July 6, 1899, Raphael House was completed and officially opened. This imposing, five story, Victorian structure was built of Portland and monk's Park stone, red brick and white glazed brick.

Raphael House enabled the Tuck firm to consolidate their various offices and departments that had spread throughout various Parts of the city. In addition to the administrative offices, the new building provided adequate space for eight functioning departments: Card Department (Toy-Books, Gift-Books, Booklets); Birthday Book Department; Educational Department; Wall Text and Scripture Motto Department; Engraving Department; Chromo, Oleograph, and Art Study Department; Relief and Art Novelty Department; and Show-Card Department. These Tuck departments attest to the fact that the Victorian age was the age of printed pictorials that took shape by means of the various printing and engraving processes.

The advertisement above from 1901, shows the range of the Tuck products at the turn of the century. Tuck was into printing almost anything in paper. Note the offices at the bottom include India, South America and South Africa.

Raphael House was not equipped for large-scale printing but for origination, design and distribution of Paper products. The majority of the printing continued to be contracted for in Germany until the First World War cut off business relations between the two countries. For many North American cards, Tuck employed some of the British printers who had established printing works similar to those of Germany and they installed limited presses in their own building. Even presses in Holland were used on North American Tuck cards. Products from these presses were greatly inferior to those that came from German presses, mainly because of the time required to produce the stone plates needed in lithographic printing. It appears the New York office would take orders, provide the photographs and then contract with the offices in London for the final product. The orders would have to make the long journey by sea from New York to London, to the printer in Germany, Holland or in England, then the cards would go back to London for review and then by ship back to the New York.

There is a completely disproven myth that Tuck's first picture postcard appeared in 1894 as an experiment featuring a small picture of Snowdon, a mountain in Wales. It was not until 1899 that Tuck issued its first regular Series of Postcards, a group of twelve consecutively numbered chromographic (i.e. colored) views of London. These issues, frequently referred to as "early Tuck's" are numbered on the front left edge along with the publisher's name. Tuck numbered almost 4,000 cards consecutively but at the same time began to use Series numbering which usually consisted of six cards in a Series with the same number.

Both consecutive (individual numbering in sequence) and serial numbering systems were used on the Tuck postcard issues, making it difficult to reconstruct an accurate checklist of these cards. Clearly defined systems may be noted in some of the groups like the Oilette Series, which are generally serially numbered in sets of six. But, confusion reigns when the collector discovers two Series with the same number, groups with a letter number combination and groups with no numbers at all. In fact the editors have found the only absolute with the Tuck numbering system is there are constant "exceptions". Trying to make sense of the Tuck numbering system invites frustration. In the "Americas", Tuck's numbers are slightly more predictable than for the rest of the world's cards. There seems to be little logic in the number of USA and Canada cards in any particular numbered Series. As stated, a general rule is that Tuck sold their cards in sets of six. BUT, that could mean six different images or the same image repeated in the packet six times or less. Thus some "sets" have less than six different images. Another possible reason for the differing number of cards occurring in sets is there were multiple printings, over 30 years, of many Series of Tuck postcards. In those cases where this multiple printing occurred, cards could be added or subtracted from the new set to be issued, thereby changing the number of different images that exist for a given set number. These multiple printings occurred in most Series of USA and Canada cards including the Raphotypes and "zero" first early numbers. Tuck issued their cards in paper envelopes that most collectors call "Packets". The front of the envelope usually gave information about the set, the reverse was often filled by advertisements & lists of Tuck Series cards.

The number of cards Tuck ultimately issued to market for each set varied greatly, presumably according to demand. The record shows that many of the early numbered monochromatic cards were issued by Tuck at a minimum of 6000 at a time. The record is less convincing for the other Tuck Series in the "Americas", but is probably a similar number. Thus, it is very difficult to gage which Tuck "Americas" cards are really scarce. Research done for this record suggests that many of the "zero" first cards are much scarcer than collectors have generally realized.

Raphael Tuck died on March 16, 1900. He did not live to see the postcard blossom into the popular form of social communication that it became just a decade after his death. He did have the vision and that vision was passed on to his sons in good Jewish custom. Adolph and his brothers continued to expand the business after Raphael's death. It was due to the efforts of Adolph Tuck that the size of the postcard in England was increased to the size allowed by the Universal Postal Union . Only a small picture and brief message had been allowed on one side with just address and stamp on the other. After four years of negotiations, Adolph succeeded in convincing the British Postmaster General that a larger card could have a picture on one side and a brief message as well as the address and stamp on the other. In 1898, the Postmaster General finally agreed and a new era was begun. Tuck house was opened in 1898, see comprehensive brochure contributed by Christopher Tuck.
Comprehensive brochure prepared for opening of Tuck House 1899
For the full brochure see Ephemera Tuck House, here.

On November 29th 1899, the regulations were promulgated and Tuck's were ready with their first cards as Adolph Tuck was aware of the coming change. In early 1900 Tuck issued sets covering topics such as London and other Thames river views, military and war drawings of Harry Payne and others and well known paintings by Turner. Later in the year Tuck issued more sets bringing the yearly total of sets to almost 100. In 1901 Tuck continued their frantic pace, issuing many new sets of postcards. During 1901, the first "Rough Seas", "Heraldic" and "Country" sets first appeared. In 1902 Tuck again increased their postcard sales list issuing three superb sets of the "Kings and Queens of England". 1902 also saw the printing of the first USA Private Mailing Card postcards. 1903 had many memorable issues introduced including the "Oilettes" and the "Proof" sets. By the end of 1903 Tuck had in production over 10,000 different cards. 1904 was yet another banner year for Tuck. Such sets as the "Olde Print" Series, the "Connoisseur" Series and the "Silverette" Series came into production. In the USA and Canada the first divided backs were allowed, enabling the writer to send a message without having to write on the picture side of the card. By the close of 1904 over 15,000 designs were in production. 1905 saw the introduction of the "Oilette Wide Wide World" Series and the receipt of a gold medal for Tuck "Oilettes". In 1906, another prize competition was unveiled using a "chain" process. Also, many new sets were issued in 1906 such as the "Scottish Clans". 1907 saw the introduction of "Foggy London", the "Charterhouse", "London Railway Stations", and "Coon town Kids". The latter is one of many Tuck sets that portray blacks in the unfortunate stereotypical poses of the time. In 1908 the "Platemarked Oilette" Series was introduced along with many new sets such as "Mixed Bathing" and "Our Belles".

1909 through 1914 saw continued growth of sets and Series including the Postcard Painting Books and Picture Postcard Puzzles. The sons of Adolph Tuck, Reginald and Desmond continued the business their grandparents had started. With the advent of World War I, they volunteered for military service. Queen Victoria later knighted Adolph. He died shortly after and was succeeded to the title by Reginald, his oldest son. Soon after that Gustave retired and the business was left in the hands of Sir Reginald and Desmond.

Yet again, war broke out, and on the night of December 29th, 1940, the Nazis poured tons of bombs on London. By morning, Raphael House was shell and rubbish. Records of seventy-four years and 40,000 or more original pictures and photographs by the best artists were in ashes. In spite of having to start over, the company was soon making great progress.
Tuck in Second World War:-

Tuck continued to publish throughout the war. Phil Froom reports an unusual aspect of Tuck's wartime work. During his research into the WW2 Intelligence Agency MI9. he found a reference to Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd. (Desmond Tuck) being used by MI9 as a supplier of escape and evasion materials (sadly described only as 'Special brown paper'). Knowing the activities of MI9, and at least one use of 'Special' brown paper in support of Prisoner of War escape operations, this may well have been the production of layered special brown paper with gossamer thin tissue escape maps concealed between the two layers, which, when soaked in water would separate and release the map. This was an escape item sent into Prisoner of War camps in Occupied Europe by MI9, to aid the escape of Allied POWs.

This work was all classified Top Secret (Most Secret in WWII) and it is likely that the work was carried out in a separate secret part of the factory, under lock and key, and only minimal members of staff (often just Directors and most trusted Foremen) either knew or took part in the work.

Sir Reginald Tuck died in 1954, and Desmond continued the business until 1959 when he retired. The company combined with two others to become the British Printing Corporation, which was located only a short distance from where the first shop of Ernestine and Raphael Tuck once stood.

The works of Raphael Tuck and Sons fall into many categories including Victorian greeting cards, calendars, paper dolls and toys, jig-saws and even pottery as well as of course, picture postcards. The Tuck firm published numerous books including the popular "Father Tuck's" Series, souvenir booklets containing illustrated hymns and sentimental verses, and hardback volumes of poetry as well as children's and adult literature. Most books were well illustrated by major artists. The Victorian greetings ranged from a small one-by-two inch album card to large, standing parlor figures. Many of the paper dolls and paper toys published by Tuck are some of the best quality ever made. All "Tuck Ephemera" is very collectable and there is great need of appropriate documentation. Many collectors are now specializing in Tuck Ephemera which will hopefully lead to more published information on the subject.

Ephemera defined-Ephemera collecting is hard to define as it continues to mature. The Ephemera Society of America defines it as:

"the stuff" of which the field is made was originally produced for some immediate, practical purpose, with no thought that it would be saved or preserved.
it tends to fall between the cracks of traditional collecting fields and librarianship.
in its vast and fascinating diversity, it documents everyday life, particularly that of average men and women in the past, perhaps more effectively than traditional collectibles."
The "Americas" Tuck postcards were similar in many ways to most of the postcards published for the European market. We see Series trademarks such as "Oilette" and "Silverette" and "Collotype", which are common European Tuck Series, but we also see the "Photochrome" Series trademark used predominately for the American market. In many cases the naming of a Series trademark by Tuck was to define a printing process or a certain look to the cards. Tuck defined most everything as a "Series". The "Oilettes", "Real Photographs", "Raphotypes", etc. were all listed in the Tuck catalogs and on card envelopes as "Series". On occasion, Tuck also called the number a Series, and sometimes even called the "set" a Series. Even the greeting titles such as Easter and Christmas were sometimes annotated as "Series". We list titles as they appear on the cards but also give what appears on the packets- which is not always the same.

The first postcards issued in the USA were the Private Mailing Cards. Tuck issued 10 sets of PMC's which covered the major cities including New York, St. Louis and Washington. The PMC's were issued in 1902 and 1903.

All Tuck collectors recognize the trademark "Oilette". This was a type of card used by Tuck, starting in 1903, with a surface designed to appear as a miniature oil painting. Early "Oilettes" had a brush stroke simulation, but the vast majority of Tuck "Oilettes" have a smooth surface. Many collectors refer to any facsimile of an artist's work as an "Oilette". The cities of New York, Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore, Santa Fe and Ottawa were all well covered by Tuck "Oilettes". State views of Maine, the Adirondacks in New York, Jamestown Virginia, and others are well represented among the "Oilettes". Many "Oilettes" also exist for many of the other countries in the "Americas". Raphael Tuck in their catalogs described "Oilettes" as "veritable miniature oil paintings". Prominent artists for American and Canadian "Oilettes" included Charles Flower and Albert Operti. Even examples from Harry Payne and Frances Brundage show up on American "Oilette" postcards.

A number of American and Canadian cards were published under the "Raphotype" Series trademark. This denotes a color printing that is clearly inferior to most of the other Tuck trademarked processes. Many "Raphotypes" have a washed out look and even the color sometimes appears less than accurate. The "Raphotype" Series cards tend to wear badly so pristine examples are always in demand. American color "Raphotypes" were all individually numbered cards. Color "Raphotypes" for the USA begin with number 5000 and end at 6103. On a few Canadian views "Raphotypes" were issued by Series. Tuck also made a few monochromatic U.S.A. "Raphotypes", which are also individually numbered.
"Collotype" is another Series trademark used for American and Canadian cards. It is a monochromatic screen less printing process, quite similar to lithography, in black or gray ink on a light background. The cards are individually numbered in the case of U.S.A. cards and show the same images as their 5000 Series "Raphotype" counterparts. The American "Collotype" Series ran from 6000 through 6435. Canadian view card "Collotype" cards were issued by serial Series. Also a trademarked Series titled "Art Collotype" was used for a few other "Americas" cards.

The Series trademark "Silverette" was designed to look like a real photograph and was even printed with a glossy finish. American view "Silverettes" were individually numbered and show the same views as the 5000 Series "Raphotypes". The "Silverette" Series ran from 7000 through 7435 in the U.S.A. No "Silverette" Canadian cards have been found.

On American view cards, the "Raphotypes", "Collotypes", and "Silverettes" were issued for the most part with the same view and comparable number from 5436 to 7435. That is, the images are the same, but the card is very different because of the different printing process and the change in the thousands digit of the Series number. We have included in the database all known American numbers for these three Series trademarks. The "Raphoypes" from 5436-7435 do not have comparable cards in the "Collotype" and "Silverette" runs. A quick glance at the lists shows that the number of cards from each place varied from a low of only two cards to a high of forty eight. Virtually all cards of the three Series are marked "Printed in Holland".

The "Photochrome" Series was one of Tuck's most prolific American trademarks. This process was a way of adding color to black and white photographs. Each color required a separate stone and each color added by a separate pass of the press. Very inefficient and costly by today's standard, but the norm at the turn of the century for quality color printing. The vast majority of "Photochrome" cards were made for the American market. Most of the "Photochrome" cards do not bear the Series trademark name, only on some of the very latest divided backs was the trademark "Photochromed in Saxony" printed. We have included in the database "Photochrome" only when the word appears on the card. Nevertheless, "Photochromes" are easy to recognize, as they are quite distinctive. In more than a few cases, gross exaggerations of scale were used with figures and other objects. Sky, trees and clouds were all incorrectly colored or altered in some unusual way. In other words, many of the "Photochromes" were "doctored up". "Photochromes" were numbered from 1000-1099, and 2000 into the 2800's. Most were printed in Germany or Saxony.

Another of Tuck's printing method's for early American and Canadian views was to use various shades of black, gray, green, brown or sepia ink on white or cream card stock. This untitled method gave high quality clear images. These cards, "PRINTED IN GERMANY", were made especially for small towns and cities. Up to five of these different colors & shades ink cards can exist for the same number but we have simply described these as "monochromes" & list the major colors. The "Zero first's" were issued with numbers from 001 to 0308. Most of these issues carry the imprint of a local distributor.

The Private Mailing cards were printed in 1902 and 1903. Followed in 1903 by the main undivided back issues. In the first printings, no descriptive paragraphs appear in numbers 1033-1098 and 2008-2298. Later printings of these same sets do have descriptive paragraphs.

Many "Americas" cards are in the "Oilette" style but some were published under common European Series trademarks such as "Platemarked", "Real Photograph", and "Photogravure". Others were printed in some of the less known Series trademarks such as "Opal", "Charmette", and "Excelsior". Greeting and Topical cards sold in the American market show a vast array of Series trademarks and will be listed in the future.

In the early 1950's Tuck built a factory in Northampton.
Tuck Factory in Northampton
In 1959, the company combined with two others, to become the British Printing Corporation, (renamed British Printing & Communications Corporation in 1982)
in 1984 we note the address from a Personalised Christmas Greetings sales sample book:--

finally Maxwell Communications Corporation in 1987, which was originally located only a short distance from where the first shop of Ernestine and Raphael Tuck once stood.

Christopher Tuck has given us from Burke's Peerage.
Burke’s Peerage family tree
Wikipedia, gives an excellent historical account of the business.