Friday, February 16, 2007

Bookmark of the Week: No. 1

Between the years 1910 and 1914 was the period that Insurance Companies began to advertise using bookmarkers. The Scottish Widows' Fund was originally conceived in an Edinburgh coffee house in 1812, and its object was to secure the financial stability of female relatives who lost loved ones in the Napoleonic wars. It was officially founded in 1815 and has continued to this day with marketing much removed from this rather classic and conservative bookmarker. Today, using a woman in a black cloak as the marketing image, the Scottish Widows' Fund is the most recognized brand of all the financial services in the UK. This seems to work most effectively as can be seen by the rather romantic, if not gothic photographs of the most recent advertising campaign with Hayley Hunt as the woman in black, and David Boni, photographer.

It is well known that Sir Walter Scott was one of the first investors, but what is less known, perhaps, is that a friend of his, a member of that extraordinary Clerk Maxwell family, also had a fairly important connection with the Scottish Widows' Fund. John Clerk, later Lord Eldin, was the son of James Clerk Maxwell's great uncle. He became a a well known and successful advocate and was instrumental in helping the SWF by serving on a committee which saw that the first bonus distribution of 1825 was made proportional and fair. The Scottish Widows' Fund and Life Assurance Society presented John Clerk with a gold snuff box in appreciation for his advice. Upon John Clerk's death, the snuff box came back to the Society and is now part of their much treasured, no doubt, archival history.

An unfortunate occurence, however, also connects John Clerk with the Scottish Widows' Fund. John Clerk was a connoisseur and collector of art and rare books, and upon his death his collection was sold. In fact it was sold in his very own house where close to 150 avid buyers crowded together for the chance at acquiring art work from his collection. So many people, in fact, that the floor collapsed killing a banker by the name of Mr. Alexander Smith. John Clerk's old friend, Mr. McKean, the Manager of the Scottish Widows' Fund, was also in attendance, but wisely chose to stand on the hearth stone. As it was left standing, so was he.
This bookmarker was designed by Walter Crane for the Society. These issues are fairly common and the amount of the funds provides a clue as to the year it may have been printed. This one is probably from the 1920s. Walter Crane designed a more collectible set of bookmarkers for the Society when he was commissioned to create one for each month of the year. These were issued between the years 1910 and 1912 I believe.


bookmarkmcollector said...

I found a bookmark like this one in a used book I bought and am curious what time period it came from.

Giles said...

I have a virtually identical bookmark to this one - the fund is £10,750,000 so presumably an earlier bookmark than the one illustarted. The back of the bookmark is quite attractive with a picture of children/women in alandscape scene...