Museum Of Brands And Packaging Reveals The Edwardians

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 25 April 2007
advertisement for Fry's milk chocolate showing bees attracted to it

Courtesy the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

These days it’s all recycling, cutting down on car use and holding back on cheap flights. We’ve got digital cameras and manufactured pop, and the Olympic Games in London is just around the corner.

Whizz back about a century and you’ll find the origins all of these things – the first Olympic Games to be held in Britain was in 1908, while aviation had just been born, for example. The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London is looking at an era of unprecedented progress in consumer life in its exhibition Living with the Edwardians: 1901-1910 (until August 31 2007).

children's book cover with illustration of Edwardian children in a motor car

Courtesy the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

Songsheets, souvenirs, posters, products, magazines, comics, toys and games from the first few years of the 1900s are brought together to conjure up a time now given little attention, but during which a whole host of things came into existence that we now take for granted – milk chocolate, for one!

The dawn of the 20th century saw a new monarch and the birth of a new era, not just in relation to things available to buy, but in social attitudes.

The suffragette movement got into full swing, with women’s rights becoming the fashionable cause. Incidentally, it was at this time that the vacuum cleaner was invented…

advert for Perrier mineral water on the cover of a women's journal titled The Lady of Fashion

Courtesy the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

Mixed bathing was allowed at the seaside for the first time, and the saucy postcard emerged. Newspaper headlines certainly didn’t reach the lows they have these days, but it was at this time that they began putting photographs on the front page. When you consider that this is when cameras became affordable objects, it seems inevitable we’d end up with paparazzi shots of topless women on front pages at some point.

The Daily Mirror came onto the scene in 1903 and the Daily Sketch in 1909, reporting on big events such as the Entente Cordiale (1904) and the Franco-British exhibition in 1908.

an image from a satyrical cartoon about suffragettes

Courtesy the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

A new innovation, picture postcards captured the mood of the moment – the humour of the new phenomenon of motoring accidents, the craze for ping-pong and roller-skating, and the early women’s lib stereotype.

Many of the things on show have endured, then, in some guise, and many we would not be without. Others on display - like ping pong - are on the wane.

While the items on display are curious for how their place in the world today has altered, many of them are also very aesthetic, harking back to a time when gorgeous illustrations were employed to sell products – and a time when you didn’t have to worry about a lack of parking spaces in town.

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