Friday, 28 June 2013

Criterion and Gillette, Kilburn

Along Kilburn High Road is a great painted wall that combines two ghost signs: one for Gillette Safety Razors and one for Criterion, the safety matches that came in from the cold.

In the 1920s the British market for matches was largely dominated by Brymay. Over the years the company originally founded by Francis May and William Bryant in 1861 had merged or bought many of its competitors. However in 1930 two new brands landed in British shops: M.S. and Criterion, which came both from the Soviet Union.
The arrival of these two brands was part of a Europe-wide strategy by the Soviet authorities to regain a foot in countries where its manfacturers had been major players before the First World War and to counter the advance of Kreuger and Toll's Swedish Match Company. Kreuger, a great and extremely wealthy businessman (who would also be known after his death as one of the world's greatest swindlers), had increased dramatically the presence of his trust across most Europe and had even managed to secure a virtual monopoly in several countries in return for awarding large loans to their governments. As a result throughout the 1920s Soviet match manufacturers lost precious markets like Germany. The answer of the authorities in Moscow was to increase production from 4,000 million boxes before the Revolution to 7,000 million boxes by 1927-28 in order to flood the markets. In a bid to increase their share and ultimately drive out competition, matches made in the USSR were often sold at reduced prices, leading to accusations of dumping. Soviet brands also ran reward schemes. Although the British market was different and the share held previously by Russian manufacturers was negligible, it was a potentially lucrative market. This explains why this Soviet "offensive" finally reached Britain in 1930.
During the 1930s adverts for Criterion Safety Matches appeared in the press and in the streets. Several, like today's ghost sign, emphasised the company's gift schemes. Criterion was sold in packets of 12 boxes of around 45 matches and customers had to collect the labels to claim their rewards. For 100 labels they would get 7 lbs of fruit bonbons. If they did not give in to their kids and managed to collect 1,500 labels, they could get either a guitar or 1 lb of Russian caviar. Finally, with 1,700 labels, they could decorate their living room with a fine rug from Turkistan. Additionally some labels could win lucky customers cash prizes of £275 (£275 in 1939 is equivalent to £15,000 in 2012).
In spite of these efforts, Criterion safety matches do not seem to have been able to gain a firm seat in Britain (at least they are barely mentioned in documents and books about the matches market). The Second World War would have disrupted both production and the supply chain and efforts to come back once the war ended do not seem to have paid. Criterion matches may have remained available for a few years after the Second World War but seem to have disappeared from British homes by the late 1950s.

This ghost sign for Criterion was painted over an earlier one for Gillette Safety Razors.

Safety Razor

Great Gift

Pack of Criterion Matches / British Made

Save the
Packet Labels

The Gillette logo (the name in a lozenge) is partly hidden by the lower left corner of the matchbox.

While Gillette emphised its razors were "British Made", on the drawing of the matchbox the sign painter has not included the mention "Foreign Made", which featured on the packs themselves. The mention "Foreign Made", which was found on the first versions of the Criterion labels, was later replaced by "USSR Made." The sign painter did not include the words "Damp Proof" either. This may simply be because it would have cluttered the matchbox.

Safety Matches
Registered Trademark
Average ... Matches

The matchbox on this wall, and in particular the design of the scrolls above and below "Safety Matches Criterion", match the one seen in a 1936 printed advert. On later designs (those with the mention "USSR Made"), the scrolls are straight and no longer rippling. The number of matches mentioned in the early designs varies between 45 and 50. Unfotunately the figure on the wall has completely disappeared.

Great Gift

Save the
Packet Labels

Location: Messina Avenue / Pictures taken in August 2009

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Royal Cinema, Kampot

The Royal Cinema in the small Cambodian town of Kampot was built during the first half of the 1950s. Whether it was before or after 1953, the year the country gained its independence from France, is unclear as both 1951 and 1955 have been suggested.

For twenty years or so the Royal's programme combined epic and musical Hindi films with martial art movies from Hong Kong, war movies from the Philippines with cowboys and Indians films from the US. However the Royal, like the three other cinemas of Kampot, shut its doors when the Khmer Rouge seized the town in April 1974. The Khmer Rouge regime fell in 1979 after Vietnam invaded Cambodia but the cinema remained shut for several more years as the country became engulfed in a dramatic war between the occupying Vietnamese army and several resistance movements.
The Royal Cinema reopened in 1984 but closed down a few months later in 1986. It was then used to store water containers. However its story does not end there. In 2009 the Royal Cinema was "rediscovered" by US filmmaker and CamboFest founder/co-organizer Jason Rosette. The same year the family who lives within its walls agreed to allow the 3rd CamboFest Film and Video Festival to take place at the historic venue. Sadly it seems nothing has been shown since then, even if the rumour of a possible reopening of the Royal can sometimes be heard.

After 60 years of troubled history, the name of the cinema, in Khmer, has almost disappeared. I am not absolutely sure but I think it says "រាជរោងកុន".

[Royal Cinema]

More traces of painted signs can be seen on the formerly green panel to the left of the entrance.

Location: Kampot / Pictures taken in December 2011

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Now on Flickr

Following some changes in the terms and conditions of Flickr, I decided to upload my pictures of ghost signs onto that platform, even if the new design looks rubbish (sorry, there is no other word for it!). This is still very much ongoing, with nearly 400 photos so far... and hundreds more to come.

The sets can be seen at:
The photos are arranged by location, per London Borough for those in the Greater London area, per county for those outside London, and finally per country for those overseas.

Monday, 24 June 2013

M & J Abrahams Ltd, Hackney

This sign does not look that old but M & J Abrahams Ltd is long gone.

This ghost sign seems to be the only trace left by this business that specialised in ladies' coats and suits.

M & J Abrahams Ltd.
Ladies Coats & Suits
1st Floor

Location: Belsham Street / Pictures taken in May 2013

Friday, 21 June 2013

Sunlight soap and J. G. Chaddock, Weymouth

In a small street away from Weymouth's popular seafront is a very faded ghost sign for Lever Brothers' best selling product: Sunlight soap.

This is not the first time Sunight soap features on this blog and some information about the company and its product can be found alongside the ghost signs seen in Battersea and Upper Clapton.

Additional Sunlight ghost signs published so far include those from Willesden, Highbury, and Ravenscourt Park.

Largest Sales in the World

Sunlight soap was available at J. G. Chaddock's grocery store. Chaddock certainly allowed Lever Brothers to advertise its product on the wall above his shop and in return got his name and business added below. This kind of arrangement was similar to the one between Hovis and some bakers.

J. G. Chaddock
Family Grocer

Location: Turton Street, Weymouth, Dorset / Pictures taken in May 2011

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Adams, Selhurst

What was Adams's activity? Not enough of this ghost sign has survived to be able to answer this question.

... Adams
... all for ... [him ?]

Adams's sign covers an earlier one, possibly for the same business.

Location: Selhurst Road / Pictures taken in August 2012

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lea & Co, Gloucester

In spite of being certainly one of Gloucester's largest furniture stores, there seems to be very little information available about Lea & Co.

Lea & Co

The name 'Lea' also appears on the weathervane.

Lea's Buildings

I have not found when Lea & Co was founded but the name of "the complete house furnishers and bedding specialist" appears in several documents dated from the 1880s to the mid-1950s. It is possible Lea & Co kept on trading for several years after that last mention.

Lea & Co
House Furnishers

Location: St Aldate Street and Northgate Street, Gloucester / Pictures taken in July 2010

Monday, 17 June 2013

Haircut, Ababi

If I had stopped each time I saw a hand painted sign in Bali, I wouldn't have had time to enjoy the amazing scenery, the fascinating temples or to sample the delicious food. Like in other countries of the region, their density is extremely high indeed. Still I managed to photograph some while passing, including this one in Ababi, a small village just above the water palace and rice terraces of Tirtagangga in the eastern part of the island.
It was relatively easy to guess this sign advertised the services of a hairdresser. First there was the pair of scissors and "rambut" reminded me of "rambutan", the delicious fruit with a hairy skin. Once back home I could check in the dictionary and found that "potong rambut" means "haircut". "Hairdresser" would have been "penata rambut".
The second line of the sign tells the opening time. "Buka" means "open" and "siang" refers to the part of the day that corresponds to the late morning and early afternoon, roughly between 11:30am and 3:00pm (in Indonesia, the day is divided between "pagi", "siang", "sore", "malam", and "tidur").

Potong rambut
Buka siang
Open 11:30am - 3:00pm

Location: Ababi, Bali, Indonesia / Picture taken in May 2013

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Boot and shoe specialist, Anerley

This ghost sign was painted over an earlier one but it is impossible to tell what was written originally.

Boot & Shoe
Repairs With Despatch

Location: Anerley Road / Picture taken in June 2008