Hertfordshire Postcard Artists, Photographers, Publishers, etc.

Who Was "F. S."

Did he work in St Albans??


I am particularly interested in the identity of "Karaktus" and the Crown Publishing Company who published comic post cards in St Albans in about 1908. I discovered some slightly earlier "Crown Series" post cards which included some signed "F S" - who had also published cards for the London View Company which went bankrupt shortly before the Crown Publishing Company appeared.


This raised an interesting question. Was "F S" the founder of the Crown Publishing Company and if so could identifying "F S" help me to identify "Karaktus"? On ebay "F S" is sometime referred to as "Fred Stone" and sometimes to "Fred Spurgin" - but most do not associate a name with "F S."


So I decided to try and find out about who "F S" was by finding out what he published and where. His publication pattern turned out to be very complex  - with a range of different post card companies printing his work, at least three different back on cards published in the United States, and other cards on plain backs. Some designs were printed by more than one publishers - sometime omitting his signature.


For examples of his work see the Summary Catalogue - which also includes a few unsigned cards which were almost certainly by him.






As a few people suggest names for F.S. it is worth comparing styles of post cards published between 1905 up to the First World War to see if there is any similarity in styles with some of the possibilities.

Sample are "F S" pictures are shown in the right hand column for comparison.


Cards by "F S"




F(red) Stone - Nelson Series


The "Nelson"  and "Wellington" series were published by Gale & Polden - and while most of their cards are of military subjects they also published a few comic cards, such as these cards by "F S" or "F Stone."


Wellington Series


Both Nelson & Wellington Series


The above cards were all posted in 1906/7 and are the only ones signed by him I have located by Gale & Polden.


Many Fred Stones were living in England at the time of the 1901 and 1911 census and I have not checked them all out, The only possible identity information (beyond some ebay sellers) is the from the Sussex Post Card Info web site:

Another publishing venture by Francis Gerald Harwood was a set of 6 colour-printed comic cards entitled "Pa's holiday in Brighton", which were printed in Saxony for the London View Co., apparently using chromo-lithography. The cards are labelled on the back "The London View Co. Ltd." or more commonly "Printed by the London View Co. Ltd. for F. G. Harwood & Co., Brighton". The artist, who initialled his pictures "F. S.", has been identified by Jonathan Dewhirst as Frederick Stone, who lived in Cheyne Walk in London and specialised in preparing comic illustrations. His pictures were notable for their use of flat planes of colour, and uncluttered design, reminiscent of poster work. No postmarks have been found on the Harwood comic cards, but the London View Co. was in existence from only 1905 to 1908. In addition to the Harwood cards the London firm produced at least two other comic cards showing "Pa" holidaying at Hastings, no doubt intended, as at Brighton, for distribution by a local retailer.

I am hoping to be able to find examples of the Hastings and Brighton cards.


Because I have only seen examples of "F Stone" post cards from one publisher My position is that I am not ruling out the possibility of "F Stone" and "F S" being the same person - or whether there were were two "F Stone." (a real possibility because of the commonness of the name).




Frederick Spurgin

Frederick Izydor Spurgin was born in Russia (possibly Latvia) in about 1884 and possibly came to England before 1901 when his parents and siblings were living in Lancashire, and he was possibly at boarding school. Fred was living with his parents in Brixton in1911, when he was described as an artist & designer




His cards started appearing in about 1910 and his work became very popular, with many designs, each with  a handwritten signature. He did work for the following companies:


Art & Humour Publishing

Avenue Publishing Co

E J Hey & Co

International Art Co.

JohnThridgould & Co

Watkin & Kracke Ltd



Fred Spurgin is very well known for his patriotic post cards during the First World War.

Coysh, in the book "The Dictionary of English Postcards," suggests that Fred Spurgin was the artist "F S" in a passing comment.

You can see from the examples here that there is no similarity in styles of art or humour and I think it extremely unlikely that "F S" was Fred Spurgin.



Unidentified St Albans Artist


"F S" cards (not all signed) were (re-)published in the "Crown Series" in about 1908 with numbers about 1010. Unsigned cards were produced by the "Crown Publishing Company" in 1908-9 with numbers starting in the 1020s.






The similarities of style in terms of both artwork and humour very strongly suggest that that "F S" produced post cards for the Crown Publishing Company of St Albans.




Karaktus Post Card No 11, Crown Publishing Co., St Albans, Herts, 1909  

"Karaktus" was the pen name of a very distinctive but unidentified artist whose Karaktus series post cards were published in 1908-9 by the Crown Publishing Company of St. Albans,

  Karaktus Card No 10, Crown Publishing Co., St Albans, Herts, 1909
Karaktus Post Card No 5, Crown Publishing Co., St Albans, Herts, 1909   Karaktus Post Card No 17, Crown Publishing Co., St Albans, Herts, 1909 - Beer  

Karaktus Post Card No 23, Crown Publishing Co., St Albans, Herts, 1909 - Bachelors wish


All the evidence suggests the "F S" and "Karaktus" worked together in the Crown Publishing Company, in St Albans in 1908-9 (assuming that they were different people). Unfortunately I have no firm information as to who either of them were.