by Austin Sprake:
A stage-coach scene with no rural background
by Geoffrey Godden:
This landscape Stevengraph shows a Royal Mail coach being driven by four horses. The basic picture was first issued under the title THE LONDON & YORK . . . COACH [st 420 on this site] and as such it was one of the first two Stevengraphs introduced at the York Exhibition in the summer of 1879.
Within a few months, the picture was retitled THE GOOD OLD DAYS and is so listed on label 4, which bears the registration device as issued on 14 August 1879 [although it was not actually registered on that date]. The normal issues are found affixed to type B card-mounts [the image above is of type B2], but a few very early mounts have the title printed in plain letters, not the standard fancy lettering associated with type B mounts.
A later, post-1889, issue under the same title is the same coach and horses with the addition of a winter landscape woven in the background [st 264 on this site]. This variation I have designated 30a. It is to be found on type C card-mounts or, infrequently, on type E mounts. The version with landscape is rarer than the earlier picture, above, showing only the coach and horses and, in general, it would appear that this subject sold in diminishing numbers as the century progressed, the buyers favouring the newer subjects.
This subject, in both versions, is also found with the German title "Die Gute Alte Zeit" [st 264-1 on this site].
The original design was registered on 14 May 1879.
It is worth putting all these different silks into order:
- The silk started out as ' The "LONDON & YORK" Stage Coach ' [st422], with the credit 'Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879 ' printed on the card-mount.
- For the general public, the same ' The "LONDON & YORK" Stage Coach ' [st424] title was available, but with the credit 'Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879' removed and replaced simply with ' Registered '.
- It would seem that the title was soon changed to ' The "LONDON & YORK" Royal Mail Coach ' [st415] with the previous credit ' Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879 ' remaining.
- Next, whilst the title remained as ' The "LONDON & YORK" Royal Mail Coach ' [st416], it would seem that the previous credit of ' Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879 ' was changed to ' Woven in the York Exhibition, 1879 '. Although the design of the actual silk remained unchanged, the size of the silk increased slightly, and this is evident in the size of the lead horses of these later silks.
- Once the exhibition had closed, the old title was short lived, and was replaced after a few months with the completely different one of ' The Good Old Days ' (as above). The silk remained exactly as before.
- The final evolution was to change the actual silk itself to include a winter scene, whilst still retaining the same ' The Good Old Days ' [st264] title. It was this final version which continued into the 20th century.
There is a suggestion that the very first STEVENGRAPH picture was in reality a cut down bookmark, mounted in a card matt.
It is interesting now to find this " GOOD OLD DAYS " picture which is really the bookmark sb224: A merry Christmas / I heard the bells (picture of coach and four), cut down at both top and bottom.
Whilst the card matt is a geniune Stevens, as too the silk, there is no rear label, so it is possible this whole picture is not genuine.