Stuart published over 2100 cards in his main numbered series and this number increases significantly if one adds all the variants and unnumbered cards. Stuart's images are a valuable historic record of a nation that the 20th and 21st centuries did much to change and, as they are treasured by collectors, they should be valued by historians for the window into the past that they present.
Stuart's cards are mainly topographical in nature but there are also portraits and nautical subjects. Based in Southampton, Stuart ranged through Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Surrey, Berkshire, West Sussex and London recording local scenes and notable landmarks. It is often seemingly possible to trace his journies from the sequential numbering of the cards and it appears that he would capture a batch of images in, for example, Bournemouth before moving on to another location and capturing another batch.
Stuart took great care with most of his images. He often posed local children or other characters in focal points of the frame to help draw the eye in. In many images what is assumed to be Stuart's pony and trap cameos, often adding a point of interest or introducing a sense of scale. He also took great care with his composition, making use of principles such as the use of leading lines and the rule of thirds for example.
Due to the limitations in camera technology, Stuart often had to make compromises to achieve the image he wanted. For example on a bright, sunny day (when most of his images seem to be captured), Stuart's camera would have been unable to cope with the exposure difference between the bright sky and the darker ground or buildings. Consequently he would have exposed for the subject, leaving the sky entirely white, the blue skies and white clouds seen on Stuart's outdoor scenes would have been hand-painted in by the colouring artist. All of the images were of course captured in black and white, most probably on 8x10 or 10x12 glass plates. We know from his Royal Photographic Society exhibitions that he used both wet and dry plate techniques No doubt most of his postcard scenes were shot on gelatin dry plates, this was significantly easier to manage than wet plate and had largely superceeded it by the end of the 1880s. It is possible though that some of the London scenes date from the early 1880s when he was still shooting on wet plates. Earlier images often show evidence of the long exposures required by his camera, Figures appear blurred or even vanish from the scene entirely.
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A complete (so far) checklist is available to download here.
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First and Last
The earliest known Stuart card is post-marked 28th December 1901, franked Oxford Street, Southampton and with a Queen Victoria 1/2d stamp. I have not personally seen any cards with a Queen Victoria stamp though.
Production seems to have ceased by the end of the Second World War but I have a card post-marked May 1963 with a Queen Elizabeth stamp. The message on the card gives no indication as to its origins and one can only imagine that it sat in a dusty corner of a shop somewhere for 30 or 40 years!
Please let me know if you can better these!
Stuart's cards come in a variety of finishes
The majority of cards appear to be colour, but some scenes appear both colour and black & white finishes.
Several printers of Stuart's cards have been identified
- Hudson & Kearns, Southwark, London
- C.G. Roder, Leipzig, Germany
- Unknown publisher, Saxony, Germany
- Sanbride, Middlesborough, Britain
- Unknown publisher, Britain
- Lillywhite Ltd, Halifax
Leipzig based C.G. Roder were well known for printing musical scores but also printed postcards by various publishers.
Publisher's example cards can sometimes be found, these often give pricing for various quantities of cards on the rear and can be used to help identify the various printers that Stuart used.
The German printed cards are generally regarded as superior to the British cards, the colours more delicate and the print quality finer. The First World War obviously impacted on Stuart's ability to use German printers and printing reverted to Britain, wartime conditions no doubt contributing to the lower quality of these cards; I have seen cards where the stock used is very thin, almost like paper. in 1900 Roder opened a London based printing works. Perhaps some of Stuarts cards were printed here.
Many cards have a small, 5 or 6 digit number printed on the rear. This is the printer's batch number - the higher the number, the later the batch.
The Lillywhite cards - which seems to be all 1920's real-photo cards - can be identified by their trademark flower logo on the address side.
Variants and Misnumbering
There are many variants to keep the collector happy! Cards with red text, cards with the 'F.G.O. Stuart' on the side or rear, cards with no 'F.G.O. Stuart' at all.
Reprints of the same card sometimes have a slightly different view than the earlier cards, this is presumably either a side affect of the manufacturing process or due to Stuart supplying updated images to the printers. Sometimes the format of the cards changes, sometimes the image is cropped or zoomed.
There are also various versions of cards with Christmas messages, either on the front or on the address side. Similary there are examples of cards with advertising messages of various kinds.
There are many examples of cards which have been misnumbered. These are presumably mistakes on the printers part but it does not appear to have prevented Stuart selling the cards.
When the First World War broke out, cards with the 'Printed in Germany' mark on the back must have proven difficult to sell.
'Trimmed' cards are sometimes found where this mark, usually printed at the bottom right edge of the card, has been trimmed off, leaving a card slightly smaller than normal. From about 1911 the mark is often found in the stamp square which must have been difficult to deal with. Perhaps they were sold with a stamp already affixed?
Stuart issued cards in several numbered and unnumbered series
Main Numbered Series
Numbering some 2181 cards (actually many more if one counts all the variants) this collection represents the bulk of Stuart's catalog. Being sequantially numbered, they are ideal for collectors who can tick the cards they have off against the checklist.
These are a separate series of some of the cards from the main series - 7 from Southampton, 2 from Winchester and 7 from Salisbury are known. However the numbering would indicate that perhaps there are other cards from this series yet to be discovered; 7 from Winchester would seem to be likely. All the cards were printed in Germany and all appear to be from 1903-1904. A distinctive font is used for the title of the cards.
11000 Numbered Series
Only one card with this numbering has been found to my knowledge, probably printed by Sanbride of Middlesborough who printed some of Stuart's cards. Perhaps this was to be the start of a new series but for some reason it was not to be.No examples available
A series of scenes of military volunteer battalions camps, taken in the New Forest. 3 cards have been found although the numbering would indicate that there were at least 4 in the series. All appear to be early cards, printed by Hudson & Kearns of London. I have seen one example postmarked North Sway Camp, Sway Farm, Brockenhurst, August 10th 1906. My guess is that Stuart saw a business opportunity to sell the cards to the men away from home on exercise to send back to their families.
A set of 5 scenes of Salisbury Cathedral plus one of Stonehenge. These appear to be early cards.
A series of 12 cards depicting scenes of Southampton and Bournemouth. Gelatine glazed and probably printed in Germany c.1909, Stuart's name appears on the address side. These cards feature an elaborately patterned border around the image.
Stuart published a number of cards featuring the Southampton FC team from as early as 1901 to about 1925, these are mostly unnumbered.. It looks like no cards were issued during the war years.
Stuart published a number of unnumbered (and sometimes unnamed) cards from 1901 onwards. The earliest cards were of the 'undivided back' type where the whole rear of the card was reserved for the address. 'Divided back' cards, where the rear of the card has space for both the address and a message, followed from about 1903. These unnumbered cards include advertising cards, where the cards are overprinted with advertising material for local hotels etc, and cards produced for two other publishers - John Adams of Oxford Street and Miss G.A. Pratt, also of Oxford street.