For nearly a century a rare collection of postcards mourning the loss of the Titanic – rushed out in the aftermath of the sinking – have only been seen by a privileged few.
But now the striking images are to adorn memorabilia after a ten-year search reunited them with their original publisher, Bamforth’s, allowing them to appear on licensed products for the first time since 1912.
The company is mainly remembered as makers of saucy seaside postcards featuring scantily clad women and jokes about mothers-in-law.
But in an age where cameras were still a rich man’s toy Bamforth’s also recorded important chapters in England’s social history. So within weeks of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15 1912 Bamforth & Co, based in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, published six postcards commemorating the tragic event.
The set, known to collectors as the Nearer My God To Thee series, shows a saintly woman in a flowing white gown posed against a backdrop of the sinking.
Her hair is intertwined with the image of the half-submerged liner with verses from Arthur Sullivan’s Nearer My God to Thee – said to be the last hymn played by the band as the ship went down. Some of the cards show passengers as angels.
Only a handful of collectors have managed to acquire all six of the cards, which now change hands for £40-£60 each.
Hull based dealer Gary Worsnop, postcard adviser to Bamforth’s, spent ten years scouring trade fairs and the internet for them.
“The cards were put to shops as a remembrance souvenir. If there was a disaster in the pits they would produce a card commemorating the people who died,” he said.
Devastating floods in Holmfirth, the loss of the Lusitania and the First World War bombardment of Scarborough also featured on similar sets of cards.
Mr Worsnop and the new owners of Bamforth’s are now using the images to commemorate the sinking, including a set of commemorative mugs.