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Saucy Postcards

Those were times when the temptation to take a look at the future, through the keyhole, could easily outweigh the temptation to enjoy the present beyond that door. The only concern was to avoid misery and world conflicts, to leave all anxiety or worries behind, perhaps at night, in front of that new “magic box” of television.

Then things changed, and here we are in a society that is violently confronted with its responsibilities, and that is definitely losing all forms of lightness in the name of vice and politically correct. Perhaps not many are now more willing to venture too far beyond the present and the opportunity of deriving all the possible pleasure from it. Past has almost been abolished, but those were times when we still had the ability to be surprised, and a certain kind of saucy satire really worked.

In 1910, the Yorkshire-based publisher Bamforth & Co. started producing “saucy” postcards. These cheeky designs became synonymous with the English seaside resorts where they were sold, but were exported all over the world. After WW2, Bamforth artists began to satirise the classic comic archetypes that still resonate today — henpecked husbands, naughty nurses and randy milkmen. Contemporary concerns ranging from the contraceptive pill to the Space Race also received the irreverent Bamforth treatment.

With over 70,000 images produced in over 90 years by such illustrators as Douglas Tempest, Arnold Taylor & Phillip Taylor, Ben Fitzpatrick and the famous Donald McGill, Bamforth was the iconic seaside postcard. In 2014, author Marcus Hearn created Saucy Postcards: The Bamforth Collection, a way to celebrate the golden age of these comic gems, with a selection of more than 250 cards originally published from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s. The book’s introduction reveals the story behind the company, and the battles with the postcard censorship committees that resulted in almost 150 prosecutions.

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