Sunday, October 16, 2016

Who was "F S" and did he work in St Albans with "Karaktus"?

Sometimes when you are doing research you get carried away with a side issue - and my recent investigation into the identity of a post card artist signing himself  "F S" is a good example.

Card by Karaktus
Some years ago I discovered some unusual comic cards published around 1908  by the short-lived Crown Publishing Company of St Albans and drawn by "Karaktus." As a result I have so far identified almost all his designs (I have details and in most cases copies, of 28 out of 30 different cards) However I made no progress in discovering the identity of "Karaktus."

Card by "F S"
In my research I discovered that the Crown Publishing Company also produced cards in the "Crown Series" some of which were signed "F S" and it seemed likely "F S" and "Karaktus" knew each other (unless they  were the same artist using two different pen names,) Perhaps, I thought that if I could identify "F S" (who I now realized has some links with the St Albans company) it would lead me to "Karaktus".

"FS" card from USA
My first online searches showed that the majority of post card sellers made no attempt to identity "F S," while those who did came up with either "F Stone" (who signed a small number of cards published in about 1906) or "Fred Spurgin." (a very well known post card artist whose cards started to appear in about 1910, including many produced in the First World War). However the work of these two artists were stylistically quite different to that of "F S."  In addition "F S" cards involved many different named publishers (or none), and were not always signed - although in some cases the same card was issued, with  or without signature, by a different publisher. In many cases the cards were not used (so no postal date), and often the publisher information on the back was not immediately available.

What was going on? I started a comprehensive search over a number of months and have now identified well over 100 different images - and I am still no wiser as to who he is - except that based on style of artwork and subject treatment I think "F S" is unlikely to be "Fred Spurgin".

Unsigned card probably by "F S"
What I guess happened is the "F S" was a freelance artist, who started to produce comic postcards for the London View Company in 1906 - shortly before the company closed down. Following the closure of LVC he was probably involved in setting up the short lived Crown Publishing Company in St Albans in 1908-9. By about 1910 some of his cards were being published in the USA and the same images also turned up in the UK at about the same time - often with no publisher name..
For more Information see
A summary of "F S" post cards. (link from above)
Unsigned - by F S ?
If you have any information which would help me identify "F S" or "Karaktus" or the subjects, publishers and earliest postal dates of their cards I will be grateful. If there is sufficient interest when I have time I will add a catalogue of card series, individual card titles, publishers and dates, for the benefit of other collectors.

Note on images: Many of the images come directly from the web (particularly auction sites) and I have deliberately reduced the image size to thumbs 250 pixels wide. (If I already own a copy clicking a blue edged image will give a much larger image). For cards currently on sale you could start by searching ebay collectibles using:
postcard ("F S", "F Stone", "Fred Stone") (comic, artist, social) 
At the time of posting this search identified 22 "F S" cards with a typical price of about £4.00

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