Raphael Tuck & Sons The Early Days of a Postcard Pioneer

Raphael Tuck and his sons, Gustave Tuck, Adolph Tuck, and Herman Tuck

Most Deltiologists will recognise the name Raphael Tuck & Sons, one of the most prestigious and prolific postcard publishing companies. It was however the sons of Raphael, Adolph Tuck in particular, who managed the explosive growth of this most successful business in its early postcard era

Raphael had moved to England from Prussia in 1865 to set up in business selling picture frames from a small shop. By 1870 his sons were working for him as the business moved its focus to the import and publication of printed paper products. Presumably the picture frames had led to prints and then prints led to other chromolithographic printed paper products. In the 1871 census Raphael described himself as a 'Picture Dealer'.

By 1881 Raphael had retired and Adolph was running the company. It was at this time that the now familiar company trademark, an artists easel and palette, was first registered. Soon afterwards, in 1893, the company was awarded its first Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria, a measure of its sudden success in Britain. As the end of the nineteenth century approached Tuck had become a major publisher of Christmas and valentines cards, scrapbook scraps, prints, paper dolls, books, and calendars.

In November 1899 British Postal regulations were changed such that British publishers could, for the first time, publish picture postcards at the full Universal Postal Union agreed size of five and half inches by three and a half. Adolph Tuck ensured that his company was the first to publish such cards with the immediate release of a set of 12 London View vignettes. That release was swiftly followed by many others. The postcard boom had begun.

Adolph was clearly an astute businessman and clever marketeer. To promote sales his company announced a series of postcard collecting competitions. The first competitions (launched in 1900 and again in 1902) offered a prize for the biggest collection of Tuck postcards and triggered a craze. Several more competitions followed. Similarly In 1903 Tuck followed the traditions of the art market and published 'limited edition' proof sets targeted at the collector. All of this placed Tuck firmly at the foundation of the postcard collecting boom with Adolf Tuck leading the way into the pre WW1 'golden era' of postcard collecting.

Adolf was to die in 1926 but the Tuck business continued through to the 1960's when it was acquired by Purnell and Sons. Sadly the early company records and (whatever) archive of artwork and designs they had maintained were destroyed during a World War II air raid on London.

The graves and substantial memorial headstones of Raphael with his wife Ernestine, and also those of his sons Herman and Adolf, can today be seen at the Willesden United Synagogue Cemetery in North West London.   The headstone for Raphael Tuck, who died in  March 1900, is decorated with the Cohen Hands symbol which is used denote that the person buried is a Cohen, a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses.

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