Advent and After: 13. Home for the Holidays

Cope's Arctic card. February 1877
Cope’s Arctic card. February 1877.

Now that we have reached the last day of term, students are heading home for the holidays, although most will not be travelling as far as the North Pole, vividly depicted in the ‘Christmas cards’ published by the Liverpool tobacco firm of Cope’s.

From 1874 Cope’s published a card issued free to subscribers to the Tobacco Plant, and usually published in February. Designed by John Wallace the cards were large, full colour lithographs depicting a topical or fanciful scene peopled with caricatures of politicians and celebrities. A key to the figures, including an explanation in prose or poetry, was also issued for those wishing to derive full enjoyment from a card.

Cope’s Arctic Card issued in February 1877 shows in its border ‘in vivid allegory, the history of the many expeditions that in former days have striven for the Arctic Prize’. The main scene depicts the celebration as the artist imagined it would have been if Sir George Nares had enjoyed a successful expedition and ‘brought the pole home’. The commentary on this card in the Tobacco Plant concluded by stating that: ‘for ourselves, we could be content if the expedition, failing in all else, had but realised the little picture that “Pipeshank” has drawn at the foot of his cartoon. It were pleasant to think of our old Friend the Anti-Tobaccoite left behind in the Silent North, in the congenial company of the Walrus and the Polar Bear. The artist is right – the Bear would be by far the jollier member of the select society. He might “pipe” but our Anti would never dance’.

The card comes from the John Fraser Collection.