Dated walking pictures often prove useful in helping to determine when a Walking Picture business was operating, and also in putting a date to unmarked cards. This walkie is by the firm of Sunbeam, based in Margate. It shows “Auntie Annie and Uncle Harry” and was taken on the seafront on a breezy day (judging from his flapping coat and her tightly held furs) in Easter 1931, as they have written this in ink on the back.
As the reference number bottom left is still scratched into the negative we can reasonably assume that any cards which have the numbers on the negative done in pen or by machine post-date this. The E prefix refers to a particular photographer’s pitch, so he could be credited with the sale.
I do like the accidental composition on this photograph; Harry just a step or two ahead of his wife, the cameraman has caught them in mid-stride, no chance to collect themselves and pose. He only had a moment for them to be just in focus.
Sunbeam was an important firm and probably the largest Walking Picture business in the UK at one point. It was established around 1919 and was still taking walkies into the 1960s. Their history is covered on the site.
Photo : courtesy Easy On The Eye.
This walkie is clearly a more organised affair than most. Probably the group of firends were approached on the walkway near-by in the usual way by the cameraman but arranged to have a full group shot all in a line, so needed space to sort themselves out before walking toward the camera. The location is easily recognisable by the ornate lattice cupola, which crops up in many walkies taken by Sunbeam in Margate. This was in the grounds of The Bungalow Tea Rooms in the Cliftonville area, above Palm Bay. Sunbeam seem to have had a kiosk in part of the building for a time too. The grounds also had a small open air dance area just to the right of the photo. This rather nice postcard view below shows the complex in it’s heyday, and the walkie people were more or less exactly where the three children are playing in the postcard. The only unanswered question of course is why “Bungalow”? I’m guessing, but there does seem to be an older single storey building on the right which may have been the original bungalow prior to all the extensions. It was needless to say all demolished in the 1970s. There is more about Sunbeam on the site, and if you put Sunbeam into the search box on the right, several other cards will be shown.
The card was loaned to me by Ellen Ryan in America, along with others taken by the firm. Some will appear in the Going Home On A Postcard book. Thanks to Ellen for her help on this project.
I should have mentioned this on the site before but a recent email from them has prompted me to do so. The South East Archive of Seaside Photography (at Canterbury Christ Church University) is working to preserve and scan the remaining Sunbeam photo archive of some 7,000 images. These mostly seem to be commercial publicity images of local events in and around the Margate area, celebrities and news worthy happenings. (Indeed it does look very like a local newspaper archive. I’m a real sucker for this sort of stuff and they have some great images but it’s a little outside the remit of this site.) Walkies however were a part of the Sunbeam business (it would be interesting to know what proportion of their turnover), but few examples were ever kept (something they shared with most other walkie firms from what I can learn.) However by organising local exhibitions SEAS has managed to borrow and scan a lot from visitors. They are mounting another exhibition – BEYOND THE VIEW – REFRAMING THE SUNBEAM PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION – in July / August 2014 which promises to show off lots from the archive including walkies. This will be at the Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury University. No opening times given (they do have an email contact address) but sadly rather a long drive for me. Anyhow check out the SEAS website for lots more photos and details (I’ve also added SEAS to the link list on this site below right.) Thanks to Karen Shepherdson.
Perhaps Sunbeam’s real legacy will be the memorable and often surreal images which include the great props they used to tempt people into having their photo taken – at the top is just such a shot from their collection showing one of the seven or eight felt donkeys they had made!
Short history of Sunbeam on the site here and lots more examples if you hit the search button.