A History of the Exhibition Study Group

Here is how the Exhibition Study Group came to be formed, and what it is all about.        

We owe our beginning to a small group of collectors of exhibition memorabilia. Andrew Brooks and Fred Fletcher, were the joint authors of “British Exhibitions and their Post Cards, Parts 1 & 2” published in 1978, and Don Knight an author of several books on exhibitions at the White City and Wembley. It was at the Bipex Post Card Fair in 1978 that the three authors came together, and talked about their interests in exhibitions, and about forming an Exhibition Study Group.

At about the same time Andrew had made contact with Stanley Hunter, who was then editor of the “Scottish Stamp News” who was also interested in the idea. Andrew then wrote to various magazines informing their readers of the forming of the Exhibition Study Group, and this raised a few more members, including myself.

Our interests range from the 1851 Crystal Palace onwards, from the stamps, and special postmarks used through out this period, advertising labels, crested china, commemorative plates and other china ware, medals, post cards, printed ephemera, books, and the whole range of souvenirs commemorating exhibitions, both British and Foreign. including Congress and Philatelic Exhibitions. This is a truly vast collecting field with items costing from pence to rare pieces well into four figures.

We have come a long way since Newsletter No. 1 was published in 1980 by Andrew who took on the job of secretary, editor and treasurer, although we had no money to treasure. It was circulated to just ten members including himself. Two of the original ten members are still with us, and our membership is now just under the 100 mark. News Letters came out very spasmodically in the beginning, and only seven were published in the next seven years. No. 7 came out in February 1987, and in this Andrew announced the holding of our first one day convention, to take place at York, in the October of that year. After this newsletters became more regular, and we now send out four a year.

I can still remember that first convention, it was a wonderful do. You must realise until then collectors were isolated people, who in the main never met anyone else with the same interest. To spend a whole day hearing people talk exhibitions and see selections on display from some of the great collections, was an experience never to be forgotten. It was so successful that everybody wanted a two day event next year, as it has been ever since. We have held conventions at York (four times) Manchester (once), Crystal Palace (twelve times) Wembley (five times), Portsmouth (three times) Glasgow (once) Bradford (once) Hatfield (twice) and in 2016 we shall meet at Crystal Palace again for our 30th convention. This is held on the last weekend of September or early in October.

The meetings start at 10.00 and consist of displays and talks given by our members, and covers all areas of Exhibitions. On the Saturday night we hold our annual Dinner. In 1991 I became secretary and the following year became editor of the Newsletter as it was then called.

Our purpose is to encourage and assist those who are interested in, or are doing research into the various subjects related to Exhibitions, to publish details of their work in our newsletter, so that it can reach other members who may be doing similar work, and see as our aim the collating and eventual publication of this information, either through our Newsletter or in book form. The 332 page “Kelvingrove and the 1888 Exhibition” by Stanley K Hunter in 1990 was our first major publication and at the Postcard Centenary Fair in 1995 we launched Study Group Publication No. 2 “Postcards of the British Empire Exhibition Wembley 1924-1925” by Mike Perkins and myself. This lists over 3,900 cards and is a hard back A4 size with 228 pages and 270 illustrations.

Study Group No. 3 is “Footsteps at the American World’s Fairs” and Study Group No. 4 is a “Price Guide and Check List for Post Cards of the British Empire Exhibition 1924 & 1925”. In August 1997 one of our members Deborah Ryan published her book on the Ideal Homes Exhibition. In 1999 another of our members Godfrey Evans published his ‘Souvenirs’ A history of Souvenirs from pilgrims relics to crested china and commemorative plates etc., sold at National, and International exhibitions and World’s Fairs. In 2001 we published ‘Post cards and related collectibles of the Festival of Britain’.

In August 2003 the Study Group published ‘Publicity labels of the British Empire Exhibition. This is a compilation of “Publicity Labels of the British Empire Exhibition Wembley 1924-25” by A. Sabey and the “Supplement” as both these books are now out of print, plus a lot of new additions. 2004 saw the publication of “Post cards of the British Empire Exhibition Wembley 1924-25 part 2” which contained new additions that have come to light in the ten years since part 1 was published.

This also contains a full listing of Letter Cards and the many packets of ‘snap shots’ published at the time. The last three books published on Collectibles of the Festival of Britain, the B.E.E. labels book and the up-date to Post Cards of the B.E.E. 1924-25, have all been sold to members at below the actual printing cost. Also in 2004 one of our members Tim Rusden published his “Souvenirs of the 1912 International Stamp Exhibition” covering the post cards and a complete listing of the Ideal Stamp available at the exhibition. 2006 saw the publication of Crystal Palace on Post Cards 1854-1936 by F. Peskett and B. Tonkin. In 2008 the E.S.G. published the giant 650 page “Post Cards of the Great White City Exhibitions 1908-1914” the incredible exhibitions organised by Imre Kiralfy in the specially built ‘White City’ at Shepherds Bush.

Our members have also assisted with research on Perfins on Wembley Stamps carried out by the Perfin Society, and this has now been published by them. It is a very sad thing that a collector may spend most of his or her adult life researching and accumulating knowledge on a subject and leave no record behind at the end. This must be the ultimate “waste of time”. We were pleased to be able to purchase all of George Ithell’s notes and records on the Irish Village ‘Ballymaclinton’ after his death in 1997. Although he had published his work in 1982 he had continued his research, and it would have been a tragedy if this material and knowledge had been lost.