Monday, 17 September 2012

Caribbean postcards in a Leeds album 1906-1915

In response to the UK National Archives 'Caribbean Through a Lens Project' we have started to look again through a Leeds postcard album with 396 postcards, mainly from Trinidad (312), from the early 1900s. You can find the National Archives photographs on Flickr at

The Leeds album has 132 pages with 3 postcards per page, and the images range from famous buildings, studio images of local personalities (see 'Bad John' and J. Scrusher-Chamberlain in the page open here), and popular images of 'East Indians', who had come to Trinidad as indentured labourers.

They also include fruit, trees and birds, and local industries like digging for pitch at La Brea. The dull green paper has become so acidic we are taking the postcards out, and storing them from now on in a secol pocket system in binders. We will keep the album too though.

A few of the postcards are locally made photographs, printed onto postcard card, and some are photographs on photographic paper (see above).  The photogtraph of the couple sitting in the waves on Huevos Island are probably members of the Leeds family who put the album together (the Tomlinsons, see below). The house photograph has a hand-written caption on the back: "This is part of the front of Aunt Modie's house". The end of the album includes cards from Barbados (21), Tobago (15), Venezuala (18), Colombia (8), Panama (19), and the Azores. We have no donor listed for the album, but examining the 36 postcards that have been posted they were all sent to various members of the Tomlinson family, at The Beeches, Colton, nr Leeds. Some are from an 'Auntie', and some are from an E. Tomlinson.  The dates on these posted cards range from 1906 to 1915. The album has obviously been completed with care, maybe by one or more of the family once they returned from their time in Trinidad. If only we knew why they had stayed there for these few years, and if they stayed with other relatives who might still be there.

The plan is to do work with Leeds West Indian Centre, and Leeds Black Elders, to get input and comments on a selection of these postcards, during joint workshops next year (2013) when a selection of photographs from the National Archives project will also be shown. Meanwhile we will hopefuly have time to scan the Leeds album postcards individually, compare them with ones already available on line, and do some in-depth research where possible, on the places and people shown. This is a great group of postcards because of the sheer number and variety of them, from the same time period. It is going to be a treat to work on them.

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