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IntroductionThe display focuses on hand-painted illustrated covers, generally sent between friends and family, and is a display of the art rather than the stamps or postmarks. In fact, the majority of the stamps from the heyday of hand-painted covers are simple penny lilacs. Sometimes the stamps were even trimmed to fit a design, removing those lovely crinkly edges, and would be worthless off cover.
The range of talent varies from amateur to professional, and the reason behind the painting may be obvious or obscure, but that's the fun in collecting these. Some show images based on events or politics of the time, others were influenced by Alice in Wonderland (published in 1865), but most are themes of interest to the friends or family. The display does not include printed or pen-and-ink covers, with a couple of exceptions, which keeps the scope manageable.
There are several well-known artists, Harry Culshaw to his friends and family, George Henry Edwards to his family, Hugh Rose to Mrs King-Harman (later Lady King-Harman), but most artists are unknown with correspondence described by the recipient's name: Miss Budden, Mrs Rust, Miss Alty, Miss Martin.
The Earliest Known Hand-Painted Cover
Although there are earlier printed and pen-and-ink covers, the hunting envelope sent by Revd L. Loraine Smith from Stony Stratford to London on 10 July 1842 is the earliest known hand-painted cover. On the reverse is a handstruck mark in greenish blue (reversed "N", also a cds code "E").
R. A. G. Lee showed it in an early GB Journal in 1962 [3(6)89] saying "The origin and status of this mark is unknown; perhaps someone may be able to throw some light on this problem". No response was received. The cover was later sold in the first Maximus sale (Feb 1970).
Bodily, Jarvis and Hahn describe two of these covers, a third which is only a front, and fourth unmailed with the penny red tied to the envelope by the drawing. These four are part of this display except that the front is a different one, so that's five. A Phillips sale on 2 June 1989 had three unused envelopes, so a total of eight seen: two entire covers, two fronts, one unmailed (stamped), and three unused.
Henry "Harry" Culshaw
Not much is known about Henry Culshaw. His painted covers are in two different styles, the early covers from the 1860s are mainly to his friend Robert G. Hayman. The later covers from the 1870s are mainly to his cousin Annie. Some still contain Christmas or Valentine's greetings and were sent from 4 Barnard's Inn, Holborn, suggesting a legal profession.
William Culshaw (1807-1874) of Liverpool architects Culshaw and Sumners lived at 48 Rodney St, father of Henry's cousin Anne Emily "Annie" Culshaw (1851-?).
George Henry Edwards (1859-1918)
A figure and landscape painter, Edwards exhibited ten works at the Royal Academy between 1896 and 1900, at the Royal Institute (where Queen Alexandra bought one of his paintings), at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and the Royal Society of British Artists. His subject matter often dealt with fairies and other fantastical creatures with titles including The Spirit of the Marsh, St. Valentine's Day, A Wood Nymph, Andromeda, Enid, Hero, Sweet as May, and Songbird.
Most of his hand-painted covers were sent to family members for birthdays, and usually sent the day before, or occasionally on the same day, to his wife (4 June), brother (19 June), or daughter (20 Sept). Those to his daughter Dora are my favourites, being sent over 20+ years we see her growing from a young girl to a young woman. Other family members also sent hand-painted covers and we see correspondence between George Henry, his sister Amelia H., his brother E. Henry (architect), and his brother's sons Ethelbert (actor and director, aka Henry) and Burgoyne (assistant editor of the Montreal Gazette). Some new names appear after the turn of the century, possibly the next generation: Sidney, Herbert, and Morris.
Sotheby's sale on 9 May 1988 had 36 covers by George Henry Edwards, 28 by E. Henry, 25 by Ethelbert, and 23 by Burgoyne. Schuyler Rumsey's sale 26-29 Apr 2012 had two covers by George Henry Edwards, six by Amelia, 15 by E. Henry, and 12 by Ethelbert.
Hugh Rose (1863-1946)
Two distinct series of hand-painted covers are known by Captain (later Major, Lt-Col, and Colonel) Hugh Rose of the Black Watch, whose distinguished army career included service in the Nile Campaign 1884-85, the Boer War 1901-02, and France 1914-18.
The first series of covers, from 1896 to 1902, resulted from a close friendship with the King-Harman family formed after Hugh Rose served as aide-de-camp to Charles King-Harman in Mauritius. The majority are addressed to Charles' wife Constance (1871-1961, born Biddulph, married 1888) with a small number addressed to other family members. Charles was made KCMG in 1900, changing Constance from "Mrs King-Harman" to "Lady King-Harman". The collection of 119 outstanding hand-painted covers remained with the King-Harman family until sold at auction in 1988. Bodily, Jarvis and Hahn do not mention these covers - their book was published four years before the auction.
The second series of ten covers, from 1904 to 1916, resulted from a friendship formed with a young prince Edward, later King Edward VIII. The first five covers are addressed to "Prince Edward of Wales" and the second five, after Edward was created Prince of Wales on 23 June 1910, to "The Prince of Wales". The Prince of Wales gave these ten covers to his secretary Sir Godfrey Thomas, a philatelist, in 1929. They came to auction in 1988.
The collection was sold at Spink on 9th May 2018 on hehalf of the Royal Philatelic Society's "Tomorrow's Royal" appeal