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Little Works of Art

In the archive collection at Preston Park Museum and Grounds, we found these little autograph albums filled to the brim with sketches, jokes, poems and advice. Here we take a closer look at these little works of art.

coloured drawing of a small blue bird sitting on a holly branch
Small blue bird sitting on a Holly branch, by N. Gill, 1929

These little autograph albums date between 1891 and 1941 and cover a wide variety of events. The books were given as gifts to family and friends who in turn filled the pages with verse, drawings, paintings, signatures, jokes and poems over the years. The drawings are done in pen, ink and pencil, with most of the art like cartoons and snapshots of daily

drawing of a little girl in a blue dress with a large pink bow in her hair. 'I ain't nobody's sweetheart yet!'
‘I ain’t nobody’s sweetheart yet!’ – E. C May, 1919

Drawing of a little boy in a kilt making a joke with two little girls in the background
‘I really canna tell ya why, but the lasses here are uppa shy, and when the weather blows up breezy, they say I’m just to free an’ kneesy.’ – A. W. B, 1917

Drawing going home by rail. A man in a long coat and top hat leaning on a railing.
‘Going home by rail.’ – November 14th 1916

These little works of art give us an intimate look into the lives of various groups of friends living at the turn of the century and cover both the First and Second World Wars. Some jokes are repeated throughout, showing their wide appeal and popularity.

Personal notes were recorded by friends and many names appear across the albums, mostly from the Stockton-on-Tees area. One of these albums was dedicated to the signatures and verses of soldiers serving in the First World War, passing through the Stockton Borough and recording there various battalions, regiments and there home location. The autographs were collected by Margaret from Stockton.

Sketch of a woman's head and shoulders portrait
Tho Grey, 1921

Sketch of a woman's head in a profile showing an elaborate the hair style of finger waves
Agnes Mawbray, 1921

delicate sketch of a womans head and shoulder profile
Tho Grey, 1921

The books were donated to the museum over thirty years by different families and as far as we know are not connected to each other. They continue to guard their secrets giving us only glimpses of the past.

All images courtesy of Preston Park Museum and Grounds.