Giles Family at 75: Media and advertising

With all their fame and success, it’s no surprise that the Giles family leapt from their creator’s drawing board and into the wider world. In this blog post – the last in our series celebrating 75 years of the Giles family – we dive into the Carl Giles Trust archives (not, er, literally) to take a look at how Grandma and the gang have been used in media and advertising:

In this blog post – the last in our series celebrating 75 years of the Giles family – we dive into the Carl Giles Trust archives (not, er, literally) to take a look at how Grandma and the gang have been used in media and advertising:

What’s the tea, Grandma? 

Centre spread of Special 'T-Day Edition' of the Daily Express, celebrating the appearance of the Giles family in the Tetley Quick Brew adverts - Carl Giles, Daily Express, c. 1983 (Image ref: GAAD0021B)

Centre spread of Special ‘T-Day Edition’ of the Daily Express, celebrating the appearance of the Giles family in the Tetley Quick Brew adverts – Carl Giles, Daily Express, c. 1983 (Image ref: GAAD0021B)

Around 1983 – 1985, Carl Giles partnered with restaurant chain and food manufacturer Lyons to advertise their Quick Brew tea. The adverts starred Grandma and can be viewed here, here and here. (There is some debate regarding Giles’ agreement to these adverts.) Alongside Grandma, Mother and Father also had starring roles:

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon - Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0611)

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon – Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0611)

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon - Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0612)

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon – Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0612)

It was also possible to buy specially designed boxes of Quick Brew tea which had the Giles Family on. Here’s a closeup of the art Giles drew for this:

Colour proof of Lyons Quick Brew 500g tea bag packaging - Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAP2166)

Colour proof of Lyons Quick Brew 500g tea bag packaging – Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAP2166)

And for the true tea lover / Giles family aficionado? You could send off for a Giles family tea towel! Don’t think Grandma would like being used to clean up, mind you.

Tea towel featuring the Giles family for a Lyons Quick Brew tea promotion - Carl Giles, c.1986 (Image ref: GAX00006)

Tea towel featuring the Giles family for a Lyons Quick Brew tea promotion – Carl Giles, c.1986 (Image ref: GAX00006)

The Giles family reign over the land of Lyons Quick Brew came to an end in 1986; it was thought that they didn’t transfer from the cartoon into the ‘real world’ quite as successfully had hoped. The Carl Giles Trust archive holds a folder of correspondence relating to the Quick Brew campaign; you can read a summary of it here.

The Giles Family: coming soon to video near you!

Not all advertising campaigns were as successful (or as long-running) as the Giles/Lyons cartoons – some never even got off the ground. In this undated draft, the Giles Family were stars of their very own VCR systems:

Photocopy of rough draft for proposed advert for Granada video players featuring members of the Giles family; sent by Group X Advertising with request for Giles to draw the final version - Group X Advertising, undated (Image ref: GACS00593)

Photocopy of rough draft for proposed advert for Granada video players featuring members of the Giles family; sent by Group X Advertising with request for Giles to draw the final version – Group X Advertising, undated (Image ref: GACS00593)

Careful now…

As an artist, Giles was no stranger to public information campaigns – his work for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War, including a foray into animation – is one of the highlights of the archive we hold here at Kent. But did you know that the Giles family were also used in this manner? Here, George Jr and Stinker are attempting to warn everyone about the dangers of using machinery:

Part of cover cartoon in booklet 'Safe hands on the Land' - Carl Giles, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 1956 (Image ref: GAPC0244)

Part of cover cartoon in booklet ‘Safe hands on the Land’ – Carl Giles, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 1956 (Image ref: GAPC0244)

To the forecourt!

The Giles Family were so popular during Giles’ lifetime that it’s hardly surprising everyone wanted in on the action – including car companies. In 1973 Giles was approached by the advertising manager of Renault cars asking him if it was possible to incorporate the Giles Family into their next campaign. Whilst we hold a draft of the work Giles produced in response it’s unclear if the art made it into the real world:

Sample colour artwork advertising Renault cars - Carl Giles, c.1975 (Image ref: GACS00008)

Sample colour artwork advertising Renault cars – Carl Giles, c.1975 (Image ref: GACS00008)

Off the page and onto your screens?

Here’s another fact about the Giles family you may not know: there were talks to bring them to the land of television, in the form of an animated comedy series. It was never actually produced but we hold a draft script and an opening sketch…

Drawing of opening scene of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775C)

Drawing of opening scene of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775C)

Front page of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775A)

Front page of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775A)

Page 1 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775D)

Page 1 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775D)

Page 2 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775E)

Page 2 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775E)

A long day’s work = time for the pub

We’ve shared this image on our social media already but we couldn’t resist posting it here for posterity: when you get so famous your creations wind up on a pub sign, you know you’ve made it. Here’s Grandma and Natalie the cat adorning a pub in Islington, Giles’ birthplace in 1973:

Black and white photo of the sign for 'The Giles' pub, which includes a picture of Grandma and Natalie the cat - 30 October 1973 (Image ref: GAPH00069)

Black and white photo of the sign for ‘The Giles’ pub, which includes a picture of Grandma and Natalie the cat – 30 October 1973 (Image ref: GAPH00069)

Grandma forever!

It wouldn’t be a blog about media and advertising without mentioning one of the most famous incarnations of the Giles Family: the statue of Grandma in Ipswich unveiled in 1993. News of the statue made it into the local press and Giles was there at the opening ceremony:

Article entitled 'No joke, grandma, Ipswich is set to honour Giles', about the proposed Giles statue in Ipswich - East Anglian Daily Times, 6 June 1981 (Image ref: GAPA0075)

Article entitled ‘No joke, grandma, Ipswich is set to honour Giles’, about the proposed Giles statue in Ipswich – East Anglian Daily Times, 6 June 1981 (Image ref: GAPA0075)

Colour photo of the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich, featuring actor Warren Mitchell , Giles, the sculptor Miles Robinson, writer and friend Johnny Speight, and Andrew Cameron (Express Newspapers) - September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00430)

Colour photo of the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich, featuring actor Warren Mitchell , Giles, the sculptor Miles Robinson, writer and friend Johnny Speight, and Andrew Cameron (Express Newspapers) – September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00430)

Colour photo of Grandma statue with sculptor Miles Robinson - East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAR-F-S-460-2)

Colour photo of Grandma statue with sculptor Miles Robinson – East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAR-F-S-460-2)

What else is there to say (other than – go and see the statue for yourself)? Thank you always, Carl Giles, for the amazing Family. May your legacy continue!

Colour photo of Giles at the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich - East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00429)

Colour photo of Giles at the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich – East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00429)

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blog posts about all things Giles, You can view more details about the Carl Giles Trust archive through our catalogue and when we’re open again why not come and view some of this incredible material?

Giles Family at 75: Political and Social Commentary

This is the third in our series of blog posts celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Giles Family, drawing on the riches of the Carl Giles Archive, which has been part of the British Cartoon Archive since 2005. This series is in lieu of a physical exhibition in our Gallery space, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, the 20th century saw huge changes to society on both politically and socially. Over the course of their 46 year existence, the one thing that didn’t change fundamentally was the Giles family: everyone remained the same age, with the same characteristics and the same roles within the group. This stasis allowed Giles to use the family to explore social, cultural and political changes in ways that other editorial cartoonists could not: the reader already has a shared knowledge of the people within the cartoons and how they will behave, much like in our own families. This blog post will explore some of the ways in which the Giles family reacted to key UK events in the second half of the 21st century. We could write an entire series of blogs on how Grandma et al discussed British society – so here are some of our highlights.

The Giles family and women

The 20th century saw great shifts to women’s roles in society – from getting the vote in 1918 to the development of the contraceptive pill in 1961, feminism and equal rights have constantly been fought for and their impacts discussed. The 1970s saw the growth of the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM), a group which demanded equal rights, equal education and careers, free contraception and abortion and free childcare. 1973 was a crucial year for feminists: the first WLM conference was attended by over 600 women, the UK Rape Crisis network established, and Brixton Black Women’s Group and Virago Press were formed. This discourse did not escape the Giles family – especially Grandma, who decided to stage her own protest:

"Is that the plumber? I think my Grandma has sprung a leak in her Think Tank." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 27 September 1973 (Image ref: 25147)

“Is that the plumber? I think my Grandma has sprung a leak in her Think Tank.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 27 September 1973 (Image ref: 25147)

Like many British families, gender roles are frequently discussed in the Giles family – but it’s clear who’s really in charge. This 1979 cartoon sees women attempting the Christmas shopping and discussing what to get their husbands; although not directly about the Giles family, Grandma can be seen causing mischief in the background:

"Her husband knows exactly what he wants - whatever she says he's going to get." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 14 August 1979 (Image ref: GAA344150A)

“Her husband knows exactly what he wants – whatever she says he’s going to get.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 14 August 1979 (Image ref: GAA344150A)

While Giles’ cartoons never ventured into the risqué, it would be impossible to ignore sexuality in all its many forms. In the top image, George Junior finds a world better than Santa; in the lower, Giles responds to a reader comment asking what women dislike about men – the answer is joyfully predictable:

"This beats all your Father Christmases." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 11 December 1956 (Image ref: GAN0166)

“This beats all your Father Christmases.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 11 December 1956 (Image ref: GAN0166)

"Yes - I think we can do something about that" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 13 August 1974 (Image ref: 26618)

“Yes – I think we can do something about that” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 13 August 1974 (Image ref: 26618)

Women also played crucial roles during the Second World War and after. Alongside the Women’s Voluntary Services (formed in 1938), women also wanted to play an active part in defending their country. Although not initially permitted to join the Home Guard, the Women’s Home Defence was formed in 1941. Here, the Giles Family are debating about the long-term wisdom in this decision – but who wouldn’t be scared of Grandma having access to weapons?!

"Vera, that M.P. who said that women Home Guards were a 'glorious gift for comedians and cartoonists who are just about exhausting the subject of the Home Guard' was dead right" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 29 November 1951 (Image ref: GA0686)

“Vera, that M.P. who said that women Home Guards were a ‘glorious gift for comedians and cartoonists who are just about exhausting the subject of the Home Guard’ was dead right” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 29 November 1951 (Image ref: GA0686)

The Giles family and War

Like many British families, Giles’ characters all interact with the aftermath of the Second World War in different ways. It is assumed that Father fought in the Second World War, but Giles never clarifies this: the only hint we get is in a cartoon from May 1950. Father is pictured reading a paper whilst his son George (also in army uniform) brings him tea. However, there’s an implication that (true to his nature) Father never actually does any work of importance whilst he’s on duty – the action is happening elsewhere:

"1939 - and here he is winning his second war." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 January 1950 (Image ref: GA5392)

“1939 – and here he is winning his second war.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 January 1950 (Image ref: GA5392)

Even when the War is over, its ramifications live on through the Giles family – much like it did for Giles himself, who noted that his political views had been forever shaken by what he saw at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in May 1945. As families readjusted to life after soldiers came home the Giles family echoed this divide as seen here in February 1946:

"So, I bring him to see the sea for the first time and he says he'd sooner see a good air raid any day" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 21 February 1946 (Image ref: GA0089)

“So, I bring him to see the sea for the first time and he says he’d sooner see a good air raid any day” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 21 February 1946 (Image ref: GA0089)

Here we can see that some of the Giles family have taken a much-needed visit to the seaside (it’s never stated exactly where they live but we assume it’s in the suburbs around London). However Father is less than impressed with the views from the beach, as Mother notes – domestic life lacks the excitement and thrill of air raids experienced by parts of the country during the Blitz.

For many families the end of the war didn’t mean a complete shift back to everyday life – in Britain rationing continued in some forms until 1954, with certain goods becoming sparser after 1945. Rationing was a real concern for many families and of course the Giles family also struggled:

"Dad said he expects you and Auntie Minnie'll soon cane our extra ounce of marge for us." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 16 January 1948 (Image ref: GA0240)

“Dad said he expects you and Auntie Minnie’ll soon cane our extra ounce of marge for us.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 16 January 1948 (Image ref: GA0240)

 

Despite the war’s end being seen as a new start for many, some things never changed domestically and the Giles family reflected this. Much like New Year’s resolutions, some promises were just made to be broken:

'VE Day 1945: "Now it's over, I'll get some leave and repair that gutter and put a couple of boards in that fence." VE Day 1985' - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 5 May 1985 (Image ref: GA4798)

‘VE Day 1945: “Now it’s over, I’ll get some leave and repair that gutter and put a couple of boards in that fence.” VE Day 1985’ – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 5 May 1985 (Image ref: GA4798)

If you’re interested in how cartoonists explored the Second World War in particular check out our blog post about VE day through the British Cartoon Archive.

The Giles family and welfare

The question of how (and to what extent) the government should care for its citizens has been at the heart of society for hundreds of years. In the UK’s post-WW2 era one of the most significant developments – the creation of the NHS in July 1948 – affected everybody, largely for the better. Giles frequently supported the NHS and local hospitals (he created a book they could sell in 1975) so it isn’t surprising that the Giles family pop up in medical contexts from time to time, even if it’s not for obvious reasons:

"You lot aren't here to bring me comfort and joy - you're here to save your blooming light and heating at home." - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 23 December 1973 (Image ref: GA3239)

“You lot aren’t here to bring me comfort and joy – you’re here to save your blooming light and heating at home.” – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 23 December 1973 (Image ref: GA3239)

The NHS has constantly been on politicians’ agendas; one of the early debates related to how much to charge patients for prescriptions. In 1952 the Conservative government introduced a charge to be paid by everyone who needed prescribed medicine but the cost doubled over 12 years, so in 1964 this fee was abolished by the Labour government. Whilst in theory this may seem a generous move it also allowed people to avoid paying for everyday medicines (such as painkillers) by getting their GP to prescribe them:

"Off come the health charges - back come all Vera's aches and snuffles." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 November 1964 (Image ref: GAN1268)

“Off come the health charges – back come all Vera’s aches and snuffles.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 November 1964 (Image ref: GAN1268)

Of course, welfare extends beyond medical matters and into the world of work and wellbeing. The miners’ strikes of the 1970s and 1980s impacted many families across the country. As ever, Giles never explicitly used his artwork to make a political comment but the Giles family said what many people thought:

"That was very rude to tell Aunty that a couple of weeks at the coalface would make her think differently about the miners' strike" - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 6 March 1983 (Image ref: GA4507)

“That was very rude to tell Aunty that a couple of weeks at the coalface would make her think differently about the miners’ strike” – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 6 March 1983 (Image ref: GA4507)

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s 21 years in power are remembered by many for the reforms she made to the welfare state, privatising nationalised industries and weakening trade union power. The Giles family did not escape Thatcher’s gaze – as Stinker hypothesizes when watching Grandma:

"Mrs Thatcher would certainly give Grandma's State Benefits a radical overhaul if she knew they all went on Lester Piggott yesterday." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 6 June 1985 (Image ref: GA4810)

“Mrs Thatcher would certainly give Grandma’s State Benefits a radical overhaul if she knew they all went on Lester Piggott yesterday.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 6 June 1985 (Image ref: GA4810)

As mentioned above, we could write a whole series on how Giles discussed political and social matters – hopefully this blog has given you a taste for exploring through our Giles Archive even more. Two quotes below sum up, for us, the popularity of the Giles family:

“A Giles book of cartoons is also a day by day, week by week record of English history as it. happens. Look at the cartoon and look at the date and you will find you are living recent history over again.” (Nathaniel Gubbins, Introduction to the Third Giles Annual, 1948)

“As I grow older…there tend to be more and more mornings when you look through the newspaper and realise that the only credible figure left in British public life is Grandma.” (Dennis Norden, Introduction to the Thirty-Fourth Giles Annual, 1980)

What are your favourite memories of the Giles family? How did they reflect (or impact) your political and social views over the years? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

References:

Tim Benson, ‘Giles’ War’ (2017)

BBC, ‘WW2 People’s War: Girls in the Home Guard’, https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/40/a4036240.shtml

BBC, ‘The cost of being sick’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/61404.stm

British Library, ‘Sisterhood and after: Timeline of the Women’s Liberation Movement’, https://www.bl.uk/sisterhood/timeline

Giles Family at 75: The Characters

GA5720: Front cover artwork for the 42nd Giles annual, 1988.

This is the second in our series of blog posts celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Giles Family, drawing on the riches of the Carl Giles Archive, which has been part of the British Cartoon Archive since 2005. This series is in lieu of a physical exhibition in our Gallery space, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this post we’re going to tell you “Who’s Who” in the Giles Family! We’ve included lots of images here to give you a real taste of the characters. If it leaves you wanting more, just take a look through our archive online!!

GAP2013: The Giles Family Tree, Daily Express, 23 Nov 1951.

Grandma

Probably the most famous and prolific character, Grandma Giles is the hard-drinking, bet-placing, grumpy-looking star of the family.

GA3715: Published caption: “Know why I think this betting slip is a forgery? Because I can’t
remember giving anyone 500-1 against Manchester United and I don’t spell Cup Final with a K”, published by Sunday Express, 22 May 1977.

Grandma can usually be found wearing her trademark black coat up to the neck, fox stole, with her hat pulled down over her head and her trusty umbrella and handbag in hand. She was rarely given a voice in cartoons, but appeared in over 1400 of them over the years.

Left – GA5567: “Watch it! I can get you 2 1/2 years inside if you hit me just because I nicked your pension book”, published Sunday Express, 15 Nov 1987.
Right – GA5721: Back cover artwork for the 44th Giles annual, 1990.

Imagined to have been born as early as 1886, Grandma was a strict disciplinarian with extreme opinions; from being a royalist, to supporting hanging, to having a portrait of Lenin on her bedroom wall! Despite these… interesting… quirks of character, she is well-loved by fans of Giles’ work, and Giles was also incredibly fond of her. In fact, you could say there is some resemblance of Giles himself in Grandma…

Left – GAPH00136: Black and white photo of Giles in the snow at Hillbrow Farm holding packaged artwork being collected by helicopter, 1987.
Right – GAPA0004: Front cover of ‘Sunday Express Magazine’ advertising article ‘Giles: The man who gave birth to Grandma’, published by Sunday Express, 16 Feb 1986.

Giles did admit that he occasionally considered killing off Grandma over the years, but found that if he left her out of the cartoons for a few days he would receive complaints from Daily Express readers asking when she was going to reappear!

The last cartoon featuring Grandma that we have in the archive was published in the Sunday Express, on 2nd June, 1991. In this cartoon she is uncharacteristically dressed in a winter fur coat, scarf and woolly hat, a comment on the cold June of 1991.

GA5382: “Do you think his Lordship would mind if we put a match to it?”, published by Sunday Express, 02 Jun 1991.

Father

Considering himself the Head of the family (when we all know it’s actually Grandma!), Father was a mild and philosophical character.

GA3862: “St. George to Dragon – I give you ten seconds to get off my new
flower bed – over and out”, published by Sunday Express, 23 Apr 1978.

A firm favourite, appearing in over 1100 cartoons, Father had served in both World Wars and just wanted a quiet life where he could enjoy sports and relax. He was a working Dad, although we were never given an explanation of what exactly he did for a living!  His given name was also George Giles, but being that there are two other George’s in the family, he was always referred to as Father. He was imagined to be 60 years old, and was also, of course, a Grandfather.

Left – GA5389: “1914-18 found him winning his first war”, published by Daily Express, 05 Jan 1950.
Right – GAN1798: “And this comment from your music teacher – ‘I hope your boy enjoys his holiday as much as I’m going to enjoy mine’…”, published by Sunday Express, 21 Jul 1968.

In the early days of the Family cartoons Father was depicted wearing the typically working class garb of belt and braces. In later years though this changed with the times to a jumper and slacks.

Left – GA0420: “This really is a remarkable sight – the world’s most famous speed men racing neck and neck ……”, published by Daily Express, 20 Aug 1949.
Right – GA0282: [No caption], published by Daily Express, 31 May 1948.

The final cartoon featuring Father in the archive shows him in bed, barely visible, being woken up by Ernie. Ernie is breaking it to him that “Some people are here who say Grandma has rented the house to them for Wimbledon fortnight”. Alas, a quiet life was not to be had!

GA5383: “Some people are here who say Grandma has rented the house to them for Wimbledon fortnight”, published by Sunday Express, 23 Jun 1991.

Mother

Mother is the organised, cheerful, authoritative member of the family who appeared in over 950 of the Family cartoons.

GA5395: “and Mum -“, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.

We don’t know much about her, except that she should be considered as head of the family. She is matronly, but with a kind face, and can often be found doing the housework, herding the children or serving the tea.

Left – GAA253058: “In view of his team being knocked out of the Cup yesterday, for goodness sake let him win”, published by Sunday Express, 03 Jan 1971.
Right – GAA415132: “Grandma – explain to man’s best friend that Man has taken the day off to go to Wimbledon”, published by Daily Express, 23 Jun 1987.

 

Vera & George

George, the eldest son of Mother and Father, was married to Vera, and together they had a son, George Jr. In the early Family cartoons there was elder son, illustrated with an Eton collar and bowtie (seen behind Vera in the image below), but he had disappeared by the time the Family canon was established.

GA0226: “Ho! Mother was going to have a new hat, everybody was going to have new boots – if father’s cert had won the Cambridgeshire”, published by Daily Express, 26 Oct 1947.

George could usually be found smoking a pipe and reading a book. He rarely spoke, and was quite absent in the later Family cartoons, only featuring in around 400 in total. He could often be spotted in the background hunched over in a chair, dawdling behind the rest of the family, or with his back to the viewer not noticing the chaos around him.

Left – GA5398: “and our eldest son George and his baby”, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.
Middle – GA5118: [no caption], published by Sunday Express, 01 Nov 1987.
Right – GA5388: ” Before long a beautiful thing came into his life – his first son, George”, published by Daily Express, 05 Jan 1950.

Vera on the other hand, appearing in over 750 cartoons, was often found at Grandma’s side, looking rather ill and put upon. She was originally depicted as a bit of an intellectual, reading poetry alongside George, but as time wore on she became more meek and frail, frequently ill with a cold, constantly worrying, or clutching a bottle of aspirin!

Left – GA5778: “Now the war is over I assume you have decided to risk the perils of travel and give us a look”, published by Sunday Express, 03 Mar 1991.
Middle – GA5399: ” and his intellectual wife”, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.
Right – GA2070: “I’ve told you before not to give your tray to anyone in a uniform. They’re not all stewards”, published by Daily Express, 15 Jan 1964.

The kids: George Jr, the Twins and Ernie (and Stinker!)

It’s not tricky to spot the kids in the cartoons of the Giles Family; after all they appeared in over 900 of them! Miniscule in stature, the kids were the often chaotic, and always cheeky, element of the Family.

GA1378: “Fire Brigade? We wish to report we’ve just launched Sputnik 3”, published by Sunday Express, 10 Nov 1957.

The youngest child of Mother and Father, Ernie, was referred to by Giles as “the most dangerous element of the family”! He was often the centre of the chaos, with a weapon of some sort in his hand, and followed by his gang of tiny troublemakers. He was a reincarnation of an earlier Giles character of the same name, who appeared in a comic strip in the early 1940s. In looks, he is a miniature version of Father and he became less anarchic over time, with the chaotic torch being handed to his friend, Stinker, in later years.

GAA192287: “Mum, remember Grandma said if her pension went up she was going
to treat herself to something she always wanted?”, published by Daily Express, 12 Nov 1964.

Talking of Stinker…

With his trademark black hair, Stinker was not a relative of the family but was a strong presence, appearing in over 800 cartoons, even going on holiday with the family. Stinker was of course a nickname, his actual name being Larry Wilmott. He never spoke but was well loved by many fans, with even Giles speaking of him as “a favourite in a way”.

Left – GAPC0355: Giles cartoon on the cover of the Ipswich Sixth Form rag magazine (Volume 1, 1980), with caption: “We care – do you?”, published by Ipswich Sixth Form, 1980.
Right – GAPC0244: Part of cover cartoon in booklet ‘Safe hands on the Land’, published by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, published by Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 1956.

The smallest of the grandchildren is George Jnr. Baby George often looks bewildered, is usually wearing a bib around his neck, and is seemingly without legs, having only little feet. In a number of images he appears to be staring out at the viewer, breaking “the 4th wall” of the cartoons. Perhaps he is pleading for aid, or maybe it’s his way of saying “Really?!?!”

GA1147: “This delegation wishes to register a strong protest about Father Christmases who come home late and forget to fill our socks”, published by Sunday Express, 25 Dec 1955.

The twins, Laurence and Ralph (arguably the cutest of the group), are always found together in their matching outfits, and were named after their mother Ann’s favourite actors, Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson.

GAN1411: “Grandma – dad says we can’t wait any longer while you sit in there reading about Rhodesia. One plane ticket coming under the door”, published by Daily Express, 26 Oct 1965.

Other characters

The sisters

Ann (occasionally spelled ‘Anne’) is the eldest daughter of Mother and Father. Appearing in over 450 cartoons, she is mother to the twins, Laurence and Ralph. Being the eldest, Ann is the tallest of the daughters and can usually be spotted by her distinctive quaffed fringe.

Top – GA1668: “Flaming June”, published by Daily Express, 21 Jun 1960.
Bottom – GA0718: “And only last night Dad was saying whatever the Budget result things couldn’t get much worse”, published by Daily Express, 11 Mar 1952.

The father of Ann’s twins is absent, and also could be considered in dispute! A number of the Family cartoons suggest that he may have been an American G.I., however in the very early cartoons of 1947 we see what we could presume to be him, a tall man covering his eyes on the stairs…

GA0235: “If 4,298,700 tons of coal in one week isn’t a good enough exuse to celebrate and buy myself a new hat, what is?”, published by Daily Express, 11 Dec 1947.

Carol is the well behaved, often relaxed and smiling, middle daughter. She can usually be seen reading a magazine or lounging about the house.

Bridget is the youngest daughter of Mother and Father. Often wearing a gymslip or school uniform with her dark hair in a plait, she appeared in less than 600 cartoons. She is only slightly taller than her young nephews, but in comparison is incredibly gangly, as opposed to their bouncier, rounded stature.

Left – “Get in the queue if you want to take advantage of the new reduced telephone charges to the United States”, published by Daily Express, 02 Feb 1967.
Middle – GA5396: “the girls”, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.
Right – GA3602: “Thank goodness he didn’t win – we’d never have got him up on the top one”, published by Sunday Express, 25 Jul 1976.

It’s been noted that on at least two occasions Giles switched the names of Carol and Bridget, presumably accidentally, in the cartoons, such as in this example…

GA5777: “You’d better agree to a ‘cooling-off’ period before you meet Bridget’s latest boyfriend”, published by Sunday Express, 23 Apr 1972.

In the early days of the Family cartoons there was an appearance of an American daughter, seen in the cartoon below. It’s been suggested that she married an American GI and moved to America with him after the war.

GA0302: “Well, folks – when we arrived from England, Wally pointed out that there were other things in America besides skyscrapers”, published by Daily Express, 03 Aug 1948.

Chalkie

Chalkie the schoolmaster appeared in c.400 cartoons and was a sarcastic, skeletal looking figure. He was inspired by Giles’ real life school teacher, Mr Chalk, who Giles harassed along with his gang of friends whilst at Barnsbury Park School in London.

Left – GA2046: “Any Prime Minister who looks that much like Chalkie’s had my vote”, published by Daily Express, 24 Oct 1963.
Right – GA1742: “All this fuss about schoolchildren being compelled to wear uniforms would surely be solved if only the head and teachers had to wear the uniform as well.” – Reader’s letter, published by Daily Express, 09 Mar 1961.

The pets

The Giles Family had a number of pets over the years, there was Attila the Hun (the parrot), Butch and Rush (the dogs, an Airedale Terrier and Border Collie respectively), Natalie (the cat), and Randy (the fish).

GAA111405: “I’d show him who’s favourite in this house if they ever let him out for a fly round the room”, published by Daily Express, 15 Sep 1957.

Various crops from images refs GA3134, GA4247, GA5405, GAA091103, GACE00302, published by Express Newspapers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some images in this blog post have been cropped. Please see archive.cartoons.ac.uk and search for the reference number cited for the full image.

Giles Family at 75: The Birth of the Giles Family

On Wednesday 5 August 1945 the Giles Family appeared for the first time in the pages of the Sunday Express. The creation of cartoonist Carl Giles (1916-1995), over the course of the next 45 years they would appear in over two thousand cartoons in the Sunday Express and Daily Express. For many people his cartoons capture British life in microcosm, and the Family became a national institution. Giles became the most famous and well-beloved cartoonist of his generation: in 2000 he was voted Britain’s Favourite Cartoonist of the 20th century.

GA5732: Cover artwork for 13th Giles Annual, 1959

This is the first in a series of blog posts and social media posts celebrating the Giles Family, drawing on the riches of the Carl Giles Archive, which has been part of the British Cartoon Archive since 2005. This series is in lieu of a physical exhibition in our Gallery space, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. This first blog post will explore the origins of Giles the cartoonist and the birth of his Family.

Carl Giles: a brief biography

GAPH00392: Giles at Reynolds News

Ronald ‘Carl’ Giles was born in Islington, London, on 29 September 1916, the youngest son of Albert, a tobacconist, and Edith, a dressmaker. He left school at 13 and spent 5 years as an office boy in the animation studios of a London advertising agency. Giles never had any formal art training, but he began developing his artistic skills as an “in-betweener”, filling in the movement between key drawings. He also gained the lifelong nickname Carl, after the monster played by Boris Karloff in the 1932 release of Frankenstein, because of his short haircut. In 1935, he took a position at film producer Alexander Korda’s London Films, and worked on The Fox Hunt, the first British colour animation with sound. A near-fatal motorbike accident in 1936 left him blind and partially deaf in his right eye and ear, and he went to Suffolk to recuperate. He began submitting cartoons to newspapers and magazines and eventually became a regular with the left-wing London Sunday newspaper Reynolds News, including his first series ‘Young Ernie’.

GAP2029: ‘Young Ernie’ strip, published Reynolds News, 12 November 1939

His work was instantly popular, and by 1942, he began attracting attention from other newspapers, and in 1943 signed up with the Sunday Express, which then had the highest circulation in Britain. The self-described “dirty leftist” was initially “thoroughly miserable” at the right-wing Sunday Express, until the increasingly large postbag of fan letters showed him the attractions of addressing a vast readership. By 1947 he was also working for sister paper the Daily Express, and settled into a routine of three single-panel cartoons a week (two for the daily and one for the Sunday).

Exempt from war service because of his motorbike injuries, in September 1944 he became the official war cartoonist for the Express and travelled to the European war zone several times, being present both at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the German surrender on Luneberg Heath in May 1945.

GAPC0466: “Hermann – you’ve left that verdammt door open again”, published Sunday Express, 3 October 1943

As the war in Europe ended, Giles realised that his cast of characters was rapidly diminishing. Giles had ridiculed the Axis leaders by presenting them as a dysfunctional family: his first cartoon for the Sunday Express in October 1943 had imagined Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Mussolini as living a peculiar domestic life in Berlin, an idea to which he repeatedly returned. On Mussolini’s execution in April 1945, Giles later remarked, “I sure hated to see old Musso go […] he was half my bloody stock-in-trade”.

The Family arrives

The Giles Family was actively created as something to take the place of the ‘Axis Family’. The nominal focus of this new Family was one of his wartime soldier characters, returned to civilian life, and had its first recognisable appearance in the Sunday Express of 5 August 1945.

GA5447: “It’s quicker by rail”, published Sunday Express, 5 August 1945

A comment on the chaotic and unreliable state of the railway network in the immediate aftermath of the war, the Family is shown walking along a deserted railway line with thermos and bucket and spade above the ironic caption “It’s quicker by rail”. All the elements that made Giles’ work so recognisable and beloved are here: the fine rendering of the English countryside, the accuracy in depicting the signalling equipment, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details like the child tumbling down the embankment, and, at the rear, a small black figure, so cleverly drawn that the eye is drawn towards her: Grandma.

GA0208: “If they give us an 11-hour day and a 4-day week, I suppose that means we’re going to have everybody at home for a 24-hour day 3 days a week.”, published Daily Express, 2 September 1947

In August 1947, the Daily Express ran a series of cartoons introducing the different characters to its readers. After that, as Giles recalled, “the Family took on a life of its own almost immediately”. As a cartoonist, Giles was an amused spectator rather than angry satirist. The Family proved a useful medium for commenting on post-war life, reacting to the confusion of world politics and a rapidly changing society.

The family are archetypally working class characters, a large, multi-generational household that are patriotic yet suspicious of authority. As the series progressed, they took on the attributes of a middle class household, with a car, caravan, yacht and foreign holidays. The family never aged, but their home, their hobbies and their dress reflected the changing British fashions and standard of living. The family’s common humanity had a wide social appeal.

The group of characters had achieved their final form by April 1950, when they were known as “Giles and Family”. By August 1951 this had become “The Giles Family”, and in November 1951, responding to “constant public enquiries”, Giles published “The Giles Family Tree”, explaining who everyone was (more of which in the next post).

GA0683: ‘The Giles Family Tree’, published Daily Express, 23 November 1951

Click here more information on the Giles Collection and the British Cartoon Archive.

Print Works: Part Four – Working in the Print Industry

Special Collections & Archives has been working with Appletye – an artists’-led organisation based in Margate – to support their mission to record the Isle of Thanet’s rich printing heritage. In lieu of a physical display in Spring 2020 these guest blogs by Dan Thompson and Dawn Cole are our virtual equivalent – we hope you enjoy!

There were a variety of jobs in the pre-digital printing industry, meaning works like the Thanet Press employed large numbers, and needed specialist suppliers so supported small printers, bookbinders, and other trades locally. The key jobs, as a compositor laying out type, proof reading pages, or working with the machines, were highly skilled. 

A printer’s apprenticeship lasted seven years, and involved study at an approved college as well as practical work at a print works. Locally, apprentices studied at Thanet School of Arts and Crafts, Canterbury College of Arts, or Maidstone College of Arts where they learned layout and design, typography, and to lay out lead type letter-by-letter.

From the 1950s, the print industry underwent radical changes, from traditional ‘hot metal’ letterpress printing to lithographic, and then computer typesetting and digital printing.

For print workers, that meant constant adaptation and learning new skills.

Things Caxton probably wouldn't understand: the evolution of the printing press

Things Caxton probably wouldn’t understand: the evolution of the printing press

“Printing’s changed more than any other trade. It’s changed from a room full of hot metal to an office job, but you need the same experience and expertise.” Jim Bellamy, Thanet Press

A larger print works like The Thanet Press was inevitably about more than the job: it became a place where couples met and got married.  Workers joined amateur theatrical groups, footballs teams, or showed with the horticultural society. And people created their own welfare state, through strong unions and paying into the ‘sick club’. It was common to find siblings working alongside each other, or generations of the same family working in print together.

We'll claim the record for being the first blog to mention printers and football in the same post

We’ll claim the record for being the first blog to mention printers and football in the same post

However, the print industry was old, established – and very male. The unions wouldn’t allow women to operate the printing presses, and they were kept to jobs in the bindery, finishing and stitching or stapling print jobs. 

“The bindery had about twice as many women as men working in it … It was a very companionable environment.” Pat Davies, Thanet Press

About the Print Works project:

Print Works is a year-long project from Appletye, an arts and heritage organisation. The project explores the history of the print industry on the Isle of Thanet, taking inspiration from two former companies and the heritage of the sites they occupied at Thanet Press, Union Crescent, Margate and Martell Press, Northdown Road, Cliftonville. At the heart of the project are archives from the two Margate firms, recording the stories of the people who worked there and the work they did.

Using the Print Works archive:

The Print Works archives include hundreds of examples of material printed in a pre-digital age, including much related to Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. It includes print for seaside hotels, entertainment venues, and tourism businesses.

The archive also includes documents relating to working in the print industry in the 20th century, from apprenticeship indentures to certificates from a print factory’s Horticultural Club. There are documents relating to design, typography, and the move from analogue processes like typography to digital design and print.

The archive is new, so includes primary material not used before in academic research. It is held at a studio in Margate. For more information email dawn@appletye.org