This page describes   the history of the Tuck family and company 1821 - 1960. At its height (1890-1940) The company produced many items with extremely fine colour prints, post cards probably being best known. The many children related items still attract many collectors: paper dolls, children's books, paper toys, etc. The focus of this page is on jigsaw related topics.

1821 - 1900

 

Raphael Tuck was born August 7, 1821 in Koschmin, a small village in Eastern Prussia (now Poland). In 1848 he married Ernestine Lissner. Raphael was a carpenter. In 1859 Raphael, Ernestine and their six children moved to Breslau, where he hoped for a better income. In Breslau their seventh child was born, so they now had four sons and three daughters. In 1864 their lives were crudely shaken by the war between Denmark and Prussia-Austria. They decided to leave Prussia. Raphael went to London in 1865, found work and housing and his family soon followed.

After a few less successful jobs, in 1866 Raphael and Ernestine opened a small shop on Union Street (later called Brushfield Street) in Bishopsgate where they sold prints and frames. The small shop soon flourished. Ernestine proved to be a good business woman, an organiser by nature and a perfect administrator. Tuck was very creative and a perfectionist, as would later be their sons.

In 1869 they moved to larger premises in 177 City Road. Now sons Herman, Adolph and Gustave joined the business. They not only sold and framed prints but also started publishing lithographs chromolithographs and all kind of printed novelties

By 1870 the contribution of the three sons to the business success was obvious. Adolph helped his father, had the same business instinct and strived for the same level of perfection. Gustave and Herman were salesman, encouraged by their mother who, so is told, had them compare their sales every night. An advertisement from the 1870’s mentions their specialisation in “Oleography, chromos, prints, coloured scraps and embossed Christmas cards, birthday cards, marriage cards, and text cards”. All issued by the “Chromo Portray Gallery in C.D.V. and embossed”. (Oleography = a type of chromolithography  made to imitate oil painting, mounted on canvas and varnished, mostly printed in Saxony)

Adolph Tuck in 1909 in an article on the 1879 Christmas Card Design Competition, in 'The Caxton Magazine & The British Stationary', Jan. 31. 1909 page 311.

In 1871 Raphael Tuck published his first Christmas cards, their popularity increasing every year. In 1879 the young Adolph Tuck offered prizes of a total of 500 guineas (which would be about US $ 10,000 today) to design new Christmas cards. Five thousand designs were submitted and were judged by members of the Royal Academy. An exhibition was held in the Dudley Galleries in Piccadilly, London. Newspapers around the world reported the enormous success. Suddenly, the name Raphael Tuck was known “world-wide”. Christmas cards were in common use thereafter.

In 1880 the Company registered the trademark with the “Easel and Palette” along with the inscription “The World Art Service” From 1881 on the Company name was “Raphael Tuck and Sons”, but Raphael and Ernestine retired at that time.

In 1881 the Company moved to a bigger place at 72/73 Coleman Street in the City of London and had a branch in Chiswell Street.

In those days Tuck had a large assortment of full colour, shaped children’s books. Some were especially for the American market. Tuck had opened a New York branch at 298 Braodway and a Paris branch and printed with the Company logo: “New York, London, Paris”, but they did not yet mention the reigning queen or king.

In 1885 Ernestine Tuck died . The same year the Company was formed into a “private Limited Company”. Adolph Tuck became the managing director with his brothers Herman and Gustave as co-directors. The Company had a capital of £ 110,000, with a £ 30,000 debit.

From 1890 tot 1900 the business flourished, with branches in New York and Paris.

Adolph Tuck was not easily contented. He constantly looked for new artists and new idea’s. Therefore in 1895 he again offered prizes, this time especially for amateur writers and painters. There were more than four thousand prizes in money and “judges’ diplomas” for the winners in the different groups, including a children’s group. Again, members of the Royal Academy judged: Sir John Millair, Marcus Stone, G. Boughton and Solomon J. Solomon. There were about 10,000 contributions and 2,500 were exhibited in the Galleries of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in London.

Adolph offered the famous Lord Tennyson 1000 guineas for 12 poems of 8 lines. The Poet Laureate who was 80 years old and in poor health, reluctantly declined the offer.

In 1893 Queen Victoria granted the Company her “Warrant of Appointment” in recognition of the publishing of her letter to the nation on the death of the Duke of Clarence. Every reigning head would later honour the Company at least one time. That’s why their products are best dated by the reigning monarch they mentioned on most of their printing (see chart I)

Much of their work has information on the designer or the place of printing: “Designed at the Studios in England, Printed at the Fine Art Works in Saxony”. “Designed at the Studios in New York and Printed at the Fine Art Works in Bavaria”, or simply “Printed in Germany”.

Adolph Tuck was a pioneer in artistic printing. He published many novelties. folding cards, changing books (books in which you can change the picture (partly) by moving a handle or folding a piece of the page), colouring books new designs in cards. Linda Hannas mentions wooden children’s puzzles to have been produced at the end of the 19th century, in a set with the book, packed in a wooden box with sliding lid. Tuck’s Oilette cards were of a very high quality, looking like the real oil painting. He issued his first picture post card in 1894, with a small picture of Mount Snowdon in the upper left corner. Then he negotiated for four years with the Postmaster General until he got permission to print one side of the card completely. By 1900, he offered 40,000 different picture post cards.

April 4, 1898 Raphael Tuck laid the foundation stone for a magnificent new building where all the business would be concentrated. It was in Moorfields and from the roof you could see the City of London. The new building was called “Raphael House” and was opened June 6 1899. Raphael Tuck died in June 1900, at 79 years of age.

 

1901 - 1914

 

In 1901 Tuck became a public Company with an authorised capital of half a million pound. The Board of Directors consisted of Adolph Tuck, Chairman and Managing Director, Gustave Tuck, Vice Chairman and Director, and Herman Tuck, along with Arthur Conan Doyle, M.D. and Alfred Parson, A.R.A., as members. In that year Reginald and Desmond, sons of Adolph and Jeannette Tuck, joined the Company. In 1910 Adolph Tuck was created (appointed) a Baronet of the United Kingdom, thus Sir Adolph Tuck.

With the first puzzle craze starting in 1908, the Company responded in several ways. First of all they made puzzle post cards and secondly they produced wooden puzzles for adults such as Zag – Zaw Puzzles, including a huge 1914 huge puzzle with 1250 pieces, entitled “The House of Lords”.

In 1909 they got a patent for “Father Tuck’s Picture-Building A.B.C.” A special type of puzzle (see in the section on puzzles).

 

1914 – 1940

 

At the start of World War I, Reginald Tuck joined the army. His brother Desmond volunteered for overseas service, serving in the French Air Force, and subsequently in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force. The onset of World War I also touched the Tuck Company also in another way. Information about the Company was published in both the London “Worlds Paper Trade Review” and the USA trade magazine “Toys and Novelties”. The USA magazine reports in June 1915: „Tuck’s Berlin Business Sequestrated By The Germans“ The article reads: “Messrs. Raphael Tuck & Sons have been notified by the Board of Trade that an announcement has appeared in the Reichsanzeiger, the official gazette of the German Empire, that the branch business established by the firm in Berlin in 1907, for the sale of their Oilette postcards and other British publications has been seized, and the business and assets sold by the German authorities” “It appears that soon after the outbreak of the war this Berlin branch of Raphael Tuck & Sons, which was in a most profitable state, important sums being due to the Company at the time from customers throughout Germany and Austria, was taken over by the German Government. Shortly afterwards violent attacks directed against Messrs Raphael Tuck & Sons appeared in a leading Berlin journal, calling upon the German public to boycott the production of the well known British House. Similar articles were published in some 200 journals throughout the German Empire. These attacks finally culminated in the sequestration of the business by the authorities”. Raphael Tuck & Sons, in their reply to this official information, intimated to the Board of Trade that they would naturally look for the intervention of His Majesty’s government with regard to the takeover of their property at the conclusion of the war.

I realise that due to war conditions the production of the Company was low. I suspect their products not to be marked with ‘Printed in Germany’ during WW I, but I so far have no data on this war time production. In 1918 Reginald and Desmond returned to the family business and the Company soon flourished at their pre-war level.

 

In 1925 the diamond jubilee was celebrated. Jeanetta Tuck, at that occasion suggested Adolph that they publish Valentine cards again. In the early twenties the English people were increasingly less interested in Valentine cards. A large propaganda campaign in 1926 increased this interest considerably.

In July 1926 Sir Adolph Tuck died. The success of the Valentine cards and the post cards of Titania’s Palace and the queen’s doll house were the last big successes of the Tuck Company. Reginald was now Sir Reginald. Gustave was Chairman and Managing Director. Desmond too stayed in the board.

In these days the puzzles were cut in Raphael  House, by craftsman who were trained from boyhood and sometimes active for twenty years.

The 1929 depression took the Tuck Company as well. The Company suffered many ups and downs. England struggled with the depression as well as many other countries, so export was very low. Prince Edward chose for his wife instead of the throne. Towards the end of the 1930’s the Company results gradually improved. However, looking back we can state, that due to varying world events and changing economic conditions the Company would never flourish again.

 

1940 - 1960

 

On December 29, 1940 London was bombed and the Raphael House completely destroyed. Desmond was able to rescue an arm full of items, including the framed Royal Warrant of Appointment. Within the cornerstone of the building, which had been laid 42 years earlier by Raphael Tuck, they found a broken glass jar and its undamaged contents: a catalogue of the oldest Tuck products, a booklet with the results of the 1894 literary and painting competition, an April 5, 1898 issue of the Times and the Daily Telegraph, some greeting cards and periodicals and a hand written Company history up to 1898, by Adolph Tuck. The Company had to be rebuilt, like many other companies, during difficult war conditions and with a shortage of materials

After the war many former employees came back, and the Company did well. About 1950 they enjoyed a new headquarters building in the west-end of London, and a branch in Northampton, which sadly burned down in 1954. Sir Reginald died in 1954 and his son Bruce inherited the title of baronet but soon left the Company. Desmond Tuck was the last Tuck in the Company. He stimulated the Company with all his flair and energy. After he retired in 1959 the Company changed hands several times. They still produced high quality printing, but missed the ‘magic’.