Card of the Day - 2022-03-16

R66-3 [tobacco : UK] I. Rutter & Co. Ltd. “Comic Phrases” (1905 or 1906) - Un/54
I. Rutter & Co. Ltd. [tobacco : UK ]“Comic Phrases” (1905 or 1906) - Un/54 - R66-3

These cards were issued with “Mitcham's Cigarettes”, and it is another of those sets which has no title on the cards, and so one was provided for it by early researchers in order to list it in a recognisable way. I am not certain the one chosen to describe it really fits the bill, for not all the phrases are humorous, but it is an unusual set which contains several cards that fit neatly into thematic collections if you only knew they were there. Ours is a football card that probably appears in very collections, but might well be added to a few wants lists now.

There are also several cards in the set which feature smoking either overtly or covertly, and also cards which feature branding for Mitcham Cigarettes on the front, hence “Beautiful Aroma” has it on the side of the carriage, “First Favourites” on the paper of the hoop, one card is simply titled on the front “Smoke Mitcham's cigarettes”, and another “Stick to Mitcham” with an additional “Notice Mitcham Cigarettes” on the sign to which the desperate man clings). Oddly, the words “Mitcham” and “Mitcham`s” are both used within the set.

One of their brands was called “Mitcham Cricket Green”, which is reputedly the oldest still operational cricket ground – its first match being bowled in 1685.

If this sets you wondering why Rutter was so fixated by Mitcham, it was that their address was Ravensbury Mill, in Mitcham, Surrey, though they also had an address of 66 Great Queen Street in Central London. They were founded in 1767, and most of their output was snuff and shag, as it says on the card. 

They bought Ravensbury Mill in May 1805 as a going concern, for it had been manufacturing snuff since at least the 1750s. The proprietor at that time was a Latham Arnold, a tobacconist listed as trading from Newgate Street in London. Some thought that the mill was merely registered as a snuff mill whilst also making tobacco on which the duty, if declared, would have cost more. And perhaps a rival did more than think, for in 1775 there are records of alterations and the premises are suddenly being cited as being tobacco mills. Mr. Arnold died in 1781

In December 1805, John Rutter & Company moved in to a reasonably newly constructed mill, built for, and possibly by, a Martin Peakes & Co, who were tobacconists, based at 6 Newgate Street in London, just three doors away from the premises formerly owned by John Rutter. This new company was jointly owned by John Rutter`s brother Thomas, and his own sons, Thomas and John.

At first Rutter too made tobacco and snuff, but the popularity of the latter declined after the 1900s and they switched to pipe and cigarette tobacco.

They left the mill in 1925, and it was bought by Whitelys. They specialised in making rubber goods for sports purposes, skipping ropes, mats, etc. 

Despite their long heritage, they were picked up by Anstie of Devizes in 1925. 

Our card comes from their only set to be available as a set in the 1950 London Cigarette Card Company Catalogue, where it was priced up at £40, the odds ranging from 5/- to 15/-. Usually a straight third raise in this context means the ends, but these cards were un-numbered, so it must have been based on condition. The rest of the cards they issued were priced as odds only, mostly at 25/- to 75/-, though “Shadowgraphs” were listed at 30/- to 90/- and both “Actresses – Rutan” (the version with the rubber stamping to the back) and “Boer War Celebrities” at 40/- to 100/-

Hudden "Comic Phrases"

These cards were also issued within the United Kingdom by Hudden & Co. Ltd of Bristol (H766-175 : H68-5), also in 1900, and measuring 64 x 34 m/m. These cards have captions, but they are slightly different, for on all the cards which said “Mitcham” it now says “Hudden”, on both sides. This is a set which was so incredibly scarce that to this day just twelve have been seen, and this amount has not been raised since a card from the set was shown in Cameric “Notes and News” New Series, Volume 2, No.7 – that card is reproduced here, though there does not seem to be a word about the set in the magazine… 

Last, but most intriguingly, this set was also issued overseas by Murai of Kyoto in Japan, still un-numbered, but without captions. It was thought that 24 cards were issued, but two more have turned up since 1956. Confusingly it was recorded as “Comics” not “Comic Phrases”. And most thrillingly of all, this set must have come first because some of the versions are inscribed with a two line name to the fronts “Murai Bros & Co. / Cigarette Factory” at base, a name which had Ltd. added after it in 1899. There are two distinct versions of this first printing - M953-025 : M156-3  measures 60 x 35 m/m and it can have the back in (a) blue – or (b) brown – whilst M953-120 has a different back design, only in blue, and measures 60 x 35 m/m. Then there is M953-220 : M156-18, which is both anonymous, and plain backed.