Cruse, Alfred James

So lets start with a bit of luck, because I have found a "Pen Portrait" or miniature biography, of Alfred James Cruse, in the Cartophilic Society`s first magazine, "The Bulletin", Volume 1, Number XVII issue dated December 1940. His was number thirteen in the series, so he obviously did not mind being that.

Cruse biography

The most interesting fact to me is the mention of his sons, for I have to wonder whether they are still alive, and, if so, whether the collections that were formed for them perhaps made them, too, collect? Did they attend a branch or club in the just post war period? I do hope so. 

Now I have only found one other reference to Mr. Cruse in "The Bulletin", and that is in Volume 2, No. XXVII, dated October 1941 - when his name appears amongst a list saying "The following have not renewed their subscription, and membership privileges are therefore in suspense." However he must presumably have renewed as he is featured in "The Cartophilic World". So as I work through those (which will be once I have the index completed) I will see if I can track anything down about his rejoining.

He did not give up collecting, and in fact expanded, for he wrote several books and booklets, his first being the full colour, twenty-two page slim hardback entitled  "All About Cigarette Cards". This was published by Perry Colour Books in 1945. This was very well illustrated, and is a really good guide for anyone thinking of collecting cards, even to this day. And we actually have a review of this book in  "The Cartophilic World" magazine of September-October 1950 (Vol.8, No.89) which states :  


"All About Cigarette Cards. 

Mr. A. J. Cruse`s new book "All About Cigarette Cards" is now to hand, and proves to be a very attractive handbook of 22 pages of interesting reading and full-size reproductions of cards. The latter, representing over 100 series, are in colour and illustrate the various subjects covered by card issuers.

The text provides a very useful introduction to the hobby, though purists may quibble over the title and the fact that two or three obvious printing errors have slipped in. 

Suffice it to say, however, that the young beginner - the author emphasises that the book is written for beginners - will not complain as he absorbs the interesting facts and array of colour provided. This book should be the means of attracting many young people to the hobby, and adults wishing to give a present need not fear but that such a gift will be duly appreciated.

Published by Perry Colour Books, Ltd., with stiff covers. There are three editions :- School Edition, 2s., Ordinary Edition, 2s. 6d., and De Luxe Edition, 4s.

"The Western Daily Press" of 10th August 1950, writing of Mr. Cruse`s new book, records that H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth has accepted a copy on behalf of Prince Charles, and calls attention to the author`s new venture, his biggest to date, a "Hobbies Omnibus", covering stamps, coins, sea-shells, railway tickets, playing cards, jig-saw puzzles, model toy soldiers, police relics, buttons, etc. The work is near complete, and is written for adults.

I wonder if King Charles III still has it? 

cruse match box covers

The following year, 1946, Mr. Cruse produced another book, this time on another facet of smokiana, .

Called "Match-Box Labels of the World" and having the sub-title of "with a history of fire-making appliances from primitive man to the modern match, together with a history of the World`s Labels"  this well crafted volume also included other items relating to fire, including gunpowder flasks. There were a hundred and twenty seven pages and twenty-four plates, eight of them colour, and sixteen double sided black and white plates.

This book was published by Robert Ross & Company Limited, who were very interesting because they also published games, often using the trade name of "Ahoy", and often with a seafaring connection - including games called "Drake" (1934) "Shipping" (1939?) "Ship Ahoy" (no idea of date, but early), and "Flotilla" (1940).

Whilst one of their most sought after games was released in 1936 and revolves around the Queen Mary, whose maiden voyage was on May 27, 1936, from Southampton. In fact Robert Ross later operated out of Southampton, but they were founded in the early 1930s in Fareham and moved to Southampton about the end of the Second World War.

Cigarette Card Collecting Cruse

In 1948  A. J. Cruse  returned to cartophily and penned a book called "Cigarette Card Cavalcade - Including a Short History of Tobacco". This was a hundred and seventy three page hardback of information, plus twenty-eight pictorial plates. It had a stunning pictorial dust jacket showing a jumbled assemblage of cards, and this is, most usually, still present. Without the dust jacket it is a light grey cloth. 

It was published by Vawser and Wiles, an odd name as it was in fact founded, in about 1940, by Hector Vawser Wiles. He was also a publisher of newsprint and this separate company seems to have been set up to supply manuals and literature on crafts and hobbies. I am not sure why he made it sound like Vawser and Wiles were two separate people though. Anyway I don`t have that book, so will have to wait to add it.

However, in 1951 there was a follow up work, again published by Vawser and Wiles, but entitled "Cigarette Card Collecting", and this is a very similar cover to "Cigarette Card Cavalcade", so for now it will suffice as illustration for both. This is a much thinner volume, of only seventy two pages, and it is paperback, which tends to result in wear to the spine and edges. 


Another of his great projects was to introduce the general public to cards, but not in a book. Instead he was going to mount them so that they could be viewed at a travelling exhibition, which would tour round the country, stopping off in town centres, by courtesy of several department stores who had offered to host it. But I will let the magazines tell us more about this :

"The Cartophilic World" magazine for March-April 1951 (Vol.9, No.92)

Cards in the Midlands

Mr. A. J. Cruse, extending his exhibition activities further afield, staged a most successful display at Lewis`s, Birmingham, 16th-27th January. Advertisements, press reports, and photographs were prominent in Midland newspapers, and the Exhibition is now due to travel on to Lewis`s branches in Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Leicester. 

All the cards being his own, Mr. Cruse claims his display to be the largest privately-owned framed and glazed exhibition. The mounting and framing has proved a very expensive item, 72 large frames being shown. 

Some of our readers may have heard the talk on cards and the Exhibition given by Mr. Cruse in a Midland Region broadcast on 10th January.

Other recent activities by this tireless enthusiast include an illustrated article for the children`s paper "Eagle", another for the Lewis`s Boys Own Club journal, and an abridged edition of "Cigarette Card Cavalcade" due to appear shortly


"The Cartophilic World" magazine for May-June 1951 (Vol.9, No.93)

Mr. Cruse`s Exhibitions

Following upon recent displays of Mr. A. J.Cruse`s Cigarette and Trade Card Exhibition at Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Leicester, the future programme already comprises new showings in seven other towns (see back cover of this number) 

We have seen a photograph of Mr. Cruse`s exhibition at Lewis`, Liverpool, illustrating the facilities provided for viewing, and the array of frames. Members should not miss this fine exhibition.

That list of "Summer Exhibitions" on the very outer back cover is half a page, but half of that concerns the London Cigarette Card Company`s, which were "by arrangement with Gaumont and Odeon Cinemas" and ran from 14th of May to 13th of October 1951, at Cardiff, Coventry, Nottingham, Preston, York, Edinburgh and Morecambe. Mr. Cruse`s Exhibitions were listed below, and they were : 

7th-19th May, 1951 - at Fenwick`s, Newcastle

16th-28th July, 1951 - at the City Library, Portsmouth

1st - 10th August, 1951 - at Bentall`s, Kingston-on-Thames

13th-20th August, 1951 - ar Grant`s, Croydon

23rd August- 22nd September, 1951 - at Beale`s, Bournemouth

25th September-4th October, 1951- at Paulden`s, Manchester

8th-20th October, 1951 - at Footman, Pretty, Ltd., Ipswich


However he never made it to Ipswich, nor, even, as far as Portsmouth. For in The Cartophilic World magazine of  July-August 1951 (Vol.9, No.94) came this sad announcement: 

The Late Mr. A. J. Cruse

Collectors everywhere will be shocked to hear of the sudden passing, on 13th June, of Mr. A. J. Cruse, of Bristol. 

One of the leading enthusiasts in cartophily, a prolific writer, and a collector and exhibitor whose displays have been seen by thousands during the past few months, Mr.  Cruse was well-known by name, if not personally, to collectors all over the world.

Among his published works are "Match-Box Labels of the World", "Cigarette Card Cavalcade", "Cigarette Card Collecting", "All About Cigarette Cards", and numerous articles in the Strand Magazine, Eagle, Chambers` Journal, To-Day, London Life, etc., and several West Country newspapers. His latest and most comprehensive book, "Hobby Horses to Ride", covering 27 hobby subjects, in in course of preparation, and is due to be published in 1952. 

Collectors will probably have noted in the daily newspapers that Mr. Cruse recently disposed of a card collection to King Farouk of Egypy for £1,000, and just before his death Mr. Cruse wrote to tell us that he had also arranged the sale to King Farouk of his travelling exhibition (now touring the country) for £500. 

On behalf of the members of the Cartophilic Society we wish to express our sympathy with Mrs. Cruse and family in their bereavement.

A "Pen Portrait", with photograph of Mr. Cruse, appeared in "Notes and News" in November, 1948


And a very quick look into that sale of cards reveals that King Farouk only became a collector of cigarette cards when he saw an article about Mr. Cruse`s touring exhibition. Then in 1952, "All About Cigarette Cards" was reprinted, again by Perry Colour Books, but with a different cover.