Bairnsfather Calendars

By the Summer of 1917, the publishers of The Bystander had been promoting and selling all manner of Bairnsfather merchandise for a year and a half. Included in the items available were four published volumes of Fragments from France, postcards, playing cards, jigsaws and colour prints, all ‘branded’ as published exclusively for, or by, The Bystander. In the run up to the opening of the play The Better ‘Ole at the Oxford Theatre on 4th August 1917, they announced the latest new product to receive their approval - a Bairnsfather Calendar for 1918. “No matter if the calendar points to gloomy winter or dripping days” wrote one columnist commenting on the magazine’s latest venture, “there always shines the fine humane humour of Bruce Bairnsfather.” 

The calendars, designed for wall hanging, were “Published for the Proprietors of the Bystander” by A.V.N. Jones and Company, 64 Fore Street, London. They were available in two formats - as an ordinary coloured print (priced one shilling) or with the drawings made to stand out in papier máché bas relief (at two shillings and sixpence). The latter was said to be “wonderfully effective.” The calendar illustrated here, with a small sketch of Old Bill in the bottom right hand corner, is believed to be from 1918, although the original calendar section was missing when it was purchased. The cartoon used also appears to be a sepia Fragments from France postcard, and not a colour print, so this could well be another variation of the calendar.

It’s not known how many Fragments from France cartoons were used on the 1918 calendars, but based on the number available as colour prints and jigsaws, it seems quite possible that there may have been anything up to a dozen, or even eighteen different calendars available in each format. As with all their Bairnsfather merchandise, The Bystander would have been keen to make sure that the most popular drawings were used.

The success of “1918” was followed up with at least two different designs of Bairnsfather calendar for 1919, again published for The Bystander by A.V.N. Jones and Company. The large format, colour print version for wall hanging was complemented  by a  ‘miniature’  calendar. The smaller calendar featured a tiny tear off monthly calendar, inside a thin card cover. This pocket sized edition still incorporated a colour print, in this instance pasted to the front cover of the calendar, and only the size of a cigarette card.

As with 1918, it is uncertain how many different cartoons were used on the calendars. However the two different large format versions for 1919 seen here, are labelled Fragments from France No. 2 and Fragments from France No. 5 in small print in the bottom left hand corner, which indicates there were several available.

Strangely, The Bystander made no reference to any of the Bairnsfather calendars in it’s pages, unlike the various other Bairnsfather merchandise they had ‘licensed’, which had received considerable promotion and advertising space in the magazine.

Below are images of some of the 1919 calendars.

Although I have found no references in British newspapers to further Bairnsfather calendars being produced after the ones for 1919, it is possible that a calendar for 1920 was issued. I have traced a solitary advertisement - randomly in a newspaper in Sydney, Australia - from December 1919, in which the David Jones department store in Sydney is advertising Bairnsfather calendars at 1/6 each, in their Christmas Gift offerings. 

If you are aware of other Bystander Bairnsfather calendars in addition to those mentioned, I would be very pleased to hear from you. In the meantime, happy calendar hunting!