W J Bassett-Lowke and Harry Franklin advertised their products in a mail order catalogue, thought to be amongst the first in the world. For the first edition dated 1899 to keep costs to a minimum, spaces were left between the texts for illustrations. These were photographic prints that they had taken themselves, and then pasted in by hand. Although hard work the customers were impressed and brought an immediate and very profitable response. T
The first catalogue illustrated with blocks came out in 1902 and thereafter were published annually, except for the war years, until 1939. After that they were resumed at intervals and the last one was published in 1963. I can just imagine the excitement of a new edition dropping through the letter-box
1932 Bassett-Lowke catalogue
It is possible that WJ’s contact with George Carette may have influenced them to produce a catalogue in French as early as 1904 and a larger Model Railway Catalogue was produced m 1906. As far as I know no other catalogues were produced in other languages (unless you know different). In the Model Railways and Locomotives magazine dated July 1910 catalogues were advertised in sections:
Section M.A.C containing particulars of Model Electric, Steam and Clockwork Locomotives, Rails, Coaches, Wagons, Signals and every accessory for Model Railway work, Boilers, Stationary Engines, Fittings, Pressure Gauges, Injectors, Sheet Rod and tube in copper and brass. Tools for model making etc. Over 300 pages post free 7d.
Section M.S. Scale Model Yachts, Warships, Cruisers, Torpedo Boats, Vessels of every possible description, Ships’ fittings etc. etc. Post free 3d.
Section M.A. Scale Model Flying Machine, Balloons, Model, Balloons, Model Aeroplane Motors and all sundries for experimental work fully illustrated -Post free 2d.
Section M.E. Electrical Models , Appliances and Materials. Post free 2d.
After 1918, the range of products became more consistent and were concentrated in three lists. ‘A’ for Model Railways ‘S’ for ships and ‘B’ for steam stationary engines, fitting castings and equipment for model makers.
A charge was made for all the standard catalogues, as there would have been a huge response to offers of a free list. The covers were designed by various artists and draughtsmen. Often WJ would suggest the theme and they were generally bold and eye catching. Early catalogue covers were drawn by Henry Greenly, Kenneth Cullen, George Winteringham and CJ Allen, in later years E.W. Twining was involved, his last being the ‘0’ gauge catalogue of 1950.
In addition there was a regular supply of leaflets for distribution by post and for exhibitions. One such list was the ‘Abridged Christmas list no 43X’, containing particulars of all kinds and types of Engines, Coaches, Wagons, Rails, Warships, Racing Yachts etc. etc. over 60 pages post free for 6d, as advertised in the Models, Railways, & Locomotives January 1918.
1937 Bassett-Lowke catalogue
Collecting Bassett-Lowke catalogues has become an obsession for Rod Sanderson and myself, and since January we have acquired a large variety. The contents are remarkable with such a wide variety of goods on offer. Some of the catalogues are easy to date with the month and the year, or the season and the year, but also we have found some with no publication date reference to them. So the only way of dating them, and arranging our collection in chronological order, is to look through each undated catalogue and find a piece on a model that has some predated reference to when the items were initially available. This oblique back-reference within the catalogue allows you to form the published catalogue order.
78 Derngate has a selection of the Bassett-Lowke catalogues in the archive. It would be interesting to see a display of catalogues once 82 is restored and more exhibition space is available. In the meantime we will keep collecting. See you at the model railway fairs.
NB to stall holders, females love trains too, OK.
First published in April 2005 in The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 34.
Author: Chris Sherlock
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer