April 11, 2014

two machine-tinted real photograph postcards, with die-stamped borders, of Gabrielle Ray (1883-1973), English musical comedy dancer and actress, issued in 1915 by the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd, nos. B.66-1 and B.66-6 from a set of six postcards printed from three negatives.
(photo: The Sketch, London, 1915)

The Rotary Photographic Co Ltd of London, registered as a limited liability company on 24 March 1898, was the sister company of the German Neue Photographische Gesellschaft (NPG), founded in 1894 in Schöneberg by Arthur Schwarz. Both companies specialized in photographic printing and became very large producers of high-quality photographic (bromide) postcards and photographs in other formats for advertising, chocolate box tops, &c. Schawrz, who was a director of the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd, also had interests in New York: in 1892 with the photographer Benjamin J. Falk for the mechanical printing of photographs, and in 1904 when he became a partner in The Rotograph Co, the New York postcard publishers.

Edward Haenel, a German citizen, who was born in Berlin about 1875, became manager of the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd’s printing works at West Drayton near London in 1900, a post he held until sometime after 1906. The end of the postcard boom around 1909/10, together with rising costs badly affected the financial stability of the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd. Schwarz withdrew in 1912 and the outbreak of war in 1914 further affected business. These changes in fortune are reflected in the reduced numbers and types of postcards producted by the Rotary and also explains the re-issue of photographs from its back catalogue as well as the economical use of negatives, examples of which are the two above postcards of Gabrielle Ray.

At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd held in London on 19 April 1916 it was resolved, by reason of its liabilities, that the company should be voluntarily wound-up. The following year the Rotary’s West Drayton photograph printing works, covering some 9,600 square yards, were sold. The remainder of the company’s assets were subsequently acquired by Wiggins, Teape, & Co Ltd.


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