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Dating Your British Tins

Tracy Dolphin (repinted with permission)

Edited by Mike Reilly

    Here is a smaller chronology for England based around biscuit tins, though the artwork could be applicable across the board.

1840s     large tins used to transport goods have stenciled or embossed names.
               SMALL paper labels are introduced as there is a prohibitive tax on paper.
               Food adulteration scandals precipitate the rise of branded goods which means the                 manufacturers are accountable to the public.

1851     The paper tax is repealed, Huntley & Palmers first use their famous garter & buckle trade mark.

1850s   The first shop display tins are made Tins are decorated by moiré metallique method, the                  looks like galvanization but is usually gold coloured.

1864    The Tin Plate Decorating Co of Neath South Wales patent a 'French' technique of Direct               Printing. These tins are usually gold and one other colour and are often marked 'Flowers             Patent'.

1869     A second patent was granted to The Tin Plate Decorating Co which added a coat of 'paint'               or 'varnish to the tin before decorating it. Damaged tins decorated in this method often have               large patches of bare metal.

1868     The 'first' Huntley & Palmers lithographed tin known as the Ben George tin, he was the               patentee of the transfer process in England. Damaged transfer printed tins often have patches               of gold 'varnish' exposed where the transfer has rubbed off.

             The early decoration of tins by lithography is abstract. Pattern books such as Owen Jones              'Grammar of Ornament' are used to produce intricate designs in limited colours. the tins are               mainly oblong.

1870 and 1873     patents issued to Ben George for transfer lithography this process was used in               Britain up to the mid 1890s. Decoration becomes more adventurous with pictures of children and flowers prevalent. Also cardboard pictures are stuck onto lids.

1875     two patents are issued for offset lithography to Robert Barclay, he does not use them but               sells them to Bryant & May the Match makers. They in turn license the patent to Huntley,               Boorne & Steven, tin box makers of Reading , tins made by them are marked B & Ms               Pat.The patent lapses in 1889.

           The shapes of the tins becomes more complicated with fancy shaped corners, domed lids and  very detailed pictures. The subject matter is enormous.

1884     A new Design register is established in London (see listing that follows below).

Late 1880s     Allegedly Hudson Scott & Co tin box makers of Carlisle have started using the offset  process before the patent has lapsed.

c1890     Most tin box makers abandon transfer printing as cash-flow allows and all move over to        offset. machines for stamping out the shapes are introduced.

1890s     The shapes are at their most complicated in the middle of the decade. Some tins have fancy catches and locks & keys.
               Scenes of Empire are common, sporting events, foreign countries and costumes, imitations                   of famous paintings, nursery rhymes and fables are all used regularly.

c1895     The first book (Peek Frean) and the first basket appear (A1 Biscuit Co).

1900     Huntley & Palmers produce 'Library' a set of books bound in a leather strap

            Tins begin to appear with mirrors inside or on the lid.

1901     Handbags make an appearance for the first time, and continue up until the end of the 20s.

            The era of the simulated object has begun, bags, trunks, books, toys plates, lanterns, vases,               houses and lantern all make an appearance before The First World War.

1903     Art Nouveau designs flourish for several years.

1905/06     Some tins appear with a wicker work cover.

1905-12     Tins made of oxidized copper appear and some which imitate silver.

1908-14     Some of the biggest tins made for the biscuit manufacturers appear at this time.

                    Fairly simple picture tins continue to be made throughout the period.

1914     The First World War stops production of tins, all companies continue to sell existing stocks,                   including those marked for export to Europe.

1920     Re-establishment of trade is slow to start. Tins are of a simpler shape.

c1923     Art Deco influences begin to appear
                Japanese designs are popular.
                Red and Black are dominant colours, especially for sweets.
                Peirrot and Carnival themes are popular.

c1924     Photolithography is introduced.

1924  and  onwards     Children's toys are popular afteruses for tins, boats, ships, forts, cars and                   delivery lorries are all popular culminating in Huntley & Palmers clockwork Double                   Decker Bus in 1929.

                Many smaller companies do not produce so many lithographed tins but issue more with                   pictorial paper labels.

            The depression (in England 1932-4) causes the shapes of tins to be simplified again. Many                   are just oblong, or circular etc. with pretty pictures of England.

            In the later 30s a few toys reappear and some old shapes are revived. Price wars in the                   biscuit trade have led to more biscuit being sold loose or in cellophane.

1939     Tins for Xmas 1939 were produced before the outbreak of war and were sold as usual. By 1940     all companies were doing war work.

1946-50     Contrary to popular belief not many tins appeared in England and Europe though the                   government were eager to show that Britain was still a major manufacturing nation. Most                   tins made in this period were for export only especially to the US.

1950s     A slow recovery for British companies is complicated by takeovers of multinational firms.
                Tins are basic shapes, influences from the canning industry put emphasis on various drum                   shapes which continues into the 70s.

c1954     TV characters start to make an appearance on tins especially Huntley & Palmers 'iced                   biscuits for children' series which continues into the 70s.

1960s     High fashion begins to have a more immediate effect on tins as they become more likely to                   be sold as empty containers.

              Plastic handles are fashionable.

Late 1960s     A big nostalgia wave sweeps across Britain several old tins are re-released. But with                   the new  technologies to make them.

                Tins with trays as lids make a brief appearance.

1970s     Photographs are now a major source of decoration on tins.

1980s     A wave of nostalgia for vintage advertising influences design.
                Late 80s Several British companies start making tins that are houses, buses etc sometimes                   with plastic wheels. Attention to detail is excellent, embossing which has been absent for                   some time is re-introduced.

1997     The ultimate in post-modern design - McVities introduce a tin which has 'old tins' on it.

Registered Design Numbers 1884-1950 1880s numbers approximate

1884 1 - 20309
1885 20310 - 44440
1886 44441 - 68570
1887 68571 - 92700
1888 92701 - 116830
1889 116831 - 140961
1890 140962 - 142345
1891 142356 - 186427
1892 186428 - 206142
1893 206143 - 224999
1894 225000 - 248264
1895 248265 - 268787
1896 268788 - 291439
1897 291440 - 311676
1898 311677 - 332190
1899 332191 - 351559
1900 351560 - 368185
1901 368186 - 385179
1902 385180 - 403201
1903 403202 - 424367
1904 424368 - 447733
1905 447734 - 471861
1906 471862 - 493947
1907 493948 - 518643
1908 518644 - 535175
1909 535176 - 549300
1910 549301 - 576000
1911 576001 - 594200
1912 594201 - 612445
1913 612446 - 630263
1914 630264 - 645068
1915 645069 - 653670
1916 653671 - 659100
1917 659101 - 662893
1918 662894 - 666305
1919 666306 - 673800
1920 673801 - 680176
1921 680177 - 687201
1922 687202 - 695108
1923 695109 - 702751
1924 702752 - 710466
1925 710467 - 718088
1926 718089 - 726347
1927 726348 - 734451
1928 734452 - 740910
1929 740911 - 749848
1930 749849 - 758478
1931 759479 - 767260
1932 767261 - 776052
1933 776053 - 788515
1934 788516 - 797557
1935 797558 - 807040
1936 807041 - 815898
1937 815899 - 820408
1938 820409 - 830266
1939 830267 - 834438
1940 834439 - 837870 ish

1940-43 837871 - 840366
1943-45 840367 - 843199
1945-46 843200 - 848592
1946-47 848953 - 851325
1947-48 851326 - 856692
1948-49 856693 - 860697
1950 860698 - 861679

    You got all the reg'd numbers, I stopped at 1950 though I think they went on for a few more years but by 1950 not many tin designs were being registered for the simple reason that they weren't exciting enough.
    There are other numbers: But I don't know exactly what they signify these first four of Hudson Scott look like they are in house design numbers as the numerical order fits well with the chronological order of the tins and the same could be said for BW &M tins

Carrs Scouts 1924 Hudson Scott No 1166
Carrs Lifeboat 1925 Hudson Scott No 1509
Teacaddy 1936 Hudson Scott No 1929
Coronation 1937 Hudson Scott No 1967

HP Sandalwood 1927 BW&M No 1952
CWS Moonlight 1932 BW&M No 14216

HP Maplewood Casket 1926 No 4813   

McF L Blossom 1925? No 4635

Crawfords Cunarder 1928 No 10411 could be Huntley Boorne &
Gray DunnRacing Car 1928 No 10060 ditto
Jacobs Lucky Dip 1929 No 11896 ditto
H&P Clock 1929 HB&S No 10721
H&P Perambulator 1929 HB&S No 12701

Crawfords Stork Sample c1924 No 1497s could be Hudson Scott
Jacobs Orange Sample c1928 No 9764
Crawfords Lizardskin Casket 1926 No 4629

    So as you can see lots of unsubstantiated theories of what number went when.

Other pointers
   B & Ms Pat which is Bryant & Mays Patent appeared on tins made by Huntley Boorne & Stevens between 1873 and 1889.
    The stippled effect of offset lithography disappeared in about 1923/4 when photolithography was introduced. there are all the usual physical attributes which can be applied to US tins as well.
    Weight of tin, types of hinges, complexity of shape, fashions in subject matter, art influences usually came to tins some 5 years after they were truly high fashion. eg Art Nouveau tins were
prevalent in the UK in the 1903-10 period whereas in France the style
was at it's height 1895-1900.



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