Friday, 2 March 2012

A souvenir of Chartism

Membership cards must have been issued in their thousands by the National Charter Association and smaller Chartist organisations. But almost none appears to have survived the past 150 years.
So I was delighted to come across a picture of WJ Linton’s membership card for the People’s Charter Union on the Amsterdam-based International Institute of Social History’s website.
I am unable to reproduce it here for copyright reasons – and the small rectangle of green cardboard is nothing much to look at in itself (especially with the digital watermark added by the Institute). But I was surprised to see that it still existed.
The People’s Charter Union itself was a tiny and short-lived organisation established in 1848 and barely lasting beyond the end of the year. Linton co-edited its newspaper, The Cause of the People, with George Jacob Holyoake, though he claimed in his memoirs that “Holyoake did nothing”.
As to other Chartist membership cards, I know of only three (and one of those only from an image in a book dating back to before the first world war). These are:
* the card used as the logo for the Chartist Ancestors website, which I have carefully tucked away in a folder, though it has been fairly badly damaged by water at some stage in its life;
* a card issued to James Cuttriss in 1848 and owned today by his descendant Richard Heaton;  and
* the card used to illustrate Landmarks of Local Liberalism in 1913.
All three of these cards can be seen on the Chartist Memorabilia page on Chartist Ancestors, along with a few other items I have come across down the years. Very few souvenirs of Chartism have survived – I would love to see more if anyone has anything to share.
I should say that the picture of Linton above is taken from the excellent Minor Victorian Poets website.