About Henry Cole
Sir Henry Cole
(15 July 1808 – 18 April 1882) was an English civil servant and inventor who facilitated many innovations in commerce and education in 19th century Britain. Cole is credited with devising the concept of sending greetings cards at Christmas time, introducing the world's first commercial Christmas card in 1843.
BiographyHenry Cole was born in Bath, and educated at Christ's Hospital in London. He began his career at the age of 15 at the Public Record Office, where he became Assistant Keeper and was instrumental in reforming the organisation and preservation of the British national archives.
From 1837 to 1840, he worked as an assistant to Rowland Hill and played a key role in the introduction of the Penny Post. He is sometimes credited with the design of the world's first postage stamp, the Penny Black.
The world's first commercially produced Christmas card, made by Henry Cole 1843.In 1843, Cole introduced the world's first commercial Christmas card, commissioning artist John Callcott Horsley to make the artwork.
As Felix SummerlyCole was personally interested in industrial design, and under the pseudonym Felix Summerly designed a number of items which went into production, including a prize-winning teapot manufactured by Minton. As Felix Summerly, he also wrote a series of children's books, including A book of stories from The home treasury; A hand-book for the architecture, sculpture, tombs, and decorations of Westminster Abbey (1859); An Alphabet of Quadrupeds (1844); and The most delectable history of Reynard the Fox (illustrated with twenty-four coloured pictures by Aldert van Everdingen) (1846).
Cole and the exhibitions The 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.Through his membership of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, Cole lobbied government for support for his campaign to improve standards in industrial design. The backing of Prince Albert was secured, and in 1847 a royal charter was granted to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Under the patronage of Prince Albert, Cole organized a successful Exhibition of Art Manufactures in 1847, with enlarged exhibitions following in 1848 and 1849.
Cole visited the 1849 11th Quinquennial Paris Exhibition and noticed the lack of an exhibition open to international participants. He saw that the RSA's planned exhibitions for 1850 and 1851 could be adapted into a larger international exhibition, and he secured the backing of Queen Victoria to establish in 1850 the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to manage the new exhibition, under the Presidency of Prince Albert.
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October 1851, and was an enormous popular and financial success, partially due to the astute management of Henry Cole.
Cole caricatured, as "King Cole", in Vanity Fair, 19 August 1871.MuseumsAs one of the Commissioners, Cole was instrumental in the decision that the £186,000 surplus from the Great Exhibition would be used for improving science and art education in the United Kingdom. Land was purchased in the South Kensington area and developed as the centre for a number of educational and cultural institutions, known half-jokingly as "Albertopolis". Henry Cole was appointed the first General Superintendent of the Department of Practical Art, set up by the government to improve standards of art and design education in Britain with reference to their applicability to industry. In this capacity he was instrumental in the development of the Victoria and Albert Museum which had begun as the Museum of Ornamental Art in Marlborough House. Cole oversaw its move to its current site, and became first director of what was initially called South Kensington Museum from 1857 to 1873. In 1974 a part of the museum that was once known as the Huxley Building was renamed the Henry Cole Building; today it forms the Henry Cole Wing of the V&A.
Honours and legacyCole was instrumental in the development of the Royal College of Art as a postgraduate design school and played a part in the establishment of many other South Kensington institutions, such as the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London. In fact, the Imperial College Mathematics Department was formerly based in the Henry Cole Wing on Exhibition Road, before the premises were donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum.
He was awarded the CB for his work on the Great Exhibition and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1875. Often referred to in the press as "Old King" Cole, he was known to have the closest personal backing of the Queen and especially of the Prince Consort, who when he needed a facilitator for one of his pet projects, was heard to remark: "We must have steam, get Cole".
An English heritage blue plaque commemorates Henry Cole where he lived and worked at 33 Thurloe Square, South Kensington, London, opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In 2001, one of Henry Cole's first Christmas cards, which was sent to his Grandmother in 1843, sold at auction for £22,500.
References^ György Buday, George Buday (1992). The history of the Christmas card. p.8. Omnigraphics, 1992 ^ Earnshaw, Iris (November 2003). "The History of Christmas Cards". Inverloch Historical Society Inc.. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~invhs/2004.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-25. ^ "Albertopolis: Henry Cole Wing". Royal Institute of British Architects. http://www.architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/TheStoryOf/VictoriaAndAlbertMuseum/HenryColeWing.aspx. Retrieved 2010-12-16. ^ Adolf K. Placzek (1982) Macmillan encyclopedia of architects, Volume 1 p.437. Free Press, 1982 ^ Hobhouse, Hermione (1983) Prince Albert, his life and work p.91. H. Hamilton, 1983 ^ Blue plaque of Sir Henry Cole English heritage Retrieved December 17, 2010 ^ Christmas card sold for record price BBC News. Retrieved 12 June 2011 ^ Facts And Figures - GCA: The Greeting Card Association Retrieved 12 June 2011 Further readingBonython, Elizabeth and Anthony Burton The Great Exhibitor: The Life and Work of Henry Cole, London: V & A, 2003. Bonython, Elizabeth King Cole: A Picture Portrait of Sir Henry Cole, London, 1985. Cole, Henry Fifty years of public work of Sir Henry Cole accounted for in his deeds, speeches and writings, (in two volumes) London, Bell and Sons, 1884 (Completed by Henrietta and Alan S. Cole after Henry Cole's death). (English) Design Council Archive — University of Brighton Design Archives (Journal of Design and Manufactures is still not digitized, but is open to researchers) (English) Journal of Design and Manufactures External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Henry Cole Archival material relating to Henry Cole listed at the UK National Register of Archives Sir Henry Cole and the first Christmas Card Obituary of Sir Henry Cole The Times, 20 April 1882, from the Victoria and Albert Museum Cultural offices Preceded by none Director of the South Kensington Museum 1857–1873 Succeeded by Sir Philip Cunliffe-Owen ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/people-pages/obituary-henry-cole/ Obituary of Sir Henry Cole
Portrait photograph of Henry Cole, by AJ Melhuish, 1870. Museum no. PH.355-1886 Sir Henry Cole (1808–82) worked in public service for over 50 years. He was a major contributor to the development of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and was the first Director of the South Kensington Museum, which was founded as a consequence of the Exhibition and renamed the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1899.
From The Times, 20 April 1882 By the death of Sir Henry Cole, which occurred, after a short illness, on Tuesday evening, the country has lost a man whose name will occupy a prominent place in the history of art and industry and letters during the present reign. Wherever the influence of South Kensington has penetrated, wherever the movement has been felt which, during the present generation, has brought the attractions and influences of art to bear on the life and industry of the country, the name of Henry Cole will long be remembered and held in honour. His action has often been harshly criticized, his untiring energy and perseverance have frequently made him enemies; his choice of means may, at time, as his critics so often averred, have been less praiseworthy than his ends, but his aim was always a generous one, and his achievements, which are now the inheritance of the public, will constitute no insignificant claim to its gratitude. Great national movements like that which has produced the South Kensington Museum and all that it represents in the social life of our time, are, no doubt, due to causes deeper and more universal than the energy of any individual. But the instinct is nevertheless sound in the main which identifies South Kensington with Sir Henry Cole as its creator and chief representative. He was amongst the first to discern and insist upon the paramount need for the organization of national art, and the development of its relations to the national industry. He was the leading spirit and prime mover of the impulse which, beginning with the Exhibition of 1851 and earlier, has since produced such abundant results. We need only to reflect on the contrast between the present condition of national taste and that which prevailed not merely in the region of art itself, but in all the departments of technical industry in 1851, the order to form an estimate of the vast influence exercised by Sir Henry Cole. For certainly to him, as much as to any single man, the result is due, and it is only just to give the credit of the achievement to him who long had to bear all the discredit and obloquy of the original endeavour. When South Kensington was in disfavour, both with Parliament and with the public, no one ever hesitated to throw the weight of blame on the devoted head of 'Cole, C. B.'. Now that it has taken its place among the most popular institutions of the country; now that its beneficial influence is universally acknowledged; now that the reproach that England was far behind other nations in the attention it bestowed on art and design has long been wiped out; now that the Museum of Science and Art bids fair to outstrip its most celebrated rivals in other lands and is regarded, more or less as a model by all; especially now when the prime mover in all this progress has passed away from our midst, it is only right freely and fully to acknowledge the debt which the art and industry of England owe to Sir Henry Cole.
When Sir Henry Cole retired in 1873 from the double office of Secretary of the Science and Art Department and Director, he had completed his fiftieth year of continuous public service. He was born at Bath in 1808 and was the son of Captain Henry Robert Cole, an office in the 82nd Regiment. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, and thence passed, in 1823, at the age of 15, into the public service under the Record Commission. At a later date he was appointed an Assistant-Keeper of the Public Records. While holding this position, he published 'Henry the Eighth's Scheme of Bishopricks' and copies of several of the public records; and a series of pamphlets which he wrote on the reform of the public record system contributed materially to the establishment of the present General Record Office. The name of Sir Henry Cole, will, no doubt, be chiefly associated with the origin of the South Kensington Museum; but it should not be forgotten that nearly 60 years ago his energy was brought to bear on the proper custody of the national archives, and thereby indirectly contributed to that great revolution in the study of national history which has been effected by the Rolls Series of publications.
Long before his name became associated with art Mr. Cole had devoted his energies to literature. In his efforts for the reform of the system of Public Records he had been associated with Charles Buller, whose memory had been revived for the present generation by the publication of Carlyle's biography. With Sir William Molesworth and Charles Buller, Cole started the 'Guide' newspaper, of which he became editor, and at a later period he became successively editor of the 'Historical Register' and the 'Journal of Design', and a frequent contributor to the 'Illustrated London News'. He was an early and intimate friend of John Stuart Mill as well as of Thomas Love Peacock, another official of the India House, of whose remarkable works he edited a recent issue. Under the well known nom de plume of 'Felix Summerly', lately - we believe, resumed in his edition of 'Walkers Astrology, or the Art of Dining' written by the eccentric author of the 'Original' - he published several handbooks to the National Gallery, Hampton Court, and other public exhibitions of art. Besides this, he published a work on 'Light, Shade and Colour' and edited a reprint of Albert Durer's 'Small Passion', with reproductions from casts of the original wood blocks preserved in the British Museum, and he was also a frequent contributor to the Westminster, British and Foreign, and Edinburgh Reviews. Among his early friends was Charles Wentworth Dilke, the grandfather of the present Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and his name is more than once mentioned in connexion with the Athenaeum and other literary undertakings of that distinguished critic in the memoir prefixed by his grandson to the 'Papers of a Critic'. In 1840 Mr. Cole, who was still engaged in the public service, gained one of the four prizes of £100 offered by the Treasury for suggestions for developing the Penny Postage plan originated by Sir Rowland Hill. This was not the first occasion on which he rendered material assistance to his friend the great postal reformer, for as secretary effectively contributed to the original adoption of Sir Rowland Hill's proposals.
It was about the year 1845 that Sir Henry Cole began to devote his chief attention to the development of art in connexion with industry and manufactures. At this time he originated a series of 'Art Manufactures', contributing many designs himself, and he assisted the Society of Arts in organizing a series of exhibitions for the purpose of stimulating public industry and invention. This was the germ of the Great Exhibition of 1851, for Mr. Cole's suggestion that every five years the exhibitions organized by him should assume a national character was adopted by the late Prince Consort and developed into the Great International Exhibition, which first revealed to the nation how far it had fallen behindhand in the finer arts of manufacture and design. From that exhibition and its lessons ultimately sprang South Kensington and all its consequences. Among its collateral results was reform of the Patent Laws in 1852, largely due to the energy and initiative of Mr. Cole. In the same year Mr. Cole, who up to that time had remained attached to the Record Office, was invited by Lord Granville, on behalf of Government, to undertake the reorganization of the Schools of Design established in 1837. From this appointment sprang the establishment of the Science and Art Department of which Mr. Cole - who had been nominated a C.B. for his services in connexion with the Exhibition of 1851 - became Secretary - an office which he relinquished after 21 years' laborious and splendid service in 1873. The South Kensington Museum was also largely due to the same vigorous and persevering initiative. At the close of the Exhibition of 1851 Parliament had voted a grant of £5,000 towards the purchase of such of the more striking examples exhibited as were calculated to advance ornamental art. The articles thus purchased were exhibited, together with the prize drawings from the various Art Schools throughout the country, at Marlborough House in 1852. This was the beginning of the Museum of Science and Art, for the permanent part of the exhibition was afterwards transferred to those temporary buildings at South Kensington which were long known and despised as the 'Brompton boilers'. How South Kensington grew amid suspicion, opposition, and obloquy to what it is at present; how 'Cole, C. B.' persevered through evil report and good report until the 'Brompton boilers' were replaced by a stately pile and the despised offspring of the great Exhibition of 1851 became one of the most precious and fascinating of the national treasures and how what was once a remote and deserted suburb became the centre of one of the most popular quarters of the town, is a story too long to relate at length and not very pleasant in some of its details to recall at a time when the leading spirit of the movement has suddenly passed away. It is sufficient to say that wherever there was progress to be made Cole schemed incessantly until it was accomplished. When no one else dared approach the Treasury for money towards educating and elevating the tastes of the people he somehow managed to succeed, and he did this repeatedly in face of much narrow-minded and at times ill-natured opposition from politicians in the House of Commons. Whatever may have been the means employed, the results speak for and justify themselves. So one now speaks slightingly of South Kensington. Contrasted with the Great Exhibition of 1851 - certainly great in this, that it was perhaps the greatest exhibition ever made of national degradation in the arts of design - it represents a transition from darkness to light. There is hardly a household in the country that is not the better for the change; there is certainly no manufacture in which design has any place which has not felt its influence. How far the result is due to South Kensington itself and its indefatigable Director, and how far to general causes which individuals rather direct than excite, the time had not yet come for determining. But few will doubt that Sir Henry Cole was first, or among the first, of the pioneers that progress in national taste which has been continuous and rapid since the Exhibition of 1851.
Neither the Department of Science and Art nor the South Kensington Museum sufficed to exhaust the untiring energies of Sir Henry Cole. He was English Commissioner at the Paris exhibition in 1855, and again in 1867, and he was among the principal managers of the International Exhibition of 1862 in London. He organized the annual exhibitions which were held in London 1872 and the two following years, he was an active Vice President of the Society of Arts, and he was among the first originators and most energetic promoters of the Royal Albert Hall. In 1873, after 50 years of public service, he retired on a full pension specially awarded by the Treasury, and two years afterwards he was created at K.C.B. - an honour which he only accepted after much reluctance when it was represented to him by Mr. Disraeli, who was Prime Minister at the time, that it was conferred at the special instance of the Queen. But Sir Henry Cole's retirement from the public service brought no cessation from his active and philanthropic labours. In 1873, with the aid of the Society of Arts, he established the National Training School for Music, and institution which did good service in its time, and in 1874 he founded the National Training School for Cookery at South Kensington. From 1876 to 1879 he lived at Birmingham and Manchester, where he devoted himself to an endeavour, to so successful as he hoped, to induce the municipal authorities to turn their attention to plans for the utilization of sewage. But his residence at Birmingham secured him the acquaintance and ultimately the friendship of Cardinal Newman, with whom he maintained a frequent and intimate correspondence down to the time of his death. In 1879 he returned to the neighbourhood of London and settled at Hampstead until the spring of 1880, when he went to live once more at South Kensington in the house in which he died on Tuesday. Last year Sir Henry Cole commenced framing a scheme for the formation of Guilds of Health - a design for diffusing common sanitary knowledge and an acquaintance with the ordinary rules for insuring health among all classes of the people. This plan is left incomplete by its originator, but the Society of Arts is to hold this year a meeting or conference for discussing it and for publishing information on the subject. During the last six months Sir Henry Cole had devoted much time, with the assistance of his daughter, to an account of his 50 years of labour in the service of the public. He had completed chapters upon his connexion with the Penny Postage scheme and the Public Record Office, upon his various handbooks to public collections and public buildings, and upon the Great Exhibition of 1851, and he has left materials for the completion of the work.
Sir Henry Cole was spared the pain of a long illness. For some time he had suffered from an affection of the heart, and his medical attendants had recommended caution and freedom from excitement. But he continued to attend to his various occupations until the middle of last week, when on his return from a brief visit to Tunbridge Wells he over-exerted himself at a meeting which he attended in the City. By Sunday, however, he was considerably recovered and on Monday he felt well enough to sit for an hour to Mr. Whistler, who is engaged in his portrait. On Monday evening he became seriously ill, the affection of the heart being complicated by congestion of the lungs, apparently due to exposure during the previous week. His condition was not considered specially critical, but on Tuesday evening he died, painlessly and without warning.
Such is a brief record of an active, beneficent and well-spent life. Sir Henry Cole had many difficulties to encounter, many opponents to vanquish, much obloquy to undergo, and not a little ill-nature to contend with. But all these obstacles he finally overcame and no one can say that the work he actually accomplished fell short of the ability and public spirit with which he laboured. Whatever mistakes he may have made, however, much the means he employed may have been criticized and fairly open to criticism, it will hardly be denied that the work of his life was great in conception and great in execution, or that the creator of the South Kensington Museum did as much as any man of his time to recover the industrial arts of his country from the almost hopeless degradation into which they had fallen at the middle of the present century.
Issue 30486. © The Times 1882