A large pair of printed and overprinted prize winning pigeon certificates presented by The East Reading Flying Club.
OLD BIRDS RACE - from Penzance to Reading, 222 miles, June 11th, 1898, first prize won by an unnamed pigeon owned by Mr J Knight. With notation by hand "Strong wind NE. Only bird home same day."
YOUNG BIRDS RACE - from Exeter to Reading, 123 miles, August 7th, 1897, first prize won by an unnamed pigeon owned also by Mr J Knight.
Such certificates are interesting both because they are quite rare survivors, but also they give some insight into the prestige given to these races and also into the 'certificate business' of the time.
These certificates were printed by F Waller, printer, lithographer and publisher of 18 Hatton Garden, London EC. Examples of the company's work are held in the Royal Collection, The Science Museum and the Welcome Collection.
I was surpised to learn that such a successful printer should turn his hand to printing racing pigeon award certificates, but there must have been a large demand and a profit to be made.
There were a range of certificates available from which to choose, the ones here being No 3 and 4, both copyrighted and the design lodged with the Stationers Hall.
Each gilded and embellished design would carry a different image of a generic pigeon in colour, shown in profile, standing on a ledge, and taking approximately two thirds of the space of the certificate.
The issuing club, in this case the East Reading Flying Club, would choose one of the certificate designs, which would then be overprinted in black, in the bottom third of the space, with the club and race details. The final details would be filled in by hand on the day of the race.
British Folk Art School late 19th century.
Framed in their plain wood frames with gilt slip.
Sight: 11.5" x 15" (29cm x 38cm)
Frame: 13.5" x 18” ( 34cm x 48cm)
For those interested in the background to the racing pigeon world, a very interesting article can be found on the internet entitled:
PIGEON RACING AND WORKING-CLASS CULTURE IN BRITAIN, c. 1870–1950, by Martin Johnes
History Department, Swansea University
Pigeon racing was immensely popular amongst male industrial workers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article offers an overview of the history of pigeon racing in this period before moving on to explore the sport’s multiple meanings for those who took part.
Pigeon racing offered not only the thrills and excitement of racing but also the more sedate and intellectual rewards of breeding and rearing the birds. The pigeon loft was a masculine enclave and a retreat from the pressures of domestic life for some, although for others it was an opportunity to share time with their family.
As such, pigeon racing demonstrates the complexities of working- class masculinity. Pigeon keeping was also expensive, time consuming and required space. The article thus concludes by arguing that despite the agency workers were able to exercise over their leisure, they were still restricted by wider material constraints."