Hoard it

Vintage WHSmith 1960s wrapping paper

This week Shelf Appeal was referred to as someone who ‘likes paper bags and cake’. There is no defense against this definition. It is true. Herewith, then, some paper of old and dusty appearance. Shelf Appeal would not want to disappoint fans.

WHSmith have been present on the British high street since 1828. They sold books and stationery then, they sell them today. Photographs of the early shops are fairly easy to find. And very smart they were too. Some few beautiful Carter tiles are left on facades, occasionally you trip over an example on travels and have to whip out a camera and partake of the loveliness. WHSmith opened their first railway booth in Euston station in 1848 which is such a nice thing to read as they have one there still.

The paper used to wrap their stationery purchases is, funnily enough, less well documented. Shelf Appeal has a couple of bits of WHSmith paper. This one is particularly pretty. And probably of mid-late 1960s vintage. The abstract roundels reveal, if you look carefully: a sad looking bear, an ink quill, ink bottle and parchment (I like to think it is parchment, not simply thick wannabe parchment paper), a book with generous looking eraser (remember those blue and cream erasers?) and a decorative arabesque which, if you have had too much coffee, looks a bit like one of Braque’s birds.

The logo here is simply ‘smith’s’, lowercase and lovely. WHSmith look to have played quite a lot with their logo over the years. Probably each time someone new took over the governing board and wanted to update their look to appeal to those young folk. Happily the ‘WH’, which stood for William Henry, is back with it’s Smith these days.

It can be confidently asserted that these sorts of scraps of paper were taken off purchases at the time, folded and stored in a drawer somewhere. Probably piles and piles of them. To ‘come in useful’ one day. The same was and is – by relatives of a certain vintage – done with plastic carrier bags. It is an ephemerist’s propinquitous dream, this storing of packaging. For if odd sorts didn’t hoard, other odd sorts would not be able to handle, collect and write about these things.



Very nice, (tho I’ve got a crick in my neck from rotating 90 degrees counterclockwise to see it properly). Would have made a great Smiths inner-sleeve, minus the apostrophe.

simon robinson

I would have thought earlier than the sixties, maybe there is a history somewhere which gives details of the WHS rebranding it clearly attempts to champion. 1950s? But a lovely survival.


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