This month we are celebrating Christmas at the Co-op, showing images of how Co-operative Societies prepared for the festive season. As well as photographs, there are examples of publications the co-operative movement produced in the run up to Christmas. These images from the National Co‑operative Archive Co-operative Press and Co-operative Union photographic collections show how co-operative societies prepared for the busy Christmas period and the ways in which they promoted their business during the festive season. Co‑operative societies often produced catalogues, illustrating the different gifts that could be purchased, which ranged from children’s toys to items for the home. Societies also gave the dividend on these purchases which gave shoppers an incentive to buy their gifts from co-op stores, as the customer received a payment proportional to the amount of money they spent in store. Co-op stores would be decorated and some would hold bazaars and have Santa’s Grotto in the store.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society also produced seasonal cakes and biscuits from their factory at Crumpsall, Manchester, and shop window displays would be full with Christmas fare.
The co-operative movement produced magazines and journals, for both society members and employees. One of these, Women’s Outlook, contained recipes that focussed on economical cooking. Issues produced during the Second World War gave recipes and ideas to make rations go further and be more frugal while still enjoying the festive season.
This time of year is also significant for the co-operative movement; The first day of trading of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Co-operative Society was on 21 December 1844, and the Co-operative Wholesale Society was started in December 1863.
- Sophie Stewart, Assistant Archivist, National Co-operative Archive.
This month we highlight descriptions for the records of co-operative societies, and other descriptions for the records of other retailers. There are also links to selected websites and suggested reading.
National Co-operative Archive collections
- James Vincent Glover (active 1950s): James Vincent Glover was a layout artist at the headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society in Manchester. His artwork includes packaging, leaflets and flyers, and magazine pages advertising various products.
- Co-operative Retail Services (Northern Region): the Co-operative Retail Services or CRS (Northern Region) – along with the London and South East, Midland and South West regional branches – began life in 1934 under the original title of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) Retail Society.
- Co-operative Press Photographic Collection: the Co-operative Press stems from 1871 when the first edition of the Co-operative News was published. This collection contains photographs that were used in the Co-operative News. It contains photographs of events and individuals.
- South East Retail Group: the South East Retail Group (CWS) was formed in 1985 following the merger of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS) in 1985 and South Suburban Co-operative Society (SSCS) in 1984 into the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS)..
- Crumpsall Biscuit Works (CWS): founded in the 1870s and boasted being "the only 8 hour day biscuit works in England".
- Valentines of Dundee Ltd: Christmas card manufacturers established in 1851, and still in business today as a subsidiary of John Waddington Ltd.
Links are provided to records on Copac for these items. The Copac library catalogue gives free access to the merged online catalogues of major University, Specialist, and National Libraries in the UK and Ireland, including the British Library. For more information about accessing items see the FAQs on the Copac website.
- The CWS in War and Peace 1938-1976 by William Richardson (1977) records on Copac
- More Than Just a Shop: the History of the Co-op in Lancashire by Jean Turnbull and Jayne Southern (1995) records on Copac
- Consumerism and the Co-operative Movement in Modern British History: Taking Stock edited by Lawrence Black and Nicole Robertson (2009) records on Copac
- Christmas on the Home Front 1939-1945 by Mike Brown (2004) records on Copac
- Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance by Clement A. Miles (1976, originally published 1912) records on Copac
- The Spirit of Christmas Past by Linda Clements (1996) records on Copac
Links are also provided here to records on Zetoc for these items. Zetoc provides access to the British Library's Electronic Table of Contents. Using Zetoc allows you to search the tables of contents of approx. 20,000 current journals and approx. 16,000 conference proceedings published per year. The database covers 1993 to date. For more information about accessing items see the FAQs on the Zetoc website..
- Food in a Time of War: Food Rationing in Britain during World War II by J. P. Alcock (Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, 2007)
- The King's Christmas pudding: globalization, recipes, and the commodities of empire by K. O'Connor (Journal of Global History, 2009)
- The Labour Party and the Co-op, 1918-58 by K. Manton (Historical Research, 2009)
These links have all been reviewed and catalogued by Intute. Intute is a free online service that helps you to find the best web resources for your studies and research. With millions of resources available on the Internet, it can be difficult to find useful material. Intute subject specialists review and evaluate thousands of resources to help you choose the key websites in your subject. .
- Rochdale Pioneers Museum: preserves the original co-operative store of the Rochdale Pioneer (Rochdale, Greater Manchester)
- Wartime Christmas Dinner: amateur colour film of a family enjoying Christmas Day, 1939 (Films from the Home Front website) [film clip requires Windows Media Player or QuickTime] >
- Christmas Under Fire: propaganda film showing life going on as usual, 1941 (BFI screenonline website) [film clip requires Windows Media Player]
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