Sunday, May 17, 2009
Book illustrator and cartoonist Peter Fraser was born in the Shetland Islands on 6 November 1888. At some stage he moved to the south east of England and his entry in Who’s Who in Art records him as working in the City (1907-10) and studying art at the Central School of Arts & Crafts. He also took a correspondence course in art through a Percy Bradshaw correspondence course.
At what stage his art training began is not known but it is possible that both courses were undertaken in his spare time whilst otherwise employed. His first cartoon was published by Punch in 1912 and he went on to become a regular contributor until 1941. Other magazines that accepted his work were Tatler, Sketch, Happy Days, Time & Tide, Humorist and Passing Show.
During the Great War Fraser served in France for three years as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery. His career in art started to blossom in the early years after the war and his first book, Funny Animals, was published by Nelson in 1921. During the next decade he contributed illustrations to many of the Children’s Annuals that proliferated in the 1920s from publishers such as Blackie, Thomas Nelson, Hulton Press and Frederick Warne.
In 1924 he was commissioned by Mardon, Son & Hall to prepare a series of 50 cigarette cards for the tobacco firm Stephen Mitchell. The series was titled “Humorous Drawings” and Peter Fraser was credited as the artist on the reverse of the cards, which does indicate that his name was likely to be known to smokers of the time. Although Mitchell was based in Scotland and that they patriotically used a Scottish born artist, only one of the fifty cartoons in the set has a Scottish angle to it. A confectionery company, H J Packer of Bristol, also issued this series using the identical artwork in 1936.
Mardon’s must have been impressed with Fraser as in 1926 they called on him to prepare the artwork for another humorous series, this time for Ogden’s of Liverpool. The series was one of 25 cards titled “ABC of Sport”. The reverse consisted of a humorous rhyme that related to the scene illustrated but the artist’s name was not mentioned.
Although no other cigarette card series are credited to him Fraser did prepare a number of rough sketches for a potential card issue in the late 1940s. These were titled “Seascapes & Ships” but as cigarettes were in short supply after the war the Imperial Group did not have the need to advertise them and this, and other proposed card series, were abandoned
During the 1930s Fraser began to develop one of his signature characters, a small terrier type dog, and this friendly creature took a starring role in Tufty Tales which was published in 1932 by Frederick Warne. This had the accolade of stating on the front cover “A Peter Fraser Book”. This publication probably led to him being asked to design a series of six postcards for M&L in their National Series, where the dog is pictured in a number of humorous scenes.
Another prominent part of Fraser’s output revolved round street urchins and some of these had already been seen in his Punch cartoons and in his first series of cigarette cards. It is recorded that Fraser worked with deprived children in the East End of London and the likelihood is that this is where he picked up inspiration for many of his sketches. Certainly, an excellent book, Humour in the East End by Wilfred Harrison (Epworth Press, 1933), is full of superb jokes most of which hold up well even today. Although not listed by the British Library a follow-up called More Humour in the East End was published three years later.
With the outbreak of World War II Fraser was commissioned by the Ministry of Information to design a poster as part of a series created to encourage food production at home. His design of a gardener striding along with a basketful of produce and a fork casually held over his shoulder became one of the iconic images of the war. The slogan used, “Dig on for Victory” suggests that the poster was a follow up to earlier designs in the “Dig for Victory” campaign.
During the 1940s Fraser’s book illustrations entered its most prolific phase. In particular, he collaborated extensively with Edith Fraser but so far I have not been able to trace whether she was his wife, a sister or just someone with the same surname. The entry for Peter Fraser in Who’s Who in Art does state that he was married with two sons and gives an address of Grunnavoe, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent. Chuffy, Floppity-Hop and Helping Mrs Wigglenose were among the titles that emerged from the fruitful Fraser partnership. Also probably dating from the 1940s or perhaps earlier is a series of children’s china wear from James Kent titled “Animal Frolics”. Peter Fraser’s name is quoted on the underside of the items with the registration number 846382.
Two titles in the listing below are attributed to 1949 and these must have been among the last books to carry Peter Fraser’s work as he died on 5th March 1950. Many of the juvenile books were undated and so in the list I have quoted the dates given by the British Library. A search of the British Library catalogue accounts for most of the ‘books illustrated’ section, although others have come from Abebooks and my own collection.
Books (all illustrated by the author)
Funny Animals. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1921.
Animals at Play. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1922.
Tufty Tales. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1932.
Higgledy Piggledy Tales. London, Frederick Warne, 1935.
Moving Day. London, Pocket Editions, 1945.
Humour in the East End by Wilfred H Harrison. London, Epworth Press, 1933.
The King’s Pipe by J E Gurdon. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1934.
More Humour in the East End by Wilfred H Harrison. London, Epworth Press, 1936.
Rough Island Story by William Moffatt. London, Heath Cranton, 1936.
Dog Nelson A.B. by Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell. London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1938.
Twilight Over Shetland by William Moffatt. London, Heath Cranton, 1939.
The Voyage to There and Back by Edith Fraser. London, Hutchinson, 1939.
Chuffy by Edith Fraser. Leicester, Franklyn Ward & Wheeler, 1942.
Buster Bunny’s Birthday by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1944.
Duckling the Dunce by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1944.
Floppity-Hop by Edith Fraser. Leicester, Franklyn Ward & Wheeler, 1944.
Helping Mrs Wigglenose by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1944.
Jack & Jock’s Great Discovery by Edith Fraser. London, Partridge Publications, 1944.
Sandy’s Silver Sixpence by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow, 1944.
Billy Bobtail Goes to School and Small Town Sports by Edith Fraser. Glasgow, Art & Educational Publishers, 1945.
Bunky the Bear Cub, and, Peter the Penguin by Edith Fraser. Glasgow, Art & Educational Publishers, 1945.
Camping Out by Edith Fraser. London, Pocket Editions, 1945.
The New Recruit by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1945.
The Blackberry Picnic by Susan Rye. London, Pictorial Art, 1946.
Close Quarters by Dorothy Hellings. London, Robert Ross & Co., 1947.
Grumble-Grumble by George F Evans. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1947.
Bevis and the Giant by Susan Rye. London, Partridge Publications, 1948.
John and Ann by Edith Fraser. London & Glasgow, Children's Press, 1949.
The Little Good People. Folk tales of Ireland by Kathleen Foyle. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1949.
Tales from Scotland by Beryl Jones. Evans Bros, 1949.
Little Jack Sprat and Betty Blue by Dorothy A. King. Lodnon, Blackie & Sons, 1953. [cover only]
Contributions to Annuals, etc
Animal Frolics (Thomas Nelson)
Fun For Me (Blackie & Sons)
Happy Animals (Blackie & Sons)
Just What I Like (Blackie & Sons)
Once Upon a Time (Hulton)
School Yarns for Boys (Thomas Nelson)
Stories for Tiny Tots (Thomas Nelson)
Storytime (Blackie & Sons)
That’s Mine (Blackie & Sons)
The Chummy Book – various editions (Thomas Nelson)
The Jolly Book – various editions (Thomas Nelson)
The Joy Book – various editions (Hulton/Allied Newspapers)
Warne’s Happy Book for Toddlers (Warne)
Warne’s Top All Book for Toddlers (Warne)
Wee Folks Stories (Thomas Nelson)
(* Note: There was a playwright also named Peter Fraser active in the 1940s and a children's author of the same name active in the 1950s, this latter being the pen-name of Phoebe Catherine Coles.)