(* Tony Woolrich returns with another fascinating article on Ellison Hawks, populariser of science and engineering for children.)
Ellison Hawks was born in Hull on 13 March, 1889. According to the 1901 Census his family had moved to Lower Bebington, Cheshire, about five miles south east of Birkenhead. He was educated at Bebington College, Rock Ferry, Wirral and William Hulme Grammar School, Manchester. At the age of 15 he became a junior clerk with the Commercial Union in Leeds, rising to the position of Chief Clerk by 1914. He was an enthusiastic stamp collector, and also a racing motor-cyclist. He was much interested in science and joined the Leeds Astronomical Society in 1908, being elected Secretary in 1911, and Editor shortly afterwards. He embarked on a career as a successful lecturer and writer of popular science books, publishing his first book in 1910 and two more before 1914. Hawks later became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and of the Zoological Society.
At the outset of the First World War he enlisted as a motorcycle despatch-rider with the Royal Naval Air Service, and was later commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery, 49 Territorial Division, achieving the rank of Captain. He was gassed at the Somme in July 1916, and once recovered he was appointed Assistant Provost Marshall, Northern Command, where he served for the next three years. In 1917 he privately published a volume of letters written from the Somme. Between 1914 and 1922 he edited for T. C. & E. C. Jack, London, the 10 volumes of the “Romance of Reality” Series.
On demobilisation he initially aimed to become a full-time writer, but was planning to marry, so he joined Hornby’s, the makers of Meccano, in 1921 as Advertising Manager and nominal editor of Meccano Magazine. In the same year he married Edna Fawcett, with whom he had a son and two daughters.
Meccano Magazine was at first a four page leaflet distributed free but by 1932 it was selling 70,000 copies of every eighty-page issue at a price of 6d. and was available in a variety of different languages. Later the circulation reached 100,000. Around 200 letters a day were sent to the editor. As well as sections devoted to Meccano construction, to Hornby railway sets, and, for a time, to radio, the magazine also included material of general engineering and scientific interest, often relating to the Empire to which the company exported much.
Hawks was also responsible for the production of annual world-wide advertising campaigns for the company products, and for translation into sixteen languages. He was responsible for setting up and running the Meccano Guild, comprising 700 clubs and more than 75,000 active members.
During the 1920s and into the late 1930s Hawks wrote a number of popular boys’ books about engineering and science which were published by Harraps and other firms, producing as many as two or three titles a year. As well as reflecting his interest in astronomy, geology and natural history, he also covered railways, engineering, radio, and transport.
Hawks left Hornbys in 1935 to take up a post with the Amalgamated Press as General Editor, and was given the task of creating a new periodical Dog Owner. This folded at the outset of the Second World War. Hawks’s time at the Amalgamated Press overlapped the period when Clarence Winchester was producing his four part-works about engineering, railways, shipping and aircraft, but his name does not appear in any list of contributors in the volumes.
He was an accomplished nature photographer, and for a number of years took the photographs used to illustrate his books; these totalled 8000 negatives and he marketed prints of them to publishers. His next venture was to set up Real Photographs Ltd at Liverpool in about 1937. The business moved to Southport. in 1942. Real Photographs specialised in providing prints of Railways, Aeroplanes and Ships. but they also published booklets; the full list of titles they published has not been established, but Hawks wrote at least a dozen of them and would have edited a number more. During the war the books were much used by the services for teaching recognition of shipping and aircraft, and the firm also published a monthly magazine, The R P News, which advertised their products. In 1947 Hawks went into partnership with Stanley J Rhodes to set up a photo-processing plant at Ramsgate to handle production for the company. In 1948 larger premises at Broadstairs were acquired. Various collections of railway photographs were acquired in the 1950s and added to the catalogue. After Hawks’s death in 1971 his partner bought the collection from the estate. Later it was split, the aircraft material being sold to an aircraft photographer at Cranwell, but now lost trace of. The shipping and railway material was sold in 1981 to the Ian Allan Group. The railway negatives were later acquired by the National Railway Museum, but the fate of the shipping negatives is not known.
At the start of the War Hawks wrote for the Odhams Press, five books, one on science, one about the way the Services were organised and three explaining how things were done and made. They were profusely illustrated with explanatory monochrome photographs and drawings. Many of the latter were cutaways, a number signed by Walkden Fisher, L. G. Goodwin, Leo Mander, [Kenneth] Sibley and L. A. W. [Lesley Ashwell Wood]. A number had clearly been recycled from Modern Wonder drawings, which Odhams had previously published.
After the War it was his intention to establish a publishing house, Ellison Hawks Ltd, producing informative books about science and technology for young people, but only four titles have been traced with this imprint, so it would appear his project foundered. Instead, he embarked on writing manuals about motor cars, which he had begun before the Second World War, published by Gregg Publishing and latterly by Cassells, these appearing between 1934 and 1965.
Hawks was an expert breeder of Irish and later English Setters, and was a well-known judge of gun-dogs. He was interested in psychical research.
Throughout his writing career Hawks also wrote scientific papers, articles in encyclopaedias and general science works, magazines, periodicals and newspapers, but exact details for most are not known. It is known, however, that in the 1930s he contributed articles to Jack’s New Age Encyclopaedia, Wonder Book of Wonders, Birds of our Country, Trees and Flowers of our Country, Wonder Book of Nature, Wonder Book of Engineering, Boy’s Book of Hobbies, Wireless World and Knowledge in Pictures.
Hawks also had business interests outside publishing, being managing director of Poland’s Packing Cases, Ltd [of Southport], Direct Trading Organisation Ltd [of Liverpool, which sold the Triplico 9.5mm silent ciné projector] and New Mornington Hotels Ltd.
In his retirement he moved to 20 Delamare Road, Ainsdale. After suffering arthritis and heart trouble for some years Hawks died on 5 April 1971 aged 82. A collection of his papers relating to astronomy were acquired in 1972 by Liverpool Museum, including a number of letters. These were re-discovered in 2003.
Hawks’s life was an astonishing achievement for someone who started work at the age of 15, and it is clear he must have had boundless ability, self-confidence and drive to have achieved all he did.
A curious feature of Hawks’s life is that through his links with Southport, he had an indirect link to the start of Eagle. Walkden Fisher, the artist, educated in Southport , illustrated some of Hawks’s Odhams books and books later published by Ellison Hawks Co. Fisher drew for Eagle, and Frank Hampson, originator of Dan Dare, was brought up in Southport as well. Hawks must have known Hampson, since as a boy he had contributed prize-winning drawings for Meccano Magazine.
The following list has been compiled from the list in Who is Ellison Hawks?, 1946, augmented by the online British Library Catalogue, COPAC and WorldCat, plus titles noted by book dealers in ABE. Many of the books went into several editions, but the earliest ones traced are the ones noted. More references might undoubtedly be added for his publishing activities with Real Photographs Co. and Ellison Hawks Co.
Chronological list of books written or edited by Ellison Hawks
Stars; shown to the children. London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, 1910.
Bees; shown to the children. London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, 1911.
Astronomy. Halifax, Milner, 1913, [XXth Century Science Series]
The Boys' Book of Astronomy. London, Grant Richards, 1914.
The Earth; shown to the children. London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, 1914.
A Subaltern's Letters from the Somme. Beccles, William Clowes and Sons, 1917.
The Romance and Reality of Water in Nature. London, T.C. and E.C. Jack, 1919.
The Microscope; shown to the children. London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, 1920. [available at the Internet Archive]
The Romance and Reality of Astronomy. London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, 1922
The Romance and Reality of Radio. London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, 1923.
Engineering for Boys. London, T. C. & E. C. Jack, [1923.]
Wonders of Speed. London, London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, 1924.
Pioneers of Wireless. London , Methuen & Co., 1927.
Pioneers of Plant Study. London, MacMillan for SPCK, 1928. [This book was originally planned, and some parts of it written, in collaboration with George Simonds Boulger.]
The Book of Remarkable Machinery. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1928.
The Triumph of Man in Science and Invention. London, T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1929.
The Book of Electrical Wonders, etc. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1929.
The Wonders of Engineering. London, Methuen & Co., 1929.
My Book of Trains. London, London, T. C. & E. J. Jack 1930.
The Railway Book for Boys. London, T. C. & E. J. Jack, [1930.]
The Romance of Transport, etc. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1931.
The Romance of the Merchant Ship, etc. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1932.
The Book of Natural Wonders, etc. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1932.
The Book of Air & Water Wonders, etc. London. G. G. Harrap & Co., 1933.
The Book of the Warship, etc. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1933.
The Starry Heavens. London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1934.
Electricity for Boys. London, Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1936.
When I leave school. The choice of a career. Wheaton, Exeter, 1936.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Science. London, Odhams Press, 1939.
How it works and how it's done. London, Odhams Press, 1939.
Britain's Wonderful Fighting Forces. London. Odhams Press, 1940.
Everyday Things and their Story. London, Odhams Press, 1940.
How it is Made: Ships-Aeroplanes-Railways-Motor Cars-Bridges-Roads-Tunnels-Newspapers-Films-Radio Receivers-Houses. London, Odhams Press, 1940.
Real Photographs Co.
The identification of allied and enemy War Planes. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., 1940.
Jet-propelled aircraft, how it works, brief history of the various systems of the internal combustion turbine, “V1” flying bomb, etc. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., 1940.
Interior detail of war planes. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., 1940.
More interior detail of war planes. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., 1940.
The Book of the Spitfire. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., c.1940.
The book of the Wellington War Plane. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., 1940.
Navigation: finding the way at sea. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., c.1940.
The identification of British and enemy War Planes. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., 1941.
The identification of British and American war planes. Liverpool, Real Photographs Co., 1942.
Aircraft-carriers of Great Britain, USA, and axis nations. Southport, Real Photographs Co., 1942.
American-type designations, explaining the system of naming and numbering of U. S. Aircraft. Southport Real Photographs Co Ltd., 1942.
Naval episodes. Southport, Real Photographs Co Ltd., 1943.
A Short history of the RAF. Southport, Real Photographs Co. Ltd., 1943.
The War in the Air (series):
__The War in the Air: Fighters of the Present War. Southport, Real Photographs Co. Ltd., 1943.
__The War in the Air: Bombers of the present war. Southport, Real Photographs Co. Ltd., 1944.
__The War in the Air: More Fighters of the Present War. Southport, Real Photographs Co. Ltd., 1944.
Warship Recognition. Southport, Real Photographs Co., 1944.
Aircraft Recognition Drawing Book. Southport, Real Photographs Co. Ltd., 1944.
British Seaplanes Triumph in the International Schneider Trophy Contests, 1913-1931. Southport, Real Photographs Co., 1945.
Ellison Hawks Co
What Shall I do after the War? With notes on professions and occupations likely to provide employment for those who have served in the Forces, or have been engaged in other war work. Southport, E Hawks Ltd., 1945.
Who is Ellison Hawks?. Southport, Ellison Hawks Ltd., c.1946.
Toys We Make at Home, etc. Southport, Ellison Hawks Ltd 1946.
This Wonderful World, illus. Walkden Fisher. Southport, Ellison Hawks, 1947.
The Book of the Popular Ford-and 8 h.p. Ford. London, Gregg Publishing Co., 1934.
The Book of the 'De Luxe' Ford, 10 h.p. London, Gregg Publishing Co., 1935.
The Book of the 'De Luxe' Ford (10 hp). London, The Gregg Publishing Co. Ltd, 1947.
The Book of the Ford "Anglia". London, Gregg Publishing Co., 1948.
The Book of the Ford "Prefect" 10 h.p. London, Gregg Publishing Co., 1948.
The Book of the Austin 10. London, Gregg Publishing Co., 1951.
The Gregg Book of the Austin A40. London, Gregg Publishing Co., 1952.
The Cassell Book of the Austin 10. (Second edition.), London, Cassell & Co., 1953.
The Cassell Book of the Austin A40. (Second edition.) London, Cassell & Co., 1953.
The Cassell Book of the Ford 'Prefect,' 1938-1953 models. (2nd edition.) London, Cassell & Co., 1954.
The Cassell Book of the Ford "Zephyr" & "Zodiac," 1951-6. London, Cassell & Co., 1956.
The Cassell Book of the Ford "Popular". London, Cassell & Co., 1955.
The Cassell Book of the Ford "Consul". London, Cassell & Co., 1956.
The Cassell Book of the Austin A40 Somerset. London, Cassell & Co., 1955.
The Cassell Book of the Austin A30 'Seven' 1951-6. London, Cassell & Co., 1958.
The Cassell Book of the Ford 'New Anglia,' from 1953. London, Cassell & Co., 1958.
The Cassell Book of the Morris Minor, Series M. M. London, Cassell & Co., 1959.
The Cassell Book of the Standard Eight, 1953 to 1955. London, Cassell & Co., 1959.
The Cassell Book of the Ford 'New Prefect,' 1953-8. London, Cassell & Co., 1959.
The Cassell Book of the Ford "Anglia", 1940-53. (Fifth edition.) London, Cassell, 1959.
The Cassell Book of the Austin A35, 1957-9. London, Cassell, 1960.
The Cassell Book of the Morris Minor, Series II. London, Cassell, 1960.
The Cassell Book of the Standard Ten, from 1954. London, Cassell 1960.
The Cassell Book of the Standard Vanguard Mark I, 1948-1953. London, Cassell, 1961.
The Cassell Book of the Vauxhall Victor, Series I, 1957-9. London, Cassell, 1962.
The Cassell Book of the Morris Minor 1000. London, Cassell, 1963.
The Cassell Book of the Ford 'New Anglia', 1953-59. (Fourth edition.) London, Cassell, 1963.
The Cassell Book of the Austin A40 'Devon,' 1947-1952. (Tenth edition.) London, Cassell 1963.
The Cassell Book of the Ford New Anglia 105E, from 1959. London, Cassell, 1964.
The Cassell Book of the Vauxhall Velox and Cresta. Series E, 1951-7. London, Cassell, 1964.
The Cassell Book of the Standard Vanguard, Series II. 1953-5. London, Cassell, 1964.
The Cassell Book of the Ford Zephyr and Zodiac Mark II, 1957-62. London, Cassell 1965.
The Cassell Book of the Standard Vanguard. Series III, 1955-8. London, Cassell, 1965.
I am most grateful to Ken Clark, Hon Secretary of Liverpool Astronomical Society, who made scans of pamphlets Hawks produced; to Ms Marianne Elliott, Assistant Curator, Physical Science, Liverpool Museum for providing me with copies of catalogue entries and transcripts of Hawks’s letters; and to Mr Ray Emory, past President, Leeds Astronomical Society who provided information from minute books about Hawks’s involvement with the Society.
Nature Photographs, c1930, [4 page leaflet describing the service he offered publishers and journalists]
Who is Ellison Hawks?. Southport, Ellison Hawks, Co. Ltd. 1946 [8 page leaflet about Hawks, with list of his publications to 1961]
Stanley J. Rhodes, The ‘Real Photographs story’, British Railways Journal, vol 7, pt 58, pp 179-93, 1995
Hawks, Ellison, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920-2007; online edition, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007.