Once Upon a Time, long, long ago – probably the early 1930s – a postcard publishing business known as the Scholastic Production Company was established in Belfast.

They produced an eclectic and wonderful range of cards covering topographical views, social life and artist’s work. In 1943 they were operating from the fourth floor of the Riddels Arcade in central Belfast.

Most of their cards covered subjects in the North East of Ulster – the six counties that constitute Northern Ireland – with the occasional art card of Connemara and Killarney. They even reached the Isle of Man, although I have only recorded two cards of Manx views but there are probably more.

Riddels Arcade Belfast

Sadly, in December 1955 the company was wound up and I have been unable to find out anything about the fate of their archives or, indeed, anything else. It’s not clear whether they were went out of business due to financial difficulties or the retirement of the owners. I have a feeling that their demise may have been caused by the former if their somewhat shambolic publishing efforts are anything to go by. Cards were printed on all sorts of card stock from the most flimsy (unusable) to heavy card. Print quality varied wildly from extremely good to absolutely woeful.

Many cards bore no identification numbers or titles; sometimes they had one or the other, or both – or none! All that said, their cards, particular the artist ones, have a quality and charm not encountered from any other Irish publisher. The bulk of the colour cards were printed in Switzerland by the firm of Stehli Bros., Zurich (1902-1995). This firm also seemed to print their own editions of the art cards with no reference to Scholastic Productions.

A Scholastic logo  Scholastic logo

Cards carried a variety of company logos but sometimes just a simple line of text stating published by Scholastic Production Co.

Later cards stressed British manufacture throughout – presumably to distance themselves from other postcard publishers such as Raphael Tuck & Sons and their German ancestry?

In defence of the company it must be said that they were operating in extremely difficult times with war raging across Europe for much of their existence. This would have had a dire affect on sales and availability of card stock, not to mention the difficulty of importing of cards from Switzerland. Wartime rationing was just coming to an end across much of Europe, including the UK and Ireland, at the time of the company’s closure.

How many cards were issued we will probably never know – their series ran up to 9,000 –  but given their eccentric numbering system and relatively short time in business it’s hardly possible that anything remotely approaching this number of different cards were published. They are certainly scarce online and I have only catalogued some 230 cards in several years collecting. The b/w Real photo cards are particular hard to spot while trawling through thousands of listings online but occasionally one jumps out. The art cards are easy to identify – the crinkled edges being a dead giveaway – and many are printed on a type of card that gives them a pleasing art canvas type appearance.

The artists who supplied their work to the company are nearly as elusive as Scholastic themselves and with the exception of Maurice Wilks, Gladys Maccabe and David Livingston I have turned up little or no information.

Anyway, that’s the little I know on the subject of the Scholastic Production Company. I would be very grateful to hear from anybody with the slightest snippet of information that would help piece together its history, and that of the proprietors, staff and artists.

David Parks

24th April, 2018