Monday, June 5, 2023

Seven Men Who Draw Funny Pictures


Clare Briggs, Jan 19, 1916



Literary Digest, August 14, 1920, author unknown

DRAWING A FINE PICTURE of Niagara Falls on the starched front of his father's dress shirt and standing up that night to eat his supper marked the first venture into art of Bud Fisher, creator of Mutt and Jeff. Now Mr. Fisher's drawings earn him a quarter of a million a year, he lives in a ten-room apartment on Riverside Drive, New York City, and we are told he is the possessor of a pearl-inlaid ukulele and a German police dog, to say nothing of a yacht and a fine country estate in England. Bud Fisher is one of seven nationally famous comic artists, not one of whom earns less than $25,000 a year, and at least three of whom receive salaries exceeding that of the President of the United States. The others are Rube Goldberg, of "Boob McNutt" fame; Clare Briggs, originator of "Skinnay"; Gene Byrnes, who portrays the antics of "Reglar Fellars"; T. A. (Tad) Dorgan, responsible for "Silk Hat Harry''; Fontaine Fox, who runs the ''Toonerville Trolley''; and George McManus, who lets the world in on "Bringing Up Father." 

To Jane Dixon, representing People's Favorite Magazine (New York), these gentlemen recently related the circumstances of their entering the cartoonists' profession and how they happened to develop the comic features which have made them famous. Of Mr. Fisher we learn that he was connected with the San Francisco Chronicle, covering the races at $15 a week, when he drew the first of the "Mutt and Jeff" series. He says:

"One evening I came into the office late. My ponies had all run backward that day and I was feeling low. I sat down, drew a picture of my own idea of myself, labeled it 'A. Mutt,' and handed it to the night editor.

"'That's a funny-looking bird,' said the N. E. 'Who is he?'

'"That's me,' I answered, 'A. Mutt.'

"The next day they sent Mutt to cover the races."

The success of A. Mutt was instantaneous. He began picking winners. His luck was uncanny. It seemed he could not lose. The editor of The Chronicle once told me race fans used to line up outside the building every morning for a block or more waiting to grab the first papers off the press for Mutt's tips.

Came the Reuff scandals in San Francisco. The Chronicle was bitterly opposed to the policies of the Reuff mayoralty ring. Bud Fisher took Mutt to visit a local insane asylum. There Mutt found little Jeff, and adopted him because, as he explained, "Jeff was the only man in the world crazier than Abe Reuff." The little fellow proved such a hit he was kept in the picture.

By way of the San Francisco Bulletin Bud Fisher came to New York, joined The American, moved on to The World. The trail leads upward in such leaps and bounds it has the effect of making the audience dizzy.

"Salesmanship?" says the leaper. "Sure. Make up your mind what you are worth and stick to it. Never ask more than you know you are worth. The other fellow may say you are crazy, but if you prove he is wrong he will not haggle with you the next time you come to sell your goods."

Today Mutt and Jeff are cashing in to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars a year. They are harvesting laughs from their cartoons, moving pictures, "legitimate" shows, and books in cities and jerkwater junctions of every State in the Union, not to mention Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, Australia, Canada, Cuba, and France. Even New Zealand joins in the chorus.

Rube Goldberg told the interviewer that the first picture he drew that brought results was one of his teacher. He admitted it did not flatter the lady much, but said the results made him sore for several days. Goldberg's father decided his son should be a mining engineer and to that end sent him to the University of California, where the young man drew some pictures for the college paper. Further:

"When I was graduated I went out into the gold-fields of California to embark upon my career of mining engineer. I suffered through two miserable months, with the drawing urge growing stronger every hour. Finally I packed my kit, went back to San Francisco, and told father he'd have to dig up another mining engineer for the family tree. He was disappointed but agreed to compromise on civil engineering. I was sent to the city hall, where I drew a hundred dollars a month and plans for sewerage systems. One day I dropped into the office of The Chronicle. The editor's son had been a college friend, and the governor was familiar with my work on The Pelican. He agreed to pay me eight dollars a week. I would gladly have worked for nothing.

"The drop from twenty-five per to eight did not sit well with the home folks. Father gave me up as hopeless. Not until I came in, many months later, and announced I had been raised to thirty-five dollars a week did he concede he might have been wrong about the mining stuff.

"From The Chronicle I went to The Bulletin, where the cartoonist was given a better show. Here I developed a New York bug. The editor offered me $50 a week to stay put, but it was the big town or nothing. Arrived in the city of my dreams, I peddled my drawings to every paper. I ended with The Mail, and there I landed. That was thirteen years ago. I've been on The Mail the entire stretch. To be successful, a fellow must keep his work moving along. The minute he stalls the engine popularity begins to slip through his fingers. And he must get better all the time. Just as good is not good enough. He must be out to beat his own record."

Clare Briggs went to school at the University of Nebraska, where General Pershing was his teacher in mathematics, a branch of learning in which the cartoonist admits he held the cup for remaining longer than anybody else at the foot of the class.

On one occasion, when the teacher's patience was completely exhausted, he yelled: "Briggs, sit down. You don't know anything." After that, says Briggs, there was nothing left for him to do but become a cartoonist, and on the advice of a friend he went to St. Louis to look for a job —

 "After several discouraging weeks I tackled The Globe-Democrat. I asked for $15 a week, on the principle you can't shoot a man for asking. They gave me a ten-spot. You should have heard my six-dollar friend howl from his perch on The Republic.

"Just as it seemed I was about to make my fortune on a twenty-five-dollar-a-week shift, and that I could go back home and claim the girl I was convinced every fellow with a grain of sense was trying to steal away from me, the half-tone picture came along and kicked the feet from under newspaper artists. It looked Kke the end of the world then, but it proved to be exactly the thing we needed. Now we were compelled to use our imaginations, our inventiveness.

"At the close of the Spanish-American War I was fired. I had enough left over to make a smoking-car trip to New York. My total fortune on reaching the big town was 15. For the next two years I lived mostly on nothing a week, the exception being an occasional comic to The World. The minute I hit the twenty-five dollar mark I made a flying leap out after the girl. Under her influence my star began to ascend. I received an offer from the Chicago Herald to draw sport cartoons. It was here I began my kid series, an idea inspired by the fact Chicago was thoroughly disgusted with the conduct of its baseball teams. I called my series ‘The Days of Real Sports.’ Skinnay and the pup brought me back to New York and to The Tribune. A great boy —Skinnay. He built me a fine home in the country, and the girl from home likes him."

In the picturesque Briggs home. New Rochelle, are three of the younger generation — a daughter of nineteen, a son of fourteen, and a girl of two. It is on the strength of the baby that the artist and the girl from home are collaborating on a new series, ‘What a Baby Thinks About.’ Says father Briggs: "As it is the finest baby in the world, it ought to be a bang-up series."

The Briggs house is built from the timbers of an old schooner reclaimed from a shipyard, because, as the owner explains it, he "hates anything new and shiny." It is situated on a rocky knoll, with a brook tumbling along at its base, and is the show place of a section where artistry and architecture go hand in hand.

There Clare Briggs, who asserts there should be a law passed permitting a man to change his name at will, plays at being a boy again. He drops down to the city in his trusty Cadillac long enough to turn out "When a Feller Needs a Friend," or "Somebody's Always Taking the Joy Out of Life," or "Ain't It a Grand and Glorious Feehng?" While in the city he visits his banker to see if the last quarterly ten or twenty thousand came in on time.

"Dinty Moore," the perpetual source of trouble between "Maggie" and "Jiggs" in that edifying drama, "Bringing Up Father," was first seen by George McManus in a show in St. Louis, where the cartoonist's father was in the theatrical business. McManus says he liked Dinty the minute he saw him and has been using him in his cartoons ever since. Of Mr. McManus's career we read:

"Nineteen seemed to me a fairly good age to start on the trail to fortune. I had saved a little money, and it bothered me. New York was the place to spread it. I hit the big town and found its possibilities as a playground had been greatly underestimated. Not until the bank-roll had melted did I bother about work. I was up against it, but too proud to wire home a distress signal. On the strength of some half-page series, the Sunday World gave me a six months' contract.

"My first character of importance was a tramp I called Panhandle Pete. Then I struck my first real pay streak. I met the girl who has since become Mrs. McManus. She was the inspiration for the 'Newlyweds,' serving as the model for the principal character. She went over big. Then came 'Let George Do It,' for The Evening World. Finally I signed a long contract with The Journal and American and started 'Bringing Up Father.''

Thomas A. Dorgan, "Tad," was brought up in San Francisco. His first job was on The Bulletin in that city, where he started at $3 a week. He fell down on an assignment, was fired, and had to work six months for nothing before he got back to three per once more. To quote Mr. Dorgan himself:

"Shortly after I hit the thirty-dollar mark —large money in those days—I had a letter from a man by the name of Brisbane. He said if I would come to New York, he would pay me $75 a week. I showed the letter to the boss's secretary, a young lady wise in the business.

'Forget it,' she said. 'The boys are kidding you.'

"I remember the gang held a heavy conference to decide whether the letter was a cheater or on the level. They came to the conclusion there wasn't that much money.

" I wrote to this Mr. Brisbane to find out what made him think he was one of the Morgans. Back came a note repeating the offer. My getaway broke all speed records in a town where traveling was never anything but the fastest. In New York I went to the address given in the letter and met Mr. Arthur

Brisbane, a power on The American. He offered to sign me for a year at the given figure. If he would only have made it a hundred years I would probably have choked to death in my haste to yell 'Let's go.'"

Fontaine Fox, who operates the "Toonerville Trolley," came from Louisville. His artistic bent manifested itself, when, at the early age of seven, he drew a train of four hundred freight cars on the new parlor wall-paper. Apparently his ability was not appreciated at home, for he was sent to Indiana University to become a lawyer or doctor. After leaving school, however,

he became connected with the Chicago Post. Further: He bethought him of the trick trolley-line which bounced him to and from work back in Louisville. Might be a good idea to try it out on the city folk. With the since-famous "Skipper" in charge, he sent the Toonerville trolley on its daily run through The Post. It carried the ambitious creator straight through to

success. At the same time he found "Thomas Edison, Jr.," trying on a discarded derby hat retrieved from an ash-pile in a vacant lot near his home. The junior Edison's mother caught her dear hopeful just as he was emerging from the lot, the hat riding well down over his ears.

" I followed the two of them to a barbershop, where the boy received one close haircut by way of punishment," says Mr. Fox. "I went home and drew my first kid cartoon. I have always been glad I followed that indignation meeting to the barbers.

"It took my father a long while to become reconciled to the absence of a handle at the end of my name. Even now he shakes his head and allows as how cartooning is a queer way to make a living."

Fate spoiled a perfectly good harness-maker when she made Gene Byrnes a cartoonist, according to his own version of the case. He says:

" I was booked to follow in my father's footsteps, but I lost the trail and started a shoe-repairing shop instead. I ran the first electric repair shop in Brooklyn -' Sole you while you wait.' My next job was selling a certain bug dispeller, for which I drew down the weighty recompense of $12 a week, with a promise of $15. One day I was sent to give a practical demonstration of my wares in a hotel. I couldn't stand the gaff, so I checked my stock and went to The Evening Telegram. "I had done considerable drawing for The Brooklyn Times but had given it up as a wrong lead. It took all my time explaining my 'balloons' to an editor who had charge of the comics during my stretch. He was the sort of a cuckoo who went to the Winter Garden and thought Frank Tunney was a tragedian.

"The Telegram editor agreed to give me a try-out. I turned in a one-panel comic, 'Reglar Fellers," After a while the editor informed me I would have to come across with something else; he was not running a seed catalog. The result was ‘It ' s a Great Life If You Don't Weaken.' The success of this strip encouraged me to try ' Wide-Awake Willie' for The Herald. You should see them now translating Willie for the Hungarian trade. It hands me a jolt every time I look at Willie done up in bundles, ready for his overseas journey. A fellow never knows how far he can go until he starts traveling."


Thursday, May 18, 2023

On The Queen's Service, A Tale of Many Lands –

 By J.J.G. Bradley

Now,” said the Foreign Secretary, “I have one more instruction to give you, and it is this: you will travel armed to the teeth, and defend your despatches with your life, for their loss may lose England the Crimean War. Travel night and day, sleep, even in your diligence, with one eye open, for perils will beset you every inch of your way – perils the magnitude of which you cannot guess…

There have been very few reprints of 19c penny bloods and dreadfuls, so it is a pleasure to have James Skipp Borlase’s (using the pseudonym “J.J.G. Bradley”) 1878 serial On the Queen’s Service, a Tale of Many Lands brought back to light in an affordable edition by Steve Holland through his imprint Bear Alley Books. It is a handsomely printed paperback, printed on very nice cream paper, with all of the original woodcut illustrations by Warwick Reynolds, who, in addition to his Boy’s Standard illustrations, contributed strips and cartoons to Judy; or, The London Serio-Comic Journal, Funny Folks, and C.H. Ross’s Variety Paper.

In the introduction Steve Holland describes Borlase story as written “clearly and straightforwardly,” true, and an ominous overlay of supernatural doom, mystery, and unreality hangs over Harry Dunbar’s hellish journey to the thick of the fighting in the Crimean Peninsula. The tone is unsettling, to this reader at any rate. 

One strange example is a fixation on the number 3. On his journey Dunbar picks up a traveling companion named Louis Foucarte. Their footsteps are dogged by Russian spies in groups of three, armed with double-barreled guns, and affecting a variety of nationalities; German, French, and Greek, fresh faces every time. Foucarte saves Dunbar from the Germans by bawling out “Potorogna! Brichka! Potorogna!” while holding forth a small square piece of wood painted with a double-headed eagle and bearing the words he had just uttered.

In addition, Foucarte has two doppelgängers, adding up to a trio: Frenchman Louis Foucarte, Kakalogg, a Russian noble, head of all the Russian spies in Europe, and Eugene Polacki, a Polish Count. Many years ago, when the serial was being discussed on the Yahoo Bloods and Dime Novels group one member compared it to Polish Count Jan Potocki’s massive, weird occult book The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (c. 1814). They are not that alike, but I can believe that Borlase quite possibly read the novel and adapted the tone, the idea of a strange and picaresque journey, and much more from that novel.

“A piercing scream, and a woman rushed out of the door, almost naked, with a bleeding shoulder, and in her arms a headless babe.

The passing ball had decapitated it.”

On the Queen’s Service is certainly the most curious penny dreadful Borlase ever penned. It was what collectors of penny dreadfuls described as “fierce bloods,” those serials containing the most blood, gore, flogging and nudity. Borlase was most obliging to those fans, supplying startling and horrible scenes in all his penny romances, and I think only the author of Jack Harkaway (Bracebridge Hemyng) ever surpassed him – in Jack Harkaway Out West Among the Indians.

I would highly recommend On the Queen’s Service, a Tale of Many Lands. As far as penny dreadfuls go it was the perfect choice for a reprint, a classic example of the genre, authored by one of the best of the penny parts novelists of the 1870s. All the Boy’s Standard/Hogarth House titles by J.J.G. Bradley are well worth the reading. It leaves me wanting more of the same, particularly when they are presented as attractively as this title, with the care and attention that they deserve. The book was sent by LULU well packaged, with square corners, no dents, fresh off the press. I think it says a lot that several people, no doubt attracted by the cover, who asked me what I was reading, have expressed interest in borrowing the volume. Next!

Details and Ordering Information can be found HERE.
Available in paperback, Kindle, and, in the UK and USA in hardcover.


Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Harmsworth's Comic Paper Rivals –

Cover: From an oil painting of comic publisher James Henderson, age 50, 1873

Alan Clark continues his dynamic paperback series covering early comic history in the UK by taking a step back in time to the late Victorian and Edwardian era of comic and story papers. (The last two volumes covered Comic Papers Between the Wars 1919-1939). The first issue of Comic Cuts, Harmsworth's first comic paper, was issued on May 17, 1890. It was a halfpenny eight page weekly and he followed up that same year with Illustrated Chips. Although he later distanced himself from the boys’ story papers he published, he was always proud of his comic publications.
At this time he came up with something called the ‘Schemo Magnifico.’ This was a written plan to overwhelm the competition with loads of periodicals featuring ‘bad paper and cheap printing.’ He published For-Get-Me-Not, aimed at ladies and shop-girls, and in 1892, the Funny Wonder. A new comic, Funny Bits: or Roars of Laughter, was registered but never published.

Like its predecessors Harmsworth's Comic Paper Rivals is a comic horn of plenty overflowing with rare photographs, images, history and biography of publishers, journalists, comic artists and story paper authors. The fascinating drawings and photographs include the known and the not-so-well-known, among them Charles Henry Ross, Dan Leno, Frank Richards, Derwent Miall, W.G. Baxter, Jack B. Yeats, John Proctor, Oliver Veal, &c., &c., &c.


[1] Alfred Harmsworth
[2] Trapps Holmes
[3] James Henderson
[4] Gilbert Dalziel
[5] C. Arthur Pearson,
[6] George Newnes
[7] T. Murray Ford
[8] Hits and Misses
[9] Rivals Gallery

Steve Holland's Bear Alley goes into much more detail HERE.

Alan Clark
Harmsworth's Comic Paper Rivals
A Half-Holiday Publication
First Edition 2023

Harmsworth's Comic Paper Rivals and other titles by Alan Clark are available HERE.


Monday, May 1, 2023

Adolph Christian Fera –


[1] LA HERALD, Feb 1, 1913

[2] LA HERALD, Dec 18, 1912

[3] CHICAGO EXAMINER, Sept 21, 1908

[4] LA HERALD, Feb 19, 1913

[5] LA HERALD, Jan 2, 1913

[6] LA HERALD, Feb 24, 1913

[7] LA HERALD, Nov 15, 1913


Wednesday, March 1, 2023


 ♠♠ by Robert J. Kirkpatrick  ♠♠

C.A. Ransom was once well-known as a collector of and dealer in penny dreadfuls, boys’ story papers and boys’ books. He ran a bookshop in London for many years, and he also sold items by mail order, advertising in boys’ papers. In the late 1920s he was also a publisher of cheap comics and paperbacks. At the same time, using the name Charles Dare, he was a major theatrical impresario, running a succession of minstrel troupes, owning theatres, and performing himself as a comedian and singer. The mystery is who exactly was C.A. Ransom, and how did he combine these two totally different careers? Indeed, was he one person or two?

Amongst the evidence that Ransom and Dare were the same person is Ransom’s Probate record, which gives the names “RANSOM Charles Albert or DARE Charles.” A brief obituary in The Era in June 1939 referred to “Charles Albert Ransom, well known as a provincial theatre manager under the name of Charles Dare.” An item in The Examiner on 8 May 1920, referring to Charles Dare’s activities running minstrel and pierrot shows on the Isle of Man, noted that his real name was Charles Albert Ransom. Alternatively, Bill Lofts and Derek Adley wrote (in an issue of The Association of Comic Enthusiasts Newsletter – date not known) that it was believed he was “born in London in 1858, his real name was Charles Dare, though for reasons unknown he later changed it to the familiar Charles Albert Ransom.” And Alan Clarke, in his Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors (1998), has an entry for Charles Dare as a “publisher of cheap comics under the name of C.A. Ransom.”

To begin with, there is no relevant birth record for either Charles Dare or Charles Albert Ransom. Census records suggest that Ransom was born in Shoreditch in 1868 or 1869. In fact, he was born on 4 November 1867, at 7 George Street, Shoreditch, with his birth certificate giving his name as Albert Charles. His father was John Ranson – the birth certificate has the name as “Ransom”, but the “m” has been amended to “n”. His mother is shown as “Elizabeth Ranson, formerly Watson.” John’s profession is shown as that of a gilder. The birth was registered by Elizabeth, who was unable to write, and signed the certificate with an “x”.

Lofts and Adley’s suggestion that Charles Dare was born in 1858 (see earlier) does not stand up – while there were a few Charles Dares born around then, their lives can be traced via census and other records, and none of them match with what is known about Dare.

Later census records suggest that both John and Elizabeth were born in Shoreditch in around 1830. Unfortunately, there were several John Ransons and John Ransoms born in and around that area of London in around 1830, and it is impossible to identify one as Charles Albert Ransom’s father. However, the 1901 census records both John and Elizabeth having been born in Bethnal Green. There are two birth records for a John Ranson born in Bethnal Green in 1831:  a John Ranson whose parents were Thomas and Mary, and a John James Ranson, whose parents were James John and Charlotte. The first John Ranson appears to have married Elizabeth Parsons Thomas in Bethnal Green in 1861; John James Ransom married Eliza Nicoll in Bethnal Green in 1853.

Otherwise, there appears to be no marriage record for John Ranson (or Ransom) and Elizabeth Watson, and there is no trace of either in the census records for 1841 and 1851. They do appear in the 1861 census, living at 9 Ebenezer Street, Shoreditch, under the name of Ransom, with John working as a gilder and having four children: Elizabeth, aged 12; Victoria, aged 7; Ann, aged 5; and William, aged 1. John is recorded as a “British subject” (suggesting he was born overseas), aged 34. In 1871, they appear, again under the name Ransom, living at 7 Devonshire Buildings, Shoreditch, with John (age given as 40) working as a gilder, and his second son simply recorded as Charles, aged 6. Also present was another daughter, Rosina, aged 8.

What happened to the four children recorded in the 1861 census is a mystery. A William Ransom, born around 1860, is recorded as having died in 1866, with the death registered in Whitechapel. Otherwise, most of the children do not appear in any future census records, and neither are there any death records. Rosina appears in only the 1891 census, working as a nurse and domestic servant in the household of Henry G.A. Rouse, a civil engineer, in Hornsey, London; and in the 1939 Register, where she is living in Wandsworth, described as a retired nurse, and her date of birth is given as 30 April 1862. She died in Chelsea in 1948.

(Possibly entirely coincidentally, after his death some of Ransom’s collection of penny bloods, story papers etc. were bought by John Medcraft, and in turn, after his death, some were acquired by Ronald E.J. Rouse. Born on 16 August 1922 in Norwich, Rouse was a subscriber to The Collector’s Digest, and occasionally advertised items for sale. He died in 1995. Whether or not Henry G.A. Rouse was a distant relative is not known.)

In the 1881 census Ransom is recorded as C. Ransom, living with his father (J. – a gilder, aged 53) and his mother (recorded simply as “B” – this may have been a mistranscription on the part of the enumerator, or it was shorthand for “Betty” or “Betsy”) at 18 Princes Court, Bethnal Green, and working as a messenger.

On 12 October 1889, as Charles Albert Ransom, he married Ellen Elizabeth Logdon at St. Saviour’s Church, Hoxton. At the time they were both living at 96 Bridport Place, Hoxton, with Charles described on the marriage record as a packer. Charles’s father was recorded as a gilder, and Ellen’s father, Harry Logdon, was a carpenter. Ellen herself was born in 1868 in Holloway, London, her mother being Ann Hogdon, née Fennell. Her father died in 1881, and records show that in May 1883 she, her mother and four sisters were in St. Olave’s Workhouse, Surrey, and were then moved to the Workhouse in Shoreditch.

The 1891 census throws up another mystery. Charles Ransom is shown as aged 22 (i.e. born in 1869), born in Shoreditch, working as a porter and living with his father John (recorded as a gilder and carver) and his mother Elizabeth at 7 Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green. Also present was his sister, named as Rose, and working as a nurse.  His wife was not listed.

However, there is also a record in the 1891 census for Charles Dare, born in Shoreditch in 1867, living at 233 Waterloo Road, Southwark, and working as a tobacconist and bookseller. His wife is shown as Ellen (born in Holloway in 1867) and there is a son, Charles, born in Bloomsbury and aged 8 months. (It was not unknown for someone to appear twice, at two different addresses, in the same census, although why Ransom/Dare should give two different ages is a mystery).

Charles Dare, The Era, Oct 19, 1901

This is the only appearance of a Charles Dare, of the appropriate date and place of birth, in the entire census record. Furthermore, there appears to be no birth record for a Charles Dare in 1890 (or, for that matter, for a Charles Ransom or Ranson), and neither does this second Charles appear in the 1901 and 1911 census records.

Charles Ransom is recorded in the 1901 census as Charles Albert Ransom, living with his wife and the first five of his seven children, at 296 Old Kent Road, and working as a bookseller. Ten years later, the family, now with seven children, was living at 38 Elm Grove, Peckham, with Charles Albert Ransom recorded as a bookseller.

The Ransom children were:

        Nellie Rosina, born on 27 June 1892; married Grant Gordon in 1935, died


        Lily Florence, born on 19 December 1893, and baptised on 13 March 1907 at

                St. Mary Magdalene Church, Southwark. (The baptism records gives her

        Parents’ names as Charles Albert and Nellie, living at 296 Old Kent

        Road and with Charles working as a Newsagent and Bookseller). She

        married Harry Perry in 1948, and died in 1976.

        John Augustus, born in 1895, died in 1920.

        Kathleen Anne, born on 27 January 1898; married William Morgan in 1958,

                died 1979.

        Winifred, born on 2 October 1899, died 1951.

        Phyllis, born in 1903; married Lionel Oliver Terrett 1928, died 1974

        Douglas, born in 1905, died 1930

Why Lily was the only one of Ransom’s children to be baptised is a mystery. The 1911 census shows Nellie Rosina and John Augustus, then aged 18 and 15 respectively, working as bookseller’s assistants.

John’s father was recorded in the 1901 census, as John Ranson, living at 93 Wellington Row, Bethnal Green, and working as a gilder and carver, along with his wife Elizabeth, with both giving their place of birth as Bethnal Green.

There is no trace of John Ranson (or Ransom) in the 1911 census, although there is an Elizabeth Ransom, a widow aged 82 (therefore born around 1829/30) in the Shoreditch Workhouse, although her place of birth is given as “Somerset ?”.  

From 1913 onwards, C.R. Ransom’s family lived at 23 Ephraim Road, Wandsworth, and by 1920 they had moved to 43 Cottenham Park Road, Wimbledon.

In the 1921 census the entire family is recorded at 43 Cottenham Park Road with Charles recorded as a bookseller at 26 Paternoster Row; his wife and daughters Nellie and Winifred recorded working on “home duties”; Lily recorded as a clerk at the Central Telegraph Office; Kathleen as an unemployed secretary; Phyllis as a shorthand typist working for the Gardeners’ Chronicle in Tavistock Street; and Douglas, then aged just under 16, working as a clerk for C.A. Ransom & Co., Wholesale Bookseller, at Queen’s Wharf, Bankside.

Charles Ransom’s wife Ellen died on 7 May 1929, leaving a small estate of £62 1s 3d. Three years later, in June 1932 at Eastry, Kent, Charles married Elizabeth Ruthby (or Ruthbie) Downie. Her genealogy is very sketchy. The Civil Registration Death Index gives her date of birth as 16 July 1889 – however, there is no corresponding entry in the Civil Registration Birth Index, or in any other birth lists. Neither does she appear in any of the census records following her birth. She is recorded living at 20 Jenner House, Hunter Street, St. Pancras, in the 1927, 1928 and 1929 Electoral Registers, and an Elizabeth Ransom, a widow who gave her date of birth as 15 January 1889, is recorded in the 1939 Register living at 43 Pier Road, Littlehampton, Sussex. She died on 29 February 1976, her home address being Netheren, Coulsdon, Surrey, leaving an estate valued at £6,762.

In the meantime, Charles Albert Ransom had died on 19 June 1939, at 43 Cottenham Park Road, Wimbledon, leaving an estate valued at £63,915 14s 6d (around £4 million in today’s terms). He did not, however, leave a will, and Letters of Administration were granted to his widow Elizabeth, his daughter Helen Rosina Gordon (actually Nellie Rosina), and his daughter Lily Florence Ransom.

Ransom as a collector

Boys Standard, No. 112, July 7, 1883

C.A. Ransom was well-known as a collector of penny bloods, penny dreadfuls and boys’ papers, and he was also regarded as something of an expert. He is listed in the acknowledgements in Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography (1941), and he is also mentioned several times in letters from J.P. Quaine, an Australian bookseller and collector, to Stanley Larnach, another Australian collector – Ransom was one of Quaine’s early correspondents.

He was also mentioned in a poem, “The Old Boys’ Book Brigade”. written by Frank Jay and Barry Ono and published in Vanity Fair, No. 11 (1918) (reprinted in The Collector’s Miscellany, No. 10, September 1947), celebrating dealers and collectors:

          ….. While Ransome (sic) still can make a show,

          Somewhere in Paternoster Row……

Ransom was clearly a collector, and a fledgling dealer, from a very early age. His earliest known advertisements, offering items for sale or exchange, appeared in The Boy’s Standard (published by Charles Fox) in 1882, when he was around 15 years old, with his address given as 58 Old Castle Street, East London. In 1883, he was advertising (in The Boy’s Standard) from 28 Finsbury Circus; in 1884 he advertised from 30 Charles Street, Stepney (as C.A.R., Chas. A. Ransom and Charles A. Ransom); and in the second half of 1885 he was advertising from 1 Bailey’s Lane, Stamford Hill. In 1887 he advertised from 1 Beaconsfield Terrace, Brondesbury. It is also worth noting that similar advertisements, from “C.R.” and “Ransom,” were placed The Boy’s Standard in 1886 from 12 Ashburnham Road, Bedford.

All of these addresses were private residences, and largely occupied by working class households. Taking each of the above addresses in turn, in the 1881 census their occupants were two households totaling ten people, headed by a bootmaker and a carman; one household headed by a police constable with a wife, son and a servant (he was still there in 1891); two households, headed by a stevedore and a railway porter, and with 11 occupants altogether; one household comprising a bootmaker, his wife and six children; and two households, both headed by gardeners, with 11 occupants in total. In complete contrast, the address in Bedford comprised a retired magistrate, six of his relatives, two visitors and four servants.

Why Ransom used these addresses is another mystery. It is possible that at the times in question he was actually living at each address, as a boarder or lodger, which would suggest he’d left home before he’d reached the age of 15. Alternatively, he knew the occupiers and used their homes as accommodation addresses.

Some of his advertisements offered a mouth-watering range of items, for example this from 12 July 1884:

For Exchange or Sale, cheap, 2nd series Mysteries of London, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th series Mysteries of the Court; The String of Pearls, or Sweeney Todd, the Barber of Fleet-street; Obi, or Three-fingered Jack; Ada, the Betrayed, or the Murder in the Old Smithy; Ella, the Outcast, and others; also a good violin and bow. All the above books are in penny numbers. – Charles A. Ransom, 30 Charles-street, Stepney, London, E. All letters answered.

As a collector, Ransom became very well-known. Lofts and Adley wrote that he was “known to all as Charlie,” and that he “had a very large house at Wimbledon, wherein he housed one of the finest collections of Victorian boys’ papers known…..”

After his death, some of his collection was auctioned at Sotheby’s in November 1939. Amongst the items sold were copies of Black Bess, or The Knight of the Road (3 vols.), about 300 of Dicks’ Standard Plays, several volumes by Thomas Peckett Prest, George Reynolds’s The Mysteries of the Cries of London (8 vols) and The Mysteries of London (6 vols), The Wild Boys of London (2 vols), and works by Pierce Egan, Eugene Sue and Charles Dickens. According to The Collector’s Miscellany (Spring 1941) what was left of his collection was subsequently destroyed in a fire, along with his business premises.

As well as penny bloods and boys’ story papers, Ransom also collected playbills, dramas and books on the theatre, many of which were included in the Sotheboy’s auction. These were almost certainly acquired by M.W. Stone, who wrote extensively about juvenile drama – George Speaight alluded to his holdings of theatrical material which included “another very good collection from the late Mr Ransom, which included a large number of play bills and other theatricalia of the period.” (Juvenile Drama: The History of the English Toy Theatre, Macdonald & Co, 1946, page 194).

Ransom as a bookseller

By 1893 Ransom had become an established bookseller, with premises at 21 Bath Street, City Road, Shoreditch, where he was advertising as a “Dealer in Secondhand Boys’ Books and Journals,” for example in an advertisement in the 11 February 1893 number of The Boys’ Weekly Novelette (published by Charles Fox). Ransom ended the “for sale” portion of his advertisement: “Don’t forget, Boys, I am THE OLD ORIGINAL Boys’ Book Dealer. Established ten years in the Boy’s Standard.” This was demonstrably true, although again it should be pointed out that he was under 15 years of age when he started out. Towards the end of his advertisement, after advertising for items he wanted to buy, Ransom claimed “Established 1875.” This cannot have been the case – Ransom would only have been 8 years old at that time. His advertisement also claimed that he had “the largest stock of Boys’ Books in London…..Any kind of Books bought in any quantity…..Business hours 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.” He also stated that he supplied the trade, suggesting that there were other similar dealers.

Presumably, his buying and selling activities in the 1880s were a hobby or a spare-time business. When he married in 1889, aged 22, he was working as a packer, and in 1891 he was working as a porter. He first appeared in the Post Office Directory in 1892 as a newsagent at 233 Waterloo Road, under the name of Charles Ransom. A year later, as Charles Albert Ransom, he was listed as a newsagent at 21 Bath Street, City Road. In 1895, he established himself as a bookseller at 296 Old Kent Road, where he remained until 1911, having also opened [premises at 26 Ivy Lane, Bermondsey, in 1910. In the meantime, he had also opened premises at 26 Paternoster Row in around 1907, from where, under the name of Charles Dare, he was advertising for musicians and performers.

In 1911, as Charles Albert Ransom & Co., he was listed at 26 Paternoster Row, where he remained until his death in 1939. In 1914 he was also listed as a bookseller at 18 Cock Lane, Smithfield; and in 1915 his Post Office Directory entry began recording his business as “Booksellers, publishers’ remainders (wholesale and export).” In 1917 he opened new premises at Queen’s Wharf, Bankside, which he again maintained until his death.

In 1922, his drectory listings began referring to the business as simply “publishers’ remainders.” A further expansion in the business occurred in 1935, when he was listed as also occupying 62 Park Street, Borough Market. The business closed down immediately after Charles’s death in 1939, with The London Gazette announcing a call for any creditors against Ransom’s estate on 22 December 1939.

On 29 March 1902 The South London Chronicle reported that Ransom, of Old Kent Road, had been fined 5 shillings and costs for “throwing waste paper on the carriageway.”

In 1904, Ransom’s business at 296 Old Kent Road was the feature of a brief article in The South London Press (2 July):

Mr Ransom keeps a very large stock of Cheap Books in all manner of bindings and editions, and all at discount prices. Some modern novels are even cheaper. For instance, you can buy a sixpenny paper-back for 2½d. All the magazines can likewise be regularly supplied at this address, and Mr Ransom also buys or exchanges books and novels, while all kinds of playing cards, games, dominoes, draughts, and so on are kept in stock. Mr Ransom is also a tobacconist, and sells all packet tobaccos and cigarettes at discount prices.

The 1939 Register has Nellie Rosina, using the name Helen, living with her husband, a civil service clerk, living in Chancery Lane, Holborn, working as the manageress of a wholesale bookseller (presumably her father’s company).

Ransom as a publisher

C.A. Ransom’s career as a publisher seems to have begun in 1928, when he began issuing comics. These were actually reprints of old comics – The Golden Penny Comic and The Monster Comic – previously issued by Fleetway Press, founded by Harold Mansfield, a former editor at the Amalgamated Press. Ransom had acquired the original plates at around the time the Amalgamated Press bought out Fleetway Press, but as the titles were now owned by the Amalgamated Press Ransom had to think of new titles. Lofts and Adley wrote that “When C.A. Ransom decided to launch his series of comics, he visited Mr T.J. Adley (father of Derek) at his printing company, W. Speight & Sons Ltd., with a view that he could get his proposed complete range of comics printed by them, as this company had spare capacity on their machines. Speight’s welcomed the idea as this represented a hundred percent profit to them.” Lofts and Adley went on to suggest that Ransom hoped, if the project was a success and resulted in serious opposition to the Amalgamated Press, they would offer to buy him out, although in retrospect this was rather unrealistic.

Ransom went on to turn what had once been two comics into six comics, although their quality left much to be desired. Bill Lofts and Derek Adley wrote that “…..some of the old blocks had gone missing and one had in some of the serials the author’s name lacking, and even some of the strips were printed without titles….” Lofts and Adley stated that the first issue of each comic was undated, and after dates were inserted they were subsequently withdrawn, presumably so that they would never appear to be out-of-date. Denis Gifford, in his 1982 British Comics and Story Paper Price Guide, stated that the run of comics started on 17 September 1928, and ended, after 28 numbers (with some serials unfinished), on 20 April 1929, although Lofts and Adley noted that Gifford had subsequently acquired a copy of Sunny Comic numbered 46.

The six comics were Cheerful Comic, Happy Comic, Merry Moments, Sunny Comic, Tip Top Comic and Up-to-Date Comic.

They were not sold through newsagents and other traditional outlets, and Ransom instead sold them wholesale to distributors, who in turn sold them on to street sellers and traders. Lofts and Adley noted that while the retail price of each comic was twopence, they were “sold as low in the street markets as six for twopence in ‘bargain bumper bundles’.”

Ransom also published a series of cheap paperbacks – 16 novels by Edgar Wallace and three Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs:

Edgar Wallace:  The Cat Burglar, The Governor of Chi-Foo, The Little Green Man, “Smithy”. Eve’s Island, The Daughters of the Night, The Million Dollar Story, Nobby, The Prison-breakers, Circumstantial Evidence, Fighting Snub Reilly, Barbara on her Own, Bones of the River, Tam, The Clue of the Twisted Candle and The Four Just Men.


Edgar Rice Burroughs:  Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan and The Son of Tarzan.

The Tarzan stories had originally been published in the UK by George Newnes in 1929, and Ransom acquired the secondary English rights and also bought Newnes’s printing plates, although the three Ransom editions were issued with new covers. It is almost certain that the same happened with the Edgar Wallace titles. None of the books were dated, but it is thought they were issued in 1929 and/or 1930.

He appears not to have advertised any of these books in newspapers or trade papers, and presumably, like his comics, they were sold by street vendors and similar outlets.

Ransom as theatrical impresario

The Era, Oct 19, 1901

It is not known when C.A. Ransom, using the name Charles Dare, first entered the entertainment business, where he specialized in minstrel shows. He started off in the Moore and Burgess Minstrels, which had been established in 1865 and which performed continuously at St. James’s Hall, Piccadilly for 35 years. The earliest reference to him as a manager of a troupe of minstrels appears to be an advertisement in The Gravesend Reporter (26 November 1892) for “The Celebrated Reynolds and Dare’s Anglo-American Minstrels”, Reynolds being Harry Reynolds. In his history of minstrelsy, Minstrel Memories: The Story of Burnt Cork Minstrelsy in Great Britain from 1836 to 1927 (Alston Rivers, 1928) Reynolds described how he and Dare had first teamed up in a double act for variety shows, and then, having “mortgaged most of our worldly possessions,” started their own minstrel troupe in 1892. This was at the same time as Ransom was establishing himself as a bookseller. They performed on tour until around July 1893, when the partnership was dissolved and Dare accepted an engagement to tour with the Moore and Burgess Minstrels. He also seems to have been performing and touring by himself, with The Isle of Wight Recorder (8 July 1893) describing him as “the popular comedian and farmyard mimic.”

In August 1894 he advertised for vocalists and musicians for his Ryde Pier Minstrels (performing at the Pier Pavilion on the Isle of Wight), and in 1895 he established a minstrel troupe on the Isle of Man, Charles Dare’s Douglas Head Minstrels. In June 1895 he advertised (The Era, 15 June 1895) that he had the “sole permission for Minstrels at Douglas,” giving his address as 12 Church Street, Greenwich. He leased the open air theatre at Douglas Head and staged minstrel shows there until 1912, when he moved his base to the Happy Valley Arena at Onchan Head, Isle of Man, although he was only there for two summer seasons. After each summer season, he took his minstrels on tour in the UK and Ireland.

By 1901 he was advertising Charles Dare’s Anglo-American Minstrels, from 296 Old Kent Road, and in 1902 he also established a troupe of Ethiopian Minstrels, which survived for at least 11 years.

In the meantime, in 1905 he purchased the Mona Theatre at 7 Regent Street, Douglas, and re-named it the Empire Theatre, where he staged variety shows, minstrel shows and the occasional film show. It was re-named the Empire Picture Playhouse in 1913, exclusively showing films. In November 1915, C.A. Ransom & Co., at 26 Paternoster Row, advertised the lease as being for sale.

Despite this, Dare then opened the Coliseum Cinema in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in 1914, and kept this going for several years. On 20 August 1932, The Daily Herald reported that Dare (“of Cottenham Park Road”) was fined £5 on each of four summonses, with three guineas costs, for keeping the cinema open after 10 pm on Sundays. He seems to have given it up shortly after this.

He also acquired the Hippodrome Variety Theatre in 1920 or 1921, changing its name and function to the Hippodrome Kinema, but in October 1923 he was advertising the freehold as being for sale.

Interestingly, Harry Reynolds, who knew Dare very well, seemed to have been wholly unaware of Dare’s other life as a bookseller/collector, as he does not mention this in book. He simply wrote that Dare retired from stage “to become a successful cinema proprietor.”

He also published minstrel songs – for example, The Era on 22 October 1910 carried an advertisement for C.A. Ransom & Co. of 26 Paternoster Row which included a note that Ransom were “Exclusive Publishers for Charles Dare’s Minstrels’ Songs.”

Ransom/Dare in 1891 census


There seems little doubt that C.A. Ransom and Charles Dare were the same person. But several questions remain. Why the change of surname from Ranson to Ransom? Why did Charles reverse his first two names? What happened to Charles’s four siblings? Why did Ransom use several different addresses between 1882 and 1887? Why did both Ransom and Dare appear in the 1891 census, and why did Charles Dare give his occupation as bookseller? Why did Charles’s mother end up in a workhouse?  Who exactly was his second wife?

The Era, June 29, 1939

Ransom established his bookselling business in around 1892, yet at the same time, as Charles Dare, he was running a troupe of minstrels and performing all over the country. In 1895 he began a long association with the Isle of Man, which ended in 1914, when he moved his interests to Leigh-on-Sea, where he managed a cinema for almost 20 years. Could he really have done all this while at the same time running a bookselling business? Or was the business left in the hands of his family and other assistants? The only members of his family that can be confirmed as working for him were his daughter Nellie Rosina (from around 1910 to 1939), son John Augustus (from around 1911 till his death in 1920), and son Douglas, from around 1920 until his death in 1930.

Comparisons can obviously be drawn between Ransom and Barry Ono, the self-styled “Penny Dreadful King,” who was a contemporary of Ransom (albeit nine years younger) and who had a career as a musical hall comedian and singer and as a bookseller. Born Frederick Valentine Harrison, he changed his name to Barry Ono around the time of the outbreak of the First World War, and performed, on and off, up until around 1930. During lean periods he set up as a shopkeeper under his real name, selling cheap books and periodicals, and then becoming a full-time dealer in the early 1930s. At the same time he had been building up his collection of penny dreadfuls and boys’ papers, which was donated to the British Library after his death in 1941. The main difference between Ransom and Ono is that Ransom’s careers, as musical hall artiste and bookseller, were concurrent, whereas Ono concentrated on bookselling when he wasn’t performing, and after he had retired from the stage.

Despite all the evidence, it is still hard to believe that Ransom had such a busy double life. It is, of course, not beyond the realms of possibility, but it is still something of a mystery.

FOOTNOTE: The Tragic Case of Florence Ransom

Charles Ransom’s second son, Douglas, married Florence Iris Ouida Guilford in Southwark in April 1926. Florence, born in 1904 in Preston, Lancashire (and baptised at St. Anselm’s Church, Kennington Cross, London, on 11 December 1904), was the daughter of Frederick Guilford, a portrait painter, and his wife Mary Blanche, née Doyle (who split up after Florence’s birth).  The couple moved to 55 Stuart Road, Wimbledon, but Douglas died just over four years later, from cancer, malnutrition and kidney failure, on 8 July 1930, at his parents’ home in Cottenham Park Road. (His death certificate described him as a publisher’s traveler). He left an estate valued at £435.

It is not known what Florence did immediately after this, but in 1934 she met Walter Lawrence Fisher. Born in London on 7 July 1886, he was a mechanic by trade and since 1914 he had been editor of Automobile Engineer. He had married Dorothy Pound in 1913, settling in Richmond, but after having two children the marriage broke down, although they remained living together. In 1932 they moved to 9 Rosslyn Road, Twickenham, where Dorothy took in a lover. From 1934 onwards Florence was a frequent visitor to the family home, and the Fishers remained on good terms.

Florence was, by all accounts, a small but striking woman, who claimed to be a changeling and had an aristocratic background, telling some people her real name was Iris Cornwellis-West.

In 1938 Walter Fisher bought Carramore Farm, in Piddington, a village near Bicester, Oxfordshire, where he spent his weekends. The 1939 Register shows the Fishers living at 9 Rosslyn Road, along with their younger daughter Freda (born 9 October 1919), Charlotte Saunders, a 45 year-old cook and housekeeper, and Dorothy’s lover, Steffen Watergaard (who was Danish), a newspaper and publisher’s representative. Walter was recorded as a “Technical journalist and weekend farmer.”

Walter subsequently acquired a cottage, “Crittenden,” in the Kent village of Matfield, to where Dorothy and her lover, along with Charlotte, moved, while Walter and Florence moved permanently into the farm, with Florence calling herself Mrs Fisher. She arranged for several servants to be employed, amongst whom were her widowed mother, brother Frederick (a cowman) and his wife Jessie (a dairymaid), although Walter was unaware of their family relationship. After war broke out, Walter frequently visited Dorothy to make sure she was all right, as Kent was a target for German air raids.

The precise reason for what subsequently happened will never be known. Florence may have turned against Dorothy when she refused to divorce Walter, or she may have been concerned that Dorothy or Freda had discovered her true background, or she may simply have been jealous of Dorothy receiving so much attention from Walter. What is known, however, is that on 9 July 1940 Florence borrowed a shotgun from her brother (who had earlier taught her to shoot), caught a train to London and then another train to Tonbridge, and then travelled on to Matfield. There she shot and killed Dorothy and Freda Fisher and Charlotte Saunders.

The evidence suggested that Frances, Dorothy and Freda had gone into the orchard to shoot rabbits. Freda was shot first, in the back at close range. Dorothy tried to run away, but was shot twice, once in the back and then in the neck. Florence then returned to where Freda was lying and fired two more shots into her back. She then returned to the cottage and shot Charlotte in the head. She then returned to Piddington.

Later in the day the bodies were discovered by the gardener employed by Dorothy’s mother, who had been expecting her daughter for tea and who had sent the gardener to investigate. The cottage had been ransacked, although nothing appeared to have been stolen. It didn’t take too long for the police to suspect Florence (Walter Fisher and Steffen Wattergaard were ruled out very quickly as they had foolproof alibis), although all the evidence against her was circumstantial. The only evidence at the murder scene was a single pigskin glove found in the orchard, which was later shown to fit Florence’s hand. It was assumed that she had dropped the glove when removing the first of the discharged shotgun cartridges. None of the cartridges were ever found, and neither was the other glove, despite a search of the farm at Piddington. Various witnesses, including farmworkers, shopkeepers, a taxi driver and a ticket collector, described seeing a woman of Florence’s appearance carrying a long, narrow brown paper parcel under her arm on the day of the murders.

Florence was charged with the murders on 15 July 1940, and after a series of remand hearings (and after Florence had spent some time in the hospital at Holloway Prison following a nervous breakdown), she was committed to the Old Bailey to stand trial. The first hearing, on 23 September 1940, was adjourned so that her defence barrister could have Florence examined by a neurologist. The trial then began on Thursday 7 November. One minor point of interest is that this was the first murder trial in which the jurors were allowed to go home for the weekend rather than be obliged to stay in a hotel, a provision introduced because of the danger from air raids.

The prosecution called several witnesses, including Walter Fisher and Florence’s mother, both of whom gave damning evidence as to Florence’s behavior on the evening of the murders. The only defence witness was Florence herself, who denied any involvement, adding that her memory of the day in question was a complete blank. Some evidence of Florence’s mental instability was put forward, including that she had occasionally been a voluntary inpatient in hospitals and mental homes. However, this was insufficient, and on 12 November 1940 the jury took just 47 minutes to find her guilty. The judge had no option other than to sentence her to death.

Because of the outbreak of the Second World War, the earlier court hearings received little press coverage, but by the time of the Old Bailey hearing, the worst of the London bombing was over, and the verdict and death sentence received a lot more attention from the newspapers, with many reports highlighting Florence’s demeanor and appearance, and her shocked reaction to the verdict. An appeal was submitted, on the grounds that insufficient regard had been had to the possibility that Florence was clinically insane, but on 9 November 19040 the appeal was dismissed, with Florence again reacting hysterically in the dock. However, the Home Secretary asked for a medical inquiry, and on 21 December she was judge to be insane, the death sentence was commuted, and she was committed to what was then Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in Crowthorne, Berkshire.

As “Daphne Brent,” Florence Ransom performed in several plays put on by Broadmoor inmates, all open to the public. One of these was a performance of the musical comedy The Earl and the Girl by Seymour Hicks, staged on 3 March 1948, after which the Evening Standard told its readers that “Daphne Brent” had played her part “with an aplomb that would have startled many experienced actors and actresses.” The Sunday Mirror also recorded that a Broadmoor warder had told its reporter that “Some of us can’t believe she’s not normal.”

Florence Ransom was discharged from Broadmoor in January 1967, aged 63. She moved to Cardiff, where she died, at 174 Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff, on 16 December 1969. Her probate record gave her name as Florence Iris Ouida Guilford, and she left an estate valued at £139 (just over £2,000 in today’s terms).

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