Mary Evans collection of the week: Maurice Collins

Handbag Mending Kit

It’s three years since we last reminded you of the Maurice Collins Collection, one of our favourites, so we thought we’d give him another run out.

It was 2016 when our reputation as purveyors of the quirky and unusual was given a boost with the arrival of this unique collection. A cornucopia of gadgetry and bizarre inventions, Maurice’s unique collection is a celebration of technological advancement, manufacturing prowess and rampant consumerism over the 19th and 20th centuries (not to mention a heavy dose of Victorian eccentricity). Among the thousands of peculiar and often dubiously useful objects Maurice has collected over the years are such curiosities as hen peck protectors, adjustable skirt lifters (to protect long hemlines from muddy puddles), bed linen smoothers, blackout bulbs, cricket bat string applicators and chewing gum holders.

As amusing and intriguing as the objects forming Maurice’s collection are, they are also a reminder, as our awareness of mass consumption and its impact on the environment grows, that the cycle of manufacture and consumption has been the bedrock of our economic system for centuries, and that companies and entrepreneurs have always sought to create an acquisitive need among consumers, and to spot a gap in the market. Browsing through the incredible array of gadgets, it’s also a reflection of the inventiveness and enterprise of mankind in the industrial era.

As well as thousands of photographs of objects, Maurice’s collection also extends to an excellent selection of war posters and other ephemera relating to 19th and 20th century social history. We thoroughly recommend browsing this fascinating and inspiring collection online. Click here to see a selection. And to discover more about the background of Maurice’s curious collection, read our interview with him on our blog.

Mary Evans Picture Library newsletter – 28 July, 2021.
Picture credit: Handbag Mending Kit ©Maurice Collins Images Collection /Mary Evans Picture Library