The Lobster Inkstand. Good Luck

Formed in London in 1871 as the Army and Navy Co-operative Society by a group of military officers to supply consumer goods at the most reasonable prices, the Society grew steadily and received many requests to serve the needs of homesick military personnel and civil servants in India wanting something from ‘Home’.

The Society regularly published an illustrated price lists of all the goods sold by the Society, arranged by department. In 1872, the price list was published quarterly and could be obtained at the store or posted on application to the secretary after payment of postage. The volumes also include lists of the patrons, directors and officers of the Society, the general rules and regulations of the Society, details of the store, information on ordering, discount tables and advertisements. Army and Navy stores were found throughout the UK and India and there was also one in Karachi.

John Richardson writing in his book ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ remembered the importance of the A&N Stores “At its height — between 1890 and 1940 — the Army and Navy Stores was more than a mere emporium: it was a key cog in the machinery of the Empire. The two greatest jewels in the Stores’ crown were the enormous branches in Calcutta and Bombay, which functioned as travel agents, bankers, caterers, undertakers, and insurance brokers, as well as purveyors of the pith helmets, thunder-boxes, plum puddings, and all the other myriad things listed in the Army and Navy’s catalogue, which ran to more than a thousand pages. This catalogue was the bible of the British Raj. Kipling’s Mrs. Vansuythen and Mrs. Hauksbee would have been unable to function without it.”

University of Glasgow Library Archive Frasers

The House of Fraser and Army and Navy Stores Archives at the University of Glasgow tell the story of two of Britain’s leading department stores. House of Fraser was founded in 1849 as a small drapery shop on the corner of Argyle and Buchanan Streets. From 1871 The Army and Navy supplied clothes and consumables across the Empire. They came together in 1975 and their collection of fashion posters and advertising circulars now provide a charming and vivid depiction of domestic life.

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