Fortune Telling Postcards by Bamforth

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Bamforth was a popular British publisher of comic postcards, founded in 1904 in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Among the thousands of cards they produced, some deal with the vagaries of fortune telling, and some specifically skewer the symbology of taseeomancy or tea leaf reading.

These comic British tea leaf postcards were intended to be sent as greetings, but they can also be used by fledgling tasseomancers as study cups on the way to learning a basic list of tea leaf symbols.

Not all Bamforth cards were signed by the artists who painted them, but the company's art department was very small, with just four men creating the bulk of the graphics for the firm's output of approximately 50,000 different cards over the course of 90 years, and deliberately working in a "house style" to retain a consistent look to the line.

Douglas Tempest originated the Bamforth house style and characteristic colour palette. Arnold Taylor joined the firm in 1926, and trained under Tempest. He served in the Second World War, had a brief stint as a freelance illustrator, and then returned to become a full time artist for Bamforth and eventually a director of the company. Phillip W. Taylor, no relation to Arnold, joined the firm in 1937 at the age of 16, and emigrated to New Zealand after the war, from whence he sent in his contributions by post. Brian Fitzpatrick, born in 1932, joined the company in 1955 and trained under Arnold Taylor. A fifth artist, Donald McGill, was employed as a freelancer.

A Bamforth comic postcard, circa 1930, showing the image of an approaching figure in the tea leaves.

Two of the cards on this page are signed "Taylor" -- most likely Arnold Taylor, given the age of the cards -- and one is signed "D. Tempest" -- Douglas Tempest.

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent
The Mystic Tea Room

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