Article MT238

Birmingham Ballad Printers

Part Three: R - T

Ballads are listed by sheet, in alphabetical order of title, using the abbreviations and conventions listed below.  The work will be completed by an alphabetical index of all the titles and tunes listed - probably in instalments as with this article..

References infrequently occurring are given in full; otherwise, these abbreviations are used:

* Indicates item without imprint, but ascribed to printer in whose list it appears.

First lines, where given, are in round brackets.  A number after a title in square brackets is is the serial number given by the printer to the sheet listed.  A date in round brackets after a title is mentioned in the text of the sheet or can be deduced from it.

Part 3: R - T

Thomas Ragg (1841-1859)
Ragg, who lived from 1808 until 1881, became a printer's devil at the age of eleven.  After spending some time in his uncle's lace business he became a dissenting preacher in 1834, and left Birmingham.  On returning, he became a printer, bookseller, bookbinder, stationer and publisher at 16 Spiceal Street (1841-47) and 90 High Street (1847-59).  He printed several books from his own pen, including an autobiography, God's Dealings with an Infidel (1858).  He wrote for the Birmingham Journal, and later owned, edited and published the Birmingham Advertiser.  Ragg's book, Man's Dreams and God's Realities (1857), so impressed the Bishop of Rochester that he offered him ordination into the church.  Ragg accepted, and so withdrew from printing.  He issued only two broadsides.

Joseph Russell (1814-1839)
Russell, listed as early as 1811 as a bookbinder in Philip Street, was printing from 1815 until 1839 at various addresses in Moor Street: 21/22 (1814), 24 (1814-17) and 6 Court at 21 (by 1820).  He was tried in 1819 at Warwick for printing, publishing and selling an edition of William Hone's Political Litany, of which an informer had bought a copy in his shop.  He put up a spirited defence, addressing the jury for several hours in trying to justify the truth of the parody.  According to the Warwick Advertizer, his appearance was 'not prepossessing', and he spoke with 'ungrammatical fluency'.  According to The Trial of Joseph Russell for a Political Libel (BR 44468), which Russell wrote and published himself, his opening words were: 'I am a poor uneducated man, utterly unacquainted with the mazey labrynths [sic] of the law'.  He received a sentence of six months' imprisonment, which he served in Warwick Gaol.  He was released in May 1820 but tried for a further seditious libel in the same year, and imprisoned until July 1821.

Russell retired to Shirley Street, Solihull, in 1839, and died a year later at the age of 54.  In his will he bequeathed £12,000 to G J Holyoake for the purpose of setting up a secular school in Birmingham.  Holyoake commented that Russell had made this 'little fortune' by 'printing and selling Catnach songs' – the phrase no doubt being used generically – and had a 'copious ballad store … the finest collection in all the Midlands'.  The will was opposed, presumably by Russell's widow (his only child, Samuel, had died in 1838), and the bequest was annulled.  The large scale of Russell's operations – and also, perhaps, his dubious literacy - is indicated by this notice on a chapbook, The Cries of a Wounded Conscience, which he published in 1815: 'Travellers supplied with Slip Songs, Carrols, Children's Books, Lotterys, Godlys, historys and all kinds of goods on the most reasonable terms.  Orders printed on the shortest notice'.  His nephew, Samuel Russell (see below), issued a List of Slip Songs, Printed and Sold Wholesale and Retail, by Joseph Russell, 21 Moor Street, Birmingham. Items from this are indicated by the letter L, below.

Samuel W. Russell (1834-1858)
S W Russell was the nephew of Joseph Russell, and prominently advertised the relationship on his sheets. He began printing at Court 6, Moor Street, in 1834, when he was 23 years old. His addresses of 21 and 23 Moor Street must also date from the 1830s. These also appear on Joseph Russell sheets, but the existence of various courts at each meant that different printers could easily co-exist. (One of Samuel's sheets, The Rose of Allandale / The Rose it Died, came from 'Moor-street, near Castle street'. The latter is now a bleak and faceless alley between shops). From 1840 until 1846 Samuel was a printer and victualler at 46 Queen Street. He was at Swan Yard, High Street, in 1847, and from 1849 at 24 New Meeting Street. The eight of his surviving sheets which bear stock numbers, ranging from 4 to 69, were all printed at Moor Street. Thomas Sansom (1875)
Sansom, born in 1845, was the son of a cordwainer.  In the 1871 census he appears at 99 Coleshill Street as a hairdresser.  (I am grateful to Keith Chandler for this information).  One can suggest that Sansom became involved with street ballads by acting as an agent for others.  Father Molloy / Pretty Louise or, Idling the Time Away (KD), a sheet without imprint, though probably printed by Pearson of Manchester, bears this notice: 'The Music may be had by sending 8 stamps to Mr T. Sansom, 99, Coleshill-st., Birmingham'.  Another sheet, I wish that I could swim like J.B. Johnson / Medicine Jack (BO), carries this information: 'Sold by T. Pearson, Manchester, also by T. Sansom, 99 Coleshill Street, Birmingham, R.Hutchinson, Meadow Lane, Leeds, M. Crangle, 38 Church Street, Sunderland, T. & W. Plant, Newcastle Street, Nottingham' (BO; Harris Library, Preston).  There is also a warning: ' NOTICE. – Mr Pearson has secured the sole right of Printing the above song.  Pirates beware'.  A reference to Johnson's failed attempt 'the other day' to swim from Calais to Dover dates the sheet to soon after 25 August 1872.  Three years later Sansom features as a printer himself.  He is unlikely to have been prolific.

William Taylor (1788-1803) From 1788, at 15 Spiceal Street, near the parish church, Taylor was a bookseller, stationer and, at the end of the period only, a printer, in which capacity he is represented by a solitary surviving street ballad.  From 1784 he was a master at the elementary school associated with King Edward's Grammar School until his dismissal for neglect of his duties in 1791.  One speculates that his business activities were occupying too much of his time.  Taylor, who may have been related to other printers with the same surname (see below), died at Warwick in 1804.

Sarah Taylor (1807-1818)
Sarah Taylor's imprints show both 43 and 112 Moor Street.  They also vary to 'Sarah Taylor, Birmingham', and 'S. Taylor, Moor-street, Birmingham'.  The vague, 'Taylor, Printer, Moor-street, Birmingham', and 'Taylor, Printer, Birmingham', may be hers, too.  Lists of prisoners for trial and after sentence, which she, like other printers, produced for sale under the titles of Calendars and Executions, firmly establish her at 43 Moor Street until 1818.  Items with inconclusive Taylor imprints are asterisked below. Edward Taylor / Taylor and Co. (1833-1840)
Edward Taylor had a string of addresses: 112 Moor Street (1813-20), 16 Bell Street (1821-27), 16 Bell Street and 3 Monmouth Street (1828-29), 3 Monmouth Street and Court 3, Exeter Row (1830), and 79 Lichfield Street, where he became Taylor and Co.  (1832), with this imprint: 'Taylor & Co, Printers, Lichfield-st, Opposite Thomas-street, Birmingham.  Travellers and Shopkeepers may be supplied with slip and sheet Songs, Patters, &c. as Cheap as at the Cheapest Shop in the World'.  (Two large sheets, nos 8 and 9, below, are the only items from this address).  Taylor then moved to 10 Upper Priory, Digbeth (1833-35), where he metamorphosed into Taylor and Co. (1835-40).  On a single sheet, one item, Van Dieman's Land, has this imprint: 'Taylor, Printer, Upper Priory, Birmingham. Sold by F.H. Sefton, 41 Broad-street, Worcester'; the other, The Cholic: 'Printed by Taylor and Co. 10, Upper Priory, Birmingham'.  The Edward Taylor involved from 1813 until 1840 may have been a single person or two or more with the same name. E Taylor (1840-1848)
The 1841 census lists at SteelhouseLane an Edward Taylor, printer, aged 45.  This may have been the E. Taylor who was at 10 Upper Priory, Digbeth (1840-41) and then at 67 Steelhouse Lane (1842-48).  He was still at Steelhouse Lane (no.100) in 1861. (My thanks to Keith Chandler for census information).  His output of ballads was very small, unless he was in fact responsible for some of the sheets issued by the Edward Taylor who preceded him. Joseph Taylor (1838-1847)
Joseph Taylor, who was aged 32 in 1841, was a printer, bookseller and newsagent at 29 and 32 Smallbrook Street. Thomas Turner (1800-1817)
Turner was a music seller, bookseller, stationer and printer at 3 Snow Hill. He died in 1819 at the age of 49. His output of ballads seems to have been very small.

Roy Palmer - 6.4.10

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To be continued ...

Article MT238

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