Offered for sale by: Richard Ford

J. H. Sharpe [C. T. Brock & Co.; Crystal Palace Firework Co. Ltd.; fireworks; pyrotechnics; Durban and Praetoria, South Africa]: Signed Manuscript entitled "J. H. Sharpe's Fifty years as Traveller for C. T. Brock & Coy. Crystal Palace Firework Coy. Lt. at Home & Overseas. From Memory only. 1889 to 1939', with typed transcripts; and copies of correspondence from South Africa. , Manuscript memoirs, post 1939. Correspondence (from Durban and Pretoria, South Africa), 1910.

Manuscript on one side each of twenty-two numbered ruled foolscap leaves, with unnumbered title leaf. Attached by ribbon. Good, on lightly discoloured paper, slightly dogeared and with last leaf detached and worn at extremities. Text clear and entire. The author has gone to some pains, making corrections in red pencil. After a five years' apprenticeship to a draper, and a further two at Whiteley's department store in West London, Sharpe 'resolved to have an outdoor life and cleared off to America', where he drifted from New Orleans to San Antonio and the Rio Grande. In Los Angeles he worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad and Wells Fargo. Returning to England he advertised as a commercial traveller and was answered by Brock & Co, then of West Norwood. 'Here I must add I had scarcely ever let off a firework.' His 'first big job' was 'at Worksop, illuminating the underground passages of Welbeck Abbey for His Grace the Duke of Portland.' A succession of important displays followed: 'the Wedding of His Late Majesty King George', the 'Southport Exhibition', 'the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal', and 'the Glasgow Exhibition of 1901' - 'we also had a big time in Dublin's visit of Her Majesty Queen Victoria'. It was then decided by the firm that Sharpe 'was to open a business in Manchester'. He then describes at length how on the death of Queen Victoria he was 'sent to India per order for the Delhi Durban', staying for eleven months ('When I left home I weighed eleven stone 6 pounds, and returned home weighing nine stone.'). Of his interview with the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, he writes: 'His Excellency said to me 'I have seen your fireworks at the Crystal Palace' and jokingly said if he gave me an order for 200 he supposed it would be all right. I immediately replied, 'Your Excellency, it has cost one nearly that amount to get here'.' A telegram from the Governor General of Burma, received during a game of billiards in Calcutta, results in a trip to Rangoon. ('I found the plague doctor was a big US nigger and I refused to let him examine me, which he reported.') Sharpe then describes how, five weeks after returning to England in 1903, he was sent to South Africa. ('Going up country, I remember troopers at times boarding the train, calling out for permits. If you could not produce the permit they would throw you off the train. At one station a trooper asked me for my permit, and on looking at it sang out, 'Blimey! Here's a man from Sutton.'.') At Cape Town there was some friction with a rival American firm ('a representative of J.P[ains]. New York came to me asking where I was firing, and he had selected a site for his display in the Grounds. I told him he could go to the devil. [...] He then said what was he to do with the fireworks. I told him as far as I was concerned he could sink them.'). His 'next job', in Norfolk, Virginia, 'was the only job from which I returned to England without an order'. In 1908 Sharpe 'was again on the move in connection with the Tercentenary of Quebec', and in 1910 he returned to South Africa. He spent the Great War at the firm's factory in England ('indoor life did not suit me'). 'The next thing of interest was the R.I.F. at the Crystal Palace', followed by the peace celebrations, the jubilee of George V and cornonation of George VI. 'Then came the present War, and because of my age, which was seventy-seven last June, and being of no use in this line, I had to retire after fifty years service.' Accompanied by two typed transcripts, one of which, marked 'corrected draft', gives the provenance from a sale at Bloomsbury Book Auctions in London in December 1993. Together with typed copies of two letters, clearly intended to be distributed as endorsements: five copies of the first, from William Cooley, Borough of Durban, Town Clerk's Office, 4 June 1910 ('Your display of Daylight Fireworks was alos in every way a great success, and afforded immense amusement to thousands of children here'.); six copies of the second, from Percy C. Collins, Secretary, Union Day Celebrations Committee, Mayor's Parlour, Pretoria, 1 June 1910 ('The whole programme was admirably arranged and carried out, much to the satisfaction of the many thousand spectators.'). (Book ref. 5991 )  £ 150.00

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Offered for sale by: Richard Ford
Contact: Richard Ford
Address: 70 Chaucer Road,
London, W3 6DP
Phone: 020 8993 1235
Fax: 020 8752 1431
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Specialities: Autographs and manuscripts
Status: Bookdealer
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