Humor/ vegan history/ vegetarian history

Vegan Postcard by Donald McGill – circa 1918 – with some George Orwell notes








They decided that, having already given up Tea,

Sugar, Jam, Potatoes, Butter, Cheese and Eggs,



The original postcard is in our Ernest Bell Library.

We have no idea of what Jack was smoking in his pipe!

This is our first post of 2014 – …..which is, in theory, our 80th year, as the library was ‘started’ in 1934 – – we do still have quite a number of the original items.

In 1897 Donald McGill was apprenticed to Arnold F. Hills’ – Thames Ironworks, Shipbuilding, and Engineering Company – where he stayed until 1907.

In these years Arnold F. Hills was President the London Vegetarian Society, the Vegetarian Cycling Club, the Vegetarian Federal Union and a London Vegetarian Rambling Club.

We speculate that Donald McGill may well have met Josiah Oldfield, Charles W. Forward & other acquaintances of Arnold F. Hills.

From –

Donald McGill – one of the best known of all comic postcard artists – had a career which spanned 54 years. Born into a middle-class family in 1875, he was one of seven children and as a child attended a private school in Blackheath. At the age of sixteen, McGill lost a foot in an accident while playing rugby and was fitted with an artificial one. After attending art school he worked as a naval architect for some time and then as an engineering draughtsman.

In 1908, he became a postcard artist working from his home in Blackheath, Kent. During his long career making people laugh, his jokes covered almost every subject imaginable. Including drunks, seaside, politics, transport, sport, fashion, children, vicars, fat ladies, romance – and many social and military topics during the Great War.

It has been estimated that during his career, McGill produced around 10,000 different postcard designs and with a mischievous sense of humour, illustrations and comments about women’s undergarments was one of his favourite subjects for saucy postcards.

From –
Donald Fraser Gould McGill, (28 January 1875 – 13 October 1962) was an English graphic artist whose name has become synonymous with a whole genre of saucy seaside postcards that were sold mostly in small shops in British coastal towns.

George Orwell writing about Donald McGill

From –

~ Who Donald McGill is, I do not know. He is apparently a trade name, for at least one series of post cards is issued simply as ‘The Donald McGill Comics’, but he is also unquestionable a real person with a style of drawing which is recognizable at a glance. Anyone who examines his post cards in bulk will notice that many of them are not despicable even as drawings, but it would be mere dilettantism to pretend that they have any direct aesthetic value. A comic post card is simply an illustration to a joke, invariably a ‘low’ joke, and it stands or falls by its ability to raise a laugh. Beyond that it has only ‘ideological’ interest. McGill is a clever draughtsman with a real caricaturist’s touch in the drawing of faces, but the special value of his post cards is that they are so completely typical. They represent, as it were, the norm of the comic post card. Without being in the least imitative, they are exactly what comic post cards have been any time these last forty years, and from them the meaning and purpose of the whole genre can be inferred. ~

If anyone would like a high res. scan of the postcard – just send an email to: – humanitarianleague (at) outlook (dot) com – or message me through HappyCow –

How do we secure these items?

The Ernest Bell Library is in touch with more than 300 specialist dealers around the world.

……so we have at least 300 pairs of eyes continuously looking for examples of quirky ephemeral material such as these!

Books & metal items often survive fairly well.

Magazines, posters, booklets & leaflets rarely survive.

The Ernest Bell Library

The Ernest Bell Library is actively building a collection of examples of marketing activities related to: –

  1. veg(etari)an products.

  2. veg(etari)an books & other publications.

  3. veg(etari)an organisations.

  4. veg(etari)an businesses.

  5. animal rights organisations.

  6. animal rights publications.

  7. humanitarian organisations.

  8. humanitarian publications.

  9. rambling clubs run by members of the above groups & related publications.

Our collection of veg(etari)an & animal rights related magazines is being referenced by scholars almost every day – starting with Sylvester Graham’s Journal of Health and Longevity – Vol 1 No. 1 – 1837.

We also have a fine & growing collection of –

‘art created by humans – primarily for the benefit of animals’

– both original artwork & printed / manufactured items.

If anyone would like to help by either Adopting or Sponsoring items in the library, please be in touch.

We are working seriously on cataloging the collection, as & when funds are available.



Once again, I feel inclined to ramble on just a little – …..using bold green to hi-lite some of my  favorite George Orwell quotes.

I read all George Orwell’s books as a young teenager.

I appreciated all of his writings; Animal Farm & The Road to Wigan Pier impressed me really deeply.

Especially Chapter 9 of – The Road to Wigan Pier –

Excerpt –

~ I had read the unemployment figures but I had no notion of what they implied; above all, I did not know the essential fact that ‘respectable’ poverty is always the worst. The frightful doom of a decent working man suddenly thrown on the streets after a lifetime of steady work, his agonized struggles against economic laws which he does not under-stand, the disintegration of families, the corroding sense of shame — all this was outside the range of my experience. When I thought of poverty I thought of it in terms of brute starvation. Therefore my mind turned immediately towards the extreme cases, the social outcasts: tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes. These were ‘the lowest of the low’, and these were the people with whom I wanted to get in contact. What I profoundly wanted, at that time, was to find some way of getting out of the respectable world altogether. I meditated upon it a great deal, I even planned parts of it in detail; how one could sell everything, give everything away, change one’s name and start out with no money and nothing but the clothes one stood up in. But in real life nobody ever does that kind of thing; apart from the relatives and friends who have to be considered, it is doubtful whether an educated man could do it if there were any other course open to him. But at least I could go among these people, see what their lives were like and feel myself temporarily part of their world. Once I had been among them and accepted by them, I should have touched bottom, and — this is what I felt: I was aware even then that it was irrational — part of my guilt would drop from me. ~

Here are some quotes from George Orwell’s  The Road to Wigan Pier which you may not have seen before.

Orwell was having a laugh at UK / London / Welwyn Garden City veg(etari)ans of the 1930’s!

~ One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit juice drinker, nudist, sandal wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist and feminist in England. ~ –

~ For instance, I have here a prospectus from another summer school which states its terms per week and then asks me to say ‘whether my diet is ordinary or vegetarian’. They take it for granted, you see, that it is necessary to ask this question. This kind of thing is by itself sufficient to alienate plenty of decent people. And their instinct is perfectly sound, for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the life of his carcase; that is, a person but of touch with common humanity. ~ –

~ We have reached a stage when the very word socialism calls up, on the one hand, a picture of airplanes, tractors and huge glittering factories of glass and concrete; on the other, a picture of vegetarians with wilting beards, of Bolshevik commissars (half gangster, half gramophone), or earnest ladies in sandals, shock-headed Marxists chewing polysyllables, escaped Quakers, birth control fanatics, and Labour Party backstairs-crawlers. ~ –

~ If only the sandals and pistachio-colored shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaler and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly. ~ –

…all taken from his book “The Road to Wigan Pier”, 1937

However it is easy to forgive George Orwell as he gave Animal Farm to us just a few years later.


For the preface of a Ukrainian edition he prepared in 1947, Orwell described what gave him the idea of setting the book on a farm:

Excerpt –

~ On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone and which could be easily translated into other languages. However, the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in a small village) I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart-horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.

I proceeded to analyse Marx’s theory from the animals’ point of view. To them it was clear that the concept of a class struggle between humans was pure illusion, since whenever it was necessary to exploit animals, all humans united against them: the true struggle is between animals and humans. From this point of departure, it was not difficult to elaborate the story. I did not write it out till 1943, for I was always engaged on other work which gave me no time; and in the end I included some events, for example the Teheran Conference, which were taking place while I was writing. Thus the main outlines of the story were in my mind over a period of six years before it was actually written. ~

In their 2000 edition, Penguin published this preface as Appendix (II) with small intro.
By Penguin:
Orwell’s Preface to the Ukrainian Edition of Animal Farm.
The Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm was intended for Ukrainians living in the camps for Displaced Persons in Germany under British and American administration after World War II. These, as indicated in a letter from the man who organised the translation and distribution, Ihor Szewczenko [Igor Shevchenko], were people who supported the October Revolution and who were determined to defend what had been won, but who had turned against ‘the counter-revolutionary Bonapartism of Stalin’ and the ‘Russian nationalistic exploitation of the Ukrainian people’. They were simple people, peasants and workers, some half-educated, but all of whom read eagerly. For these people he asked Orwell to write a special introduction. The English original has been lost and the version reproduced here is a recasting back into English of the Ukrainian version. Orwell insisted that he receive no royalties for this edition, nor for other translations intended for those too poor to buy them (e.g., editions in Persian and Telugu). Orwell himself paid the production costs of a Russian-language edition printed on thin paper, which was intended for soldiers and others behind the Iron Curtain.

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