Document of the Month February 2018

This month's document is chosen by Archive Assistant Mollie Horne.

The motor industry was prolific in producing advertisements. Some highlighted the fashions of the time, some highlighted the people they wished to sell to and some highlighted the roots of the company. Jowett, one of the few car manufacturers outside of the Midlands, used their unique heritage to give an edge to their marketing.

Jowett Cars was based in an area of Bradford called Idle (around two miles from the village where I grew up) and gave their advertising a distinctly Yorkshire flavour. Colin Corke, one of our regular volunteers, found a book of Jowett advertisements in his study and brought it in to show me. As well as making me laugh, it brought back fond memories of visiting the Bradford Industrial Museum with my grandma where they hold a collection of Jowett cars and photographs. I'd never really seen much Jowett material and was delighted to find that they wrote in Yorkshire vernacular and made frequent reference to cricket. It inspired me to look through old editions of our journals such as The Light Car, where it became apparent that Jowett was rather prolific in its promotions. I soon had a plentiful set of adverts to choose from, as they occupied the third page of pretty much every 1930s edition.

A Jowett advertisement published in 'The Light Car' in February 1934

Why this document?

I chose this specific advert because I thought it nicely summed up the values of Yorkshire; simplicity, pride and the joy of a good bargain. Adverts of this era were very wordy and often lacked illustrations to draw the reader in. The layout of this advert, however, is simple but eye-catching; the headline 'Summat for Nowt' forces you to read it in a broad Yorkshire accent (preferably Bradfordian but I won't complain if you can't get it quite right!). The specific quality 'Summat for Nowt' Jowett buyers would receive was individuality, a car built by skilled and experienced manufacturers, and acceptance into a community of like-minded Jowett owners. The advert makes buying a Jowett sound appealing, as you would feel part of a reliable and no-nonsense group of people. The language is clear and straight to the point; even the price and tax is explicitly laid out.

Not only did the advertisements of Jowett scream Yorkshire, the cars themselves did too. They were built to be reliable work horses and favoured the ability to climb steep hills over pure speed. The cars sold steadily and the company became best known for its post-war car, the Jowett Javelin. Unfortunately Jowett, like many British marques eventually did, fell into crisis. Overproduction and falling demand for the cars meant that the company began to decline in the 1950s and decided to sell operations to International Harvester, a tractor manufacturer, in 1954. Although the business failed, they stood by their shareholders and paid them back what their shares were worth.

It was a nice surprise to find something so close to home in an Archive in the West Midlands and I feel that it highlights how wide reaching and unexpected our Collections can be.

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