My intent with this humourous card was to find out something about this Sydney University second year Arts student who was sent the card postmarked SYDNEY/ 8 JY 05 – 2PM/ 35 on the red ‘Arms’ 1d N.S.W. stamp. To date this has not been achieved, for after 6 months I am unlikely to obtain an answer from the Registrar’s Office at the University of Sydney (Figure 1).
I suspect that it might have been sent to John Russell Jones by a fellow student who substituted ‘Russello’ for ‘Russell’, as some private joke. I was surprised how many John Russell Jones I found on the internet, both with and without a hyphenated surname, but none of them were Australian. I was even more surprised by the response, (for I am not a movie buff), I obtained when I entered ‘The Whole Dam Family’, for movie and auction sites were literally flooded with items. There were baby and adult as well as dog dolls, postcards of at least 5 different types, plus tobacco pipes and other memorabilia devoted to the Dam Family.
The front introduced me to “A Few of my Friends”: Miss U.B. Dam, Mrs. O.B. Dam, Mr. I.B. Dam, Lizzie Dam, Baby Dam, Jimmy Dam, Annie Dam and The Dam Dog”. A short personal line of manuscript was written along the right side, the meaning of which was lost on me – “Does Mr. Dam require the eggs?” An additional fine print line shows that the card originated in Australia for it states ‘Fraser & Jenkinson Copyright’ but the artist is not given (Figure 2).
Fraser & Jenkinson Pty Ltd commenced life in 1892 with the establishment of its company in Bourke Street, Melbourne. Originally the company published and printed much of Melbourne’s early book titles before moving into general commercial printing in the 1960’s. Their books were quite serious as shown by two of their many titles: ‘The True Story of the Kelly Gang of Bushrangers’ by C.H. Chomley (1918), and ‘Lang Was Never Right’ by Hon. Arthur Calwell, Minister for Information and Immigration (1946). An example of their commercial printing was a shipping crate label for Gloria, Tasmanian apples.
The Whole Dam Family and the Dam Dog was a popular fad which has been widely advertised by lithographs and souvenir mailing postcards and was made into a sketch in a New York Vaudeville Theatre . It was made into a short motion picture in 1905 and everyone pictured on the present card has a starring role. The picture originally named ‘I. B. Dam and the Whole Dam Family’ was the biggest hit for the Edison Manufacturing Company. Numerous postcards, often with differently named Dam family members, were produced in the USA and Keystone Cigar Co., Winnipeg used a cast of Dam family members in their advertising.
Addendum (August 2009): Another example of ‘The Whole Dam Family’ advert ising ‘ Dr, Morses Indian Root Pills’ has been found, and it is shown in Figure 3.