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Baxter Needle box Prints

This particular 'chat' is not a definitive article on Baxter's needle box prints as their is so much that I could write but instead a few interesting aspects that will be added to over time. Firstly something from my collection - Baxter’s The Queens Floral Needlebox Set CL134 – printed by Baxter as a sheet of ten small prints and initially meant to be cut into individual prints and affixed to small boxes containing sewing needles. Presumably initially Baxter intended them to be sold entirely to needlebox manufacturer but a new market seems to have flourished in the 1850’s, the parlour scrapbook, ‘fancy stationers’ realised the potential of selling these prints to individuals for adorning their scrapbooks.

I always presumed that these fancy stationers would sell the complete sheet but my item is the ten prints already cut and around them a specially prepared band that states Ten Baxter Oil prints, printed and published by Baxter, Patentee 11, Northampton Square Price 2s (2 shillings – 10p in today’s currency).

Baxter originally sold the complete sheets for 6d (6 old pence, equivalent to 2.5p) so stationers were buying at this figure and 2s would be retail price? Was this band printed by the retailer or Baxter himself, did he, realising the potential market, supply them in this form ready for the retailer?

I feel that Baxter most probably printed these labels as the text is 'pushes' Baxter AND quotes his address not the retailers. Also the label is very similar in text style to the large label (that I believe he also printed) and discussed below. As far as I know this is a unique piece of ephemera. 

George Baxter - Floral Needle box set
The inside of a lid which would have contained 10 small needle boxes - George Baxter - Tarantella Set

Some years ago I came across 4 needle box prints in a small frame. Quite unremarkable yet interesting, but as they were inexpensive I purchased them.  Two lids from Baxter’s Regal Set and two from Vincent Brooks’ New Ten.

When I removed them from the frame I was pleased to find that they were still attached to the box lids, their corners having been snipped allowing the box to be laid flat and then overmounted. I have since spent some time trying to encourage the boxes back into their original shape.

I was in conversation one day with two collectors of antique sewing tools discussing needle box prints etc. when one mentioned she had seen something written that recommended that when the boxes had finished their useful life they should be cut and framed. For some years the lady concerned tried to remember where she had seen it but to no avail.


Recently, I purchased in an auction lot, a very poor example of Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the outside of a large needle box top. Only when I got the item home did I notice that inside the box was a label in gold describing the image on the outside and giving the titles of the images for the inside 10 boxes, the Tarantella Set. At the bottom it states ‘The illustrations can be taken off the lids for ladies albums by cutting the box lid sides away with a pair of scissors’ – was this the instruction that inspired my prints previous owner?

If this label was printed by the box retailer you might consider that the wording  ‘printed in oil colours by BAXTER the PATENTEE’ is an overly positive acknowledgement, so was the label printed by Baxter himself? If it was, it does show a distinct similarity to the gilt printed music cover for Paul & Virginie Waltz which I feel Baxter could have also printed.

Close up Paul & Virginia Music - George baxter
George Baxter Needle box - River Scene Holland

Some years ago I managed to acquire a very nice complete box containing 3 needleboxes with Baxter prints on the lids. These are hard to come by and eagerly sought after by collectors of Baxter prints as well as collectors of sewing accessories. From 1850 onwards Baxter produced a number of sets specifically for the needlebox manufactures to adorn their boxes.

So what do I find interesting about this item? You will notice these needleboxes do not have, what we would normally call, needlebox prints on the lids. In this instance we have part of Baxter’s small views of Warwick Castle and Abbeville that the manufacturer has cut down to fit his small boxes, along with a full-size River Scene Holland on the lid. So why cut these down rather than use the specifically made sets which would have been easier and most probably cheaper? We will never be sure, perhaps he just had these in stock but maybe as Abbeville and River Scene Holland were published 3 years before Baxter produced his first set of needlebox prints (although Warwick Castle was published the same year as his first set), just maybe this use of his prints by the

needle industry was what gave Baxter the idea to specifically produce prints for the needlebox market?

Victorian Pin Cushions with George Baxter Prints
Pin Cushions

Pin cushions, an essential sewing accessory, also used needle box prints. Whenever I see them I always try and add them to my collection. I have only ever seen them using George Baxter prints and all these shown have come from Baxter's set 'The Allied Sovereigns and the Commanders off their Forces' which illustrate prominent figures in the Crimean war. 

The metal engraved backs are associated with the Great Exhibition of 1851 and similar items also incorporate the word Souvenir but this needle box set wasn't published until 1855, so that can't be true in this case. I feel they were all produced at roughly the same time by the same manufacturer so although Queen Victoria is also used in Baxter's The Queen and the Heroes of India, which wasn't published till 2-3 years later, they MIGHT only be found with prints from this set?. Does anyone else have similar items?

Victorian Pin Cushions with George Baxter Prints
Needle packet Roll - Baxter Prints
Victorian Needle Case - George Baxter Prints
George Baxter Needle Box Prints
A 'roll' type needle case

Another recent acquisition. A needle case made to contain all your needle size requirements that

neatly rolls up and held together by a small red cord. On the outside are three individual prints from Baxter's needle box set 'Figures and Landscapes' and also 'The Duchess of Sutherland' (in the red dress) from Baxter's 'Regal Set'.

Although the 'Regal Set' was first published by Baxter in 1850 the 'Figures and Landscapes' set wasn't published until 1859, just before he 'retired' - he was still actively selling his stock until 1864. So this most probably dates this piece to around 1859 - 1865 

Sewing box with Baxter print in the inner lid
Mid Victorian Sewing box with George Baxter Print
Mid Victorian Sewing box with George Baxter Print

Something that I was very pleased to add to my collection many years ago was this Victorian Sewing Box. Unfortunately the inner tray is now missing but inside the rather plain box is a Baxter Print The Lovers Seat Hastings (CL303) positioned centrally in the silk lined lid.

That lid pulls forward to reveal a 'hidden' pocket for you treasured possessions. This was displayed at the New Baxter Society exhibition stand at the Antiques for Everyone Fair in Birmingham in April 2109. Someone confirmed my thoughts that is was a sewing box but without seeing the missing tray it could also so easily be a jewellery box. I have now found a virtually identical box (minus the Baxter print) but with the inner tray which confirms that it must have been a sewing box

Mid Victorian Sewing box with George Baxter Print

Some of Baxter's Needlebox sets are harder to find then others, possibly you may never have seen some sets, especially in as much detail so I list below some of these as I write about them.

CL 145 - Figures and Landscape Landscapes - Baxter last set to be published circa 1859 just before his retirement. For full details about these prints please read my article with images of how they were used.

 George Baxter Prints - Figures & Landscapes
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