A Rare Early 20thC Travel Advertising Framed Poster: Portobello by Trams


Origin: Scottish
Period: Early-Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1925-35
Width: 21.5 inches
Depth: 0.75 inches
Height: 9.25 inches

The small travel advertising framed poster: Portobello by Trams 12 & 20, printed by McLagan & Cumming an Edinburgh printing company survives form the early twentieth century and depicts a romantic seaside beach setting of Portobello in Art Deco style and colourings.

The work is in fair condition with some loss to the painted frame and grubbiness to theposter which could be cleaned if so desired. There are a few small areas of loss to the paper but nothing of real concern.

McLagan & Cumming was founded in 1872 as lithographic printers. The firm began operation in Carruber's Close in the High Street, but moved in 1891 to its Warriston Works. This poster was more than likely designed by Tom Curr  who was one of Scotland’s most successful and accomplished commercial artists and cartoonists.  This particular poster advertising the Portobello trams is similar to other of the period such as a posters for the Portobello open air swimming pool for the local council and was probably designed by the artist in the 1930s or ’40s.

Tom was born in Edinburgh in 1887 and spent his entire working life – apart from his military service in WW1 – in the employment of the Leith-based printers McLagan & Cumming, the firm which printed this poster.  Many of the army recruiting posters he produced for the firm are on display at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle although no information is provided there about the artist.  He was, in later in life, a noted painter, exhibiting at the Royal Scottish Academy and his work is included in the Government and Clydesdale Bank art collections.

From the mid-nineteenth century, Portobello became accessible, when the horse drawn coaches and omnibuses were joined by cheaper transport. The trams were well loved and at the time it cost a penny to travel to Portobello and tuppence to travel to Edinburgh. After school, in the summer, children would go along the High Street in Portobello to the Tram Depot and watch them washing the trams.

We cannot find another example of this artwork having been sold, so it proves a scarce survival, and one that should now be enjoyed for it’s obvious deco inspired beauty.