I chose this photograph for two reasons: first of all, I have neglected Old Swan in my many previous posts (as well as quite a few other areas I hope to get round to) but, more importantly, because it is an image taken in the early days of three revolutionary changes to society – the motor car, telephone and the cinema.
Steggles and Mitchell’s gaarage has long gone. It stood close to the corner with Green Lane (heading out from Liverpool). The year is 1913 and the garage did not exist in my 1910 directory (the premises were used as dry salters).
I am not sure when the first taxi with an internal combustion engine appeared on the streets of Liverpool but in London, it was 1903. (In September, 1899, the first American died in an car accident. Sixty-eight year-old Henry Bliss was helping a friend from a street car when a taxi driver lost control and fatally hit him).
The telephone has a slightly older history, the first service started in London with just 10 subscribers and the early years were dominated by private companies on licences. However, in 1912, just before the photograph was taken, the Post Office was granted a monopoly once these licences had expired. The only exceptions were telephone systems run by local authorities at Hull and Portsmouth. Until 2007 only Hull’s service remains independent, Portsmouth’s was sold to the Post Office in 1913. (In 2007, Hull sold its remaining stake in its company for over £107 million).The photograph indicates that the taxi firm was one of the earliest subscribers with its number 185 Old Swan.
Liverpool had gained its first purpose built cinema only a year earlier – The Futurist, Liverpool’s first purpose-built cinema opened in 1912 (see my post for December 28th). The posters on the wall advertise Dynamited Love (an 1912 film) and Pimble’s Ivanhoe (1913). There is another poster advertising The Black 13 but I cannot trace this (there was a much later film of the same name where Black 13 was the number on a roulette wheel).
A year later, World War was to irrevocably change society. Did the three proud drivers survive the horrors of war? It is fascinating to examine photographs and search for clues. This one is a splendid example.