Page 5 - December 2017
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was often embellished with his purple   cotton thread saturated with damaged
       prose. Blood, gore, strangulation, rape,   American fl ower [sic] or Plaster of Paris.
       drowned sailors, decapitated criminals   The thing was unreadable after a single
       and body snatchers provided eye-catching   ‘man-handling’, becoming a dirty mass
       headlines for the reading public. Catnach’s   of printer’s ink and white powder.” This
       broadsides were printed cheaply but did   assessment seems rather biased, as the
       not appear at regular intervals, so managed   example held at St Bride Library is well
       to avoid the periodical taxes which applied   printed on smooth cotton fabric, with
       to newspapers and magazines. He might   clearly legible characters.
       also have used the defence that his tabloids     The authorities were not amused by
       were works of fi ction, since they diff ered   Berthold’s subterfuge and pronounced his
       greatly in their detail from the same stories   logic as faulty, stating that printing on cloth
       reported in the respectable press.    incurred exactly the same duty as printing
         Another, more ingenious, tax dodge was   on paper. The Handkerchief was quickly
       dreamt up by a German national, who had   banned by law, and those attempting to sell
       been born in Saxony, but lived in London.   it were prosecuted or imprisoned. Despite
       He was Henry Berthold, founder of the   this, ten issues were printed and St Bride
       National Union of Working Men, and a   Library holds a fi ne copy of issue two.
       writer for the penny political journals.     There is no record of a prosecution
       Appalled at the level of taxation on   against Berthold for his newspaper tax
       newspapers, he started producing cotton   dodge, but we do know how he ended his
       handkerchiefs upon which the news of the   life – and it has some of the elements of
       day was printed. The product was marketed   a Whitehall farce. On 19 October 1833,
       as Berthold’s Political Handkerchief, and   Henry Berthold visited the premises of Mr
       described throughout as a ‘cotton’ rather   Edwin Leaf on the pretext of purchasing
       than a ‘paper’. One reviewer described   a large quantity of furs. He claimed to be
       the Handkerchief as: “a puerile exercise   a merchant and requested goods to the
       to out-manoeuvre the stamp offi  ce, by   value of £2,000, returning two days later
       printing articles on calico, or rather crossed   to further discuss his intended purchase.
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