I’m a researcher at heart, and if you share that enthusiasm, you know what I mean. An old bottle, a photograph, a blog post, can veer me into a hunt that can find speedy resolution or go on and on, while I’m searching for a breakthrough to that ever elusive, “Aha,” moment.
Currently, my hunt has been for the story behind a little Toby character jug, named Dick Turpin, I had salvaged from my thrift store.
Fairly quickly, I was able to identify the manufacturer as Royal Doulton, the date of release, and the value. That just wasn’t enough. I wanted the back story. What more was there to know? Was Dick Turpin a real person? Why did the company release this piece in 1937?
My breakthrough came when I happened upon, Alternative Business: Outlaws, Crime and Culture, by Martin Parker, in which the author discusses marketing strategies that look to popular culture to sell their wares. Turns out, Dick Turpin is one of the most notorious highwaymen in history. Born in the 18th century in Essex, Turpin belonged to a violent gang that robbed, pillaged, and murdered. After his hanging death in York, the outlaw’s violence became romanticized in folklore, song, and later film, as is the case with notorious outlaws, such as Robin Hood, Pancho Villa, and Jesse James. The Dick Turpin Library of comic book series enjoyed a cultural popularity in England during the 1920s and ’30s, and Royal Doulton picked up on its popularity. Hence, the production of the Dick Turpin product.
So, there’s my breakthrough, and I’m grateful to all my sister and fellow researchers, who enter into the black hole of ferreting through primary and secondary documents to show us the light and further our quest for that big breakthrough.
I’ll leave you with this Horrible Histories take on the Dick Turpin song. Enjoy!