The Desbeau Advertising Pens

I frequently buy lots of pens in eBay. Quite often, it isn’t all that apparent what’s in the lot, but if it doesn’t go too high I’ll always take a chance. Apart from anything else, poor pictures and bad descriptions scare other bidders off, so if there’s anything decent in the lot, you score.

Among the other pens in this lot was this strange box.

And in it were two glorious pens, a mottled hard rubber lever filler from the twenties, which looks like it has never been used, and a later, maybe forties, button filler in striking green/black marbled celluloid. Score? Well, maybe…

Now I may be wrong, but I don’t think my customers will be beating a path to my door to lay claim to pens that bear the legend “Desbeau Corsets”. If I’m proved to be wrong I’ll happily sell them, but if not I’ll equally happily keep them as users. They’re gorgeous pens.

Of course my curiosity was piqued and I went a-googlin’ to see what I could find. CWS, as the Brits among us will recognise, is the Cooperative Workers Society. DesBeau Corsets were popular support garments made at the factory in Desborough from about 1920 to 1970. They were well marketed; as well as the pens, there were advertising pocket mirrors, fruit knives and thimbles.

And there were adverts, like this one:

Does this imply that sex existed back in the nineteen-thirties?

And finally, here’s the dread garment itself:

The famous Desbeau Corset!

4 thoughts on “The Desbeau Advertising Pens

  1. I think CWS stands for the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Their head office is in Manchester. They merged with CRS, the Co-operative Retail Society, a few years ago and I think they now call themselves Co-operative.

      1. Each local town or village had its own retail stores.
        Gradually they merged e.g. Bletchley and Wolverton became Milton Keynes, which is now part of the South Midlands Co-operative group based in Luton.
        Northampton Co-operative Society Ltd. had its own dairy, complete with stables for the shire horses to pull the milk carts, They also had a large bakery, now a super-market, a building department, as well as a town centre department store complete with wet fish, hair-dressing for both men and ladies, a restaurant, shoe, clothes for children, ladies and gentlemen.
        They operated a hydraulic suction system for cash handling, i.e. when you passed over your cash, the sales assistant would issue a triplicate slip stating the amount due to b paid, together with your payment, this would whoosh via the system to the cash office on the first floor, where the change and the top copy of the sales slip would be returned to the assistant.

        CRS was set up by the CWS, but operated independently to provide retail stores where the original local society had ceased to function, mainly in south-west England and South Wales.

        The C.W.S. was the manufacturing arm set up in 1863 to service the retail stores.
        When I left school in 1962 I worked at the C.W.S. depot in Northampton until it closed when the first U.K. regional distribution centre of any supermarket chain was set up at Newport Pagnell, in 1971. We had Radio and Television, Drapery, Furnishing and Hard-ware, Patent Medicines and C.W.S. Tobacco and cigarettes, as well as a bacon curing, Grocery and Stationery sections, supplying about 25 different co-op societies in the area. One of my duties was to order sugar, and dependent in which county the delivery point was, whether the order went to Tate and Lyle or the British Sugar Corporation.

        Also in Northampton, we had a shoe factory and a butter factory, the latter having been demolished to make way for one dentist and two doctors surgeries.
        As Mike Pepper states the main C.W.S. was at 1 Balloon Street in Manchester.
        This was re-named New Century House in 1963 to mark 100 years of wholesale support to the retail societies. The C.W.S. was the largest farmer in the country at one time.
        Most production was in the Manchester area e.g. Crumpsall Biscuit factory.
        Canned fruit and vegetables were produced at the canning factory in Lowestoft.

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