One of the nicest things about working in Search Engine is coming across fascinating items in the archives that I didn’t know about. Quite often I happen upon some wonderful items while I’m retrieving material for a researcher, or just searching the museum’s inventory in order to provide information in response to an enquiry.
Usually you find them when you’re looking for something totally different altogether. Like the document that’s the subject of this post, which caught my eye whilst I was searching our collections database for South Eastern Railway rules and regulations.
It’s a petition signed by 634 staff members of the South Eastern Railway Company and submitted to the General Manager and Secretary of the Company in November 1877. So what did all these workers feel so strongly about?
They simply wanted to be allowed to grow moustaches!
‘To John Shaw Esq. General Manager and Secretary of the South Eastern Railway Company. We the undersigned being, Inspectors, Guards, Ticket Collectors and other employe’s in the service of the South Eastern Railway Company having been therefore prohibited from wearing Moustaches by the Rules of the Company’s Service and believing and being advised that the wearing of Moustaches is a protection against the inclemency of the weather and for drivers other good reasons, beg most respectfully to solicit your aid in abrogating or obtaining the abrogation of the aforesaid prohibitory rule, by your doing which, you will confer on us a great benefit for which we shall be most grateful.’
When looking at photographs of railways from the late Victorian period it is very common to see railway staff wearing some quite impressive moustaches. So I have to say it surprised me that some companies had prevented their employees from wearing them at all.
This was probably a consequence of changing trends. It was only in the mid-1800s that moustaches started to become fashionable, a time when the railways were also expanding rapidly. Possibly companies like the South Eastern disapproved and wanted to prevent their workers from joining this growing fad for facial hair?
With so many interesting items within the archives, I’m hoping to post further examples of the more weird, unusual or quirky material from our collections over the coming weeks.