John Beagles was born on 11 June 1844 in Whaplode Drove, Spalding, Lincolnshire. He was one of 7 children born to John & Jane Beagles. Jane was daughter of Thomas & Elizabeth Booth of Donington, Spalding, Lincolnshire, whilst John Senior was a butcher in the village.
He was a “Pupil Teacher” at the Village School aged 16 in 1861.
In 1881, he was boarding at 40, Chippenham Road, Paddington, London aged 36, and was known as a “Photographic Publisher.”
In 1891, he visited the Household of Thomas W Stevenson, a Printer living at 58 Cromwell Street, Nottingham.
In 1901, he was living at 9 Rockley Road, Hammersmith, London, on his own. By this time he was a “Publisher & Printer” and also an employer.
In 1903 he had premises at 9 Little Britain, Holborn, London (Tel No Holborn 4951) and the J Beagles & Co business existed at 9 – 11 Little Britain for the next 30 years, becoming a Limited Company in 1908:
“This old-established company was already well-known for its photographic publishing at the turn of the century. Its postcards can traced back as far as 1903 when premises were occupied at 9 and 10 Little Britain, close to the Post office Headquarters in London, and overlooked St. Paul’s Cathedral. By 1904 they had also taken over number 11 and many years later part of this same property was occupied by another postcard publisher, Moore and Dewdney, and their name was still visible above the dilapidated shop front in 1976. Beagles’ became a limited company around 1908 and ceased to exist just before the beginning of World War 2.
Beagles’ were noted primarily for their postcard portraits of royalty. Real photographs or bromides, they covered almost every important personage and event for many years, recording weddings, births, deaths, various stages of the children’s lives, and the dress and uniforms in which they and their parents appeared. Royalty from other countries also received some coverage. All are numbered, with a sequence of cards carrying a suffix lettered from A to Z.
At one time the firm boasted 5,000 different designs of famous actresses, including novelty cards, jewelled or spangled, luminous pearl cards and some in bas-relief. There is considerable range of action scenes from innumerable plays. An interesting series of skits in sets of six centred around some little children who imitated various key figures. “An Orchestral Rehearsal” issued in 1903 showed one of four years old as a musical director; a second set depicted a little girl as a judge in a Breach of Promise case, and another was called “The Doctor”.
A set of “Celebrated Posters” appeared in 1903 and in 1907 a Louis Wain set was entitled “Matrimonial Cats”. 1908 saw such varied issues as Leap Year cards, eight Empire Day cards for 24th May, and a set of twelve in colour called “Beautiful Women” drawn by the American artist Harrison Fisher.
The “Celebrity” series included literary figures, the clergy, musicians, politicians, scientists and many others. There was also an extensive series of exhibition cards, such as the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley.””
(from “Picture Postcards and Their Publishers” by Anthony Byatt, F.S.C.A., © 1978)
John was able to live in a fine house in Hammersmith which still stands today, and finance a lease of business premises in Holborn, but his Will shows that he did not make a fortune. He died on 8 January 1907. He never married. He left his estate equally to his sister Harriet Booth Beagles and his nieces Eleanor Lucy Isabella Mary Beagles, Mabel Emily Beagles, Evelyn Lakin Beagles & Gladys Bells Beagles stipulating that should they marry any husband would have control over the legacies.
The Company was wound up on 18 July 1939. The Picture Post had been launched the year before and it is likely that this and similar quality printed magazines made postcards of celebrities obsolete.