What If We Staged Another Revolution From Britain And Sold Souveniers?

Posted on May 3, 2011


During World War II, there was a program for the British war relief effort called “Bundles for Britain.”  In this country, money was raised through the sales of various objects from  jewelry to boxes, and etc. all featuring the insignia of the effort.  Well, ladies and gentleman, at this last Royal Wedding, the Brits took in bundles more.

The Royal Wedding made a royal bundle from sales of goods and what not to Americans at home and abroad.  What woman is not running around with a $20 copy of Diana’s engagement ring?  What old woman has not picked up a copy of the latest special double issue of People Magazine featuring a wedding album?  And wonder of wonders, the world was amazed to learn that young people were caught up in the excitement of the day thus ensuring future generations of customers.

American wedding watchers were strong in numbers and it begs the question:  why?  Of course we love to watch beautiful and historic ritual for which we do  not have to pay or do we?  It would be interesting to add up just how much British product of one kind or another was bought and/or consumed on this side of the Atlantic.  Were McVittie biscuit sales brisk because some here wanted to make Prince William’s bachelor cake?  Next wedding, will we all be in the liquor store ordering  up Pol Roger Champagne (a favorite of Churchill’s) – the brand served at the Buckingham Palace reception?  Yes the Palace was more than willing to part with the details.

So did the American’s in fact win in independence 1776?  Apparently the matter is still unresolved.  We get giddy over the British Royal Family because, well, we love watching a kind of Donald Trump life with breeding and history associated with it.  And the Queen can’t tell US what to do or can she?  We seem obsessed with the comings and goings of  just about all of her family and we line up to pay for souvenirs of the major events in their lives.  With all the talk of independence, we could  have saved lives and time by just staging a parade back then and selling souvenirs.  Of course, the Brits would have taxed the sales.  But boxes of perfectly good tea would not have been wasted in those  earlier times of  “retrenchment.”

____________________________________________________

A post note about the War Relief Society and its shared import:

Relief organizations are our first line of humanitarian response to tragedy. Pleas on behalf of the 9-11 Fund, the NY Police and Fire Fighters Fund and the American Red Cross are with us daily. Such was also the situation in America in the early 1940’s. Even before Pearl Harbor, Americans were regularly ask to donate money to relieve the suffering of victims of the European War. After Dunkirk and the Blitzkreig began, Americans opened their homes, hearts and wallets to the British. Children were evacuated from the war zone to relatives in the US and Canada. Prominent citizens, who often had relatives in the British aristocracy, sent money and supplies to their friends overseas. As their need grew, charities on behalf of the British people began popping up all over America. A short list includes the American Committee for Air Raid Relief, American Ambulance in Great Britain, American Hospital in Britain, British American Ambulance Corps, the British Hospital Association, Bundles for Britain, St. Dunstan’s Hospital for the War-Blinded, as well as many Charities based in Britain.By 1941, most of these organizations were administered by an umbrella organization called the British War Relief Society (BWRS). Like the United Service Organizations (USO), which served as an executive framework for its six member organizations, the BWRS was primarily an administrative office, a central receiving depot for money and supplies donated which were then parceled out to its affiliate organizations in the US and in Britain. These donations were raised in the name of the BWRS, rather than in the name of the smaller groups.

One notable exception is Bundles for Britain. Bundles was begun by Mrs. Wales Latham, a young New York Society matron who began her charity work for Britain by organizing her friends to knit garments for British sailors on the frigid North Sea. Mrs. Winston Churchill had put out a call for Englishwomen to knit these items, and Mrs. Latham decided to answer the call from across the Atlantic. Her knitting circle was such a success, Mrs. Latham decided to broaden her horizons.

That was December 1939. As it says in a Look magazine story from December 1940, “[Mrs. Latham] got a license from the State Department, wheedled an empty store rent-free from a Park Avenue landlord, [and] persuaded Mrs. Winston Churchill to become a sponsor.” The genius of the operation was that anyone with idle hands, spare time, or spare clothing could participate. Bundles focused on producing and shipping needed supplies, rather than collecting money. The storefront offices were workrooms where volunteers could drop in to knit and sew garments to send to Britain. Cast-off clothing was mended or made over. If the cast-offs were not wearable, they would be cut up for woolen patchwork blankets, or baby sleeping bags, as were produced by a sewing room in Middletown, N.Y. Monetary donations of all sizes came pouring in: a sharecropper sent in nine pennies; $1.15 arrived, the profit from two sisters’ Kool Aid stand; a radio appeal by the likes of film stars Charles Boyer and Ronald Coleman, netted $30,000 for medical supplies.  [ww2homefront.com]