Company magazines, house journals and staff dances
Maritime Archives and Library display
From 23 December 2016
Workers leaving the yard, The Cammell Laird Magazine, volume 1, number 7, December 1958. Photograph by Elsam, Mann and Cooper, copyright owner unknown.
The Maritime Archives and Library holds several collections of company magazines also known as house journals. These magazines aimed to foster a corporate identity and a sense of common purpose. They contain articles passing on information from the employer alongside a large amount of company chat and gossip regarding staff sports teams, weddings and retirements. This social side was often key for the success of the magazine.
Our collections are mainly from the larger shipping companies, but also from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and other large employers in the region. They date from the 20th century and reflect the paternalistic, highly social life of many firms, with teams for every imaginable sport, rental rates for staff caravans and wedding photographs. In the 1970s and 1980s they are increasingly used to pass on information about management attempts to preserve the viability of companies in the face of declining economic fortunes.
As with all archive material it is important to consider why they were produced. Early staff magazines were often produced by staff for consumption within a single department and had a jokey, anti-establishment tone. The examples within our collections are firmly company magazines, produced and distributed by the company itself. So it must be remembered that they impart the official management line. Their purpose is to foster a corporate identity and sense of common purpose. However, within them they contain a wealth of information about the working and personal lives of employers and employees.
The exhibition also includes a few items relating to company social events, especially staff dinners and dances. These can play an important part in working life. Again they help to foster a sense of community and are also seen as a reward for hard work and loyal service. The Maritime Archives and Library holds a number of small items from such events, mainly invitations and menus and a few photographs.
Many shipping companies employed a large number of women, who did not necessarily feel comfortable attending a rowdy dinner or were not allowed to join the societies that arranged them, so organised their own staff events. An invitation to a Social organised by the Ladies of the Staffs of the Booth Steamship Company, 20 March 1920, is included in the display.
Some jobs had their own journals highlighting issues specific to their role. Radio Officers were employed by companies such as Marconi and Siemens, who then placed them on a vessel. So while they were part of the crew, they were also slightly apart because they were not employed by the shipping company. Because of their work they were also part of a wider community linked by radio signals across the globe. The display includes a copy of The Signal, Journal of the Radio Officers’ Union, January – February 1956.