We are now in the eighth month of the project, with only two series of material now left uncatalogued!
Though work is continuing on the monthly Concorde 50 themed archive open afternoons, this month’s blog will be highlighting something different from the archive – a specific sign off (or ‘valediction’) found in earlier correspondence throughout the archive, “I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant”. This can be found ending most business letters in the earliest part of the archive, up until around 1930 or so, where it becomes less common.
While it seems a little unusual to a modern mind to see it on an average business letter, it seems even more unusual to see it on a letter of complaint – two particular examples that come to mind are a terse letter, angry that equipment had been improperly packed, and the other is the letter below:
Most Interesting Find of the Month
This month’s most interesting find is a letter of complaint, advising the Bristol Aeroplane Company that they would not be reimbursed by the Air Ministry for work done, in an unimpressed tone, but then finished with “I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant”.
After researching this phrase, it becomes clear that this is a brief closing compared to even earlier examples: while our archive only dates to 1910 at the earliest, 18th century letters can be found using variations on the phrase that are even lengthier (some taking several lines)! It is difficult to imagine ending a business email today with “I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant”, but this seems to have been standard practice in the early part of the 20th century.
Though the most obvious area of study related to the archive is aircraft and the physical aspects of aircraft production, it would be interesting to see how the boxes upon boxes of business correspondence could be used to study business practice within the aircraft industry in the earliest part of the 20th century.
But to skip ahead half a century, this month’s archive open afternoon will be focussing on supersonic flight, looking at some of the earlier test aircraft that came before Concorde, as well as some of the ideas for what would have come after. It will be on Thursday 30th May from 1:30-3:30. Normal museum admission applies, but no extra ticket is needed to enter the archive.