Lady Lever Art Gallery … Titanic … Collage workshops


Lady Lever Art Gallery

Out In The City members took the train to Port Sunlight. It’s quite an easy journey changing at Liverpool Lime Street.

Port Sunlight village is delightful and we had a lovely meal in The Bridge Inn. The food was terrific and great value. After dining we walked to the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

William Hesketh Lever was born in Bolton, the son of a wholesale grocer. He left school at 16 to join the family firm, which he expanded and transformed. In 1884 he decided to focus on just one product – household soap – primarily because of its potential for marketing in pre-wrapped bars under a brand name. Previously soap had to be cut to order from a single large block.

Two years later he began to manufacture soap himself and set up the firm of Lever Brothers with his brother. He initially produced his soap in an existing factory but by 1888 had outgrown the site and moved to a purpose built and much larger building on the Wirral.

The success of his company made Lever very rich. By 1912 in addition to his income, he had personal assets valued at nearly three million pounds. Within a few years the interests of his company Lever Brothers stretched from the United Kingdom to West Africa, the Pacific and the United States. Lever visited his business empire across the globe and collected works of art and everyday items during his travels. The company grew until Lever was employing 85,000 workers around the world in 1925.

There is some discussion about whether Lever exploited people in Africa, but he was certainly a philanthropist and made a large contribution to the lives of ordinary people in the UK. He built a village to house his employees and named it Port Sunlight after his most successful brand of soap. Port Sunlight was to provide his workforce with good housing. He campaigned for better welfare and a shorter working day, and supported building, education and medical projects.

He also founded the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which houses one of the UK’s finest collections of fine and decorative art.

Lord Leverhulme died at 73 of pneumonia at his home in Hampstead on 7 May 1925. His funeral was attended by 30,000 people.

More photos can be seen here.

Does the Titanic have a secret gay history? All signs point to yes

On Saturday 15 April it will be 111 years since the sinking of the Titanic. Over 1500 people perished when the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank in the Mid-Atlantic ocean, over two hours after striking an iceberg. The ship had only entered service four days prior and was expected to complete its maiden voyage to New York by 17 April.

The story of Titanic has been retold many times, most notably through the 1997 Blockbuster triggering a pop culture phenomena of iconic scenes, quotes and characters. The tragic love story of Jack and Rose enchanted the imagination of so many.

We all know what happened after Jack drew Rose, but it turns out there may have been a real-life couple on board the Titanic whose story is even more intriguing than James Cameron’s Oscar-winning tale of doomed love.

While it’s not 100% confirmed, all signs point to the likelihood that prominent military veterans Archibald Butt (above, left) and Francis Davis Millet (above, right), who both died when the Titanic sank in 1912, were much more than just friends.

The maybe-probably gay couple has been a source of fascination for years. Historian Richard Davenport-Hines wrote in 2012 that “the enduring partnership of Butt and Millet was an early case of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” and a National Park Service website about a fountain built in their honour notes that “many “have asserted that Butt and Millet were involved in a romantic relationship.”

Millet was estranged from his wife and love letters show he had a previous relationship with writer Charles Warren Stoddard. Butt never married, and the two shared a mansion in Washington, DC, where they regularly threw parties. President William Howard Taft, who happened to be Butt’s boss, was a frequent guest.

Millet and Butt were booked in separate rooms on the Titanic, but given that they’d have to keep their love a secret to maintain their status and freedom, this is hardly surprising. The Post notes that the men were vacationing together in Europe before boarding the ship, and it honestly sounds quite romantic.

Millet served as a medical assistant in the Civil War before studying art at Harvard. He travelled the world as a reporter, and received high praise for murals he painted in Belgium. He also served as vice chair of the US Commission on Fine Arts.

Butt also worked as a reporter for some time, but joined the military at age 34 and quickly ascended the ranks. President Theodore Roosevelt called him back to Washington in 1908 to serve as an adviser. Taft kept him on when he assumed office, and the two men grew close.

Taft was devastated at the loss of Butt, taking it as if his son had died. After the tragedy, plans were formed to honour the men with a White House fountain.

The official reason was that the two were the only representatives of the federal government on board the ship, but we like to think it’s an enduring monument of same-sex love.

It’s located near the E Street entrance on the southwest side of the White House.

Collage workshops

A small number of us attended The Big Fandango in Bury to make collage pictures in preparation for Bury Pride:

Does anyone know where this is from? An intriguing bit of history, but I have no context or information.

One thought on “Lady Lever Art Gallery … Titanic … Collage workshops

  1. Really enjoyed the Lady Lever Gallery trip Tony. Thanks for organising it. Interesting article about Titanic.


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