While interest in record sleeve art naturally gravitates towards the long-play albums which emerged the 1950s, it’s worth remembering that records were packaged, after a fashion, as soon as the 78 rpm disc was invented. Rigid but brittle discs shipped in generic paper bags which afforded little or no protection, forcing shops to buy thicker plain card sleeves to protect their stock (one woman I spoke to who worked at a record shop in the 1950s remembers that one of her first jobs following a delivery was to count up the number of broken discs!).
It didn’t take long for retailers to see these protective outers as an opportunity for advertising their shop. Local letterpress printers used whatever type they had to hand alongwith sometimes a few engraved blocks supplied by the record companies or gramophone makers.
Struck by the very prosaic nature of these covers I decided to pick up any relating to my locality while they could still be found (in charity shops and antique centres). To date the list has reached over 100 different Sheffield retailers,the majority dating from the late 1800s to the early 1950s when the 78rpm disc began to fade with the advent of the LP and 45.
The sheer number of shops selling records was a real eye-opener, with specialists vying against local suburban tobacconists stocking a box or two of the latest hits. And whereas nearly all trace of these shops has now gone, literally in Sheffield’s case following the blitz and subsequent redevelopment, these mundane but functional sleeves survive to tell the story. More will be added over time, and it goes without saying if you have any memories of these shops, or any which I’ve missed, do drop me a line.
I have also started adding the locations to a Google Maps Sheffield Record Shops layer, which will show where the shops were (or as near as possible in the case of demolished streets).
Page 1 – Angells to Curtis
Page 2 – Dewhurt to Frasers
Page 3 – Garlick to Gunthorpe
Page 4 – Hague & Howford to Hudson
Page 5 – Johnson to Longmore
Page 6 – Marsh to Music Box
Page 7 – Nelson’s to Pownall
Page 8 – Rodgers to Slater
Page 9 – Smith to Suggs
Page 10 – Taylors to Violet May
Page 11 – Wells to Wordsworth