Whilst continuing our audit of the social history store at Burymead we have come across two interesting items; they are a human jawbone and an incomplete set of teeth.

The first object, the jawbone was dug up in the grounds of Hitchin Priory in 1852 and is believed to be that of a young male.


The second item is an incomplete set of human teeth with some detail of them being from the body of a Joan Biggs who was a suicide victim who was later exhumed in 1906 from what we believe to be the crossroads by the Radcliffe pub in Hitchin. The body was exhumed as the grave had become a landmark.


We have attempted to research who Joan Biggs was, but so far have been unable to find a record of her so feel she may have been from another area or perhaps an asylum or almshouse.

If you have any further information regarding these two items please comment on the post and we will be in touch!

Whilst carrying out an audit of the social history store at Burymead, in a box labelled ‘Cosmetics and Hygiene’, we came across this beautiful box in almost perfect condition containing a bottle, which on further inspection was still full of the original talcum powder. The talcum powder itself still had its original rose fragrance; the box also contained some advertisements from the cosmetic company DuBarry and claims to give ‘satin smoothness of the skin’.


DuBarry was  the first American made cosmetic line and was created by Richard Hudnut. By 1903 he had taken over his fathers drug store (in New York) and transformed it into a classy showroom for his cosmetics and fragrances, inspired by exotic fragrances from Europe. It was an instant hit and many other drug stores across New York started selling DuBarry cosmetics. At its peak DuBarry was more successful than Revlon today.

In 1940 Hudnut set up the ‘DuBarry Success Course’ which taught women how to be successful and beautiful no matter what their social status was, and was attended (either in lectures or by correspondence) by thousands of women.

DuBarry was named after the Comtesse Jeanne DuBarry, who was thought to portray ‘the essence of feminity’ and is pictured on the box of talcum powder.

Whilst carrying out an audit of the social history store at Burymead in Hitchin we came across two interesting children’s books which we have decided to share with you. They are called Bubble Books and are titled ‘The Merry Midgets’ (1917) and ‘The Pie Party’ (1920). The following is a brief history of the company who published them.

The story of the Harper-Columbia Bubble Book series begins in 1917 in the USA when Ralph Mayhew, an employee of Harper came up with the idea of producing a series of books for children which included records which sang to the reader. Mayhew promoted them with the tagline ‘Harper Columbia Book that Sings’. The price of the books varied over time, on their first release they were retailed at $1.00 in 1917, which then increased to $1.50 in 1920, $1.25 in 1921 and then finally in 1922 returned to the original price of $1.00.


The success of the Bubble Book series resulted in Harper Columbia making a deal with British publishers Hodder and Stoughton Ltd in order to create a British edition of the books. On UK editions; as we have at Burymead the publisher is Hodder-Columbia, a reflection of the deal between the two companies. Sales of the series were good but began to tail off in the early to mid 1920s when the patent for the series was purchased by Victor Talking Machine Company in 1924.

On obtaining the patent Victor published a series of six Bubble Books; the new editions were larger and had double sided records which appealed to the public who embraced the new format; this was reflected in Victor’s decision to manufacture a phonograph decorated with images from the Bubble Book series, this was priced at $18.00.


By 1930 sales began to fall , perhaps as a result of the economic situation following the Wall Street crash of 1929. In 1930 Ralph Mayhew regained the copyright and Columbia began production of the Bubble Book once again in partnership with Dodd, Mead and Company. In the following two years production was wound down and ended with the release of records from Bubble Books 13-16 alongside the Clarion recording label.

The historical importance of the Bubble Book series is reflected in their inclusion in the Library of Congress (USA) as part of the National Recording Registry. In 2004 Bubble Book #1 was added to the registry because of its importance as the first children’s book and record series.