1947 British Industries Fair Advertisement. Notably lacking planchettes.
An assortment of H.P. Gibson games.
As H.P. Gibson & Sons is still in operation, it has the distinction of being one of the oldest British-owned firms still in the toy industry. It has its origins in the International Card Company, founded by Harry Gibson in 1903. Starting with a loan of 500 pounds, the company manufactured mostly paper products for stationary shops, such as postcards and card games. In 1919 the card business sold, and H. P. Gibson & Sons Limited was incorporated, making a name for itself in the toy industry with indoor games such as the popular L'Attaque and Dover Patrol, both of which found considerable success both before and after WWII.
These days, H.P. Gibson & Sons produce mainly themed puzzles, family-oriented card games, and toys appropriate for preschool-age children, which from the perspective of hindsight is a little amusing considering the company's focus on battle-and-war-oriented games throughout much of their earlier history, and their numerous offerings of spirit communication tools to an only-slightly older audience not so many years past. But as the modern company also produces a set of traditional British pub signs card set, we'll give them a pass just this once! All in all, a great company with a great history!
A Boxed H.P. Gibson & Sons Autoscopograph Set
Autoscopograph Castor Detail: The Missing Link to Weyers Bros?
During the war, the company's factory grounds were completely leveled in the 1940 blitz, and the company had to be rebuilt from the ground up once the war ended. By this time, Robert and Harry Gibson Jr., sons of the founder, were in control, and re-established the business in the West End of London. It still exists today, under the careful stewardship of the founder's grandson, Michael Gibson. These days, the company is known more simply as Gibson Games, and produces a wide assortment of toys and games, including playing cards, metal puzzles, dominoes, and jigsaw puzzles.
H.P. Gibson & Sons "Shield" Model, date unknown
To date, there are 3 known models of H.P. Gibson & Sons planchettes, with intriguing clues that the company may be responsible for many more. The high-quality and dark-stained "scallop-back" board, also known in its accompanying literature as the tongue-twisting "Autoscopograph," carries nearly identical hardware and thinness of design of the ball-bearing wheeled planchettes produced by (or for?) Weyers Brothers and Two Worlds Publishing. The quality of this board is far superior to that of its sisters. The deep mahogany stain is smoothly varnished on both sides, and the board is thinner than most planchettes without being in any way flimsy. The brass castors are of the ball-bearing type, flaring out at the tip from the slender shank of the leg to enclose the stainless steel ball, and the castors penetrate the board where they are held in place by a single central flathead screw from the topside. The pencil clamp is of brass, and its throat tightens around the slim pencil (included) with a few quick turns of the aperture. The burgundy box is thick and sturdy with clean silver lettering, and was littered with ephemera, including a cardboard instruction sheet, an instruction booklet with copious quotes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (champion of Spiritualists and spotter of fey), character charts ("For Amusement Only!"), and a fold-out, 4-panel fortune-telling sheet suspiciously similar to the British Manufacture "Physio-Psychophone."
HP Gibson & Sons Paddle Model, date unknowns
Compare & Contrast: The Gibson-branded "Talking Board" sheet versus the unmarked "Physio-Psychophone." Copycat design, or same manufacturer?
Other known examples are very different from the Autoscopograph design, and one wonders if they date from after the original factory's destruction in WWII, as the quality takes a serious downturn. One model has a shield-shaped design, not unlike the Selchow & Righter designs from years past, only with a rounded, rather than pointed, nose. The board retains the thin-yet-not-flimsy quality of the above board, but there is no pencil clamp?only a simple hole fitting a #2 pencil, and gone are the ball-bearing wheels. Instead, the castors are decidedly low-quality, stamped of thin tin, and too short to serve their proper purpose. Undoubtedly re-purposed from other uses, such as writing pentagraphs, the plastic wheels are mounted onto a thick strip of wood with two tiny nails, rather than directly to the main board, and appear nearly identical to the castors of Chad Valley planchettes of the same period. Like the Autoscopograph, this planchette's distinctive, bright-yellow box contained the 4-panel fortune-telling sheet labeled "Planchette-Talking Board."