Gateway Object: Leaflet

1940s Newman Brothers leaflet featuring coffin handle illustration

Production and History

This was the first marketing leaflet Newman Brothers produced after the Second World War. They acknowledge how difficult the period was for them due to the shortage of materials. It’s significant that their handle they have chosen to depict on the leaflet is made from brass, the highest-quality metal used to produce coffin fittings. After nearly closing during the war, this was perhaps a symbolic message to customers that Newman Brothers’ name was still associated with quality.

In the post-war years, society’s attitudes to death and funerals changed profoundly. New housing was a higher priority than cemeteries, and cremation started to grow in popularity. The number of coffin furniture manufacturers in Birmingham shrank from twelve in 1944 to just three in 1967. No new companies entered the market after 1949.

Newman Brothers struggled to recover from the Second World War. In 1945, the company had been trading at a loss and the value of the shares went down. George Newman died in 1944. His brother Horace was the last member of the family to have direct involvement in running the business, which he did up until his own death in 1952. After the war there was however an injection of young blood into workforce, which helped to revitalise the company.

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