|Pony Magazine, April 1963|
This sculpture was strictly for private consumption: the sculptures by which Margaret made her living were inspired by the passions of her surviving daughter. Carola loved ponies and Margaret began to make model horses and ponies out of rubber with manes and tails made out of real hair. Exactly when the company started, I am not certain. The earliest advertisements I have found are in Pony Magazine, and date from May 1962. They show what looks like an established range of horses and riders, and it seems likely that the company probably started a few years before this. Isis Products was named after the Isis River, on which the family lived, and at first were made at home. When the company took off, Margaret employed two staff, and moved the company to a workshop in the village of Eaton Hastings, near Faringdon in Berkshire.
|Unidentified Isis model © Pam Wakelam|
|Isis Walking Pony © Pam Wakelam|
|Isis Pony Mare and Foal © Pam Wakelam|
|Isis - Hunter or Thoroughbred © Pam Wakelam|
Looking at the companies’ advertising strategies from 1962-1965 is instructive. Isis’ advertisements were all accompanied by attractive pictures, with beautifully composed backgrounds, showing off their range. Isis also outgunned Julip in other departments. Pony Magazine ran an annual competition, with prizes donated by publishers, riding schools, and of course, Isis. Julip contributed a prize in 1961 (a horse and bridle), but then donated nothing in 1962. Isis’ prize was a voucher for £2 2s. They continued to donate prizes until the company closed. Each year, they outdid Julip, and because their prize was more valuable, each year they appeared further up the list of prizes.
|Pony Magazine, September 1963|
"...if you want less fragile specimens [than Beswick china horses] there is the unbounded range of ponies, horses, riders, stables - a whole riding stable or horse show - produced by Julip Associates, the pioneers in the field....Other providers in this field are Isis Products.Julip quite obviously didn’t like the fact they had competition, and I would love to have read the original communication they sent the editor, Col C E G Hope. Whatever it was, it was strong enough to make him at least give the spirit of it to his readers, whilst also mentioning that there were indeed other providers. Julip backed up their down-with-the-competition attitude with another “Beware of cheap providers” advertisement in the same issue – it was another effort restricted to text only, and appeared buried in the depths of the magazine. In contrast, Isis’ November 1962 advertisement was this very pretty scene, printed just inside the front cover.
|Pony, November 1962|
Julip fired off another “Cheap Providers” ad in April 1963, and then reverted to text advertisements without feeling the need to snipe at the competition. There was less of it, as Pegasus’ last advertisement appeared in April 1962, after which the company presumably folded. Isis continued to expand, and in November 1963 put out their card game “Tack”, sold in WH Smith’s network of shops as well as directly from Isis. Alas, this, and their rather lovely "Yearling" money box, which appeared in 1966, seemed to be the company’s last hurrah.
|Pony, December 1966|
Isis models provided a fascinating episode in the history of model horses. If her husband’s ill health had not forced Margaret Hughes Hartmann to wind up the company, it’s interesting to speculate just how major would have been the competition they provided to Julip. Certainly, with her keen marketing brain, and her thoroughly charming range, Margaret Hughes Hartmann deserved to succeed.
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Many thanks to Carola Hartmann, and her husband Malcolm Cooper for the very considerable help they gave me with this piece. Carola sadly died in 2013 . She was a keen writer, and you can find some of her stories here.
Huge thanks too to Pamela Wakeham for supplying all the pictures of Isis models for this piece.