Music sheet cover, 'Co-operation'

Music sheet cover, 'Co-operation'

Music sheet cover
'Co-operation'
Printed by Stannard and Son
Published by Ransford and Son
Late 19th century
Museum no. S.156-2012
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This music sheet cover celebrates the growth of the Co-operative movement and the spread of its shops. Co-ops were first formed in Britain in the 1840s, and were owned by and run for the benefit of their members. Shoppers could become members and any profits that were not ploughed back into the business were redistributed to members (according to how much they had spent in the shops) by a dividend, known universally as the 'divi'. Co-operative stores gave many working class families access to products that they couldn't previously buy, like fresh vegetables. This song not only celebrates the movement, but satirically contrasts its ideals with the class structure of the time. This rather comical scene shows a well-to-do family, or 'the swells' as they are called in the song, on a shopping trip with a disgruntled-looking footman. The song is dedicated to the members of the Civil Service, probably as a joke. Families like this would not have concerned themselves with mundane tasks like grocery shopping. It would have all been done by their domestic staff, but not the footman!