William T. Braham, circa 1895
W.T. Braham was born and raised in a strict religious upbringing as a Particular Baptist, but was swayed to the cause of English Spiritualists after attending a series of Manchester seances and receiving "satisfactory proof of the return of the so-called dead." He rose through the ranks of Spiritualism, and was not only an officer of the Trinity Hall Society of Spiritualists in Salford, but also one of the founding directors of the Two Worlds Publishing company. This would have indeed have been a position of some prominence among believers, and Braham was present on the board when Emma Britten was controversially ousted as editor of the Two Worlds newspaper when her husband was suspected of reaching his hand in the company till.
Braham & Co advertisement, 1888
Braham was a watchmaker and jeweler by trade, establishing a storefront and workshop at his 392 Stretford Road address in Manchester in 1873. He put his craftsman talents to work "by use of of the best and most modern tools and appliances" on a couple of interesting spirit communication devices, which seem to have been well received. Both are great dial plate planchettes, and very similar in form, with one undoubtedly being a refined version of the other.
Braham & Co. 'Telepathic Spirit Communicator,' circa 1900.
The more basic board was called the "Telepathic Spirit Communicator," and consists of an 15-inch long rectangular cardboard base covered in green paper. Scrollwork decorates the border of the device, and an alphabet and number panel runs the upper length of the board. A sort of recessed running rail runs parallel to the alphabet panel, which houses an oblong plank of mahogany with a brass pointer acts as the board's planchette. The planchette moves laterally along the board's length to create messages by pointing to letters and numbers on the upper panel. The bright blue boxes have white, stylized lettering with the board's name and instructions, proclaiming the board as "a marvelous and successful means of spelling out names and messages by spirit people." A surviving specimen carries a differing address than Braham's ads of the period, with an address of 13 Hartington Street, Moss Side, in Manchester, which may give as a clue as to its date when we are able to dig a little deeper.
Braham & Co. 'Wonderful Spirit Communicator,' circa 1900
The more elaborate "Wonderful Spirit Communicator" trumps its little sister on most counts. Similar in form, it is otherwise "deluxe" at almost every turn. The box steps away from the duo-tone print, with lavish lithographed illustrations of sweeping, colorful banners brightly promising that with the device within, "messages can be obtained from spirit people in the privacy of every home!" It also carries the same 392 Stretford address of Braham's jewelry store. The board within is very similar to the other dial plate. It is a plain burgundy color rather than the more common green, but it lacks the intricate borders of the other device. Two thin mahogany strips reinforce the running rail, and the mahogany planchette is of a much higher quality, with a nicely curved shape and nice brass castors and fittings.
Communicator Planchette Detail
Whether the "Wonderful" Spirit Communicator is a later refinement of the "Telepathic" Spirit Communicator, the latter is a cheaper later reprint of the former, or if they were offered as differently-priced alternatives to one another remains to be seen. What we do know is that the green Telepathic board was redressed in an even simpler red box with a plain white label, and marketed and sold by Two Worlds Publishing company. Given that Two Worlds ousted the Brittens over perceived financial improprieties within the organization, it is interesting that a board so connected with Braham, who sat on the board of directors, was produced. No doubt his involvement with the organization secured the licensing deal, in a bit of Victorian "insider trading."