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On September 9, 1932, The London Times printed an article following up on a “correspondence in The Times proposing that British railway stations might, like those in Japan, provide facilities for messages from one person to another to be displayed.” An electrical engineer had written to the paper, agreeing, and noted a device that he had heard of; an “automatic machine…to be installed at stations and other suitable sites, and on the insertion of two pennies facilities were given for writing a message that remained in view for two hours after writing.”


The notificator was provisionally patented in June of 1932 by Govan Gee of Winchmore Hill, London, England. Govan Gee also holds U. S. patents for an “apparatus for delivering change” filed in 1934 and a “means for extinguishing cigarettes, matches, and the like” filed 1938.

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The Notificator


The notificator consists of a six to seven foot tall, shallow case with a glass face wide enough to display three approximately three by five inch wide columns that extend from the mid section of the machine to the top. Fixed to that mid section is a protruding “small desk or shelf…a glass window in the desk and a roll of paper or thin cardboard beneath.” For two pennies, “the window can be slid aside and a message written, which will then be turned onward, the window be closed ready for the next user. Each time a fresh message is written the shutting of the window will move a ratchet—the only mechanism embodied in the invention—and so place the column of messages one space higher” (Times 09/32).


Court case listings by London’s The Times document Aircraft Patents Ltd. v. Notificator Development Ltd. from late October through December of 1937. On December 21, a Mr. Justice Simonds orders “in the usual form…for the compulsory winding-up of Notificator Development Ltd.”


Postings on two separate message boards discussing the notificator article from the Modern Mechanix blog (, while being anecdotal sources, make interesting contributions which may eventually provide further information on this concept. "Sarah Lipman," posting on the blog Pasta&Vinegar in June 2007, suggests that these types of communication methods were in heavy use among European and Jewish survivors of World War II: "I’ve seen it mentioned in many (10+ books) where when Jewish survivors tried to track down any remaining friends, relatives or neighbors, they would go to their old town or to a Displaced Persons’ Center, where names would be written up on notes all over the walls. They’d add their name, some identifying information, and contact information, and then read every single note trying to find names they recognized. They would also return frequently to check new "listings."<ref>{{cite web|[[6/27/2007}} These message centers also appeared in the period of confusion immediately following the 2001 tragedy in New York City. The public nature of these notices has the potential to activate oral communications among a dispersed community, increasing the chance that a posting would reach an individual member.

Also notable is self described "Tube bore and lover of London's history," "Simon Greenwood's" post at the MobHappy blog (, July 2007; "Not to say that this doesn't exist but...I have genuinely never heard of this, and it looks like the sort of thing that the Museum of London or the London Transport Museum would have in its stores. My guess is that there might have been one set up as a demo somewhere, perhaps in the West End, but that it wasn’t adopted by the Underground, the railways or whoever wanted to put street furniture out in London." Although the notificator does not seem to have been in wide use, the outdoor setting of the second image of this page, if it is not staged, implies at least some use at a public site.