The British Postal Museum and Archive have changed their website.  Now I know that this may not count as the most earth-shattering information you have ever received, but from where I am standing it’s good news indeed.  And when my old bookmark retrieves their new website, I am perhaps appropriately now greeted with this, which is by Graham Byfield and dates from 1954 but which I have never knowingly searched for in my life.  Although I’m starting to rather like it.

Grahamm Byfield 1954 vintage GPO internal poster

The BPMA have always been among the good guys in the sense that their archive is mostly digitised, online and searchable.  The only problem has been that the pictures have been, well, postage stamp sized.  Which has its uses, but is a bit taxing when you are looking at posters.  But not any more.  So now I can say, see this lovely Hans Unger from 1950, and it’s worth you taking a look.

Hans Unger vintage GPO poster correct addressing 1950

What’s even better news, though, is that a whole heap more stuff has been added to the archives too.  So should you type a (slightly less than) random word such as Eckersley into the search box, all sorts of new delights come up.  I have a vague sense that I have seen this summery 1953 poster before.

Tom Eckersley postcards need a 2d stamp vintage GPO poster

But I definitely haven’t seen this (an early effort from 1951 and reminiscent of his wartime ROSPA posters).

Tom Eckersley mis-sending vintage GPO poster 1951

Nor this more modern bauble from 1964.

Tom Eckersley Christmas post early for europe vintage GPO poster 1964

And I definitely haven’t seen this 1954 one anywhere before, not ever.

Tom Eckersley repeat numbers clearly vintage GPO poster 1954

What fun, and I’ve hardly started.  My only small gripe would be that images have a standard width, which works fine for most posters, but the van strips (for use on side of small vans: Morris minor vans) are still a bit squinty.   Which matters a bit for this lovely 1968 detector van (Eckersley again).

Tom Eckersley television detector van poster 1968 GPO

But a lot more for these Lewitt-Him dogs.  Truly I do  need a copy of this poster, and I don’t care that it will be a very long frame.

Lewitt Him post early dogs vintage GPO van poster 1941

One day, I’d like to see a picture of one of those van posters in use, on a Morris Minor for preference (adds to list of bits of aimless research which may get done one day).

But it’s not just Tom Eckersley of course, there’s also Dorrit Dekk, here from 1950.

Dorrit Dekk vintage Post Office Savings bank poster 1950

And this Henrion too, from five years later.

F H K Henrion Pack Parcels Carefully vintage GPO poster 1955

What’s also interesting is that the search function has changed slightly – by which I mean improved.  Now when I search the catalogue for Henrion, I don’t just get the posters, but also records of the time that Henrion Associates were employed in 1967 to redesign the whole GPO.  There’s some proper research that could be done one day.

There are still some things missing; my understanding is that not all of the 60s posters have yet been digitised, nor the tiny phone-boxed sized square posters, and there’s still only a small smattering of Post Office Savings Bank images in there too.

For most people though, what’s already there will be plenty enough to be going on with.  What I’ve posted here is just a first scratching of the surface, and I am sure there are still plenty more treasures to be turned up when I rummage further.  In the meantime, I will leave you with this, by someone called Gapp, and once more from 1954, for no better reason than I like it.

Gapp Suppressor car vintage GPO poster 1954

Of course all images are with thanks to the BPMA and their lovely shiney new website.

Edit: further to the conversation below, I have now raided their website once again to find pictures of a Morris Mail Van (70 cu ft, not a Minor sadly) with a poster displayed on its side.  And here it is, from 1944.

Morris Van GPO with vintage poster on side

Inexplicably, there is another picture of what looks like a different version of the van, but with exactly the same poster on.

Vintage GPO morris van with poster on side

I am also rather tickled by the poster they’re displaying, which couldn’t be more British if it tried.  I imagine it being said in very clipped and understated tones.

Less telephoning please vintage GPO poster from BT archive

There ought to be more advertising like that these days.  Incidentally, that, because it concerns telephones and only telephones comes not from the BPMA but from the BT Archive, which I wrote about ages ago but clearly need to revisit.

And finally, from a specialist GPO van website (I say no more) a Morris Minor GPO van.  Sadly I can’t see the poster though.

Morris Minor GPO van with poster display

My next question has to be, does anyone have one of those van display posters preserved, apart from the BPMA that is?  This is the closest we have, from the same year as the polite poster above, but much smaller at 6″ x 20″.

Telegraph less Austin Cooper vintage GPO poster

But some of the longer ones are twice that length – did they all disappear?  I need to know.

  • Hi,

    Thanks for the review! That’s a great selection of posters you’ve used – I love the ‘repeat numbers clearly’ one.

    I’ll be resuming the cataloguing of POST 110: Post Office: Publicity (which contains our Post Office posters collection) in the autumn. I’m currently working on another of our archive series, POST 91: Buildings, Furniture and Fittings, and will be taking over the POST 110 project which was being done by one of our previous archivists. This explains the delay in getting more items and images on the catalogue!

    We did have an ongoing scanning project for the POST 110 posters, which will hopefully recommence sometime after I start work on the series. First off, my priorities will be getting the posters catalogued in the first place, and there are quite a number left to do! Hopefully I’ll find a window, or a volunteer (!), to do batches of scanning at fairly regular intervals.

    You mention the image sizes – I appreciate it can be difficult to view some of the posters, but they are scanned in a standard format to fit with the record layout on the online catalogue without distorting everything. Hopefully we can look into a click and enlarge option for images, or maybe provide links to a page where images can be viewed in a larger format. Thanks for highlighting the issue – it’s good to know what works and what doesn’t.

    Once I start work on the poster collection I’ll be using our blog to keep people updated on additions to the catalogue so keep your eyes peeled!

  • Thanks for your upbeat presentation of some lovely images! I’d go for the Christmas bauble myself. Half the world reflected in a Xmas ornament? Irresistable!

    My only experience so far of the BPMA was a visit last year to view the David Gentleman stamp design exhibition which had finished some days previously (thankyou, Time Out!). Only one charming little woodcut block (of a plump french hen from the 1977 Twelve Days of Christmas issue) remained, & that was worth the trip!

    I just wanted to say to Anna that I would be very willing to volunteer for poster scanning duties, having just been made redundant & having plenty of time on my hands at present. If you are interested in discussing this further, Anna, please get in touch.

  • I was lucky enough to have the chance to look through the archive as preparation for my little book about GPO Posters.

    The book was published last year by the Antique Collectors’ Club.

  • Hello everyone,

    Thanks for all of that! And especially good to hear the offer from you, Liz, although sorry to hear that it’s the result of redundancy. I will pass your email address on to Anna.

    Anna – Thanks for the update, it’s much appreciated and do let us know when you are starting to catalogue some more posters and we can preview some choice gems on here if you like. I’d also be interested to know, if this is a question that you can easily answer, what Post Office Savings Bank stuff you have? Is there loads, but it’s uncatalogued, or are some of them elsewhere? I say this simply from having a ton of Daphne Padden designs for them from the late 1960s which aren’t in the catalogue.

  • Hello,

    Another comment from the BPMA (you can see we’re all avid Quad Royal readers!) – many thanks again for your lovely review of the website. Re: Post Office Savings Bank posters – Anna will know much more about this in terms of the collections I’m sure, but thought you might like to know that we have just this week put two brand new greetings card featuring Savings Bank posters in our online shop – available here:

    Apologies for the plug – but thought it might be relevant to your query.

    Best wishes,

  • Waves to entire BPMA. I am flattered, and please do tell me if I get anything wrong! The savings poster cards are very good – did the whole archive come to you then and I just need to wait awhile before the Daphne Paddens come online? I’d just like to know how many more there are out there, as we must have ten or so different designs.

    And the van is rather fine, even in a modern photo. Does the BPMA have photos lurking somewhere too? It must do.

  • Hello again,

    Of course, I’ll let you know when I get started on cataloguing the posters – probably in September. It won’t just be a matter of cataloguing though as a large number have already been catalogued, but will need proofreading before their records can be uploaded to the online catalogue. So far about 2600 of our posters are on the online catalogue and about 2850 catalogued but still requiring proofreading before they can be publicly viewed on our online catalogue.

    120 of our Savings Bank posters have been catalogued, but only 47 are viewable on our online catalogue at the moment – the rest still need proofreading. The posters date from the 1930s to the 1960s, though I didn’t come across any Daphne Padden ones on our catalogue. I had a quick look through our uncatalogued poster drawers and couldn’t see any in there either, though I did come across a handful of 1960s Rex Moreton Savings Bank posters that haven’t been catalogued yet.

    I hope this gives you some idea of the Savings Bank poster situation at the moment!

    As I say, I’ll keep you updated on the progress. And Liz, hopefully I’ll be able to get your email address so I can get your details for when we get the poster scanning project up and running again.

  • That’s brilliant – look forward to hearing more when the new posters come on to the site!

  • I have a couple of full size ones. Both by Hans Schleger (Zero). They are still waiting to be framed up! Interestingly they are slightly (but significantly) different sizes – having visited Pat Schleger recently (Hans’ widow and colleague), I know that she also has copies of these two posters and they too are slightly different sizes. Sometimes you wonder if someone has lopped a bit off of the poster at some point.

    Mine came from Van Sabben, I remember another one of this format at Van Sabben before and even Onslows has had the one one I think. But it does seem quite rare to see them.

    Incidentally, how about a post on the framing of posters?

  • Van Sabben do seem to turn up a few GPO posters every sale, I wonder where they come from.

    As for the size of the posters, I’ve always assumed that different vans required different sized posters and I think – although I’d probably need to go back and check this – that a couple of different sizes appear in the BPMA catalogue too. But we’d probably need a Post Office van expert to confirm that one… There on the other hand, they might just lop a bit off to fit the different van!

    I’m not sure I’m enough of an expert to write a whole post on the framing of posters, but perhaps we can do a crowd-sourcing exercise where lots of people tell each other how they frame their posters. I’d certainly be interested to know how others do theirs/

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