No room for horse play here

One day, I am going to move into the Brighton University Design Archives for a month or two, which I think should be long enough to explore.

There is a ridiculous amount there (both the Henrion and Design Council archives alone can be measured in metres), so it’s forgiveable that the holdings aren’t all digitised and web catalogued for me to survey from the comfort of my desk.

Imagine my delight then when I came across these.

HA Rothholz vintage GPO greetings telegram poster 1950

Well in fact it was Mr Crownfolio who came across the cache first, as a result of doing some detective work on those RoSPA posters I mentioned the other day. Because that’s a 1950 GPO poster by HA Rothholz, and it’s just one of a whole heap.

For some reason, out there on the Archives Hub are dozens of his posters, all from his own archives which are held in Brighton.  I don’t know why he’s been singled out, but I do know it’s a jolly good thing. Take a look at this Post Office Savings Bank poster to start with.

Post Office Savings Bank poster 1960 HA Rothholz

Or this wonderful wartime RosPA poster.

HA Rotholz vintage RosPA ww2 safety poster hats are in fashion

It’s not, I’ll be honest with you, a complete treasure trove of undiscovered work.  The RoSPA posters and the GPO work, to start with, are fairly well archived as it is.  Although I had never seen this particular GPO poster until now.

HA Rothholz vintage GPO poster pack parcels golliwog

To be fair, it is in the BPMA’s catalogue when you go looking for it, they just don’t shout about it.  Ah, 1956, not entirely a paradise of good design and right thinking then.

There are also a few things, like this coach poster, that I would have had no idea about otherwise.

HA Rothholz vintage 1950s coach poster excursions

What’s most enlightening about this archive, though, is that seeing it altogether gives a proper overview of Rothholz’s career.  The outline story is quite simple.

Rothholz came to London in 1933 to study at the Reimann School (principal one Austin Cooper and an institution that I would love to read more about if anyone can point me at a source).  Despite being interned as an enemy alien during the war in both the Isle of Man and Canada, he returned to Britain in 1942 and became one of the main designers of RoSPA’s safety posters.  Others are better known, but this is one of my favourites.

Vintage Rospa ww2 safety poster No room for Horse play here HA Rothholz

In the decade or so after the war he produced a flurry of posters, continuing to work for RoSPA, but also for the GPO.

vintage GPO poste r3d is the minimum foreign rate HA ROthholz

Along with, to a lesser extent, London Transport.

HA Rothholz vintage London transport valentines poster Courtesy and service 1947

Apart from the GPO work, the flood of posters seems to dry up by the mid 1950s.  The biographies give us a clue:

He also designed graphics and a mural for the ‘Lyons Corner House’ restaurant, at Marble Arch, and contributed to the corporate identity styles of Winsor & Newton and The Wellcome Foundation.

He must have done quite well too, because he employed people (look at the comments here for some personal testimonies).  Here’s a piece of his Winsor and Newton design from the archive.

HA Rothholz winsor and newton poster from archive

This is a story we have come across before.  As television takes over, and advertising agencies start to design campaigns rather than posters, another designer moves over to the fields of brand identity and corporate style.

While it may be nothing new, it’s still fascinating to see it played out across an entire archive from the comfort of my own desk.  And if anyone can fill in any of the gaps, please do get in contact.

  • Sylvia Stockeld, who is mentioned in the comments on the cityofsound blog, was married to Dennis Hall and died in the last few years. Dennis is a publisher with a particular interest in illustration and has published many books under a number of imprints such as Previous Parrot Press and Artists’ Choice. I think his most recent book was Ronald Searle’s ‘Les Trés Riches Heures De Mrs Mole’.

    A digression from posters but a small piece of gap-filling, I hope.

  • There is always room for digression here, particularly when it’s making that kind of interesting connections. I will go and investigate both of them further.

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