For Their Eyes Only

I’m battling with a post about auctions at the moment, but sense is eluding me.  So while I sort myself out, why don’t you take a look at this pair of posters.  Although they’re not very cheery.

Protect and Survive residential street before bomb

Residential street after bomb damage 1958 civil defence poster

The images were sent to me by Mark T, who found them in an old hospital over twenty years ago and has hung onto them ever since.  He actually has the full set of eight – here’s another happy image (borrowed from this website which has a thoroughly comprehensive exposition of the Protect and Survive programme of that era).

civil defence bomb damage poster 1958

I’d never seen these posters before, although when I search for them, they are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, which tells me that they date from 1958.

But quite apart from the shock value, they interest me for two reasons.  One is that you can’t look for something if it’s not there.  What else are we missing that we do not know is there?  I suppose means that one day I should just put the keyword ‘poster’ into the IWM collection and see what turns up.  If I’m gone for a long time, you’ll know why.

The other point, though, is that not all posters have the same audience.  What is fascinating about this set is that unlike most posters they were definitely not meant to be seen by everyone.  At a time when government advice for what to do in a nuclear attack was to put two doors against a wall and batten them with luggage, these posters are telling the unvarnished truth about what would actually happen if a bomb did fall.  Look at this poster.

city centre nuclear bomb damage civil defence poster 1958

A door isn’t going to be much use there, is it?

It’s no surprise really then that these were found in a hospital.  These are the people who would have needed to know the scale of the damage and how many people would be injured; quite possibly this was where the Civil Defence Planning Meetings were held.  But very few would have seen the posters at all, because only a very select few were meant to know how bad it was going to be.

Ghost posters

This picture arrived by email last week.  It is, I am told, a street corner in Brighton at some point during the 80s.  But with the 1950s lurking just under the skin.

Brighton street corner with posters remaining

Now this would be worth putting your way just as a reminder of what does persist, and in the strangest places.  But there’s more to it than just that.

Because this picture is the only colour image I’ve ever seen of that Eckersley Omo poster on the left.  Until now, I only knew it from a black and white reproduction in Modern Publicity.

Tom Eckersley Omo poster 1962 Modern Publicity

Despite that,  I recognised the poster at once, because I’ve used it – both on here and elsewhere – as an example.  It’s a reminder of the sheer volume of British posters, specifically commercial posters, which have not only failed to survive in any number, but quite often have left almost no trace at all.  Except here it is, leaving a trace, thirty years after it was first printed.  Hurrah for that.  And I much prefer it in colour too.

(I suspect that there are other clues in that picture too, or at least hints.  My feeling is that British commercial posters weren’t kept in part because they were immense, whereas – perhaps – Continental ones came in smaller sizes too.  But that’s just a hunch with no research behind it for now.)

Two addenda.  Firstly I know nothing about that Bovril poster at all, so if anyone has any ideas about that, please point yourself at the comments box at once as I would love to find out more.  Secondly, the picture comes from someone called Bongo Pete, but arrived with me via the medium of Facebook which means that it’s hard to contact him.  So if you are Bongo Pete and want any more acknowledgement than that (and of course my eternal gratitude for taking the picture in the first place) please do get in touch.

 

 

Shop Now

Right, there is no way on earth that I am going to be able to do today’s auction justice.  This is partly because I am tired (I had to get up at 5.45 am to go to Stonehenge, don’t ask) and partly because it is tomorrow, but mainly because it is just such a vast, sprawling and wonderful beast that it would be impossible to cover all the highlights in one blog post.  So this is just a taster, and you really do have to go and look at the catalogue yourself.

The auction in question is the posthumous sale of the collection of Bob Date, who was a dealer in books and ephemera, and clearly blessed with exceptional taste.  Along with the collecting gene, clearly, as there is tons of the stuff.

How do I know he had good taste?  Well he liked Barnett Freedman, to start with.

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'Modern Furniture & Design by Bowmans,,'; London, 1930; together with 'Bowman's Furniture, Ring Up The Curtain..', same publisher, 1936, both square 4to; photographic trade catalogues of 'Unit' furniture with fine cover designs by Barnett Freedman printed in various colours
Lot 219, est. £150-200

But there’s so much  more than just catalogues.  How about an accordion folded, peepshow diorama?

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'In Winter & In Summer You Can Be Sure of Shell..'; rare accordian-folding peepshow diorama from a design by Freedman, comprising eight colour litho card sections with paper sides, reading 'Be Up to Date Shellubricate',
Lot 217, est £300-500

Or perhaps an entire archive of more than a hundred items of almost limitless Freedman glory?

Barnett Freedman archive items

 

Chromoworks publicity Barnett Freedman
Lot 221, est. £2,000-3,000

And there are also posters too, and not just by Freedman either, although he is of course represented.

Barnett Freedman, 'Circus, Go By Underground', printed by Curwen Press, two colour lithographs London Transport poster
Lot 846, est. £500-700 (two posters)

And not just by the known posters either.  This – which I assume is for the Festival of Britain – is fantastic.  If somewhat large.

After Barnett Freedman, an extremely rare Shell advertising billboard poster, in four parts Festival of Britain poster 1951 Shell
Lot 911, £1,000-2,000

And there’s plenty of posters by other artists too, scattered throughout the tail end of the auction.

After Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, 'Football', a rare 1933 London Transport poster, printed by The Baynard Press
Andrew Power, 1933, lot 864, est. £500-800

Paxton Chadwick, 'The South Gets More Sun', a 1930s Southern Railway Poster
Paxton Chadwick, 1933, lot 933, est. £100-150

After Dame Laura Knight, 'Victory Delayed' poster, printed by J. Weiner Ltd, colour lithograph World War Two poster
Dame Laura Knight, lot 927, est. £50-70

And not just posters, but books about posters too, whole lots of them.  And books about canals, and trains, and architecture, and books of designs for the Curwen Press.  And then there’s the ephemera, which is here in industrial quantities.  You could probably start up as a dealer just by buying one lot like this.

A collection of approx. five hundred and forty items, to include: labels; advertising; book plates; packaging; a few postcards; etc., 19th century to modern, largely in fine condition. (Approx. 540)

That’s lot 98, if you’re interested, estimated at £200-300.  Although I have no idea how the values will work out tomorrow, it really could go either way.  Possibly these are wild under-estimates and there will be a crazed frenzy of buying the like of which I have not seen for a while.  Equally, it could go the way of Morphets, and people will be so boggled by the sheer volume of stuff for sale that some things will slip by for almost nothing.

I am, obviously, hoping for the latter as there are one or two things we’ve got our eye on, but I have to say I think it’s a pipe dream.  Over the last few days, the estimate on one item I’ve been looking at – a Paul Nash lithograph since you ask – has risen from £150-200, to £500-700.  Which means we won’t be getting that, or much else either I should think.  But watch this space.

 

Hoarded

I’ve posted about the Empire Marketing Board posters before, both the ideological problem that they present, and their rather special hoardings.

I can’t even remember why I was searching for them again the other day, but in doing so, I turned up something I’ve never seen before, which is this.

Empire Marketing Board Hoarding with posters by McKNight Kauffer in place

It looks like some kind of contemporaneous photograph of an Empire Marketing Board billboard, with posters in place.  (This isn’t an ideal format for the blog, so do click on the image to enlarge it a bit).  But I have no real idea where it came from as it was on a forum with no provenance at all.

I can tell you however that the posters on there are by McKnight Kauffer and date from 1926.  The one on the right was sold at the last Onslows auction.

Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926

It went for £800, which is quite a lot of money, especially for something which is quite arguably racist.

And thanks to the Canadian archives that I mentioned in my previous post, I can also show you not just the other pictorial poster.

McKnight Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926 Cocoa image

But also the two text posters as well.

McKnight Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926 text poster

McKnight Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926 cocoa text

All that’s missing is the banner along the top, so you’ll just have to imagine that.

My searches also uncovered this Kauffer, which I have never seen before.

McKnight Kauffer gold mines Empire Marketing Board poster

And perhaps that’s not a surprise, because it not simply racist but imperialist and exploitative to a degree that is really quite shocking today.  All the more reason to look at it really.  Perhaps it needs to be in a few more books.

The importance of being dull

Still the auctions keep coming at us.  Although today’s first offering is a bit left field, as Lawrence’s of Bletchingly have a really quite massive set of World War Two Propaganda posters on offer in their next sale.  But it’s a set of posters I rather like, mainly because they are very, very dull.

Take the one on the left, here.  This is about strikes in the mining industry, which were a real problem during the war.

World war two propaganda poster illegal stoppages men wanted for stretcher parties

I doubt that would ever get illustrated, except perhaps in a fairly detailed book about the mining industry during World War Two.  And that’s if they ever found a copy – it doesn’t seem to be in the IWM collections, certainly not in the digitised set anyway.  And so it’s dull, but it’s actually quite important.

Sometimes it still boggles me that there is no complete record of what posters were produced during the war (I mean, what’s their excuse?) and, more than that, we still don’t really have any idea.  So posters like this can just pop up and, perhaps, be seen for the first time since 1945.  And so this poster may be dull, but it’s also important.

There are plenty more where that came from too.

Quicker Turnaround World War Two propaganda poster

This one isn’t in the IWM digitised collections either, but there are six copies in this auction.

The story of how they survived is as follows (with thanks to Lawrences for being so helpful).

The posterswere discovered in a chest of drawers which had been kept in a garage.  Surprisingly they have survived on the whole in very good condition, although many do show signs of age and some appear to have been displayed at the time of the war.  There are also many which have not been used and we can only guess were surplus to requirements.  Two envelopes and some labels are visible within the collection and are addressed to HM Inspector of Taxes, Hendon.  I should imagine that the collection had not seen the light of day for nearly 70 years.

From the selection offered, I am guessing that Mr Inspector of Taxes was an air raid warden, as a lot of the posters relate to that.

Strip posters what to do in an air raid, world war two propaganda

And I think we can see some official document here.

eyes poster and official ARP documentation

But he clearly got sent a lot of other stuff too, as what’s on offer covers a huge range from the run-up to the war, through to the war itself and then the financial aftermath as well.

Fill the Ships to Fill the shops World War Two propaganda poster

There is only one poster that I would buy on aesthetic grounds, which is this classic Lewitt-Him.

Lewitt Him Shanks Pony Walk Short Distances poster world war two

Unlike most of the others, it has an estimate, in this case a fairly reasonable £100-200.   Although it is in the slightly more lurid (and if I am remembering rightly, later) colour way and version, which I have to say I like less.

Lewitt Him Shanks Pony Walk Short Distances poster world war two

But that’s not the star turn.  Because what else was in the drawer, but this?

Keep Calm and Carry On poster

And not once, but six times.  Each now with an estimate of £400-600.

I have to say though, that I can’t really see the point of buying an original of these, unless you are a museum.  Because restored, framed and on the wall, everyone is just going to assume that you’ve bought a reprint.  And I can’t see the satisfaction of knowing that you have an original being worth several hundred quid.  Although this is mainly because I can’t really see the point of buying it at all.

Oh what an unprofitable war!

Hello everyone.  My attendance really isn’t getting much better, is it?  We’ll have OFSTED round soon if I’m not careful.

Anyway, I thought I’d better post something about last week’s poster event at the National Army Museum.  Lots of people who know about posters spoke; more frighteningly, lots of people who knew about posters also sat in the audience.  And for light relief after lunch, they all got me, rattling on and trying to fit everything I had to say about Home Front Posters into 40 odd minutes.  There were some very odd minutes in there too.

Much of the content wouldn’t have  come as much surprise to anyone who has been reading my posts on here, but the basic thesis was that most of our shorthand generalisations about Home Front Posters are wrong.  That in itself isn’t exactly news, but it’s all too easy to imagine that all Second World War posters came out of a giant, all-powerful Ministry of Information determined to tell the public what to think.  I think we have George Orwell to blame for that, but the truth was rather less like 1984, and, well, rather more shambolic and British.

Lewitt Him Shanks Pony world war two home front poster

Most obviously, posters didn’t just come from the Ministry of Information.  In fact they came from everywhere but.  To start with, the two biggest-spending government departments, the Ministry of Food and National Savings, didn’t bother with the MoI and made their own.

Tom Eckersley elephant poster ministry of food world war two

Then there were the London Transport posters…

IMG_1701

…the GPO posters…

IMG_3583

…the railway posters…

British Railways wartime holiday at home poster

And that’s before we’ve even mentioned Abram Games’ posters produced for and by the Army.

Abram Games Ventilate your quarters poster

Or RoSPA’s innumerable workplace safety posters.

Tom Eckersley goggles RoSPA poster

But the reason I’m telling you this, is that one of the people who attended, Kirill Kalinin pointed me at some Home Front posters I hadn’t seen before, posters which were produced by private companies.

Now why, you might be asking, would private companies spend money on advertising during war, when everything was rationed, production was centralised and it was nigh-on impossible to buy anything inessential?  It’s a good question, and the answer lies in taxation.

One of the prevailing views then about World War One was that large companies had profiteered from the war, and it had made the rich richer.  So, at the start of World War Two, a tax of 100% was levied on any company whose profits rose above their pre-war levels..  Clearly there was no incentive to make any extra profits, and companies looked for ways to spend the money rather than give it to the government.

One easy thing to spend it on was advertising.   Hence the pages and pages of adverts like this in every wartime newspaper and magazine, either for goods that were in such short supply that they didn’t need advertising or, quite often, weren’t available at all.

World war two ad for Bovril

Despite the restrictions on paper use, a few posters were also made.  I’d included this one in my talk.

Fougasse World war two poster for fillings

I think this is a result of Tillings donating poster space in their coach stations to the war effort, although in the absence of any real archives it’s hard to tell.

But Kirill has now introduced me to these, which are produced by the Motor Industry Association, and which I’d never seen before.

Motor Industry Association world war two poster torpedo

 

Motor Industry Association world war two poster bomber

I have no idea where they were displayed or anything about them at all.

Motor Industry Association world war two poster tank

They’re also interesting because they show the ironmongery of war, something which most Home Front posters, with the exception of National Savings, avoided almost entirely.

All of which pretty much proves my overall point from last Saturday, which was that whatever generalisation you make about Home Front posters, it’s always possible to find a poster to disprove it.  So if you have any more oddities you’d like to point out, please send them this way.

And if you like the Motor Industry posters, Kirill has them for sale on his website.