Hand crafted

This picture was tweeted by @HistoryInPictures the other day, and I thought you lot deserved to see it.

women making propaganda posters fort washington 1942

It was captioned ‘Making propaganda posters’, but I’d be surprised if that’s what’s actually going on here.  Even the British found printing posters a bit more efficient than hand-drawing each one, and this picture, a bit of internet searching tells me, was taken in Port Washington in 1942.

So what are they up to?  My money is that this is some kind of art school – they have proper desks after all – and  these women are learning graphic design.  But I am prepared to stand corrected on this one.


Once again, we are back with the conundrum that we have no idea how much we don’t know about posters.  Although I suspect there are vast unsuspected continents of ignorance out there in the darkness.

One small portion of it popped its head above the parapet before Christmas, when these two posters appeared on eBay.

Freddie Reeves careless talks costs lives world war two propaganda posters

Freddie Reeves Careless talk costs lives world war two propaganda poster train

They are the work of one Freddie Reeves, and were being sold by his descendents, along with this poster, which we infuriatingly missed because our bid failed to register, something I am still smarting about.

Vanity Fair ice cream colours Freddie Reeves poster

But enough of that (although, honestly, we’ve missed so much stuff recently that I could fill a whole blog post on that subject alone) and back to the Careless Talk posters, the likes of which I have never seen before.  A rummage around on Google, does throw up this, though, which is artwork from the National Archives and clearly related.

freddie reeves train careless talk costs lives bigger format

It’s just as much of a surprise as the others, and I’ve certainly not seen it illustrated anywhere apart from the National Archives.  Mostly, I think this is down to the fact that the Home Front posters were never fully documented at the time, and so it will never be possible to produce a full catalogue.  There will always be ones like these that pop up out of nowhere to surprise us.

But I also think – and I am as guilty of this as the next person – that we tend to go for the obvious thought.  So when we think of Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases, our brains immediately serve up a Bateman.

Bateman Coughs and Sneezes world war two propaganda poster home front

Whereas actually that slogan came in many different styles, both before and after the war.

Coughs & Sneezes Spread Diseases, original WW2 Home Front poster printed for HMSO by Chromoworks circa 1940

Coughs and Sneezes vintage poster for sale eBay

And thus it is with Careless Talk as well; the slogan is so intimately linked with Fougasse that it’s hard for us to imagine any other posters, but they did exist.  As these two examples show.

The only clue that these ones give us is that they were printed in Manchester, which isn’t something I’ve ever seen before on a World War Two poster.  So was this some kind of local campaign?  Funded by someone other than the MoI?  I can only conjecture.

As far as I can tell, Freddie Reeves only did a couple of other posters, on a similar topic as it turns out.

BE like dad keep mum world war two propaganda poster

BE lIke dad keep mum reeves world war two propaganda poster

But that’s not to say that there aren’t other ones out there, it’s just that we don’t know about them yet.

What’s also interesting about the posters that we bought is that they are tiny, seve and a half inches by five inches.  And yes, we were a bit surprised when they came out of the envelope that size, which will teach us to read eBay listings properly.  But, again, I’ve never come across a World War Two poster that small before.  There are GPO posters that are nearly that small, like this Beaumont for example.

Christmas dog GPO poster

But even these are six inches by nine, and thus a different format.  So the Careless Talk posters weren’t designed for those GPO spaces.  I wonder where they were meant for?  Perhaps the corner of shop windows, although I can’t prove that.  From which I am driven to conclude  that, particularly where World War Two Home Front posters are concerned, we will never know anything like the full story.

The eBay listing also said of Freddie Reeves:

He was a graphic artist during the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970s’s. He did a lot of work for Good Housekeeping, Barkers, Morleys and some well known WW2 posters.

So where are all those other illustrations and posters then?  Where is the work of Freddie Reeves in the history books?  And how would we ever know he had been missing, were it not for the fact that one of his descendants sold a few last remaining pieces on eBay?  This bothers me, it really does.  Because how many other designers were out there, producing good stuff, and whose work we will never ever know because we have no idea that we are even meant to be looking out for it?

Jam and newspapers

Temple Gate in Bristol, 1961.  Which, I can testify, looks nothing like that now.

Posters on display in Temple Gate Bristol 1961

But just look at those posters on the right.  This is not just because, as ever, it’s both rare and wonderful to see posters out in the wild, but also because, taken as a group, they are not bad.  Admittedly I wouldn’t pay money for the Chivers one, but the design for Rozalex (bottom left) is rather good, as is the utterly unidentifiable one above it.  In case you’re wondering, Rozalex is a barrier cream to keep off dirt and you can still buy it today.  Should you wish.

Also interesting is the Guardian advert.  Is that them feeling that they have to keep up with Patrick Tilley’s adverts for the Sunday Times?  I will have to investigate…

Addendum:  I’m pulling this up from the comments, because it’s a great photo of the CWS poster in another location – Roman Road to be precise.

Roman Road 1960s with poster

The image comes from East London History.

And the other posters are, as is so often the case, not that good.

At Home

I probably can’t apologise long and hard enough for the absence of any blog posts recently, but works on Crownfolio Towers have rather taken precedence for the last month.  I now know more about lime washing than, frankly, I ever wished to.

Please have this James Fitton by way of recompense.

James Fitton Abbey Road poster

A normal service will – I hope – return in the New Year.

Worth it in the long run

I am rushing in just to tell you about Great Central Railwayana.  I’ve had the catalogue for ages, and been meaning to write about it for ages, and now, suddenly, the auction is this Saturday.  I blame the builders.

Once again, there are a good selection of posters on offer, ten times the number that you’d find at a railwayana auction even a few years ago, but I’m finding it hard to get overly excited about them as they mostly consist of the usual suspects, like Terence Cuneo.

1950 Terence Cuneo British Railways poster Tay Bridge Dundee
Terence Cuneo, 1950.

And nice pictures of landscapes from the 1950s, there are lots of those.

Wye Valley Gyrth Russell British Railways poster 1955
Gyrth Russell, 1955.

Although as seaside posters go, this one is quite special.

1955 Henry Stringer Clacton on Sea British Railways Poster
Henry Stringer, 1955.

While this bit of Dorset coast is an unusual departure from Alan Durman’s usual subject matter and style, but rather good with it.

Alan Durman British Railways Poster Dorset

And, after his star turn at the Great Northern Auction, they’ve also dug out another unusual Lander which I quite like.

1955, Reg Lander Bournemouth British Railways poster
R. M. Lander, 1955.

I also like this poster, although for no particular reason that I can articulate.

1955 Greene Ribblesdale British Railways poster
John Greene, 1955.

It’s green, will that do?  As is this one.

Badmin Derbyshire dales British Railways poster 1950
S. R. Badmin, 1950.

There is another Badmin coach poster lurking in there too, which might end up being a bit of a bargain, as coach posters often are at railway auctions.

Enjoy the Riches of Britain by Lincolnshire Road Car Company Ltd S R Badmin Coach poster

There on the other hand, it might not.

But if you want good design, this Karo has to be the best poster in the sale by a long chalk.  It will be interesting to see what it goes for.

Travel In Rail Comfort - It's Worth It In The Long Run' by Karo British Railways poster

Also on my favourites list is this Kelly, which I’ve written about before.

Kelly new brighton British railways poster spade 1955
Kelly, 1955.

Its (even better) pair was up in the Great Northern sale a couple of weeks ago.

Kelly new Brighton British Railways poster 1955

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention it.  But sadly we were outbid, quite considerably.  Hey ho.  Prices were generally quite high there, especially considering that it’s a brand new sale, but that’s a subject I’ll come back to next week.

But if you really want good design, the best example in the sale isn’t actually a poster.  It’s this.

Hans Schleger London Transport bus roundel

That’s Hans Schleger’s design work for London Transport there, from 1957, and very good it is too.

New Kids on the Block

The auctions are coming thick and fast now, so much so that this may end up being a bit of a hasty canter through what’s on offer.  But never mind, the pictures are pretty.

First in our sights is Great Northern Railwayana Auctions, who deserve a particularly warm welcome not only because they are a brand new auction house, but will also be holding their auction this weekend at Poynton Civic Centre, home to many teenage discos for me back in the days.  Although things have clearly changed since then, as the directions say that the Civic Centre is on the left after Waitrose, rather than turn left after the tatty newsagent and the Indian takeaway.

That notwithstanding, it’s interesting to see a new auction coming in, I think it’s a sign of a healthy market.  And for a first auction, they’ve got a good haul of posters.  Particularly if you’re a fan of Mr Lander, as there are three of his on offer.

R M Lander, Bournemouth British Railways poster


R M Lander folkestone poster British Railways

R M Lander Bournemouth poster British Railways

GNRA have taken the lead from all other railwayana auctions sadly, so there are no estimates for any of these and mostly no dates.  Can anyone explain to me why this is?  But the Landers are good, and that last one is new to me and almost migraine-inducing in its feverish technicolour.

Elsewhere, they also have a rare Terence Cuneo picture of something that isn’t a train.

Terence Cuneo Lewes British Railways poster

Along with a ‘rare’ Daphne Padden that I have to admit I haven’t seen before.

Daphne Padden lytham st Annes British Railway poster

I like the pink, but not enough to bid on it, so it’s over to you lot.

If you’re prefer classics, they’ve even got a few of those too, like this Fred Taylor.

Fred Taylor Durham poster railways slightly askew

All in all, a good show.  I will watch with interest to see how the prices go.

That’s not the only new auction house either.  London Transport Auctions will also be holding their very first auction on October 26th.

Sadly, there aren’t quite so many posters in this one, of which my favourites are probably these two 1960s London Underground posters.

Harvests Anthony Rossiter London Transport poster 1964
Anthony Rossiter, 1964, est. £75-100

John E Kashdan London Transport poster 1962
John E Kadshan, 1962, est. £75-100

I am also very fond of this Galbraith too, in part because we’ve already got a copy.

Galbraith Christmas Roundabout poster 1958
Galbraith, 1958, est. £50-75

Most expensive poster in the sale is probably going to be this one, I should think.

1934 Anna Zinkeisen Aldershot Tattoo London Transport poster
Anna Zinkeisen, 1934, est. £250-350.

More interesting, at least I think, is this McKnight Kauffer survival.

1936 McKnight Kauffer bus panel poster
McKnight Kauffer, 1936, est. £40-50

It was originally designed to go on bus stops, and so is the proportions of a bus timetable.  And I’ve never ever seen one as old as that before, never mind a good-looking one designed by McKnight Kauffer.  So although it’s a bit battered, it’s a really fascinating thing – and a bit of a bargain if it does go for £40.

What the London Transport auction does do, however, is lure me into looking at lots of really rather lovely London Transport leaflets.  But I will be strong-willed, and show you just one.

Chiswick bus garages London Transport leaflet
MCKK, 1932, est. £30-40

Fortunately its full title is “Overhauling London’s buses at the Chiswick Works of the London General Omnibus Company Ltd.” and it is “lavishly illustrated with photos of every stage of the overhaul process, showing NS, ST & LT-type buses and including a large plan of the Works showing the overhaul paths”, so I shan’t be tempted to buy it.