Beware of the Swarf

Attic find of the year has to be awarded to RoSPA, who went into their warehouse  last year and discovered 700 old posters.  I dream of doing something like that.  Especially if it produces posters like this one.

Leonard Cusden RoSpa poster  1951

This is by Leonard Cusden from 1951, and it’s the original artwork, as is, it seems, much of what was discovered in the back of the warehouse.

Not everything is of quite such high quality graphically, although this Bruce Angrave from the 1940s is rather fine.

Courtesy is Infectious, hand-rendered artwork, road safety, Bruce Angrave, 1940s © The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

While this poster by Digby Willis is just rather fantastic quite regardless of the style.

But Sensible Shoes Protect Your Feet, hand-rendered artwork, industrial safety, Digby Wills, 1954 © The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

I may be needing a copy of that when small Crownfolio hits the teenage years.

Many of the rest, like these two by Roland Davies and F Blake respectively, are more from the Ladybird books or Woman magazine school of design than high graphics.

Journey’s End, poster published by RoSPA and printed by Loxley Brothers, Sheffield, road safety, Roland Davies, 1960s © The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Don’t Lose Sight of Them, Protect Your Eyes at Work, hand-rendered artwork, industrial safety, F Blake, 1954 © The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

While this one, by Gus from 1963, is just plain odd, mostly because it makes me feel very sorry for the hen.

Accidents Don’t Just Happen, They are Caused, hand-rendered artwork, general safety, Gus, 1963 © The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Maybe it’s the gender politics making me uneasy.

Overall, though, the impression that these posters give is that RoSPA’s quality control systems, so thorough during the Second World War and in the years after, disappeared later on.

And they really did have a quality control system; their Publicity Committee was staffed by, amongst others, Tom Eckersley and Ashley Havinden, whose keen eyes really did let little dross through.  Here are the couple of posters that we own from this period, by G R Morris and Eckersley himself.

G R MOrris vintage RoSPA safety poster broken bands hurt hands

vintage Rospa child road safety poster tom eckersley

RoSPA are a really interesting organisation: there is a lot more to say about their posters and I’m rather surprised to discover that I’ve not written anything about them properly on the blog yet.  This is even more surprising given that their wartime posters get a mention in the book (did I mention the book? that I have written one? and that you can order it from Amazonalready?).  But most of what we tend to come across are the later posters, and these in the main would have caused the sensitive disposition of Ashley Havinden some pain I think.

Vintage ROSpa road safety poster 1960s

More posted here if you are a glutton for punishment.  To make up for that, I’ll go through some archives and dig out a few gems one of these days, because there are some great ones to be seen, most notably on VADS.  This one, which I’d never seen before now, is by Theyre Lee Elliott.

Theyre Lee Elliott vintage Rospa safety poster

However, I am a mere amateur in this field, because if you really want to know about RoSPA, the person you need to be reading is Paul Rennie,who wrote his PhD thesis on their wartime poster output, and has condensed this into a couple of articles which you can find here and here.

Rothholz vintage WW2 RoSPA poster

You can even –  such are the wonders of the internet – download his entire thesis from the British Library if you like.  I’d recommend it, it’s a good read.

If you’d rather form your own opinions about the posters, RoSPA are exhibiting 40 of their finds in Birmingham next week.  Two words of warning, though.  Firstly the exhibition is only on for three days.  But perhaps more importantly, RoSPA are mostly exhibiting reproductions rather than the originals themselves.  That said, it would probably still be pretty interesting, so if anyone goes, can you let me know all about it please?

Finally, from one Eckersley to another.  I mentioned this showcard last week when it appeared on eBay.

Tom Eckersley vintage Guinness poster showcard

The starting price was 99p; it finally went for £317.  I know it’s easier to display than a poster but even so, I’m still astonished.  Thoughts and explanations – along with corresponding valuations of the poster itself – in the comments box please.

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The book of the website

Well, nearly.

But I have written a book, for the very lovely Shire Publications, about World War Two Home Front posters, and my preview copy arrived in the post just before the weekend.

Home Front Posters Shire books Susannah Walker front cover

Should you wish,  you can pre-order it on Amazon right now.  Which of course you would very much want to do because it’s full of lots of  illustrations of lovely posters, like this one.

Frank Newbould Your Britain Fight for It Now

And this one too.

Lewitt Him Vitamin overcooking WW2 vintage poster ministry of food

Along with a fair bit of me going on about the posters – and then oddities like this, which I just love.

Ministry of Information advertisement about information.  You couldn't make it up

Do you have too much information? Well here’s some information about having too much information.  These were very different days, my friends.

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The People Bring Much More Than Enough For The Service Of The Work

I’m back with the Empire Marketing Board posters once again.  In particular this one, which neatly encapsulates the problem of Empire in a single image.

The people bring.. vintage Empire Marketing Board poster

I rather doubt that it was intended to give exactly that message; nonetheless it is rather brilliant.

This treat comes from a wholly new archive of Empire Marketing Board output in the National Library and Archives of Canada, which I was introduced to by sometime commenter on the blog, Mike Meredith.  It is a treasure chest of things I have not seen before – well over 400 of them in fact, and I haven’t finished sifting through them yet.  Here are just a few for starters, these two by Clive Gardiner in a very modern style.

Blast Furnace Vintage Empire marketing board poster Clive Gardiner

making electrical machinery Vintage Empire marketing board poster Clive Gardiner

While this John Ensor is modern in a slightly different, almost early-1950s kind of way.

John Ensor - Vintage Empire marketing board poster Wine

This collection is a reminder that the EMB was not just exhorting the British people to support the Empire, the colonies had to do their bit as well.

Buy Empire Goods first - Empire Marketing Board poster

Not everything can be a work of art, you know.

But Mike Meredith hasn’t just been looking through the archives, he has also been doing something rather interesting with these posters.  He’s been arranging them as they were meant to be seen.

I’ve mentioned in passing before that the Empire Marketing board had special display stands for their posters.  A rather interesting article (about the EMB’s relationship with the Irish Free State) gives a very good description of what these were like.  The EMB,

displayed approximately one hundred poster series on specially built wooden frames.Each series featured five different posters:three 60 inch by 40 inch pictorial ones and two smaller posters that carried press messages offering details of the country being promoted or messages advancing imperial trade. The five posters on each frame endorsed a linked theme — for example, fruit from the tropics or the value of import – export trade with Australia. By 1933, poster frames at 1,800 different sites graced 450 British towns

The only thing missing from that description is the title strip which ran across the top.  But why should I just tell you about these when I could show you?  Because what Mike Meredith has been doing is stitching together these posters from the archives to get a sense of what they would have looked like when they were on display.

Not only is it brilliant to look at, I also think it’s important too.  Take a single poster – as I have been doing at the top of this post – and they are quite good.  Take a whole set together and they are quite frankly stunning. (Click on the image below to see it at a decent size.)

Buy Empire Goods vintage Empire Marketing board poster strip

They must have looked extraordinary on the streets of Britain in the 1930s, like nothing else that could be seen there.  Surely not even the most jaded observer of city life would have been able to just let their eyes drift over these posters each time the displays were changed.  You would have to stop and stare.

Empire Marketing Board posters as complete strip

Especially at these McKnight Kauffers, which bring all of the glamour of a Hollywood title sequence straight onto the streets of a British town or city.

McKnight Kauffer Empire Marketing Board framed set

The cinema wasn’t the only referent of modernity, this Austin Cooper set links the old-fashioned Victorian Empire with the excitingly modern telephone.

Austin Cooper vintage Empire Marketing Board poster set Order by Telephone

Displayed like this, even graphs could become dynamic symbols of the modern age.

Empire Share vintage Empire marketing board set

But even the more traditional designs have a very different impact when seen en masse.

Australian Scenery vintage empire marketing board posters

Nicholson Empire Marketing Board set of posters

This doesn’t just make me rethink the value of the Empire Marketing Board posters, and the ground-breaking nature of the Board’s work – along with its leading man Stephen Tallents.  It’s also a reminder that, whenever we look at a poster, it’s essential to remember the context in which it was not only produced, but displayed.

Commercial posters of the 1950s were not only bright and jolly because that was the mood of the times.  They were put up against a background of unpainted houses and crumbling war damage, a Britain that was agreed to be grey, dreary and run down.  So their bright colours must have looked a thousand times more vibrant against that monochrome streetscape.

And the EMB posters which, on their own, can seem to be a bit like inoffensive railway posters or pieces of art, take on a whole new energy and surprise in their block displays.

Empire Marketing Board posters is all I know

Sometimes, we can appreciate a poster by looking at it against the white walls of a gallery as though it was a piece of art.  But more often, as is very much the case with these Empire Marketing Board posters, we also lose a lot that way.  A poster, or indeed a set of posters, is not a timeless object, but is produced not just in a single moment and place but also for that moment and place as well.

Carlton Empire Marketing board posters

So if we don’t pay attention to that when and where and how, we will never hear much of what that poster might be able to say to us.

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Cheap and Expensive

Bonus extra blog post today (although I can’t type very well at the moment because my fingers are freezing).  I was going to put the eBay news on the end of yesterday’s post, but then it turned out that there was quite a lot on offer.  So now they have a post of their own instead.

The posters up on eBay at the moment seem to fall into a few tidy categories.  Firstly are expensive posters which probably have a right to be expensive.  Top of this list is this Jack Merriott British Railways poster.

Jack Merriott Findhorn British Railways poster

With just a few hours to go it’s already at £415  – a price which will probably have risen even higher by the time I press ‘publish’ on this post.  It might well make almost as much as the version which went at Morphets two years ago, which sold for £600.  For the right poster, it’s starting to look as though eBay wins hands down over the auction houses, simply because the fees are so much lower.  That’s if you’re selling of course; for buyers, I’m not so sure.  I still slightly balk at spending that much money on something I haven’t seen in the flesh.

Another example of the righteously expensive is another British Railways poster, also going today and currently at £142.

Edward Wesson vintage British Railways poster 1950s Moulsham

Finally in this category is a lovely London Transport poster which has been mentioned in dispatches on here before.

Vintage London Transport poster How to make a party go D M Earnshaw

The Buy It Now price of £390 strikes me as a bit more of a dealer level than an eBay level.  But then it is framed, and given what the Findhorn poster is going for anything could be possible these days.

Category two is expensive things which are currently going cheap.  Like this Guinness poster which is currently at £10.50 but, if it is original, is going for a song.

Vintage guinnes poster gilroy Zookeeper and seal

Of course whether something is original or not is always the question looming over every eBay listing.  The dimensions look right on this one, although it is a bit clean.  Any thoughts anyone?

Also cheap is this very odd survival – although I have no idea what it should actually be worth, I suspect it is more than the current £20.  It’s a poster for the 1929 Royal Opera House Ball.  What larks.

Royal Opera House Ball 1929 poster

But it’s rather good, isn’t it.  No word of an artist though.

In the other corner is expensive things which probably should be cheap, and we’ve got just one contender here, this Tom Purvis, which I have difficulty imagining someone paying £149 for.

Tom Purvis Empire Buy British poster

Now don’t get me wrong, because it’s a perfectly good poster, but I just don’t think many people want to hang it on their walls. Or do they?  I shall watch and wait and see.

Then of course there are cheap things that probably should stay that way.  I have a sneaking affection for this British Railways poster – it’s probably the cat – but that still doesn’t make it worth very much.

Vintage British Railways poster Plymouth and Cornwall timetable

So £2.99 is probably about right.   While even £20 seems a bit steep for this National Savings poster, even with the Coronation interest.

National Savings vintage coronation poster

Why were National Savings posters so uniformly dreary, when so many of the posters around them were so good?  Truly I do not know.

Those were going to be your lot, but even as I’ve been writing, some more listings have been passed over to me, and they both come under the heading of things that do not fit into my neat categories at all because I have no idea what they are worth.

This man is selling a big set of Kodak shop display posters.  Given the spelling of color, they are probably American, but I won’t hold that against them too much.

1950s Kodak display card

1950s Kodak display card

The starting price for each is £19.99 but I have no idea if that is fair or not.

This, meanwhile, is not a poster despite appearances to the contrary.  It’s a showcard.

Tom Eckersley vintage Guinness poster showcard

But as it’s currently priced at 99p I can say with some confidence that it is a bargain.  And would look rather good on someone’s bookshelves, I think.

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Superlative, he says

Watch out, there are auctions about.  Admittedly not the poster extravaganzas which are Christies and Van Sabben, but auctions nonetheless.  First under the microscope is GWRA in Leamington on May 19th.  This is a railwayana auction which means that there is an awful lot of this kind of thing.

Vintage Railway Poster British Railways `Bath The Georgian City - Travel By Train` by Watkiss
Chris Watkiss, 1952

Along with even more of this kind of thing too.

Vintage Railway Poster, `Ilfracombe - On Glorious Devon`s Ocean Coast` by Harry Riley
Harry Riley, 1957

vintage railway Poster `Woolacombe & Mortehoe - Britain`s Best Sands, by Henry Riley
Harry Riley, 1960

Like all railwayana auctions there are, infuriatingly, no estimates whatsoever.  But the catalogue compiler does seem to have been getting a bit enthusiastic.  The top poster, for example is ‘arguably the best of” all Bath posters, while the bottom one is ‘ one of the best seaside posters from the 1950’s’.  While,. the posters are quite nice, I could still have an argument with both of those statements but can’t  work up the energy today.  Please go right ahead if you would like to.

In amongst the hyperbole, though, one or two items worthy of note.  My opening offer to you is a somewhat grubby Eckersley.

Vintage British Railways letterpress poster with top image of jockeys by Tom Eckersley
Tom Eckersley, 1961

This is in slightly better condition and will probably fetch a lot less in Leamington Spa than it would have done at Christies or Sotherans.

vintage railway Poster ` Sunny Rhyl for a Healthy Happy Holiday` by Leonard
Leonard, n/d

While this one I just love.

vintage railway Poster `Margate - Britain`s Finest Resort - Go By Train`
PG, 1961

That has to be worth a punt of someone’s money, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, in Norwich can I present the auction with the longest and most convoluted title ever:

Tinplate and Diecast Toys, Rare Early Documents and Newspaper Editions, Railwayana, Posters, Uniforms, Silver and Watches.

The auctioneers are James and Sons, and it takes place on May 5th.

In amongst that heterogeneous selection of, well, stuff, there is one little gem, by Hans Schleger, aka Zero.

Station Poster by Zero `Holliday Haunts`  vintage British Railways 1960s
Hans Schleger, 1960s, est. £30-40

I like that a great deal.  It’s pretty much the only interesting poster they have, although I am starting to develop a sneaking affection  for this one too.

Vintage British Railways Station Poster 1960 by Hasler
Hasler, 1960, est. £25 – 50.

What makes it worth more than the Zero, though, I do not know.  Do you?

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Paris by Moonlight

Apologies for not posting on Friday, but I got rather absorbed in back-office stuff here at the blog and then suddenly the day was gone.

All of which means that the auction in which this appeared has now been and gone as well.

daphne Padden paris poser 1955

But it’s worth taking a look at anyway, because it’s a slightly surprising Daphne Padden.

Now sometimes she is given credit for some of her father’s designs, but this is definitely signed by her.  It’s just earlier work.  I’ve only ever seen a couple like this, but she must have been producing more than that I would have thought.  So if anyone can dig out any more examples, I’d love to see them.

The auction was PosterConnection in San Franscisco, so there wasn’t exactly a lot else of interest to detain us; the usual handful of BEA/BOAC posters and that’s about it.  Well, apart from this.

Vintage Dungeness travel poster

Which isn’t really interesting because of the design, but mainly because I think they should have been prosecuted under the Trades Descriptions Act.  I’ve been to Dungeness and I don’t believe it ever looked like that.  And where’s that liner headed anyway?

Oh, and if you’re wondering what exactly I spent an entire morning fiddling with on here, click on one of the posters above.  Nifty, eh?  And you’ll see exactly why I needed it later on this week.

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