Happy Christmas

From Daphne Padden and the coach companies.  And all here at Quad Royal of course.

Happy Christmas poster Daphne Padden 1971 Coach companies

As befits my BBC past, there will be some repeats over Christmas and New Year; a normal service will return in January.  Have a good time until then.



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Extended Christmas Greetings

More Christmas joy from the BPMA, which today comes to you in the form of lovely long van posters.

vintage GPO post early poster Eric Fraser 1942

This first offering, from Eric Fraser in 1942, may well not be a Christmas poster at all, but I liked the elephants so much that it can stay anyway.

Beaumont post earlier 1943 vintage gpo poster

This Beaumont also has that wartime urgency a year later, and he’s still exhorting people to post early in 1947 too.

Beaumont 1947 vintage GPO christmas poster

While finally, these Alick Knight robins must be the flying cousins of the skating robin I posted the other day, even though they’re from 1951 rather than 1946.

Robins vintage poster gpo 1951 post early

For more info about van posters, there was a discussion about them here earlier in the year, although one which wasn’t entirely conclusive.  So if you do know anything about these great posters and the vans they travelled on, please do say.

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Guildford Calling

I’ve spent too much time standing in queues and having a nervous breakdown in toyshops recently to have kept a much of an eye on eBay.  Mostly that doesn’t matter, as it’s been winding down for Christmas.  But I did miss out on mentioning one interesting set of posters.

Farnham farmers Pork and Bacon week poster from eBay

As you can see, I’m using the word interesting in an academic rather than visual sense here, but these posters are worth a mention nonetheless.

What was on offer was a set of four 1950s advertising posters, all for local businesses in the Guildford area.

Norvic Shoes vintage 1950s poster Co-op guildford

Once again, eBay has turned up a very different slice through graphic design history than the one which usually turns up in the books or the auction houses.  This is the ordinary, everyday world of the poster, a world where a Tom Eckersley, Henrion or Abram Games design would stand out as a gem in amongst, well, posters like these.

Co-op discount vouchers vintage poster

I’m not saying they’re great, I’m not saying they should be collected.  But we should, always, notice them when they turn up in order to remember that they existed (probably in great numbers too).

In case you’re interested, they all went for between £10 and £20, with the camping poster below the most expensive.

Pascalls Camping vintage poster guildford 1950s

And for once it wasn’t us who bought any of them.


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Christmas Joy

Another set of festive posters from the BMPA today.  These three have nothing in common other than that they are all wonderful.  Oh, and I’d love to own a copy of each and every one of them.

This first one is a wartime design by Hans Schleger from 1943.

Hans Schleger Vintage GPO wartime ww2 post early Christmas poster stocking

While I can tell you next to nothing about this one at all: only that the artist is Davies and it dates from 1946,  Any more information (and of course copies of the poster) gratefully received.

Davies vintage post early GPO poster 1946 robin skating

Finally a much later Hans Unger from 1964.

Hans Unger Vintage shop post early GPO poster 1964 Father Christmas stamp

But all of them both good design and very cheerful.  Happy Christmas Posting everyone.

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War Games

When I posted this Games poster on the blog last week, I mentioned that there was more to be said about the subject.

Abram Games your britain fight for it now vintage WW2 poster 1942

I’ve been meaning to write about Abram Games’ war posters for a while now and that poster (which incidentally fetched £950 at Onslows when it was sold a few days ago) has finally made me do it.

Games did design some of the most striking and, in a few cases controversial, posters of the war, but you might be wondering how much more there is to be said than that.

Abram Games ATS poster blonde bombshell vintage World War Two poster

But these posters are actually an exception to the usual run of WW2 Home Front posters, something which isn’t often pointed out.  To start with, they were almost entirely designed for a particular subset of the Home Front: the serving soldier, whether at home or abroad.

Abram Games Kit ticket army poster vintage world war two propaganda

This is because Games didn’t work for MoI or one of the other ministries, nor even for one of the advertising agencies.  He created his own job in the army, which gave him great freedom to do exactly what he wanted – not only could he choose his style but in some cases he even chose the subject matter too.

Abram Games ventilate your quarters vintage ww2 army propaganda poster

Later on in the war he also had Frank Newbould as his assistant, which, given that Games was 27 and Newbould was a rather more experienced 59, must have been an interesting situation.  (If you want to know more about Games’ wartime service, there’s a good section on it in this book.)

This situation  meant that  Games was able, unlike almost any other designer in the war, to produce a coherent set of poster which were modern in both their design and their social message.  Sometimes their subject matter and execution were the same as the mainstream Home Front publicity and posters.

Abram Games Grow Your Own Food vintage ww2 propaganda poster army

On occasion, though, they were very different.  For example, Games’ army equivalent to the Careless Talk Costs Lives has a graphic representation of the possible results.  Men will die.

Abram Games Your Talk May Kill Your Comrades WW2 army propaganda poster

The above poster is perhaps the best-known, but the design below is even more explicit.

Abram Games Talk Kills vintage army poster world war two propaganda

Nothing similar was ever produced for the general public.  Whether posters should show such direct consequences of careless talk was debated more than once within the Ministry of Information during the war.  But the MoI always decided against ‘pictures which hurt’, turning down one proposed campaign as ‘too tough and realistic’.  Even this design by Norman Wilkinson kept death at arm’s length; the men in the foreground have survived.

NOrman wilkinson a few careless words vintage ww2 propaganda poster

When Games’ posters are included in more general surveys of Home Front posters, without any explanation of why they are different, this subtlety disappears.  The posters, instead, are seen to cover all approaches when that wasn’t the case.

Perhaps the most important results of Games’ freedom to work was the Your Britain Fight For It Now series.  These posters were not only designed by Games but Newbould too.

Frank Newbould Your Britain Fight For It Now ww2 propaganda poster army ABCA

The results are an example of their partnership of modern and traditional working at its best; the different posters would have appealed to very different people and so the message would have got across to the widest possible public.

Frank Newbould Your Britain Fight For It Now vintage ww2 propaganda poster army ABCA

But that’s a digression, because what’s important about these posters is their message.  Newbould’s posters are exhorting the soldiers to fight for an image of an idealised and traditional Britain (located, as this deep Britain tends to be, in the countryside).  Games’ designs use the same slogan but have a different message.  Fight, he is saying, for a better Britain after the war, and he locates this future in an urban and modern idiom.

Vintage world war two poster ABCA Abram Games

In the wake of the Beveridge Report in 1942, this wasn’t a particularly novel idea.  But it wasn’t one which was being expressed in posters elsewhere.  The Ministry of Information repeatedly applied to the Cabinet for permission to produce sets of posters along these lines, but the request was always turned down, quite possibly on the orders of Churchill himself.

Abram Games abca Finsbury Health Centre rickets vintage ww2 poster

All of which gives further resonance to Churchill’s banning of the Finsbury Health Centre poster above.  (I’ve written a fuller explanation of the controversy here if you would like to know more.)

The Ministry was clearly frustrated by this restriction, as can be seen by its use of Walter Spradbery’s The Proud City series

London The Proud City Walter Spradbery Vintage London Transport poster WW2

This series of posters came into being because they were commissioned by the London Passenger Transport Board, another organisation which was less constrained than the Ministry in terms of the propaganda it could produce.  But the MoI made use of this loophole too, paying not only for the posters to be printed in the tens of thousands, but also to be translated into multiple languages and distributed to Britain’s allies.

London The Proud City Walter Spradbery Vintage London Transport poster WW2 in Arabic

All of which underlines why it is so important to separate out Games’ work from the broader mass of Home Front posters and propaganda.  Because if they are all just lumped in together, as is so often the case, the results are misleading.

Games vote poster army world war two

Not only do we see a much more modern set of posters than the average person in the street ever did, we also believe that this message of building a better Britain was a commonplace.  But in doing so we are imposing our retrospective justifications for the war onto the past – and distorting it.  Because at the time this kind of propaganda was not taken for granted; rather it was something controversial and disputed – and what’s more, something which was definitely not seen on the streets of Britain during the war.

Abram Games army education poster world war two propaganda

If you think, incidentally, that I’ve been banging on about World War Two posters quite a bit recently, I have.  There is a good reason for this, too, but all will be revealed in the New Year.

All images, once again, from the VADS/IWM online archive.

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Do Your Christmas Shopping Now

Last year saw the Quad Royal Advent Calendar, a festive poster for each of the 24 days.  Unsurprisingly, most of the posters came from the GPO, the institution most keen that  you should get your act together before Christmas.  So keen, in fact, that not even an entire advent calendar could do justice to the quantity and quality they produced.

So, every so often before Christmas, I am going to have a festive wallow in the BPMA archive: because it’s Christmas, because I can, and because there are so many wonderful posters to be seen.

Post Early vintage Barnett Freedman poster GPO 1937

Today’s set come from Barnett Freedman, who was improvising around a theme in 1937 and 1938.

Barnett Freedman vintage GPO poster 1937 Christmas Shopping

Barnett Freedman vintage GPO poster 1938 Shop Now

I particularly like the peremptoriness of this pair, but they are all beautiful.

Barnett Freedman vintage GPO poster 1937 Post Early

Although Barnett Freedman was definitely a poster designer (producing well over 30 for London Transport alone), I never really think of him as one.  I think that’s probably because the detail of his typography and design is always worthy of a closer look rather than the quick glance a big poster might only get.

But that’s why these four work so well. They’re little Crown Folios, designed for display at the counter, so people would have had plenty of time to look at them as they queued for their stamps.  I did that last week; there wasn’t a single thing as nice as these anywhere to be seen.

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