Be really cool, man, archive

The recent announcement from the British Postal Museum and Archive announcing that they have upgraded their online catalogue may not have been the most retweeted 140 characters in the history of Twitter.  But the news is actually quite exciting.

On an entirely practical level the images are now larger than a postage stamp. The particular joy of this is that I can now get a proper look at the van posters, which are some of my favourite things in the world.


I wonder if any of these have survived outside of the BPMA’s collections?  I’ve never come across one out in the wild.

1951 Alick Knight post early robin poster GPO

More than that, a whole lot of new material also seems to have been catalogued for the first time.  I had no idea that Barbara Jones had ever designed a poster for the GPO, but the evidence is there in full colour.

Barbara Jones GPO poster mermaid inland postcards

It’s from 1956, since you ask.

In addition, for the first time the catalogue now includes some Post Office Savings Bank posters.  This is clearly still a work in progress as, currently, there’s nothing in there by Daphne Padden and she did some of her best work for the POSB.

Daphne Padden post office savings bank poster with rabbits and owl.

What is in there, though, when you search for POSB posters, is a lot of work by Stan Krol, quite a bit of which I’ve never seen before.

Stan Krol post office savings bank poster 1960 guitar

With both posters and artwork included.

Stan Krol eureka gpo poster artwork 1960

All of which is a salutary reminder.   It’s not just that archives themselves are important, but also the way they are arranged and made accessible.  Because both of these things can change the way we think about the past.

Let’s just start with the contents.  A couple of years ago, I wrote about Stan Krol, saying that I couldn’t find out that much about the man or his output.  Obviously, pages of Stan Krol posters in the BPMA catalogue rather changes things.

stan krol telephonists job artwork GPO 1951

Morever, in the new, exciting BPMA catalogue, the results also come up differently.  Back in the day, the archive used to sort the results, so that the artwork would come up first, then the posters.  So I would skip through the artwork, and just look at the posters instead.

1968 Tom Eckersley detector van van poster

But now the two come up intermingled, which means that I don’t miss items like this Tom Eckersley internal poster, which shows as artwork but not as finished poster.

Tom Eckersley GPO internal poster mailbags 1950

All of which will, I am sure, make other differences to the way I think as well, even if I I don’t entirely know what the results will be yet.  Watch this space.

The biggest change of all, of course, is just the fact that online archives exist in the first place.  This blog, and I’m sure much else besides, simply wouldn’t exist without them.

GPO Gay Christmas van poster

If I had to travel from London to York and all points in between simply to see posters, it’s just not going to happen without a private income or a job that is prepared to pay for me to do it.  Neither of which things exist.  So online archives enable me, and many many other people, to think more widely and to see more points of reference.  But there is another more subtle benefit too, which is that they also allow people like me to choose.

Prior to this, the only way I would have been able to see any GPO posters would have been either in auction catalogues, or in books.  In each case, the posters would have been pre-selected.  But give me an archive and a computer, and I am at liberty to decide which items I find interesting.  So, perhaps, I am less likely to fall in with the accepted canon of ‘good’ posters as a result, and history ends up being written slightly differently.  Which is clearly a good thing.

Schlegel export drive gpo poster 1950

So hurrah for the lovely new BPMA catalogue and archives in general.

Games Giant postcards van poster 1961

But wonderful as all of this is, we mustn’t let this blind us to the fact that not everything is archived.  This may sound like a truism but it’s actually a really important point, and it’s something I think about a lot in connection with Daphne Padden.

Daphne Padden POSB poster knight

Her work has been massively under-recognised over the years, and her profile still isn’t as high as it should be.  Now there were plenty of reasons for this – and being a woman working on the outskirts of London must have played a considerable part.  But a big part of it has to be because she just worked for the wrong people.

Daphne Padden lytham st Annes British Railway poster

Railway posters were sold and collected when they were produced, and nowadays they are traded at auction, reproduced in books and as fridge magnets, and kept in a socking great archive in York (now there’s an interface that could still do with taking a long hard look at itself).  But she only ever did a few of those.

Daphne Padden isle of Man BRitish railways poster

Instead her main customer were the coach companies.  And where is the coach archive, I hear you ask?  Well exactly.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957

There isn’t a collection of these anywhere; hardly any survive and it’s possible that the most comprehensive selection (now that the Malcolm Guest collection got sold) is in our spare room.  Which is ridiculous.

Coach tour rabbits Daphne padden coach poster

And because my spare room doesn’t have an archivist or – more to the point – doesn’t actually contain more than a couple of dozen coach posters when hundreds were produced, people don’t know about these designs.  So they don’t get reproduced in books, or as fridge magnets, and in the end they disappear from view.

Daphne Padden Southend coach poster

Along with the designers, like Daphne Padden, who produced them.

Spring coach poster Daphne Padden

So while we can have a lot of fun with the archives that are there, it’s always worth using them with half a mind to the ones that don’t exist.


Today,  I think have the cheapest item ever presented on Quad Royal.  Instead of paying hundreds of pounds for a poster, you can get one of these little beauties for just £2.50.

Daphne Padden southend bus poster card Beast In Show

Or if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, how about this one instead?

Daphne Padden go shopping by  bus poster card Beast In Show

Once again, these appear thanks to the sterling work of Beast In Show (the non-teatowel wing of To Dry For) who, as you may well remember, have already worked with us to turn Daphne Padden’s designs into tea towels and placemats.  In case you don’t remember, they go something like this.

To Dry For Daphne Padden Gardener tea towel

Daphne Padden Autumn place mats Beast in Show

They are so enthusiastic about her designs (and frankly why wouldn’t any sane person be) that there is now a range of Daphne Padden cards available as well.


They are all lovely, and I can’t really choose a favourite, but I do just have to draw your attention to the one below, because there just aren’t enough psychedelic breakfasts in the world.


There are loads and loads of them – way more than I can stuff into one blog post, however hard I try.

Daphne Padden vintage bus poster design Scarborough card

You can see them all – and indeed buy them – on the Beast In Show website.  You have nothing to lose (at least compared to buying a poster you don’t).


It’s too hot to think properly.  So it’s lucky then that some interesting bits and bobs connected with past posts have come my way.

Firstly, Hans Unger.  Four years ago now, I wrote a piece about his life and his work not just in graphic design but also stained glass.   It’s worth going back to read that post, even if you’ve looked at before, simply for the comments, which are still arriving even now.  Clearly he was a man who was beloved by very many people.

The post came about because Mr Crownfolio had been reading about Unger’s work on St Columba’s Church in Chester.  Their website person, Bernard Payne, got in touch recently and has sent me two more photographs of Unger’s work for the church.

Hans Unger Stained Glass st columba's church chester

Hans Unger stained glass st columba's church chester

Sadly, these two windows aren’t in existence any more – they were taken out in 1986 because the timber was rotting and the mullions deteriorating, and clearly no one at the time thought they were worth saving.  Which is a great shame.

Also a while back, I posted about the symbolism of blue skies on post-war airline posters like these two Lewitt-Hims.

Lewitt Him, vintage airline travel poster 1948 Poster Connection

Vintage Lewitt Him BOAC poster 1948

My speculation was that, after the Second World War, these clear blue skies might have had more meaning that we might at first suspect.  Now the fighters and the bombers were gone, there were no more looping white trails signifying a dogfight any more.  The skies, and by association the aeroplanes that fly in them, were now safe, to be celebrated rather than feared.

So I was very pleased with the discovery I made when I was researching James de Holden Stone the other day.  In 1945, when the war ended, he was the Art Director of Vogue, and this was the cover he designed for their October issue.

James de Holden Stone Vogue cover October 1945

And this is how Vogue themselves described it:

With the war in Europe and the Far East finally having come to an end in September, Vogue has no suitable cover commissioned for this issue. James de Holden-Stone, the magazine’s art director, makes his point aptly with a painting of blue skies – denoting the end of the blitz over London.

The cover comes, incidentally, from a whole archive of them which is now online and well worth a browse through, even though it is a bit of a pig to search (the link starts you off in the 1950s, just to make it a bit easier).

Finally, while we are on the subject of ways to waste time on the internet, Mr Crownfolio has been disappearing into the British Newspaper Archive in order to find out more about the history of our house.  And from his searches I can also tell you that Daphne Padden was a bridesmaid in Bathwick, in 1934.  She wore blue taffeta and was given a vanity case and a rope of pearls for her troubles.  Sadly that’s all that the archive can tell us about her.  I do wish I knew more.

Cleaning up

Remember our Daphne Padden prints from last year?

Daphne Padden gardener print to buy

(Which are, incidentally, still available, if you want one just leave a comment or drop me a line via the contact form).

Daphne Padden London print to buy

Well now, thanks to the lovely people at To Dry For, you are now also able to buy Daphne Padden tea towels too.  Just take a look at this, beautifully printed onto linen and rather desirable.

To Dry For Daphne Padden Gardener tea towel

That’s not all, either,  because they’ve also made two more Padden designs into tea towels as well.

To Dry For Daphne Padden kitchen baking tea towel

Daphne Padden To Dry For chickens tea towel

It’s all very exciting if you ask me.

They are for sale right now via the To Dry For website, and in the next week or so I will be running some kind of competition with a couple of these as prizes.  Except I don’t know what kind of competition that might be yet.  Watch this space (or even suggest one of your own, you might just win a tea towel for that too).

To Dry For London Tea Towel Daphne Padden

Correct Selling

couple of years ago now, I wrote a long piece on here about why some kinds of poster seem to survive in greater quantities than others.  In short, the argument was that where posters do survive in large numbers, this tends to be because the institutions concerned – London Transport, the railway companies and Shell – had a system for selling them to the public.

Vintage Shell poster lord berners 1936

But I said at the time, that post was very much a work in progress.  Now things have moved on a bit, because Rik Shepherd has been in contact through both comments and email with some additional information about how GPO posters were also sold.  And very interesting it is too.

John Minton Iwerne Minster GPO Poster

The reason for this is that Mr Shepherd senior, his father, was, in the best possible way, a bit of a chancer, something probably best explained by his son.

Dad did have a habit of writing to organisations on the offchance that they wanted to give/sell him something – the request for part of London Road station when it was turning into Piccadilly failed, the request for tickets from the closing Mumbles railway yielded a destination blind from one of their trams, and we’ve got a stack of timetables and promo brochures from oodles of US railroad companies.

One of the organisations that he regularly bothered was the GPO, as Rik explained when he commented on the original blog post.

If I’d known there was interest in cut-down & framed posters in-situ, I’d have taken pictures of my parents bedroom before we started clearing the house.

They had trimmed and framed copies of the GPO “Use Your Correct Address” posters of Eilean Donan (John Minton) and Brookland (David Knight) on the wall for at least the last decade. We’ve also found a trimmed copy of Minton’s Iwerne Abbey, a trimmed and framed Minton Greenwich which I vaguely remember being on the walls in the 60s & 70s, and what we think is a trimmed David Knight Polruan.

John Minton GPO poster Eilean Donan Castle 1957

Dad seems to have got the Minton posters in April 1957 by writing to the Mount Pleasant offices. The three cost 3s 0d in total (1/6d for Iwerne, 1s for Greenwich and 6d for Eilean Donan) and were sent out with a note from a Mr R. Weeber giving the prices and the rather polite request “Perhaps you will kindly forward a remittance for 3s.0d. in due course.”

What’s even better is that Mr Shepherd Sr also kept the correspondence.

(I’ve put these images in quite big, so just click on them if you want to read the text properly)

GPO letter about poster ordering 1957

I love the fact that they’re only asking for payment after the posters have been sent out.  Those were the days.

Mr Shepherd senior didn’t give up at with that, though.  Go forward ten years, and he is once more trying to order some posters from the GPO.

Letter from GPO re posters

But as you can see, times have changed, and the GPO now have an order form available – and what’s more, here it is.

GPO poster order form 1967

I would like to order all of those please, with a particular emphasis on the last one which is new to me and splendidly moody.

Avebury GPO poster Garrick Palmer

And I used to live there too.

Now all of this would be fascinating enough on its own.  But what makes all of this even more important is that there doesn’t seem to have been many records of this kept elsewhere (a fact that possibly we could have guessed from the slightly ad-hoc nature of that order form).

I asked Anna Flood, archivist at the British Postal Museum and Archive, what they knew about the poster selling, and she couldn’t find anything about this in the books or in their records.  Which is rather exciting really, as it means that Quad Royal has – thanks to Rik Shepherd – managed to uncover a brand new historical fact here.  I’m quite chuffed.

The only reference Anna could find in their archives is one which doesn’t shed any light on Mr Shepherd’s poster buying, but does stretch the timescale back quite a bit, in fact to this series of posters.

HS Williamson air mails croydon GPO poster

POST 33/4722 – Publicity: supply to school, posters, leaflets, first issue – 1934

Re the H.S. Williamson series of posters:

–          PRD 88 – Relays carrying the King’s messages, 1482

–          PRD 89 – Mails for the Packets arriving at Falmouth, 1833

–          PRD 90 – Loading mails at the docks in London, 1934

–          PRD 91 – Loading air mails for the Empire, Croydon 1934

‘It is likely that the issue of these posters [to schools] will give rise to further demands for them….c) from private individuals, who want one or more of the posters for nursery or other house decoration’………’As regards c), posters will be sold, so far as stocks permit, at the following prices, to include packing and postage:- Single posters 1s each. Set of four posters 3s.’…..’Persons desiring to buy posters should be advised to write to the Controller, Post Office Stores Department, Mount Pleasant Depot, EC1, [Public Relations Department, GPO, London, EC1 – crossed out] specifying the title of the poster or posters they desire to buy and enclosing a postal order for the necessary amount.’ 13th November, 1934, Public Relations Department.

A later memo states ‘ copies may be obtained on personal application to the Public Relations Department, Armour House, 40 St Martins-le-Grand, London, EC1’. Dated 28/11/34.

H S WIlliamson Kings Relays GPO poster 1934

And she comments,

So indeed, as early as 1934 the Post Office PRD was allowing members of the public to purchase GPO posters (maybe because of the costs involved in producing runs of posters, hence they didn’t want the expenditure to go to waste, and maybe also because the PO was intent in raising its public profile at the time, hence the ‘schools’ campaign). However, it may have taken a while for the process to become formalised, with the issue of ‘for sale’ lists and order forms, such as those Rik Shepherd has.

I don’t think we’re in a position to write an entire thesis on GPO poster survival from these small scraps of information.  But what this does show is that, although they may not have advertised the fact, the GPO did sell posters to private individuals and this is most likely the way that GPO posters, in their smaller numbers survive today.

It’s also interesting to note that the posters that the GPO thought that people were interested in buying in 1967 (as shown on the order form) and indeed the posters that Mr Shepherd was actually interested in buying in 1957, were the ‘artistic’ ones, i.e. the ones in which a fine artist had been commissioned to create a painting which was then turned into a poster.  Because in 1957, the GPO was also producing posters like these:

Tom Eckersley properly packed parcels please dog

Huveneers post early poster GPO 1957

Admittedly they weren’t quite scaling the same graphic heights in 1967, but there was still Daphne Padden and Kenneth Bromfield on show in your local post office.

Daphne Padden greetings stamp 4d vintage GPO poster

Kenneth Bromfield GPO poster tv license

But these weren’t the posters that people were meant to buy or wanted to buy.  So fewer of these survive than of the ‘artistic’ ones.  A quick trawl through Onslows’ archives does seem to support this theory, as many more of the painterly posters seem to come up for auction than the more graphic ones.  Which is of course a great shame, as it’s the graphic design that I at least would rather be buying nowadays.  But I can’t really blame the public for buying what they liked at the time.  At least I don’t think I can.

That’s not the important point though, I’m still very happy that we’ve managed to find another small piece of the jigsaw and discover how a few more posters survived.  So if anyone else out there has something that they think might be interesting, please do get in touch.  You never know, it might be a piece of information that no one has known until now.

Oh, and GPO correspondence wasn’t all that Mr Shepherd kept – more on his archive next week.

Blackpool, camels and shandy

I’m posting like fury this week to try and catch up with all the auctions that are going on.  Although this post is in fact about a couple of auctions that have already happened, but are still worth noting.

The first of these is the recent GWRA auction, where we had been hoping to get this Daphne Padden, but were outbid and it went for £280.

Daphen Padden Lancashire coast British Railways psoter

I don’t think we’ve seen that one before ever, so I am a bit sad about that.  We also failed to buy this Lander too.

Royal Mail Boats Lander poster

Although as it went for just £140 you may deduce that we weren’t trying that hard.

We did, however get this Lander, which I am rather pleased about.

Morecambe British Railways poster RM Lander

Again, it’s not one that you see very often (something I have mentioned on here before now).  But it’s a brilliant piece of what I believe people now refer to as ‘mid-century’ and will look rather good framed.

The auction was chock-full of posters including, interestingly, another two for Blackpool – as far as GWRA knows, both anonymous.

Blackpool Britsh Railways poster anonymous


The first one went for £300, the second for a whopping £700, which was almost the record for the entire sale.  The actual top price, though was £750, which was paid for this.


With this Fred Taylor coming a close second at £720.


But if you just wanted a nice pictorial seaside poster, quite possibly with a bit of kitsch in it, and you wanted to pay £200-300, you would have been spoiled for choice.  Here’s just one of the dozens.


That went for £240, and for ten pounds less you could have had yourself another Daphne Padden as well.

Daphne Padden isle of Man BRitish railways poster

I do like that cat.

But there were a few bargains here and there, at least if you like Peterborough.


Just eighty of your pounds.

There are even one or two bargains still to be had as well.  This rather striking Bromfield failed to sell, and is now on offer with a reserve of just £50.

bromfield - hampshire

Surely that must have some midcentury appeal somewhere; I’m sure it would go for more than that on eBay.

Also passed and worthy of note is the recent Christies sale, which I did manage to blog about beforehand.

Apart from the obvious conclusion that expensive posters are expensive, what has most caused me to raise an eyebrow here is the price of the little bus posters.  Several, like this Anna Zinkeisen, went for more than a thousand pounds.

Anna Katrina Zinkeisen (1901-1976) WIMBLEDON TENNIS lithograph in colours, 1934

Although interestingly, this Herry Perry, which had an estimate of £1000-1,500, only fetched £875.  And not everything sold either, although I haven’t had the time to do the forensics and find out exactly what.

Herry (Heather) Perry (1893-1962) BOAT RACE lithograph in colours, 1935

All of which will make it particularly interesting to see how this Anna Zinkeisen will do on eBay.

Anna Zinkeisen bus poster motorcycle show

It’s currently at £9.99, but with 6 days to go and a reserve that hasn’t been met yet.  Watch that space.

While we are watching that eBay space, a few more things that have turned up.  This Quantas poster is mostly of interest because it is quirky, has a picture of a camel on it and is not overpriced at £39.

Quantas Camel poster from Ebay

While someone by the name of prbs1929 is also selling a job lot of coach posters at very reasonable prices.  This is my favourite.

Late holiday coach poster

This, on the other hand, does seem a bit expensive to me.

poster for Maltese shandy

Although I know nothing about the Maltese poster market and may turn out to be completely wrong about that.

Finally, I think we have a collectable in the making here.

Can safety poster

I have no idea what it is trying to tell me, but that’s part of the fun.  I think. And there are plenty more to be had if that tickles your fancy.