Special purchase

My initial thought when I first looked at the new Onslow’s catalogue a few weeks ago was that someone had better ring the BPMA, because they’ve been burgled.  Then I read the auction blurb more closely, and of course it says

including duplicates from the British Postal Museum & Archive

Panic over.

What they actually mean, it turns out, is duplicates from the BPMA collection, mostly featuring the work of Stan Krol.  You can buy single posters like this.

Stan Krol (born 1910) Round the clock service, printed for HMSO GPO PRD 683 1952 Round the clock service
Stan Krol, 1952, est. £100-150

Or indeed this one, which I love for drawing my attention to a problem that I was hitherto utterly unaware of.

Stan Krol (born 1910) To loosen frozen covers, printed for HMSO GPO PRD 535 1949 to loosen frozen covers use salt and hot water
Stan Krol, 1949, est. £100-150.

Both of these come with a bonus set of small size Post Office ‘art’ posters as well.

Art posters job lot John Minton etc

They must have hundreds of them, but even so it’s a funny way of getting rid of John Mintons if you ask me.  But no one did.

Anyway, back to the Krols.  If you want more than just a single poster (and have no desire for a John Minton), you can buy job lots of six.

Stan Krol (born 1910) A group of six 1950's GPO posters including Use Block Letters, Stick Correct Stamps, One red stamp book and Round the clock services, each - 37 x 24 cm; and one other Spencer Market Place Norwich GPO
Stan Krol, est. £150-200

And this lot is repeated three times.  Although there’s no escaping those art posters here either, you get a bonus Norwich Market Place (as shown above) whether you want it or not.  I’m guessing people mostly don’t if they are having to give it away like this.

That’s not the end of it either, there’s also another job lot of Krols, this time for the Post Office Savings Bank, also available twice over.

Stan Krol (born 1910) Post Office Savings Bank, five different designs, printed for HMSO, each 37 x 24 cm; and one othe
Stan Krol, est. £60-80

No Norwich Market Place in sight here either, which is a bonus.

Now I have two thoughts about this.  One is that it massively increases my knowledge of the work of Stan Krol, which can only be a good thing.  While the GPO posters are all on the BPMA website, the majority of the Post Office Savings Bank ones haven’t been digitised yet so some are entirely new to me.

But the other is that this is no way to sell off an archive.  Flooding the market with duplicates like this surely isn’t going to get the best value for the museum.  The result is going to be something like the final Morphets sale, when people were so boggled by the sheer volume of stuff on offer than poster after poster went really cheaply.  (Morphets have taken the online catalogue down from their server now, but I used to regularly go back and look at the fantastic posters that went for £40 or so and wish we’d bought everything).   But that was an estate sale, after Malcolm Guest’s death, so they had no choice.  Given that they had choices, I can’t help feeling that the BPMA aren’t handling this very well, and will not be getting the maximum value from their holdings. An instructive contrast is with the recent London Transport Museum sale, where there were no duplicates at all.*

This is particularly true of some of the more expensive posters in the sale, like these McKnight Kauffers.

E McKnight Kauffer (Edward 1890-1954) Outposts of Britain Posting Box at Lands End, GPO poster PRD 200 1937
McKnight Kauffer, 1937, est. £500-700

The description says very firmly that these are the much rarer large format posters (they are a slightly odd 30″ x 36″).  So then why sell them as individual posters, but then also as two pairs, and finally a set of four.  They’re a lot less rarer as the result of that.  Surely four would have been enough for one sale, with another batch next year, and so on.

But the sale isn’t entirely duplicates, there are also some single posters too, including a small handful of the van side posters that I love so much.

Andre Franion (dates not known) 2 1/2d for Inland Postcards, GPO poster PRD 1083 1960 For Inland Postcards
Andre Franion, 1960, est. £70-100

Guess what, you get a free John Minton with that too.  But I’m still tempted, even though I have no idea how I, or anyone else, would display something that’s almost a metre long.

Other delights include this Alick Knight.

Alick Knight Remember Inland Post Cards need a 2d Stamp, GPO PRD 785
Alick Knight, 1955, est. £100-150

I’m also very pleased to see the estimate on this Zero too.

Zero (Hans Schleger 1898-1976) Address your letters plainly, printed for PRD 260 GPO by W R Royle 1942
Hans Schleger (Zero), 1942, est. £400-600

This is because we’ve got one, and as a general rule anything I buy tends to lose rather than gain value so it’s nice to see something bucking the trend.

This is of course just a small selection of the GPO posters available, so it does pay to go and look at the catalogue yourself.  In the meantime, this can stand as an example of the vast number of this type of poster that are on offer.

Peter Edwards (dates not known) Old Compton Street, Soho, original GPO poster PRD 1078 1960
Peter Edwards, 1960, est. £70-100

There are also a whole range of other posters included as well, including the usual Shell educational posters.

Rowland Hilder (1905-1983) Shell Guide to Warwickshire, original poster printed by C Nicholls 1963
Rowland Hilder, 1963, est. £50-100 (with four others)

The 1914 centenary effect is also still holding strong, so there’s a set of World War One posters, including another Alfred Leete Lord Kitchener at a vast estimate.

Alfred Leete (1882-1933) Britons (Kitchener) "Wants You" Join Your Country's Army ! God Save the King !, an original but trimmed copy of the recruiting poster printed by the Victoria House Printing Company Co. Ltd. September 1914
Alfred Leete, 1914, ezt. £1,000-1,500

This is turning into the Keep Calm of World War One, as the rarity and high auction values brings yet more examples out of the woodwork with every new auction.

Speaking of which, for a change there isn’t a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in this sale, although you can have one of either of the others from these series should you wish.

Description	Your Courage Your Cheerfulness Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory, original WW2 poster with red background and white lettering and Crown, printed 1939
Anonymous, 1939, est. £300-400

Mostly, the WW2 offerings are more of historic than visual interest, the exception being a pair of Abram Games.

Abram Games (1914-1996) Talk Kills, explicit WW2 propaganda poster depicting soldier wearing helmet in the sea, PR 76 printed for HMSO c.1942
Abram Games, 1942, est. £400-500

What with all of this, it’s perhaps not surprising that there aren’t that many railways or London Transport posters this time round, although this circular Tom Eckersley is a delight.

Eckersley (Tom 1914 - 1997) Exact Fare Helps the Conductor, circle poster published by LT 1945 Exact Fare helps the conductor
Tom Eckersley, 1945, est. £100-150

A number of the London Transport posters – although not the Eckersley – are listed has having come from another London Transport Museum Sale, run by Sotheby’s in 1993.  I’d have loved to see how the values had changed between then and now, but sadly this date is just a bit too early for me to find the answers online.  So if anyone does have a copy of the catalogue and can run the comparison, I’d be very grateful.

And finally, there is this.

Anonymous, £20-40

A simple poster, doing its job.  Can’t argue with that.


*Underneath all the debate about how to sell off museum archives lurks a bigger question, which is whether museums should be selling off their collections at all.  Generally I tend to think no, because what people might discard as ‘worthless’ now could well turn out to be highly prized in later times, and also because museums have histories themselves, and these histories need to be recorded.  And because then people won’t give stuff to museums if they think it might be sold in the future, and the reasons go on and on and on.  But I do think posters are a slightly different case, precisely because they aren’t unique, and therefore it is possible to have too many.  As long as the museum has enough to cover losses, and damage and loans, then I can’t really see a good reason why they should keep 12, or 20 Stan Krols, just because they have them.  But I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on this too.


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.


There’s a certain amount of urgency to this post as the next Bloomsbury poster auction is tomorrow (Tuesday).  I do wish I could get a bit more excited about the Bloomsbury Auctions, I really do, as they really ought to be the missing piece of the jigsaw, the auctions which hoover up all the lower-priced pieces of good design which Christies no longer deign to touch.  But somehow, it just doesn’t quite work.

Nonetheless, shall  we get stuck in and see what we can turn up?  Perhaps we should begin with this post-war Shell poster, seeing as I was over in that direction this weekend.

HOOPER, George (1910-1994) YOU CAN BE SURE OF SHELL, Kintbury, Berks  lithographic poster post-war
George Hooper, est £200-300

It’s rather hard to decide where to go next, in part because the poster part of the auction (there are film posters first, but I’m ignoring those) is arranged in alphabetical order of artists.  Which is I admit entirely logical, but does make it hard to construct any kind of narrative out of the whole thing beyond saying that there are posters.   Mind you, I think that if this selection of stuff was arranged in almost any order, it would still feel scattergun, it’s just that kind of sale.

So, here is a poster I like for no good reason other than it’s kitsch and quintessentially 1950s.

Vintage BOAC poster dogs
Anonymous, est. £300-500

So if the bulldog represents Britain, and the poodle Europe, what is the black one up to?  Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

Meanwhile this one is a classic, and a deserved one too.

GAMES, Abram (1914-1996) SEE BRITAIN BY TRAIN, British Railways  lithographic poster in colours, 1951, printed by The Baynard Press
Abram Games, 1951, est. £200-400

Although by rights that should mean that it is worth more than the dogs, but there you go.

The one feature worth noting is that once again they’ve landed a whole haul of small GPO posters (for the last outbreak, see here).

As last time, they come in lots of ten with only one of each photographed, which isn’t really an enormous lot of use if you are thinking of bidding on them.

BROWNING A POSTAL VIEW OF LONDON, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, c.1950
Browning, 1950, est. £150-250

FARNHILL BY AIR MAIL, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, c.1950
Farnhill, 1950, est. £150-250

ARMENGOL, AT ANY POST OFFICE, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, 1951, printed by J.D.& Co
Armengol, 1951, est. £150-250

This set are definitely not as stellar as the last selection.  Even though there is an Eckersley amongst them, it’s not one of his greats.


ECKERSLEY, Tom (1914-1997 POST OFFICE SERVICES, GPO  lithographic poster in colours, 1952
Tom Eckersley, 1952, est. £150-250

Other than that, however, it is a miscellany.  There are three of Henrion’s posters for Punch – I’ve chosen this one because it is the least frequently seen of them.

FHK Henrion, est. £150-250

They are an interesting case, though, these posters as they appear quite regularly on the market, which leads me to suspect that they must have been sold or given away at some point.  Perhaps a trawl through early 1950s Punch might reveal the answer.

Also available are two very nice London Transport posters by Betty Swanwick.

SWANWICK, Betty (1915-1989) WILD or SAVAGE, London Underground  lithographic poster in colours, printed by Curwen Press,
Betty Swanwick, est. £200-400

SWANWICK, Betty WOOLWICH FERRY  lithographic poster in colours, 1949, printed by Curwen Pres
Betty Swanwick, 1949, est. £300-500

For once I agree with the estimates, as the second one, Woolwich Ferry, is by far the better of the two and would look wonderful on the wall, should any of you be tempted.

There is also further proof that P&O and the Orient Line commissioned a lot of very good design before the war, even if I can’t tell you any more about it than that.

ANONYMOUS ORIENT LINE TO THE MEDITERRANEAN  lithographic poster swallow cruises by 20000 ton steamers
Anonymous, est. £150-250

There’s also a chance once again to appreciate the hallucinogenic colour choices of Percy Drake Brookshaw.

BROOKSHAW, Percy Drake ((1907-1993) YOUR WINDOW OPENS THROUGH COOKS  lithographic poster in colours, c.1950, printed by Jordison & Co.
Percy Drake Brookshaw, c.1950, est. £150-250.

Along with a tram poster.

BROWN, Gregory (1887-1941) HORNIMAN MUSEUM, London Underground  lithographic poster in colours, 1934, printed by Crescens Robinson & Co. Ltd. London
Gregory Brown, 1934, set. £200-400

And that’s basically your lot.

One final thing to say, though, which is I hope you are appreciating this blog post as it is the most expensive one I have ever written.  Half way through, my computer keeled over once again and this time it looks terminal (or at least rather too expensive to repair).  So I have been to the Big Town and come back with a new laptop, all in time to get this piece out before the auction begins tomorrow.  It’s not every blog that gives service like that, you know.


On 16th July, Bloomsbury are holding their Poster Sale, in what I’m hoping will be the last auction for a while – I say this mainly because I want to write about other things for a chance.

I’m not so jaded that I am going to do this, but I am aware that I could almost substitute what I wrote about Onslows in here with different illustrations, because the two sales are following a very similar pattern.

In particular, they both have a big selection of GPO posters, although in the case of Bloomsbury, they sell them in lots of ten so the estimates, although nominally higher than Onslows are actually cheaper on a per poster basis.  Which is confusing, in a trying to work out which brand of cornflakes in the supermarket is actually best value kind of way.  Perhaps we should price posters per square centimetre for the sake of clarity. Anyway, these are what’s on offer, but bear in mind that each one comes with nine unphotographed others.

HUVENEERS, Pieter H. SEND YOUR OVERSEAS PARCELS BY AIR MAIL. GPO lithograph in colours, 1954, vintage poster
PIeter Huveneers, 1954, est. £150-250

1955 vintage GPO poster BROWNING, H. W. BY AIR MAIL, GPO lithograph in colours
Browning, 1955, est. £150-250

vintage GPO poster GAPP BOTH NEED A CLEAR VIEW, GPO lithograph in colours, 1951,
Gapp, 1951, est. £150-250

This also connects up with the Onlows sale in that these – rather than the set on offer at Onslows – are the ones rescued from a skip when the Post Office were having a clear out.  So it’s an interesting coincidence that two sets have come on the market at the same time.  There is one more lot on offer at Bloomsbury as well,  fronted by this Tom Eckersley classic.

vintage GPO poster 1955 ECKERSLEY, Tom (1914-1997) POST EARLY, GPO ithograph
Tom Eckersley, 1955, est. £150-250

In another resemblance to Onslows, Bloomsbury also have a few fantastic Games posters tucked away at the end.  I won’t go through them all, but mostly they are good but not news to me because they have been much reproduced, like this London Transport example.

1950 London Transport vintage poster GAMES, Abram LONDON TRANSPORT, conducted tours lithograph in colours, printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd, London
Abram Games, 1950, est. £150-250

This one, however is both new to me and utterly wonderful.

1952 poster GAMES, Abram (1914-1996) BLACKPOOL, British Railways
bram Games, 1952, est. £200-400

It’s apparently a British Railways poster  – and given that it’s in the collection of the NRM I see no reason to doubt this – but it doesn’t say BR on it anyway.  Which is unusual, but I imagine just the kind of thing Abram Games got away with and no one else was allowed to.

Onslows was full of Shell posters; Bloomsbury have but two.  They are, however, this kind and so both preferable and more valuable.

SUDDABY Rowland, (1912-1972 ) YOU CAN BE SURE OF SHELL, Darley Abbey lithograph in colours, 1937
Roland Suddaby, 1937, est.  £300-500

After that, however, I start to run out.  There are foreign posters (lots), film posters (just as many) and car posters (quite a few) but little to tickle my fancy.  The best thing I could find is this Lander, and it’s not one of his best.

British Railways poster LANDER, R.M. ISLE OF MAN lithograph in colours, c.1960,
R M Lander, 1960, est. £200-400

The only other thing that is of interest, although strictly speaking it’s more of a print, is this item by James Fitton.

James Fitton CEMA print pant
James Fitton, 1942, est. £300-500

Now I’ve come across one of these before.  It’s a print by CEMA, wartime fore-runner to the Arts Council and the prints look to be precursors of the School Prints and Lyons editions.  But I can’t find anything about them anywhere – do you lot know where they might be documented?  Or even a decent history of CEMA itself would do.  Anyway, there are actually a whole set available in the lot, so the estimate looks like somewhat of a bargain, if you like that kind of thing.

Even though it’s a bit short on my personal favourite kinds of posters, I still think the sale is good though, because I think Bloomsbury have answered the question that I asked a week or two ago, which was where are we to buy and sell mid range posters now that Christies have turned us away at the door?  Here, it seems.

FM Paignton British Railways tourism poster 1960
F M. 1960, est £200-400

That said, I do still have a couple of reservations.  One is very simply that they are not trying very hard with their catalogue.  For several of the posters I’ve illustrated up there, no dates have been given in the catalogue; in each case it’s been the matter of moments with Google for me to find out.  And given that two of those posters are for the GPO and London Transport, who in each case have comprehensive online catalogues, with dates, it’s pretty poor.

The other is the estimates.  They’re both wide and well, a bit vague.  Surely that fantastic Games of Blackpool has to be worth more than the average Lander?  So then I look at the catalogue and wonder how much they really know about their lots.  Still, I don’t suppose it matters too much.  This is, after all, an auction, and the market can judge for itself what a poster is worth.  But I do still feel very slightly cheated.

Finally, in a shameless piece of self-advertisement, we are selling some posters on eBay.  However, they are mostly world war two, mostly a bit shabby (OK, some a lot shabby) and surplus to requirements, so keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.

Is it really efficient?

On we must go with the endless stream of auctions.  Today it is Onslows, which takes place on Friday.  What can I tell you about it?

Well the first thing that will strike you as you browse through the catalogue is precisely what a tonnage of Shell posters they have – and there are more too, tucked away at the end.

Keith Grant Somerset Shell Educational poster Wiltshire
Keith Grant, est. £100-150

I really must take a look at what these actually sell for, because the higher estimates of £100-150 do always strike me as slightly fanciful, but then a few always manage to reach that.  Certainly,  I don’t see them going as high at other auctions or on eBay.  Watch this space and I will report back.

That would, however, be an utterly reasonable price to pay for these Tristram Hillier items, which have the same estimate.  I’ve written about them before but, frankly, any excuse.

Tristram HIllier Shell guide to fossils educational poster

Tristram Hiller shell guide to minerals educational poster

What I haven’t ever written about properly, however, are the Shell educational posters themselves.  Must do that one of these days.

Meanwhile back at Onslows, the other thing that will strike you about the auction is a job lot of GPO posters, some being sold singly, some as individual lots.

1950 Harry stevens air mail GPO poster
Harry Stevens, 1950, est. £70-100

Sams 1954 minimum 4d letter rate GPO poster
Sams, 1954, est. £60-80

Now I happen to know the story behind these posters, and it’s one to make any archivist’s hair curl.  Back in the early 1980s, the Royal Mail in their Mount Pleasant HQ were having a sort out.  Sensibly, they decided that two copies of each of the posters they had produced should go to an archive – these are the ones which the BPMA have now.  Rather more bogglingly, they put the rest in a skip.  The seller rescued a selection that he liked.  Some were sold at Bloomsbury in March, this is another batch.

1950 Martin Aitchison Your Letterbox is it really efficient ?, GPO poster
Martin Aitcheson, 1950, est. £40-50

Other than that, the other two interesting items are two rather lovely sets of proofs, one by Barnett Friedman and the other by Edward Ardizzone.

Barnett Freedman (1901-1958) Wuthering Heights (16 plates) , Jane Eyre (16 plates) and Anna Karenina (16 plates), proof uncut lithograph sheets for illustrations from Heritage Press NY 1952,
Barnett Friedman, 1952, est. £200-300

Edward Ardizonne (1900-1979) lithograph proof sheets for Sinbad, Fairground Freak Show and WW2 sentry
Edward Ardizzone, est. £30-50.

I like them a lot, but what you’d actually do with them I’m not entirely sure.

Meanwhile the rest of what is on offer is the usual mix of foreign stuff that I am going to ignore, railway and travel posters, and, as ever, a fair selection of World War Two Home Front posters.

This is probably the stand-out railway poster for me.

Frank Newbould (1887-1951) Scarborough, original poster printed for LNER poster by Waterlow c. 1930
Frank Newbould, 1930, est. £700-1,000

Although, as even a cursory flick through this blog would reveal, I am always a sucker for this series.

L A Wilcox (Lesley Arthur 1904-1982) Cornwall Travel by Train, original poster printed for BR(WR) by Jordison 1960 BR poster
L A Wilcox, 1960, est. £600-700

The main event in the travel poster section, at least if you are me, is a stream of these black and white British travel posters.  A couple are quite interestingly early.

Brighton travel poster 1938
Anonymous, 1938, est. £50-70

The vast majority are not.

Walter Scott's Britain Warwick - The Castle, original sepia photographic poster printed for The Travel Association circa 1948 poster
Anonymous, c. 1948, est. £50-70.

While this in no way constitutes a recommendation to buy one, these posters are quite interesting as historical artefacts.  Take a look at the date: it’s just after the war has ended, and Britain is desperate to pay back the war loans.  And one of the ways to do that, is of course American tourist dollars; so these posters wing their way over to the States to try and persuade our American cousins to come over here.  But I often wonder just how well they worked.  Because America is sleek, glossy and most of all technicolour, but Britain is broke.  So our posters come in black and white and are printed on the cheapest, thinnest paper imaginable.

Of course none of this explains why the 1938 poster is equally as shoddy.  Perhaps the British Travel and Tourist Association were just cheapskates, all the time.

The reason I’ve thought about these posters so much is that Mr Crownfolio and I, some years ago, bought a whole roll of these posters from America for about £30.  We tried to sell a couple on eBay but basically got laughed at.  But then, a couple of years later we tried again, and the prices started rising – so much so that one of the last ones went for over £100.  And now they are at Onslows, well I never.

In the war section, meanwhile, this is probably the most classic poster.

Norman Wilson (dates unknown) Dig for Victory, original WW2 poster printed for HMSO by Chromoworks c.1940 propaganda poster
Norman Wilkinson, 1940, est. £300-400.

While this is my favourite.

Coughs & Sneezes Spread Diseases, original WW2 Home Front poster printed for HMSO by Chromoworks circa 1940
Anonymous, 1940, est. £40-50

Just look at the difference in prices, I am clearly in a minority of one on this.

For a change, there aren’t that many London Transport posters in there, but it’s worth persevering through the whole catalogue, because a pair of gems, both by Abram Games, are tucked away at the end.

Abram Games london zoo lovely poster
Abram Games, 1976, est. £100-150

Abram Games (1914-1996) London Transport Conducted Tours, original poster printed by Waterlow 1950 London Transport poster
Abram Games, 1950, est. £400-500.

In fact that poster above is the very last one in the sale.  And probably one of the best.   But it’s an exception, and I am slightly worried by the general lack of good posters like that from the Onslows sale.  Because with Christies having got so expensive, there’s a real need for an auction house selling the stuff that, well, Christies used to – the Games, the Eckersleys and the Royston Coopers to start with, never mind the Daphne Paddens.  But they aren’t appearing here – so where have they gone?  They haven’t entirely migrated to the railwayana auctions, so where have they all gone?  Do any of you know, because I certainly don’t. And I’d like to.

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.