Murphy news

After I wrote the post about James Reeve and his brilliant brochures for Murphy televisioon, Dave Grant who runs the Murphy Radio site emailed with a bit more information.

Sadly, he tells me that James Reeve died just a few months ago, so I’m not going to get the chance to quiz him about his wonderful designs.  Here’s another couple from 1949, just because I can.

Murphy brochure cover 1949

Murphy Battery Model brochure 1949

It turns out that James Reeve wasn’t the only force in favour of good design within Murphy.  Co-founder Ted Power (great name if you are going to go into making electrical equipment) was very interested in modern art.  Not only did he collect avant garde art such are Dubuffet and Beuys almost in bulk, he also became a trustee of the Tate Gallery.  (If you want to know more, there’s a fascinating article about him from the Independent here).  So perhaps that’s why Reeve was allowed to go for such adventurous graphics for the company.

But that’s not all that Dave Grant had to say.  There’s also more stuff – more precisely, Reeve’s covers for Murphy News from the same period.  They’re just as good.  And in some cases – like this pastiche of Abram Games – Reeve is letting himself be a little more playful.

Murphy news Christmas 1953 cover James Reeve

Clearly he let go a bit for Christmas – here’s 1962’s offering

Murphy News Dec 1962 James Reeve

Some of the other covers echo the work that he was doing on the brochures at the time – these two are both from 1955.

Murphy news April 1955 James Reeve

Murphy news August 1955 James Reeve

While others are experiments in different styles.

Murphy News Dec 1957 James Reeve

Murphy News Nov 53 James Reeve

Murphy News undated special edition James Reeve

Murphy News TA224R  James Reeve

James Reeve Murphy television news cover

And, lest you think he might be losing his touch as time went on, here are some more typographic efforts from 1964.

Murphy news Cover Jan 1964 James Reeve

Murphy News cover May 1964 James Reeve

Give that man a medal.  Or at very least a posthumous round of applause.

See for yourself

Mr Crownfolio has been doing some searching, in part as a result of the Abram Games Murphy advertisement which I posted last week.  Here’s another, by Reginald Mount, for what it’s worth.

REginald Mount murphy television design

But on the way, Mr Crownfolio came across the Murphy Radio site.  Now, generally, this bears the same relation to poster design as railway name-plate auctions do.  Actually, no, it’s even more frightening; there are circuit diagrams.

A murphy circuit diagram, don't ask me which one

This is for the Murphy A26 RG radiogram for use with AC Mains, since you ask.

But also on the site are pages and pages of leaflets and brochures.  And they are great.  All of the following are  from 1948-49 and are incredibly sharp for their era.

Murphy leaflet 1

Mprhy leaflet 2

Murphy brochure 3

In fact, the graphic design was considerably more modern than the televisions themselves.  This brochure

another Murphy brochure

is for this television.

large wooden television not living up to graphic style

Unlike the brochure, the woodwork hasn’t moved on from the 1930s.  In some ways this is surprising, because much of the company’s graphic design was done by James Reeve, who also designed many of the televisions.  I was going to say that I like the brochures better than the products, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.

There are plenty more great pieces of design as we go into the early to mid 50s.

yet another murphy brochure

When we also enter the era of the portable (ish) radio.

Another Murphy catalogue cover

Murphy Irish catalogue

best bit of design there is here

I swear, it’s almost like looking at European posters it’s that good.

The great work continues until 1960.

1950 murphy television brochure

What I find extraordinary, apart from the fact that I haven’t seen these before, is that an internal employee, whose main job was designing television sets, produced all of the above. He clearly knew his graphic design – especially considering that the likes of Abram Games and Reginald Mount were designing posters for Murphy television – but that can’t account for all of it.  James Reeve was certainly a very clever man, bordering on undiscovered genius.

Furthermore, he is definitely hiding his light under a bushel.  He’s written an ebook about his designs – which you can find here – and it’s all about televisions.  Although I can give you this wonderful image of the Murphy stand at Olympia in 1939 – I’m guessing for the Ideal Home Show.

Murphy stand Olympia 1939

But it is possible to find out more.  There’s an exhibition at Mill Green Museum in Hatfield, all about Reeve’s work and including some of his poster designs.  So if someone could pop over and tell me if the rest of his work is as good as this stuff, I’d be very grateful.