Iconic Posters: Keep Calm And Carry On

This iconic poster – Keep Calm And Carry On is a WWII relic. It was ignored and then forgotten for more than 60 years

This is a phrase that originated in the United Kingdom and has since spread across the globe. Posters, mugs, tea towels, and headlines all feature the phrase.

The Ministry of Information created the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster between June 27 and July 6, 1939. These three “Home Publicity” posters (the others read “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory” and “Freedom is in Peril/Defend It With All Your Might”) were all printed in the same year and were intended to encourage people to take action to protect their freedom. The tagline was displayed under a “Tudor Crown” on each poster (a symbol of the state). Wartime disasters, such as a mass bombing of large cities with high explosives and poison gas, were expected to occur within hours of the commencement of the conflict. Specifically, the term was chosen because it conveys a message of ‘sober restraint.'”

A civil servant named A. P. Waterfield came up with “Your Courage” as “a rallying war-cry that will bring out the best in every one of the people and put them in an aggressive mood at once”. The others involved were John Hilton, Professor of Industrial Relations at Cambridge University and Director of Home Publicity, William Surrey Dane, managing director at Odhams Press; Gervas Huxley, former head of publicity for the Empire Marketing Board; William Codling, controller of HMSO; Harold Nicolson, MP; W. G. V. Vaughan, who became Director of the General Production Division (GPD); H. V. Rhodes, who later became Director of the General Production Division (GPD); The posters were designed by artist Ernest Wallcousins. For the poster in question, it isn’t apparent who penned the lines.

Officials from the Ministry of Information and HM Treasury met on June 26 and 27, 1939, respectively, to discuss the design of the posters, which had been in the works since April 1939, respectively. After a series of rough draughts was finished on July 6th, 1939, the Home Secretary, Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood, consented to the final designs on August 4th, 1939. After the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939, printing commenced, and the posters were completed within 24 hours of the outbreak of war.

Eleven sizes of posters were made available to the public, ranging from 15 x 10 inches (38 x 25 cm) up to 48-sheet editions. Red or blue were the options for the background colour. In terms of style, the lettering is reminiscent of humanist sans-serif types like Gill Sans and Johnston, but not identical.

Posters for Keep Calm and Carry On were printed between August 23 and September 3 of 1939 but were not allowed to be displayed in public until September 4.

Copies were kept in “cold storage” to be used if there were major air raids (with resources transferred to Your Courage and Freedom is in Peril). It was not until April 1940 that Keep Calm and Carry On copies were destroyed as part of the Paper Salvage programme. Few copies of this poster are known to exist, but they appear to have been shown at a few locations, including a shop in Leeds and a government laboratory in Bedfordshire, where a photograph was found in 2016.

The remaining promotional efforts for the Ministry of Information were abandoned in October 1939 following criticism of their cost and effectiveness. Those who saw the posters described them as patronising and divisive, while those who hadn’t said they hadn’t seen them. It has been suggested that upper-class civil servants misunderstood the attitude of the populace.

An original “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was discovered by Stuart Manley, co-owner with his wife Mary of Barter Books Ltd. in Alnwick, Northumberland while searching through second-hand books bought at auction in 2000. He started making and selling duplicates when the couple framed their artwork and displayed the piece near the cash register. With Susie Steiner’s feature on them for Christmas in 2005, their popularity soared even more than before. The design quickly became a popular theme for a wide variety of products following the precedent set by the Manleys.

The “stiff upper lip,” self-discipline, fortitude, and the ability to remain cool in the face of hardship have all been associated with the poster.

Reference – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Calm_and_Carry_On

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