Marketing that broke the mould: General Post Office puts vintage posters up for sale

By Sam Harris | 25 June 2015

Vintage posters to raise money for a new museum of postal stories, records and objects, could open old Post Office Underground Railway to the public

a photo of a poster featuring a man sitting in a hole and reading a book in Australia. Next to him is a sign that says 'Post Office'.
Poster of Central Australia from the Outposts of Empire series by John Vickery, 1938© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
A selection of vintage General Post Office posters are to be put up for sale as part of an online auction to raise money for The Postal Museum and Mail Rail.

Created by some of the most prominent artists and designers of their time, the original posters are duplicates from the collections in the British Postal Museum and Archive and will be put up for auction by Onslows Auction House in Dorset on July 9.

The images, made between the 1930s and 1960s, focus on a range of subjects, from airmail to pleas for the careful packing of parcels.

Adrian Steel, the director of the museum and archive, praised the creativity of the designers and highlighted the importance of the posters. “Along with a number of other trendsetting organisations, the GPO broke the mould with its marketing in the 1930s," he suggested.

“Auctioning this striking series of posters prior to moving to The Postal Museum gives the public a rare opportunity to own a piece of iconic design.”

a photo of a poster featuring a women holding roses that have been unpacked from a parcel. Next to her reads the text 'Properly packed parcels please'.
Poster advising correct packaging of parcels by Harry Stevens, June 1962© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
Some of the most prominent artists and designers of the time were commissioned to create these images. The posters going on sale include works by Edward McKnight Kauffer, Stan Krol, Jan Le Witt and George Him.

Many of the artists went on to make iconic designs for places such as London Transport and the Ministry of Information with posters made to support the war effort during the Second World War.

“The funds raised will support our ambitious plans for a new, national museum and unique subterranean experience on the Mail Rail,” added Steel.

The Postal Museum will have permanent exhibition galleries and a temporary exhibition space bringing social, communication and design history from the past five centuries to London.

There are also plans to open up a section of the old Post Office Underground Railway, Mail Rail, allowing the public to take a ride through some of the original tunnels beneath the capital. Visit postalmuseum.org for more.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.
a photo of a poster featuring people loading bags of post onto underground trains.
Post Office Underground Mail Train: London by Lili Rethi, 1937© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring telegraph wires, a telegraph pole in the image of a fountain pen and a delivery person on a bicycle. The fountain pen is writing out the words 'use block letters for telegrams'.
Poster advertising the telegram service by Hans Unger, March 1951© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring a man in Ceylon standing outside a Post Office.
Poster of Ceylon from the Outposts of Empire series of posters by John vickery, 1938© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster that says 'six an' a half per cent' with the i in six being a Post Office Savings Bank Investment Account book.
Poster advertising the Post Office Savings Bank by Stan Krol, c.1960© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring a jack in a box popping out of an opened parcel. On the side it says 'careful packing - happy opening'.
Poster advocating care when packing parcels by James Mawtus-Judd, March 1962© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
photo of a poster featuring a postman walking up to a remote house in Northern Ireland.
Poster of Northern Ireland from the Outposts of Britain series of posters by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1937© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring a postman walking towards a line of houses tangled up in a spiral. At the top it says 'a postal guide to the maze of London' and in the bottom right-hand corner is the publication 'London Post Offices and Streets'.
Poster advertising the publication 'London Post Offices and Streets' by Jan Lewitt and George Him, September 1951© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring cranes loading large amounts of mail and parcels from trucks onto a big ship.
Loading Mails at the Docks in London 1934 by Harold Sandys Williamson, 1936© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
photo of a poster with an Egyptian coffin wrapped up. Next to it are the words 'carefully packed - contents intact'.
Poster advertising the benefits of wrapping parcels carefully by Stan Krol, c.1953© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring a card on a beach with a post card. Text underneath the crab says 'inland post cards need a second stamp'.
Poster advertising post card rates by Derrick Hass, July 1954© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring a women posting a letter at a remote post box at Lands End.
Poster of Lands End from the Outposts of Britiain series of posters by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1937© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring a battleship at sea covered with arrows filled with the words 'Action' and 'Stations'. At the top of the poster it says 'Post Office Savings Bank' and at the bottom it says 'saving is everybody's war job'.
Poster advertising the Post Office Savings Bank by Frederic Henri Kay Henrion, March 1944© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive
a photo of a poster featuring a letter and some stamps in the shape of an airplane. Text that also around the stamps, and over the top of them, says 'stick correct stamps on your air mail letters and postcards'.
Poster promoting correct postage for airmail services by Stan Krol, November 1954© Royal Mail Group courtesy of The British Museum & Archive

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