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Keep Calm and Carry On poster (1939)

Keep Calm and Carry On was a propaganda poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of World War II, but never used. It was rediscovered in 2000 and has been re-issued by a number of private sector companies, and used as the decorative theme for a range of other products.

Contents

History

The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information[1] in 1939 during the beginning of World War II, and was intended as a "last case scenario" to be used only should the Nazis succeed in invading Britain via Operation Sealion, in order to stiffen resolve. Two-and-a-half million copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers.[2] The designer of the poster is not known.

The poster was third in a series of three. The previous two posters from the series, "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory" (800,000 printed) and "Freedom is in Peril" (400,000 printed) were issued and used across the country for motivational purposes, as the Government assumed that the nerves of the public would be shot to pieces (they soon changed their tactics). Planning for the posters started in April 1939, by June designs were prepared, and by August 1939, they were on their way to the printers, to be placed up within 24 hours of the outbreak of war. The posters were designed to have a uniform device, be a design associated with the Ministry of Information, have a unique and recognisable typography, with a message from the King to his people (whereas it later notoriously became "the People's War"). The slogans were created by civil servants, with Waterfield coming up with "Your Courage" as "a rallying war-cry that will bring out the best in everyone of us and put us in an offensive mood at once". These particular posters were designed as "a statement of the duty of the individual citizen", un-pictorial, to be accompanied by more colloquial designs. The "Your Courage" poster was much more famous during the war, as it was the first to go up, very large, and was the first of the Ministry of Information's posters. The press, fearful of censorship, created a backlash, and thus a lot of material related to these posters has been kept by archives. [3]

Rediscovery and commercialisation

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As a poster, memorabilia or merchandise

In 2000, a copy of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster was rediscovered in Barter Books, a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland. Since Crown Copyright expires on artistic works created by the UK government after 50 years, the image is now in the public domain.[4] The store's owners, Stuart and Mary Manley, were thus able to reprint copies at customers' requests, as did others, inside and outside Britain. It has inspired ranges of clothing, mugs, doormats, baby clothes and other merchandise from various vendors,[5] plus a book[6] of motivational quotes. Parodies of the poster, with similar type but changing the phrase or the logo (for example, an upside-down crown with "Now Panic and Freak Out"), have also been sold.[7] The poster's popularity has been attributed to a "nostalgia for a certain British character, an outlook" according to Mary Manley. Its message has also been felt relevant to the late-2000s recession.[5] Merchandise with the image has been ordered in bulk by American financial firms, advertising agencies, and by Germans.[7]

It has appeared on the walls of places as diverse as the prime minister's strategy unit at 10 Downing Street, the Lord Chamberlain's office at Buckingham Palace and the United States embassy in Belgium. The Manleys have sold some 41,000 facsimile posters between 2001 and 2009.[5]

In other media

References

External links


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