by Vanessa Bell, Archivist (Cataloguing)
In 1925 a national campaign was launched, encouraging the public to ‘Post early in the day’. The idea was to alleviate pressure on the postal work force by avoiding a rush on letter boxes at the end of the working day. After an initial interest, the campaign proved largely unsuccessful.
It wasn’t until the early 1930s that another national scheme to spread the ‘Post early’ message was considered; with two of the earliest publicity posters commissioned by Public Relations Officer: Stephen Tallents, being on this theme.
These posters, produced in 1934 and depicting postmen on their rounds: PRD 0086 (POST 110/4340) and PRD 0087 (POST 110/1439) are the only two in the collection designed by Graham Sutherland, a then up and coming artist.
This initial push was followed a few years later by an all out national campaign targeting businesses in particular; this was officially launched by the Assistant Postmaster General in a speech to the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce in February 1937.
A leaflet entitled ‘Post during the lunch hour’ (which became the slogan of the campaign) was published in the same month.
This was followed up by two posters. The first, PRD 0155 was entitled: ‘Post during lunch hour’ (POST 110/2491), it was designed by Edward McKnight Kauffer, who went on to produce a set of GPO posters for use in schools entitled ‘Outposts of Britain’ later that same year.
The second poster, PRD 0173 was entitled: ‘Post early in the day’ (POST 110/1159); it was designed by Pat Keely, who went on to produce a number of posters for the GPO throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
The campaign gathered momentum throughout the early years of the Second World War, when it was particularly important to get the message across due to extra pressure on the postal workforce brought about by conscription. Some key artists of the era were called in to produce posters; these included Hans Schleger (Zero), who produced a set of posters (PRD 0250-0252) featuring a running chef, encouraging the public to ‘Post before lunch’ In order to achieve the best war time delivery (see POST 110/4150, POST 110/2966 and POST 110/1173). The posters were used both in post offices and on mail vans in an attempt to reach the widest possible audience.
Other war time artists included Jan LeWitt and George Him, who worked together on a number of inspirational poster designs between 1933 and 1954 when their partnership dissolved. They produced some memorable posters for the ‘Post Early’ campaign, each involving the image of a cartoon postman dragging a large letter over his shoulder (PRD 0238 and PRD 0241 (POST 110/3184 and POST 110/2502)).
‘Post early’ was not the only publicity campaign to be pursued during the Second World War; posters were also produced on themes such as: ‘Save for national security’; ‘Don’t telephone or telegraph if a letter or postcard will do’ and ‘Airgraphs get priority’. I will be exploring some of these posters in my next blog.