Tag Archives: Barnett Freedman

October uploads to the online catalogue

With almost 120,000 records now available on our online catalogue our Archive Catalogue & Project Manager Gavin McGuffie tells us about some of these exciting documents.

Last Thursday we uploaded nearly 2,500 new records to our online catalogue, mostly publicity posters (POST 110) and legal cases and opinions (POST 74).

We now have images of almost 2,500 GPO posters available to view on our online catalogue [since there are about 6,000 poster descriptions on the catalogue] spanning the advent of Post Office Poster design, through the golden age of the GPO Public relations department from 1933-1960, right through to the present day Over the years the GPO commissioned some of the biggest names in graphic design to produce work for them including Edward McKnight Kauffer, Barnett Freedman, Frank Newbould, Austin Cooper and the partnership Lewitt-Him.

The posters cover a whole range of subjects including the Post Early campaign, the sending of airgraphs during the Second World War, the Post Office Savings Bank, airmail, and a number of internal staff advisory posters.


POST 110/3215 Tom Eckersley, 1952 (PRD 0675)

POST 110/3215 Tom Eckersley, 1952 (PRD 0675)


POST 110/1310 George Brzezinski Karo, 1954 (PRD 0731)

POST 110/1310 George Brzezinski Karo, 1954 (PRD 0731)

The Cases and Opinions also provide a fascinating insight into the history of the Post Office. “Cases” were requests for legal advice written by members of the General Post Office’s Solicitor’s Department to external legal chambers and the “opinions” were the advice provided. The contents of these correspondences include road tolls, franking, explosive articles contained in letters, and bankrupts’ letters, giving us a window into the types of legal matters the Post Office was concerned with at various periods during its history, which very often reflected greater social issues.

The upload completes the cataloguing of Cases and Opinions, which was begun in 2012 by a University College London student. This work has been made possible by our volunteers who have listed record titles, which form the basis of the catalogue entries, while cleaning, repacking and re-housing materials for our forthcoming move.

A re-housed POST 74 box

A re-housed POST 74 box

The online catalogue is now fully up and running, but we will continue to add new records and amend existing ones over the coming months to ensure that it is as easy as possible to use. However if you spot any problems whilst using it please let us know by emailing catalogue@postalheritage.org.uk

-Gavin McGuffie, Archive Catalogue & Project Manager

King George V definitive stamps

Artwork and other material related to King George V definitive stamps has now been made available on our website. During George V’s 26 year reign (1910-1936) only three definitive designs were issued – the Downey Head, the Mackennal (or Profile) Head and the Seahorse High Values. Our webpages include material related to these three issues, with separate webpages devoted to the First Designs (1910) and the Photogravure designs (1933-36).

Barnett Freedman's design for a proposed photogravure 7d or 8d value, November 1935. (GV-13-24)

Barnett Freedman’s design for a proposed photogravure 7d or 8d value, November 1935. (GV-13-24)

For those with a special interest in stamps from the George V era there are links from these webpages to further material on our online catalogue.

Visit www.postalheritage.org.uk/kgv-definitives to see the new webpages.

GPO Christmas Posters

The tendency of many people to post letters at the very last minute poses a considerable problem to the Post Office and Royal Mail especially in the run-up to Christmas. The large volume of post, late in the day or only a few days before the Christmas holidays, has made the allocation of resources and the efficient provision of service much more complex and costly since the 1930s. When the GPO Public Relations Department was created in 1934, a poster campaign to educate the public to “Post Early this Christmas” started and some striking and wonderful poster designs were produced. We wrote about this successful campaign in a previous blog and now want to present some of our favourite poster images to set the mood for Christmas – and to remind you to “Shop Early – Post Early.”

Shop Early – Post Early poster (Holly Leaf) by Derek Hass from 1953 (POST 110/4243)

Shop Early – Post Early poster (Holly Leaf) by Derek Hass from 1953 (POST 110/4243)

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Post Office commissioned well-known designers like Jan Lewitt & George Him, Tom Eckersley or Barnett Freedman for posters informing the public about the correct use of the postal service. Just like modern advertising campaigns, the designers used animals, striking colours and humour to get their message across. Tom Eckersley’s “Be First, Not Last – Travel Early – Shop Early – Post Early” poster from 1955 features a pantomime horse in two halves: the front half (“Be First”) is smiling, the back half (“Not Last”) frowning. Dogs, Cats, Reindeer, Doves and Owls were equally popular motives to educate the public and prevent the Christmas rush.

Be First, Not Last – Travel Early – Shop Early – Post Early by Tom Eckersley from 1955 (POST 110/1340)

Be First, Not Last – Travel Early – Shop Early – Post Early by Tom Eckersley from 1955 (POST 110/1340)

Post Early (Dachshund) by Leonard Beaumont from 1950

Post Early (Dachshund) by Leonard Beaumont from 1950

Santa Claus himself also appears in different shapes and sizes – “on wheels” with his beard flying in the wind (Manfred Reiss, 1952), skating on ice (POST 110/3213 John Rowland Barker c.1951), or flying over a smoking chimney with a bag of parcels (Eric Fraser, 1946).

Travel Shop Post Early (Father Christmas) poster by John Rowland Barker a.k.a. Kraber from 1951 (POST 110/3213)

Travel Shop Post Early (Father Christmas) poster by John Rowland Barker a.k.a. Kraber from 1951 (POST 110/3213)

Post Early and get 20% off BPMA Christmas cards!

Buy your Christmas cards by the 19 November 2012 from the BPMA Online Shop and receive 20% off your Christmas cards order over £10 (before Postage & Packaging). Enter POSTEARLY2012 discount code at checkout, or visit our Public Search Room in London.

5th Festival of Stamps postcard now available

A fifth postcard is now available in the popular series promoting the London 2010: Festival of Stamps. This postcard looks at the stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.

The postcard features a photographic portrait of George V by Vandyk, alongside essays from 1934 that used this image at two different sizes. It also features an essay with an alternative portrait by Bertram Mackennal, which was much preferred by George V. It was this design that was eventually chosen by the King for the issued stamp.

The fifth London 2010: Festival of Stamps postcard, featuring stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.

The fifth London 2010: Festival of Stamps postcard, featuring stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.

The stamp was designed by Barnett Freedman, the 33-year old son of Jewish-Russian political refugees. He had grown up in the East End of London, starting work at the age of 15 as a draughtsman to a monumental mason. He studied art at night school and in 1922 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. As well as the stamps, he produced several posters and other illustrations for the GPO.

Freedman wrote of his design for the Silver Jubilee stamps;

The fundamental idea in designing the Silver Jubilee Commemoration Postage Stamp, was firstly, to obtain an effect of dignity and simplicity:- that the design and the lettering should be clear and legible, so as to give at once the function of the new issue, and that the complete stamp should be essentially classical in character.

Secondly, I have used only the very simplest forms of symbolism, the main themes being the Laurel Leaves and the Olive Branches, the Laurel for Triumph and Reward, and the Olive branch for Peace and Goodwill.

The Royal Crown is depicted in each of the four denominations but the Laurel and Olive branches have been interchanged in various forms, with the addition of the Oakleaf and acorn (symbolical of strength and stability) so that with the difference of each denomination-colour, there is also a subtle change of design, without alteration to the fundamental character of the stamp.

Many of the rejected designs by other artists for a George V Silver Jubilee stamp can be seen on our online catalogue.

The new postcard will be sent out this week free with the BPMA Newsletter to subscribers. It can also be obtained from the BPMA Search Room (Freeling House) and will be available at Autumn Stampex (15-18 September) from the Friends of the BPMA stand.

Limited edition complete sets of London 2010 postcards will be available for purchase later in the year.

BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will be speaking on the stamp, medal and coinage designs of Bertram Mackennal at the BPMA on 7 October 2010. See our website for details.

The Design is in the Post – Artists and the GPO

Artists and writers Brian Webb and Peyton Skipwith, who have penned a series of books exploring the work of notable British designers of the 20th Century, will speak at the BPMA on 20th May. The focus of their talk will be the many artists who have worked for the GPO, and how those artists helped to shape the GPO’s image.

The ‘pre-war’ artists Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman and Eric Gill will be covered in some length, along with well known stamp designers such as Edmund Dulac and Bertram Mackennal. Present day artists who worked on the Millennium stamps, David Hockney, Peter Blake, Craigie Aicheson, David Gentleman, Claire Melinsky and John Lawrence, will also be examined.

Brian Webb has kindly sent us some of the images he will show in the talk:

Magazine cover by Edward Bawden

Magazine cover by Edward Bawden

Eric Ravilious’ un-adopted design for the Adhesive Stamp Centenary, 1940

Eric Ravilious’ un-adopted design for the Adhesive Stamp Centenary, 1940

One of David Gentleman’s illustrations from The Swiss Family Robinson, 1963

One of David Gentleman’s illustrations from The Swiss Family Robinson, 1963

Millenium stamps: Freddie Mercury, 2000, designed by Peter Blake

Millenium stamps: Freddie Mercury, 2000, designed by Peter Blake

Further information and booking details for The Design is in the Post – Artists and the GPO can be found on our website.

David Gentleman Design by Brian Webb and Peyton Skipwith is available from the BPMA Shop.

GPO Poster Design

Post much earlier this Christmas

Jan Lewitt and George Him's 1942 poster on the topic of posting during the festive season.

Our collection of GPO posters has proved to be a popular topic on this blog, with design enthusiasts, postal historians and many others united in their admiration for the work of artists such as Barnett Freedman, Jan Lewitt and George Him, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Peter Huveeners, Hans Schleger (Zero), Tom Eckersley, and Hans Unger. Their work and that of many other artists can now be explored in greater depth in our new podcast GPO Poster Design.

This podcast is a recording of a talk given at the BPMA last November by Dr Paul Rennie, Head of Context in Graphic Design at Central St Martins College of Art. The talk covers the development of public relations, poster art and communication at the GPO, and the advances in technology which enabled poster designers to work with new and innovative printing techniques.

If you enjoyed our exhibition Designs on Delivery – GPO Posters from 1930-1960, which can now be viewed online, or our last podcast in which Dr Scott Anthony discussed the pioneering work of Sir Stephen Tallents’, the GPO’s – and indeed Britain’s – first public relations officer, we think you will enjoy Paul Rennie’s talk.

Be first not last - Post early for Christmas

A poster promoting early posting for Christmas, designed by Tom Eckersley, 1955.

Some of the posters referenced in Paul Rennie’s talk can now be found on Flickr. For more on poster design from this period visit Paul Rennie’s website or read the blog Quad Royal.

BPMA Events Programme 2010

Our 2010 Events Guide has just arrived in the office and is now available online.

As usual the BPMA are hosting an exciting programme of Exhibitions, Walks, Discover Sessions, Talks and Tours. Many of our exhibitions and events next year will also be part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps and relate to the theme of George V, the philatelist King. Highlights include:

Treasures of the Archive
An exhibition of unique treasures from the BPMA, including a sheet of penny black stamps and the original die, among many other items of unparalleled significance in UK postal history.

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO
A major exhibition looking at the passions of King George V, the ‘philatelist king’ and the extraordinary period of design and innovation in the General Post Office during his reign.

Speakers include Vice President of the National Philatelic Society Dane Garrod, designer and illustrator Ronald Maddox and Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection Michael Sefi. BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will speak on stamp designer Bertram Mackennal, and designers and authors Brian Webb and Peyton Skipworth will speak on artists who worked for the GPO, including Barnett Freedman, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravillious.

Walking Tours
This year we are introducing a shorter highlights tour, taking you through the heart of GPO London in just 90 minutes.

We hope to add new events throughout the year, so keep checking the What’s On page for more information.

If you receive our Newsletter by post you will be sent a copy of the Events Guide in the New Year. Contact us on info@postalheritage.org.uk if you’d like one sent to you, or download the pdf version from our What’s On page.

Barnett Freedman, Stephen Tallents and the making of the Jubilee Stamp

by Scott Anthony 

Historians often remember King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 as a jamboree, a day when the British collectively bunked off from the economic, political and social strife that beset the nation between the wars.

The Silver Jubilee stamp designed by Barnett Freedman was central to the popular celebrations. Philately played a large part in King George V’s popular appeal, and by an odd twist of fate Jubilee day fell on the 95th anniversary of the launch of the Penny Black. It was apt that King George’s Jubilee stamp would become one of a long 20th century line of everyday collectables.

Less appreciated now is Freedman’s extraordinary artistic ambition. Freedman’s design utilised then cutting-edge printing techniques to give the stamp something approaching a three dimensional texture, while his use of shading was designed to make it appear as if light was emanating from the King’s head. As well as a sentimental appeal, for contemporaries the stamp had an almost sci-fi attraction that attracted a degree of controversy.

George V Silver Jubilee stamps by Barnett Freedman

George V Silver Jubilee stamps by Barnett Freedman

“By taking full advantage of the photogravure process and getting a brilliance of effect hitherto unknown in our stamps”, sniffed The Manchester Guardian, “Freedman has sacrificed what is to some an essential quality of design.” In short, when it came to stamps, the newspaper critics of the day where stuck firmly in the flat earth camp.

However, the popular success of the Jubilee stamp marked an important step towards resurrecting the reputation of the lithograph. Artists like Freedman along with Paul Nash, Edward McKnight Kauffer and Graham Sutherland believed that the lithograph enabled mass production while keeping the artist in close personal touch with his audience. Something of Freedman’s working methods can be seen in the GPO Film The King’s Stamp. As the rhetoric of the day went, “in the modern age good art should not be the exclusive property of museums”.

Under the direction of Sir Stephen Tallents, Britain’s first public relations officer, the General Post Office had similarly sought to imbue everyday objects with rare aesthetic value. From Rex Whistler’s Valentine’s Day Telegram to Giles Gilbert Scott’s Jubilee Telephone Kiosk to the bright bakelite phones Tallents placed in Victor Saville musicals, Freedman’s stamp was part of a wider upsurge of what might be best described as a brief moment of Civil Service idealism.

Tallents’ triumphant commissions had also finally secured Freedman’s public reputation. Born of Jewish Russian émigrés in the East End of London, Freedman had begun attending night school at St Martins aged 15, while by day working on the design of tombstones (for a stone mason) and then war memorials (for an architect). After winning a London County Council arts scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art, Freedman eeked out an existence teaching and designing book covers. Notable successes included Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoir of an Infantryman and several books by Tallents’ friend Walter de la Mere. Indeed, Freedman would later design the Tallents family Christmas card.

The Post Office’s commissions brought Freedman’s methods to a mass national audience and secured the 33 year-old employment from the most far-sighted and prestigious corporate sponsors of modern art in 1930s Britain; London Transport, Shell and Crawford’s advertising agency. Freedman’s exacting style now playfully emphasised the importance of road safety, modern agricultural methods and the importance of beer drinking to sporting success. He also found minor celebrity as the violin player providing the musical accompaniment to William Simonds’ puppet show.

A Barnett Freedman illustration from The Post Office: A review of the activities of the Post Office 1934

A Barnett Freedman illustration from The Post Office: A review of the activities of the Post Office 1934

Most importantly, Tallents professional patronage sealed an ongoing personal relationship with Freedman. Both were part of a generation for whom the 1935 Jubilee was indeed a rare jamboree, as Britain was buffeted by successive wars and economic crisis. Post-war austerity required Freedman’s acceptance of an ever greater teaching load, the pressures of overwork, stress and relative poverty contributing to his untimely death at the age of 57.

Tallents and Freedman shared an interest in Alfred Stevens, a cult hero of British art typically held up at the time as a victim of Victorian vulgarity and short-sightedness. Amongst their last letters Tallents pointed out to Freedman that the flat (in Canning Place, Kensington) where he designed The Jubilee Stamp was adjacent to the one in which Stevens had designed his ill-fated Wellington monument.

It was a quirky and amused exchange, but Freedman could have been forgiven for thinking that not all the comparisons with the “British Michaelangelo from Blandford Forum” were entirely happy ones.

Many thanks to Jeremy Parrett at the Sir Kenneth Green Library, Manchester Metropolitan University for his assistance with this article.

Scott Anthony is a Research Fellow at the University of Manchester and author of the BFI Film Classic Night Mail. On 29th October he will be talking about the GPO’s patronage of art, design and film under Tallents at the BPMA.