Tag Archives: Outposts of Britain

Edward McKnight Kauffer – Outposts of Britain

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890 – 1954) was one of the most significant designers of the 20th century, noted for a unique style which embraced a number of different influences and techniques: his work drew on impressionism, cubism and vorticism amongst a number of other movements and ideas. Kauffer was one of the leading exponents of what became known as graphic design, combining typography, abstraction and photographic elements, and utilising techniques like photomontage and airbrushing in his designs.

Outposts of Britain - Posting box at Lands End

Born in Great Falls, Montana, USA, he moved to San Francisco where he studied at art school in the evenings. Eventually his paintings caught the attention of Joseph McKnight, a professor at Utah University, who offered to sponsor him – Kauffer took the middle name of ‘McKnight’ as a mark of gratitude. He studied at the Academie Moderne in Paris before moving to London at the start of the First World War where he produced successful posters for, amongst others, the GPO (General Post Office), London Transport, and Shell, and in 1924 wrote a book, The Art of the Poster. He was also one of 20 artists invited to submit designs for the 1940 stamp centenary issue, but declined, due to the pressure of other obligations. Moving to New York at the onset of the Second World War, he was commissioned by MOMA and American Airlines as well as several institutional clients; and continued to work up until his death in 1954.

Outposts of Britain - A postman in the pool of London

Amongst the posters he produced for the GPO, the 1937 series of educational posters entitled ‘Outposts of Britain’ are probably the most well-known, each poster focussing on a different region of Britain to demonstrate how the postal service could traverse distance to deliver the mail. The posters combine black and white photographs with bright painted elements – a first in GPO poster design – and also include typography as a key component of the overall image. They were created as part of a free posters for schools scheme, which also included designs by Harold Sandys Williamson, John Armstrong, and John Vickery, and their issue was publicised in the Post Office Circular of October 1937.

Outposts of Britain - A postman in northern Scotland

Ever popular, all four posters in the ‘Outposts of Britain’ series are now available to purchase as prints on our poster website.

Outposts of Britain - A postman in Northern Ireland

GPO publicity: ‘Post early in the day’

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. 

POST 122/11087: Please Post Early In The Day

POST 122/11087: Please Post Early In The Day

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.

POST 110/1439: Post Early

POST 110/1439: Post Early

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.

POST 122/10941: Post During The Lunch-Hour leaflet

POST 122/10941: Post During The Lunch-Hour leaflet

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.

PRD 0155: Post during lunch hour

PRD 0155: Post during lunch hour

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.

PRD 0173: Post early in the day

PRD 0173: Post early in the day

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.

PRD 0251: Post before lunch

PRD 0251: Post before lunch

PRD 0252: Posting before lunch enables the Post Office to give your letters the best possible war-time delivery

PRD 0252: Posting before lunch enables the Post Office to give your letters the best possible war-time delivery

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)).

PRD 0238: Post your letters before noon for first delivery next morning in

PRD 0238: Post your letters before noon for first delivery next morning in

PRD 0242: Post early - And dont miss the Noon post

PRD 0242: Post early - And don't miss the "Noon" post

‘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.