Tag Archives: slogan

Postmarketing: slogans from the seventies

Kim Noulton who has been volunteering with the BPMA blogs about what she has found among a series of Post Office registered files in the Royal Mail Archive which were created by the Marketing Department in the 1970s.

Since August I have been cataloguing second review material; this means that the files have undergone a decision-making process in which they have been selected for permanent preservation. Topics that I have catalogued so far, which are now available to search on the BPMA online catalogue, include files pertaining to strategies conceived by the BBC and GPO on broadcasting capabilities in the event of nuclear fallout from the 1950s; the creation of the postal minibus service, which includes photographs; and postmark slogans from the 1960s to 1980s. It is the last topic that I will be discussing in this post.

At first sight, postmark slogans seem an inoffensive form of marketing; a tool for the Post Office to promote its new postcode system to the public or advertising events on a wide scale. However, one such campaign led to worries about causing offence to the highest office in Britain; the Crown.

File POST 154/3 details how Chessington Zoo, an establishment housing exotic animals since the 1930s, commissioned designs for a postmark in 1972. The result was the slogan ‘Chessington Zoo Open Every Day of the Year’ and a rather harmless-looking monkey which however, when stamped over the Queen’s head, created an outrageously unflattering image. Such was the outcry that the Lord Chamberlain’s office became involved, to which the Post Office responded promptly by creating new designs for the Zoo. Disaster was thankfully averted with the help of an elephant.

The monkey slogan overprinted on a stamp. (POST 154/3)

The monkey slogan overprinted on a stamp. (POST 154/3)

The revised Chessington Zoo slogan featuring an elephant. (POST 154/3)

The revised Chessington Zoo slogan featuring an elephant. (POST 154/3)

The material in the file takes a different perspective when it is revealed that a woman made a complaint to the Post Office about the nature of the postmark. Her concern was that the postmark was forced upon her when receiving a letter, despite her dislike for zoos, circuses and any other institution keeping wild animals in captivity. This raises questions about advertisements in general being forced upon people in receipt of their post without their consent.

One other controversy revealed in this section of Marketing Department files (POST 154, the first part of this series to be available online) concerns the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland  in the early 1970s. The file (POST 154/1) documents the unlawful overprinting of stamps with politically motivated messages, including ‘Support Sinn Fein’ and ‘Dail Uladh 1971’. The file itself shows how something as simple as postmark slogans can create a political storm.

List of stamps on sale from the Irish Republican Philatelic Office, Dublin. (POST 154/1)

List of stamps on sale from the Irish Republican Philatelic Office, Dublin. (POST 154/1)

With the Irish Republican Army (IRA) upping the intensity of their attacks during 1971, such messages caused alarm and great offence, especially to those who had suffered fatal casualties at the hands of the IRA. One serving officer of the Queen’s Regiment explains his view in a letter, stating very clearly that he believes the Irish government knew about the overprinting and was therefore ‘wilfully supporting terrorism’.

An interesting feature of this particular file is that the Post Office’s policy, available to view within the files, was to reject all manner of political statements, with their standpoint to remain unbiased in its place as a public service.

Search for these files on our online catalogue.

350 Years of the Postmark

Today Royal Mail has released a generic sheet to mark 350 years of the postmark. The sheet offers a fascinating visual record for postmark and postal heritage enthusiasts. Alongside the stamps are different postmarks that illustrate, in date order, the development of the postmark.

350 Years of the Postmark Generic Sheet

350 Years of the Postmark Generic Sheet

Henry Bishop, who was Postmaster General from 25 June 1660 until 6 April 1663, is credited with introducing the postmark. Postmarks are believed to have come into use in late April 1661. Bishop later explained the reasons for the postmark’s introduction as follows:

A stamp is invented that is putt upon every letter shewing the day of the month that every letter comes to the office, so that no Letter Carryer may dare detayne a letter from post to post; which before was usual

“Bishop marks”, as these original postmarks were titled, are known to have been used in England, Ireland, Scotland, the North American colonies (including New York, Philadelphia, Quebec and Nova Scotia) and India during the 17th and 18th Century. There were a number of different types, but the best known were round in shape with a horizontal line at the diameter. The first Bishop marks showed the first two letters of a month in the upper half and the days of the moth in the lower half.

Our collections include an example of the Bishop mark which appears on the “Pomery Letter”, a lettersheet addressed to Arthur Pomeroy Esq, Kildare Street, Dublin which is handstamped with three postmarks including a large Dublin Bishop mark and a postmark that reads CLONARD.

Pomery Letter, c. 1747-1797 (OB1996.404/2)

Pomery Letter, c. 1747-1797 (OB1996.404/2)

Close-up of the Dublin Bishop mark on Pomery Letter, c. 1747-1797 (OB1996.404/2)

Close-up of the Dublin Bishop mark on Pomery Letter, c. 1747-1797 (OB1996.404/2)

The letter is believed to have been sent between 1747 and 1797; this date was determined by the type of Bishop mark on the sheet, which shows the month above the day.

Other notable postmarks featured on the generic sheet are marks from the Dockwra penny post and the original Pearson Hill stamp cancelling machine, a War Bonds machine slogan, and a postmark from the final day of the Travelling Post Office.

The generic sheet can be purchased from the Royal Mail website. For an in-depth look at postal markings see our website.

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.

Slogan dies

By Claire McHugh, Cataloguer (Collections)

At present I am waist deep sorting through and cataloguing slogan dies ready to go onto the online catalogue in a couple of months.

Postal slogans were first applied (by hand) to mail some 300 years ago. However, the majority of collectors think of slogans as the special dies which replace the normal wavy-line obliterators in stamp cancelling machines.

The accepted thought is that the British Post Office was late in adopting the use of slogan dies and it wasn’t until 1917 it agreed reluctantly to assist the War Savings Campaign by authorising the ‘Buy National War Bonds Now’ slogan. This established a precedent for using slogans as an alternative to the wavy-line stamp cancellation marks.

Though strictly not a slogan die, it should be noted that the BPMA does hold a Victoria Jubilee obliterator dating from 1896. The obliterator was sent by the Imperial Marking Machine Company (the Canadian subsidiary of The American Postal Machine Company established by Martin Van Buren Ethridge) and offered to the Post Office along with their Imperial Cancelling Machine for trials in July 1896, although it wasn’t until 1897 that the Post Office would trial the machine. It is believed no mail was processed during the trial, so contemporary examples of this postmark are rare, if non existent (though it is thought that this die was used in Canada for a time).

Postmark of Victoria Jubilee Obliterator, (Postal History Society Bulletin [1964] No. 126)

Postmark of Victoria Jubilee Obliterator, (Postal History Society Bulletin {1964} No. 126)

Not all slogans and obliterators have been patriotic; some have unintentionally done the opposite. In 1960, Dame Laura Knight designed a slogan cancellation for the World Refugee Campaign. The die’s design showed a hand raised in supplication. Unfortunately the thumb tended to point to the Queen’s nose if stamps were fixed in a certain way. The slogan was withdrawn on the account of causing offense, but prior to this the postmaster of Halifax had the hand filed from the slogan die used at his office. Examples of the defaced Halifax slogans are now scarce.

Slogans I have so far catalogued range from the eye opening ’12th World Naturist Congress Orpington (North Kent) 10-14 August’ to proud local claims such as ‘See Bath In Bloom/ Britain’s Top Floral City’. To the attention-grabbing slogan of ‘Recycle Yourself Be A Kidney Donor’ to the more familiar everyday brands such as ‘Quality Street/ Magic Moments’ and ‘W H Smith 200 Years’. The various slogans also consist of names that have not always stood the test of time (anyone remember ‘Leave Him To Heaven/ New Rock Musical…’?) to names that are now recognised as classics ‘A Steven Spielberg Film/ E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial is coming home on video on Oct 28th’. These are just a taster of the some 2000 varieties of slogan dies I have catalogued so far.