Georgetown University Art Collection
Vintage British Railway Posters is on view in the Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery on the fifth floor of Georgetown University's Lauinger Library during the Fall 2001 semester.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. - Midnight
Visitors to the Library must show photo identification.
Hours will vary during holidays; for additional information on Library hours, please check the Library Home Page.
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Web site design by David C. Alan, Art Technician
From the Collection of
Jeremiah J. O'Connor
It is hardly surprising that the "Golden Age" of British railway posters coincided with the quarter-century following the amalgamation in 1923 of almost all of the numerous small independent companies into what came to be known as the "Big Four"railways: the Great Western (GWR); the London, Midland, and Scottish (LMS); the London and North East (LNER); and the Southern (SR). The end of the Great War saw Britain with a public eager to travel - and possessing a well-developed taste for the poster as a medium of advertising. In the latter case the war itself provided continuity for initiatives that began in peacetime, for the recruiting and saving and funding campaigns needed to vanquish the Hun were waged largely on the hoardings.
Nor is it surprising that the main visual thrust of the railway poster campaigns during these years was directed towards the anticipated delights of journey's end, and copies of posters were routinely offered to - and eagerly purchased by - the public, some of whom might indeed have to settle more often for an idyllic image of Britain's coasts or mountains in their rooms than for the real thing. This exhibit, however, focuses primarily on posters which celebrate the railways themselves: their personnel, their rolling stock, and, because the amalgamation freed up needed capital for improvements on antiquated infrastructures, the engineering and architectural feats achieved to create new, high-speed lines.
The posters in the exhibit are drawn from the large collection of American and European railroad publications, posters, and other ephemera formed by alumnus Jeremiah J. O'Connor, who received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Georgetown in the 1930s; the collection was donated to the library in the 1960s by his sister, Margaret M. O'Connor. The posters represent the output of each of the "Big Four" railways as well as of the Pullman company, which advertised its services separately, and the Great Eastern Train Ferries. Entries give the name of the poster's designer (where known); its title; the place of printing and the lithographic firm responsible; and (where it can be determined with any exactitude) the date of publication. No indication of size is made, as all of the posters in the exhibit are in a vertical format, in what is known in Britain as the "double royal" size, approximately 40 x 25 inches.
Bibliographical references following individual entries are to reproductions of the posters in either Beverley Cole and Richard Durack, Railway Posters 1923-1947 (Laurence King, 1992) or Tony Hillman and Beverley Cole, South for Sunshine: Southern Railway Publicity and Posters, 1923 to 1947 (Capital Transport, 1999). Viewers may also wish to consult the poster Web site developed by the National Railway Museum in York, England, which shows a wide selection of railway posters, particularly of the "journey's end" type.
George M. Barringer