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Vintage British Railway Posters From the Collection of Jeremiah J. O'Connor

Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery
August 31, 2001
November 30, 2001

Introduction

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 website 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
Associate University Librarian
Special Collections and Archives
August 31, 2001

Great Western Railway

London and Birmingham
Forster
[London]: Philip Reid ­ Designer & Printer
Not dated, but obviously very early, perhaps before 1923

Restaurant Car Services
Anonymous
London: The Dangerfield Printing Co., Ltd.
Not dated, but obviously very early, perhaps before 1923

The "Kings" Lead
Moy Thomas
Printer not stated
ca. 1935

I'll see you at Aberystwyth
Bruce Angrave, d.1983
London, Dunstable & Watford: Waterlow & Sons Ltd.
Not dated

Lucky Dogs!
F. Gardner
Nottingham: Howitt & Son
Not dated

London & North Eastern Railway

George Stephenson
Andrew Johnson
London: Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Ltd.
[1930]

Wages of Signalmen
Austin Cooper, 1890-1964
York: Ben Johnson & Co., Ltd.
Not dated

Up to Scotland from King's Cross
Freiwirth
London: Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Ltd.
Not dated

The Forth Bridge
Frank Henry Mason, 1876-1935
London: The Dangerfield Printing Co., Ltd.
Not dated

Scotland
T. C. A. (?)
London: The Dangerfield Printing Co., Ltd.
Not dated

Theatre and Home
Anonymous
[London]: Lochend Printing Co., Ltd.
1927

Passengers of the Past ("'Twas Pepys who said . . .")
Austin Cooper, 1890-1964
London: The Dangerfield Printing Co., Ltd.
Not dated

Part of a series of six posters featuring "passengers of the past."

'Twas Pepys who said "And so to bed"
"In comfort too" quoth he,
"Take half an ox and a pipe o' port
And sleep by L·N·E·"

Passengers of the Past ("The Doctor said to Boswell . . .")
Austin Cooper, 1890-1964
London: The Dangerfield Printing Co., Ltd.
Not dated

Part of a series of six posters featuring "passengers of the past."

The Doctor said to Boswell "Sir,
It seemeth plain to me
That the Obvious Route to Scotland
Is from King's Cross L·N·E·"

Southern Railway

For Holidays I always go Southern
Anonymous
London, Dunstable & Watford: Waterlow & Sons Limited
Not dated, but not before 1925

The original photograph on which this poster is based was taken in 1924 by the father of Ronald Witt, the child gazing raptly up at the engineer, and the earliest poster use was in 1925; but the image was used repeatedly in various guises for a dozen years.

Electrification! (Progress Posters No. 1)
T. D. Kerr
London, Dunstable & Watford: Waterlow & Sons Ltd.
1925

This and the following three posters made up the Southern Railway's first poster series. Cole and Durack, p. 64

Steam! (Progress Posters No. 2)
T. D. Kerr
London: McCorquodale & Co., Limited
1925

Cole and Durack, p. 64

The Viaduct (Progress Posters No. 3)
T. D. Kerr
London, Dunstable & Watford: Waterlow & Sons Ltd.
1925

The illustration depicts the Ouse Viaduct, on the route between London and Brighton. Cole and Durack, p. 65

Rolling-stock (Progress Posters No. 4)
T. D. Kerr
London: McCorquodale & Co., Limited
1925

The New 'Bournemouth Limited'
Anonymous
[London]: Sanders Phillips and Co., Ltd., The Baynard Press
1929

Hillman and Cole, p. 12

Pullman

To Edinburgh by Pullman
Septimus Edwin Scott, 1879 - ?
London: David Allen & Sons Ltd.
Not dated

London, Midland and Scottish Railway

The Enginedriver ("Reliable Service" Series No. 1)
Arthur Watts, 1883-1935
[London]: Printed by McCorquodale & Co., Ltd.
1926

Past thousands of enchanting views
To northwards and to west,
Your job is just to sit and snooze,
The Driver does the resst! EVOE.

The Signalman ("Reliable Service" Series No. 2)
Arthur Watts, 1883-1935
[London]: Printed by McCorquodale & Co., Ltd.
1926

The signalman controls the lever
That works the signals and the switches,
He never gets into a fever
Because he always knows which which is
EVOE.

The Guard ("Reliable Service" Series No. 3)
Arthur Watts, 1883-1935
[London]: Printed by McCorquodale & Co., Ltd.
1926

It never strikes him to complain
Of Auntie's parrot in the van,
He puts us in and starts the train,
He must be a good tempered man!
EVOE.

The Porter ("Reliable Service" Series No. 4)
Arthur Watts, 1883-1935
[London]: Printed by McCorquodale & Co., Ltd.
1926

How does the railway porter
Go dancing off like that,
With weights of which a quarter
Would nearly squash me flat?
EVOE.

Great Eastern Train Ferries

Through Trucks to & from the Continent
Austin Cooper, 1890 - 1964
London: The Dangerfield Printing Co., Ltd.
Not dated