Sunday, March 28, 2010

Keep calm


and carry on...
Ever since I got into the antique business, I have been fascinated by the history of the objects that pass through my doors. It could be my Library Science degree that makes me want to research...and, that is what I do teach...but I do not think anything exists in a vacuum, and this phrase is popping up on pillows, china, and I have it on the hand crafted cards I get from my paper artisan.

It dates back to WWII England and the Ministry of Information (not to be confused with our current Ministries of Misinformation...aka media...chuckle). Winston Churchill appointed Brendan Bracken to design posters "to offer reassurance from the King to his people; they were to be 'uniform in style'; and they were to feature a 'special and handsome' typeface making them difficult for the enemy to forge."

The story gets more interesting.
The first poster designed to counter the bombing raids and possible gas attacks read: "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory." Over a million were printed for billboards, shop windows, and town bulletin boards.

The second poster read "Freedom Is In Peril."



The third was kept in reserve in case the war became a lost cause, and that was "Keep Calm And Carry On." The crown, by the way, represents George VI. They printed more than 2 million, but it was only to be posted if Germany invaded England.

Flash to 2000...a British bookseller, Stewart Manley found two perfect originals in a box of second-hand books he bought at auction. As a friend commented when I told her this story, it was his Roadshow moment. The posters were recycled at the end of the war, and only a few were claimed by some government workers at the time. I imagine they wanted to forget those days.

Although Stewart wanted to make copies, his wife, an American, was hesitant. So, he waited until she was away for a couple weeks, and he had copies made. According to the interview with him that I found, he was upset that the minimum was 500 posters. He thought he could never sell that many...ha...he is over 40,000 sold now...not to mention towels, mugs, mouse pads, aprons...

In today's world, that phrase could apply to so many events...but it does have a ring of truth...so, keep calm, carry on...

6 comments:

ann at greenoak said...

its such a great phrase....like you said it fits so many different things.....thanks for the history...also love the picture of the guy....
ann

Brenda @Just a Bed of Roses said...

Love that phrase, had NO IDEA about what was behind it and now I love it even more. Great Roadshow moment for him, what a find!

I do stay calm when I am home working on things...today compiling my tax #'s will be a different thing...I do have chocolate just for that reason!

Great blog as always, looks like I missed last weeks, better go take a peek.

THE SPICE CUPBOARD said...

AHA!!!....my new motto - you are filled with so much inspiration my friend - going to shout it from the rooftops. STAY CALM AND CARRY ON!!! (or maybe just from my slateboard in the store) My customers need to hear that!! What a great story - I learn so much from reading your blog! XO, Judy

Marie said...

Hi Susan,
Loved this post. The subject matter is very close to me. The tags are beautiful. Your paper artisan always does such beautiful work. The words are so true, too.
Marie

laura said...

Thanks for sharing the history on the phrase. I had no idea, thought it was something fairly new. Goes to show how timeless some things are.

mdial said...

Talk about stumbling into a business. Great story. You just never know.

[Will share your post on my FB page!]