This will give you an idea of the rock I have been hiding under for the last several years. For some time I had been running across “Keep Calm” posters and products of a wide variety, but had not researched the origins of the fad (which had never made much sense to me) until last night.
It seems the first posters were born in late 1939, when the Ministry of Information was the department of the British Government responsible for wartime propaganda. After the outbreak of the war, the Ministry was tasked to design a number of morale boosting posters that would be displayed across the British Isles during the testing times that lay ahead.
The posters were required to feature bold colors, be similar in style, and feature the crown of King George VI along with an identical font. These are the first two first two posters:
They were posted on public transport, in shop windows, and upon notice boards across Britain. The third and final poster of the set was “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The plan for this poster was to issue it only upon the invasion of Britain by Germany. As this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public.
Most of the 2.5 million “Keep Calm” posters produced were destroyed and reduced to a pulp in 1945 at the end of the war. However, in the year 2000, bookseller Barter Books stumbled across a copy hidden among a pile of old books bought at auction. The co-owner with his wife framed the poster and hung it up by the cash register; it attracted so much interest that Barter Books began to produce and sell copies. Other companies followed suit, and the design rapidly began to be used as the theme for a wide range of products.
A small number also remain in the British National Archives and the Imperial War Museum in London, and a further 15 were discovered on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. No record remains of the unknown Civil Servant who originally came up with the simple and quintessentially British poster.
Said Barter Books co-owner Mary Manley: “I didn’t want it trivialized. But of course now it’s been trivialized beyond belief.”
Groove of the Day