One of only a handful of surviving original KEEPCALM AND CARRY ON posters
An original 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster, one of only a handful known to have survived from World War Two.
In 1939, on the eve of World War Two, the British governmental department, The Ministry of Information produced public reassurance posters in uniform design for the purpose of steadying the nerves of the general public and boosting morale at a time of war. The posters layout was simple with each design carrying a short and authoritative message from the King to his people with large white bold letters on a striking red background along with an image of the Kings crown.
As war broke out, the instruction from The Ministry of Information to display the posters was issued and the task of putting up the posters around the country started. The first to be displayed was 'Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory' which appeared everywhere, on bill boards, the sides of buildings, train stations, buses, the London underground, on street walls, in shop windows etc. Shortly after, a second design of the posters was distributed and put up which carried the phrase 'Freedom Is In Peril, Defend It With All Your Might'.
The poster that bore the (now famous) phrase, 'Keep Calm and Carry On' was never officially put on public display, it was reserved for a 'last case scenario' such as the German invasion of Britain!
After the war, the posters were no longer needed so they were disposed. Today only a handful of the original posters survive and most are held by the British National Archives. Only two posters are in private hands, one is held by WarTimePosters.co.uk and one by Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland (responsible for starting the recent popularity of the poster). Since it's recent discovery, the poster has now captured the attention of the world. Its phrase has become very popular appearing on millions of products such as clothing, kitchenware etc. Countless parodies of the poster are being produced with alternative and comical phrases. The 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster Is also becoming recognised as a British icon around the world alongside other icons British such as the red telephone box.
Primary source of information: Lewis, R M, 'Undergraduate Thesis: The planning, design and reception of British home front propaganda posters of the Second World War': Written April 1997.
The history of this surviving example
Printed by the Ministry of Information back in 1939, this poster was part of a batch of posters sent to a Police station in the town of Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire at the start of the war. The posters were to be distributed in the local area and put up on public display if and when the instruction was received from The Ministry of Information. Two sizes of the poster where sent through, 10" x 14&1/2" and a larger 19&3/4" x 29&1/2".
After wartime had passed the posters were put into storage in the police station and were not seen again until some storage space was reclaimed in the late seventies. The posters were regarded as junk and destroyed but luckily one poster was retained. Some years later the poster was put up for sale as wartime memorabilia and purchased by a collector. WarTimePosters.co.uk now proudly own that very poster.
Britain in her darkest hour
Although the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster looks great and it's phrase good advice for today's modern and hectic lifestyle, we must never forget it's daker side. Posters like these were created to advise the people of Britain in their darkest hour, defending against an invasion, and if Germany had successfully invaded, the words 'Keep Calm and Carry On' would have marked the very end of Britain. The people fought hard, they gave all, the poster is perfect to reflect the British spirit and the British 'stiff upper lip' attitude during the struggle against all odds in the face of uncertainty.
Although the poster did not see the light of day during wartime, the people of Britain did indeed...Keep Calm and Carry On!
The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On (only 3 mins)
Buy the poster from Barter BooksRead more about the poster on Wikipedia
Colour & design of the original posterThis is a digital scan of our 1939 poster that shows its correct original colour and design. The dimensions of the originals are 19&3/4" x 29&1/2"
I have been asked on many occasions if the image of the poster can be used in blogs etc. Please feel free to use it, but please include a link back to this page.
Download the image (right click the link and choose 'Save as')