The British postal service has been advising customers to post early since 1881, constituting its longest-running campaign ever.
“Posting well in advance eases the pressure on staff and reduces the build-up of mail during the busy Christmas period,” according to Royal Mail. “Even today it is still an important part of getting cards and presents delivered in time for Christmas.”
POST BOX NOTICES
Initially, the call to post early came in the form of notices affixed to post boxes.
By the 1930s, the first “Post Early” posters came into print. These were originally produced for distribution to schools as an educational aid, or for display on mail vans, but soon began to be produced specifically for display inside public offices.
1934 – Graham Sutherland
These iconic prints were designed by some of the leading graphic artists in the U.K.
Among them was British artist Graham Sutherland, who designed the first poster in 1934. Born in South London, Graham started designing posters in the 1930s. He taught at a number of London art colleges before becoming an official artist for the War Artists Advisory Committee during the Second World War. After the war, he went on to design the tapestry for Coventry Cathedral when it was rebuilt after the blitz.
1938 – Barnett Freedman
Other artists included Barnett Freedman, born in the east end of London to Jewish immigrants from Russia. As a child, Freedman spent much time in hospital, where he learnt to draw. At the age of 15, he began work as an office boy before turning to draughtsmanship—initially with a monumental mason and subsequently at an architect’s office. Barnett’s work led to a strong interest in letterforms, evidenced by the bold, stylized text that characterized his 1930s “Post Early” designs.
1941 – Jan Lewitt & George Him
During the 1940s, Jan Lewitt and George Him produced a number of posters to remind people about posting items early for Christmas. Both artists were born in Poland. They came to London in 1937 and worked together until 1954, producing a number of posters for the postal service.
Him’s later work included book illustrations, advertisements and exhibitions. He also designed stamps and taught at Leicester Polytechnic for eight years in the 1960s and ’70s.
Lewitt went on to produce classic war time posters as well as book illustrations, advertisements and exhibitions. He undertook theatre design for Sadlers Wells in London and designed a Festival of Britain stamp in 1951.
These vintage “Post Early” prints are held in The Postal Museum collection and have now been made available to view in an online gallery.
For more information, visit gallery.royalmailgroup.com/heritage-posters.