Poster of the Week: London Zoo

London Zoo, Abram Games, 1976 ©Estate of Abram Games

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In 1975, 38 years after receiving his first commission from London Transport, Abram Games was asked to design a poster for the Zoo-   it would be his last design for them. a subject that would bring  back happy memories of taking his children to the zoo, a short tube journey from his London home.

In October 1975, Michael Levey, then assistant to Bryce Beaumont, wrote to Games stating;

‘We need a gay, colourful and light-hearted poster with a message integrated with the design. I would suggest we try not to complicate it too much, partly because our chairman is a great believer in classic simplicity, and partly because, although we fight to maintain standards, it must be admitted that, for all the giant technical advances of recent years, one cannot always expect the level of individual craftsmanship that we took for granted, say, twenty years ago!’

A few months later Beaumont retired and Levey became London Transport’s Publicity Officer. By now, London Transport was publishing only four posters a year, most of which were contracted out to advertising agencies. Levey was confident that he had commissioned the right designer for the job. Abram’s last few posters for London Transport had been graphic, colourful designs and in 1970 he had designed a geometric tiled mural for Stockwell on the new Victoria Line. He no longer used the airbrush, but painted his artwork in flat, brightly coloured gouache, which afforded his designs ‘more power for impact, a freer relaxed approach and a reduction of printing costs’. Abram’s shibboleth, ‘maximum meaning, minimum means’ was more apt than ever.

London Transport had published many posters for London Zoo since 1913. On all of the posters Regent’s Park or Camden Town were recommended as the closest stations, so it was unusual that Abram’s poster brief specified Baker Street as being the nearest. Zoo posters were mostly comprised of animal illustrations with added text. No designer had yet integrated imagery, typography, or the recognizable roundel. Abram had decided his poster would be a visual puzzle, designed to intrigue and be witty. He sketched his initial thoughts on layout paper, which the Estate of Abram Games still treasures. He experimented with zebras, giraffes and leopards – all animals with strong geometric markings. Eventually, he decided to settle on a tiger, constructed from bars and circles using the same elements of London Transport’s roundel, which he concealed within the poster. Abram often hid the names of his loved ones in his posters. His first granddaughter was born in Israel just before Impress printed the poster in 1976, thus ‘Revital’ appears in Hebrew script.

© Estate of Abram Games

The tiger was a huge hit with the public and attracted the attention of Ernst Gombrich, the art historian who admiringly scrutinized the poster in ‘The Image and the Eye’ in 1982.

Abram responded to Gombrich, stating ‘Your philosophical analysis intrigued me because a designer’s approach takes most of the described considerations ‘en courant’ as it were and without deliberate consciousness except at the back of the mind. All the same, as an ‘analytical worker’ I recalled and recognized my developments as I read your words.’

Games’s ‘Tiger’ is still for sale in London Transport Museum’s shop. His family are proud that the poster has been made into a stamp celebrating London Underground’s 150th anniversary.


Games said ‘I never work large because posters seen from a distance are small. If ideas don’t work an inch high, they will never work’. Had he been here today he would have jested, ‘I told you it would make a great stamp!’

Written by Naomi Games

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Remembering the First World War – We want your Stories

In 2014 London Transport Museum will be remembering the bus drivers and workers of the First World War and we want you to share your personal family stories and mementoes with us! Did any of your ancestors drive a bus during the First World War? Was your grandfather on the buses? Were your great aunts bus conductorettes?  If so, we would love to hear from you.

A driver and female conductor photographed during the First World War. Copyright TfL

In 2014 London Transport Museum will mark the start of the First World War by honouring the unique contribution of hundreds of London bus drivers who went to the Western front with their buses. They played a vital role in supporting the allied armies – moving troops, delivering supplies to the front and taking the wounded to safety. The bus crews, many of whom were volunteers, were recruited into the Army Service Corps, serving under difficult conditions and with the crews often living and sleeping in their vehicles. Despite the hardships, buses were a reminder of home.

Within days of the declaration of hostilities in August 1914, the War Department began requisitioning buses from the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) and other bus companies. By October 1914 over 300 buses had been pressed into military service; by the end of the war over 1,000 buses were in use on the front. Immediately after arriving in France the red LGOC livery was covered over with grey, and later khaki, paint.

An army bus company pose for the camera beside their vehicles during the First World War. Copyright TfL

Personal Histories

Charles Lee was one of the first bus drivers to volunteer for war service. In September 1914 he left his bus garage in Putney and joined the crews of 70 London buses sent to Dunkirk. The drivers were attached to the Royal Naval Division. Charles Lee’s unit drove soldiers from the docks to the besieged town of Antwerp.  Following the fall of Antwerp, the same buses helped evacuate wounded British soldiers and some were captured by the Germans.

For his services in the First World War Lee received four medals:  British War Medal 1914-1920, Allied Victory Medal 1914-1919, the 1914 ‘Mons’ Star and the Auxiliary Omnibus Companies’ Association medallion.

Joe Clough was one of London’s first black bus drivers. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1887, Clough worked for a Scottish doctor, Dr RC White. When Dr White came over to England, he brought Clough with him and after learning to drive as his employer’s chauffeur, he managed in 1910 to secure a job as a bus driver with LGOC. He drove the Route 11 between Liverpool Street and Wormwood Scrubs.

In 1915, Clough joined the Army Service Corps at Kempston Barracks and drove an ambulance on the Western front in France for four years. Clough was a popular member of the Army Service Corps and he was the captain of the cricket team. Yet as one of few black soldiers, he was sometimes the victim of racism. Demobbed in 1919, he became a member of the Royal Legion and joined the National Omnibus Company at Bedford, where he lived with his wife Margaret. Between the world wars, Clough would drive an open-topped bus in Cambridgeshire every year on Remembrance Day.

Florence Cordell was one of the first women to work as a bus conductor in Britain. She, along with hundreds of other women, worked as a ‘conductorette’ for LGOC during the First World War, replacing the men who had left their jobs for war service. Before the war, Cordell worked for Faraday and Son making luxury lampshades but as fighting  continued it became clear that such luxuries were no longer appropriate and she knew her job was in jeopardy.

In 1916 Cordell began training as a bus conductor, taking medical, IQ and maths tests to determine her suitability. She was based at varying locations including Willesden, Twickenham, Turnham Green and Highgate Archway garages. Women conductors earned five shillings a week less than men and they went on strike to demand equal pay.

As with all women who worked on the buses during the war, the end of the fighting in 1918 meant Cordell lost her job as she was replaced by the returning men.


If you have any personal family stories, photographs, mementoes, medals, letters or diaries that you would like to share with us then we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at



Can you help get ‘Battle Bus’ to the Western Front? You can get involved and back the project for free by becoming a project Cheerleader and sharing it with friends and family or make a pledge from as little as £20 and in return for your support you’ll receive some exciting and unique rewards!

Find out more:

B-type Restoration Material

B-type (B1056) and Y-type chassis (numbered as B214) at Acton

During 2013, London Transport Museum curators travelled all the way to North Yorkshire to inspect a surprising collection of B-type bus material in private ownership. Amongst the items for sale were four B-type bodies, three chassis, three gearboxes, one engine and a handful of enamel advertisement signs. After careful consideration and further negotiation the Museum acquired all the available material and transported it to the Acton Depot in West London.

Items earmarked for restoration were promptly relocated to Haslemere, Surrey, where the work is taking place. Left behind at Acton, however, was an intriguing assortment of B-type parts. This includes the chassis of B237, the chassis of a Y-type lorry (previously restored as B214), three B-type bodies in various states of decay and items of metalwork which are surplus to the project.

Although redundant, leftover items can still be of value and offer crucial information. For example, a saloon interior passenger sign (in too poor a condition to reuse) shows the correct style of lettering which will need to be reproduced. Through the layers of paint it is just about possible to read the text ‘Metropolitan Stage Carriage’ and make out an arrow which would have pointed to the location of the bell used for stopping the bus.

Operational reliability is another reason for saving these spare parts. In the case of the gearboxes, the Museum will keep enough key components to assist an overhaul many years in the future. Remarkably, the oldest surplus B-type body might be appropriate for use on the 1906 De Dion chassis that the Museum owns.  There are no plans to undertake a restoration at present, but it is interesting to know that there is a possibility for the future.

Help us Restore Battle Bus!

The project is supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund but the Museum needs to raise a further £100,000 towards the restoration. Please help us to get Battle Bus back on the road. You can find out more and make a donation at

Poster of the Week: Winter Sales are best reached by the Underground

Winter Sales are best reached by the Underground, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1922

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The temperature outside has plummeted, signalling the arrival of winter, and this 1922 poster by Kauffer really shows what it feels like to battle the elements when it’s cold and wet and windy!

By 1922, Edward McKnight Kauffer was already an established poster designer for the Underground, and he was given great freedom in his designs. Kauffer was an expert in combining modern art movements with commercial design, bringing more radical or challenging styles to the streets of London.

The Museum is fortunate to have the original artwork for this poster in its collection. The artwork gives an interesting insight into Kauffer’s method of working. The background is created in gouache (poster paint) whilst the tiny figures are cut out of paper and pasted onto the poster design.

This poster follows on from Kauffer’s 1921 earlier Winter Sales poster, in which he chose to adopt similar colours and styles to express the same theme. You can read more about this poster in Brian Webb’s blog post.

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Restoring Battle Bus

A motor bus park in France during the First World War. Copyright TfL

To mark the centenary of the First World War, London Transport Museum is restoring one of the last surviving B-type buses to full working order. Once restored, Battle Bus will act as the centrepiece for a programme of commemorative events and displays. Plans include a recreation of the journey made by these buses from London to the battlefields of France. At home the bus will take part in a programme of community events involving London’s bus companies and garages.

Over 1000 B-type buses were commandeered for transporting troops to and from the Western Front throughout the war. In often extremely hazardous conditions, civilian drivers manned buses protected by wooden boarding and painted khaki for camouflage.

Known for their reliability before the war as London’s first successful mass-produced bus, the London General Omnibus Company B-type proved an ideal vehicle for such difficult work at the Front. Some buses were even converted into ambulances and pigeon lofts. London Transport Museum’s restoration project will tell the story of the unique contribution to the war effort by the Battle Bus, London bus drivers and their mechanics.  It will also highlight the role of the bus in changing social perceptions, particularly towards women. For the first time, they were employed as conductors, clerks and cleaners as the men went away to the Front.

The bus is being restored through the use of both original and replica parts and once completed will be covered in wooden boarding and painted in wartime khaki. It will be completed in time for the centenary of the outbreak of war in August 2014. The project will also comprise a five-year community learning and participation programme, including restoration apprenticeships and a volunteer scheme.

Help us Restore Battle Bus!

The project is supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund but the Museum needs to raise a further £100,000 towards the restoration. Please help us to get Battle Bus back on the road. You can find out more and make a donation at

Poster of the Week: Fly the Tube to New York

Fly the Tube to New York, by the agency Trickett & Webb Ltd, 2001

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I was very pleased when Trickett & Webb’s ‘Fly the Tube to New York’ poster was nominated and selected for Poster Art 150 (I abstained from voting on this one!). It’s one of those posters that you have to do a double take and think about.What’s even more interesting is that it almost didn’t happen.

The Museum asked us to design a poster in the summer of 2001 to be used in London and New York (a first) to announce the London Transport Exhibition in New York’s Grand Central Station.

During our early research we discovered that the London Underground and the New York Subway use identical colours to code lines. This became the key to the idea: stations on the same line but on different continents, with Heathrow and Grand Central prominently positioned to emphasise the poster’s title ‘Fly the Tube to New York’.

The idea was approved and we completed  the artwork showing the World Trade Center on the line next to Heathrow. We sent it off  in early September 2001. Only a few days later on the 11th the World Trade Center was attacked. After  dealing with the initial shock we remembered that we had incorporated the World Trade Center into our poster design and guessed we would hear no more. A couple of days later the MTA (the NY Metropolitan Transit Authority) telephoned to ask us to change the artwork, replacing the reference to the World Trade Center with Columbus Circle, – a traffic intersection in New York and the official point from which all distances from New York City are measured The poster and the exhibition went ahead.

Written by Brian Webb


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Poster of the Week: Waterside London

Waterside London, Hans Unger, 1972

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Hans Unger’s wonderful 1972 design promotes travel to London’s lakes, canals, streams and rivers.

‘Waterside London’ reflects an experiment with new printing techniques. Should you come to the Museum to see the poster up close, you will note that the original artwork had quite an interesting finish. Unger’s design was printed using a powdery blue ink and a green lacquer, creating a striking rough and smooth effect. These inks were later found to be highly vulnerable to decay, making this poster a rare example of this technique.

Unger was a prolific poster designer for London Transport. He is a fine example of one of the very skilled graphic artists who continued to produce high quality graphic designs during a period when pictorial posters commissioned directly from artists were in rapid decline. During the 1960s publicity was increasingly contracted out to agencies. However the innovative use of new materials and techniques, as can be seen in Unger’s design, contributed positively to the stylistic development of the art poster, in spite of their depleting numbers.

Today, posters continue to promote the activities and services of Transport for London. Although most have been designed by agencies, London Transport Museum has drawn on the organisation’s history to commission new pictorial art posters. This includes a number of new posters that mark the recent Tube150 celebrations. Mike Walton, Head of Trading at the Museum and responsible for the commissions, states: ‘For some commissions a key challenge was to combine both heritage and current Underground operations in a way that was contemporary in appearance but communicated 150 years of history with elegance and simplicity. The 2013 Chelsea Flower Show poster also cleverly combines 12 different flowers in a Tube map form which is highly successful visually and helped celebrate 100 years of Chelsea Flower Show and 150 years of London Underground.’

You can see some of the new Tube150 commissions in the Museum’s current Poster Parade display, ‘Moments in time’. This display, which compliments the Museum’s Poster Art 150 exhibition, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Underground and pays homage to the organisation’s poster commissioning history.

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Poster of the Week: No need to ask a p’liceman

No need to ask a p’liceman, John Hassall, 1908

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This week’s Poster of the Week is the classic ‘No need to ask a p’liceman’, the first pictorial poster commissioned to promote the Underground. The ingenious commissioner was Frank Pick, a young solicitor who came to the Underground Group in 1906. Pick was made Traffic Officer in 1908, at a time when the company was facing bankruptcy if passenger traffic did not increase. The electric lifts and fast, deep level trains of the new Underground lines proved a daunting prospect for some Londoners.  Pick saw the potential of modern pictorial posters to drive up passenger numbers by changing the way people felt about the Underground railways – by showing the Underground as the heart of London.

Frank Pick, c. 1910

To fulfil this brief, Pick commissioned John Hassall, one of the leading poster artists working in Britain at the time. Hassall had already produced posters for the mainline railways and other companies and his use of bold colours and humorous characters would have been popular and recognizable for Londoners.

The poster shows the brand new Underground map at its centre. This map was the first time that the Underground Group railways had advertised themselves together under the new ‘UndergrounD’ legend and it presents an integrated and easily navigable system.

The title of the poster adapts a popular music hall ballad of the time, ‘Ask a p’liceman’, and the slogan ‘Underground to anywhere, quickest route, cheapest fare’, was supplied by a 14 year old boy following a competition in the ‘Evening News’.

The new map replaces the policeman as ‘way-finder’ as he shows the two country folk the new way to navigate London. The two ‘country bumpkins’ are shown as out of touch and unfashionable, highlighting that modern and sophisticated Londoners could confidently navigate the modern Underground.

Frank Pick’s first commission paved the way for one of the most ambitious and long-standing poster advertising campaigns of the 20th Century, but Pick’s influence on London goes far beyond poster commissioning. To find out how Pick’s work still influences the way we live today, come to our talk, ‘Frank Pick’s London’ on Monday 4th November, where Oliver Green will be introducing his new book Frank Pick’s London: art, design and the modern city, published by the Victoria & Albert Museum in association with London Transport Museum.

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