Tag Archives: Poster of the Week

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

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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.

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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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Poster of the Week – Femme Bien Informée

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Femme Bien Informée,
Harry Stevens, 1972

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Happy birthday Picasso!

Echoing the words written on Harry Stevens’ ‘Femme Bien Informée’, this week’s poster is ‘A Tribute to a Master’ – Pablo Picasso, born October 25, 1881.

London Transport published this poster in 1972. It was designed by Harry Stevens to promote London’s many incredible museums and art galleries. The ‘femme bien informée’, who looks as though she has just stepped out of a painting by Picasso, is admiring a selection of famous paintings from the National Gallery Collection such as The Arnolfini Portrait, by Jan van Eyck and The Fighting Temeraire, by J M W Turner.

At the bottom of the poster is an exhibition label reading ‘by Harry Stevens, London Transport Art Collection’. As well as commemorating the art of Picasso, Stevens also pays tribute to the London Transport poster by labelling it as part of an ‘art’ collection.

By this time London Transport had indeed become known as a major patron of the arts. However during the 70s it increasingly contracted publicity out to agencies, meaning that direct commissions with artists and graphic designers such as Stevens were less common.

With no formal art training, Stevens started his design career in the exhibitions and display trade. He went on to become a prolific freelance commercial artist, specialising in poster design, and in 1963 won the Council of Industrial Design Poster Award.

With a succession of bold designs, Stevens maintained the presence of strong graphic art on the Underground.

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Poster of the Week: There is still the country

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T
here is still the country, Dora M. Batty, 1926

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The leaves are starting to fall from the trees, the central heating is on and the chunky knitwear is back…Hello autumn! This week’s striking Poster of the Week epitomises the autumnal season with bright yellow and orange tones contrasted with the cool blue of a woman’s tunic.

The poster, produced in 1926, was designed by one of the most prolific female designers at the time, Dora M Batty. It depicts a woman wearing the latest modern clothes. Like many posters produced during this period, it bears more than a fleeting resemblance to the upmarket fashion illustrations of the time. This was not unintentional as many advertisers and companies, including London Underground, were aware of women’s growing interest in fashion. This interest was exploited by advertisers who wished to attract female customers by seducing them with images of stylish women whose looks and lifestyle they aspired to emulate.

Batty worked in gouache, pen and ink, scraper board engraving and produced numerous book illustrations in the Art deco style. She went on to teach textiles at the Central School in 1932 and later became Head of the department. Her profession meant that she understood the qualities of textiles and this was often reflected in her posters.

The social conditions engendered by the First World War had provided new opportunities for women working in the design industry. The representation of the ‘modern woman’ in Underground publicity had also increased and as a result a staggering number of female artists were designing posters in 1920s-30s. While Victorian women were previously depicted in luxury parlours or in the safety and respectability of their own home the ‘new woman’ was depicted as having a more dominant public presence in society. This poster effectively illustrates the growing independence women had at this time; one which continued to increase throughout the century.

Written by Chloe Taylor, Curatorial Intern

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Poster of the Week: Why wait till later

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Why wait till later, Marc Severin,
1938

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Lights, Camera, Action! The British Film Institute’s annual London Film festival starts rolling this week until the 20th of November. To commemorate the role cinema plays in London life, this week’s poster is Marc Severin’s, Why wait till later,1938 – a poster which perfectly depicts the golden age of cinema while also delivering a key travel demand management message.

Born in Brussels, the son of a poet, Marc Fernand  Severin studied philosophy and letters, then art and archaeology at Gent University. He lived in England from between 1932-40 and 1945-9, first working as art director of R C Casson advertising agency, then as a freelance artist, advertising designer and book illustrator.   He engraved over 100 stamps, winning first prize for his George VI stamps. He taught at the Institut Superieur des Beaux Arts, Antwerp (1949-72), where he became  Professor of Engraving, and at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Typographiques Plantin,  Belgium (from 1956) where he became Professor of Graphic Design.

Marc Severin produced a series of posters for the Underground designed to ease congestion during rush hour. Each poster recommends the enjoyment of leisure activities at peak times to ease the after work rush and uses a clock fashioned out of a roundel to illustrate this activity. This particular poster in the series suggests going to the cinema straight from work instead of making a journey back again later in the evening. The poster neatly ties together illustration and photography; merging Severin’s drawing with a still image from ‘If I were a King’; a popular film from 1938 that featured the well known English actor Ronald Colman. The inclusion of the film in the poster demonstrates the neccesary requirement for these posters to be culturally relevant while also communicating subtle instructional messages.

Severin’s Why wait till later remains a celebration of the Capital as a cultural centre which continues apace through festivals such as the BFI film festival.

Written by Keely Quinn, Marketing & Public Relations Assistant

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Poster of the Week: London Transport at London’s Service

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London Transport at London’s Service, Abram Games, 1947

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As a Londoner who never learnt to drive designer Abram Games travelled everywhere by public transport, sketching poster ideas on every journey.

“I should have paid London Transport rent. I never get disturbed on buses or tube trains; there are no visitors or telephones, but sometimes I’m so busy concentrating that I overshoot my stop.”

Inspired by the posters of Edward McKnight Kauffer, Austin Cooper and Tom Purvis, Games knew that a poster must be noticed quickly and be legible from a distance, formulating his axiom ‘maximum meaning, minimum means’.

Abram Games was 23 in 1937 when Frank Pick, the Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board and Christian Barman, London Transport’s Publicity Officer, commissioned him to produce the poster ‘A train every 90 seconds’. One year later, Games wrote to Barman asking if there might be a possibility of designing more posters, but the Second World War intervened. As Official War Poster Artist, Captain Abram Games designed 100 posters for the army, with Frank Pick’s comment, ‘a good poster explains itself’ uppermost in his thoughts.

After the war Publicity Officer Harold Hutchinson commissioned two ‘London Transport at London’s Service’ posters from Games, who was now working freelance. Britain was still suffering from the effects of war and London Transport considered it essential to convey to passengers that their staff, trains and service were efficient. Hutchinson introduced the ‘pair poster’ to allow artists the freedom to create exciting imagery without concern for the textual information.

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Framed London Transport at London’s Service posters at Trinity Road (now Tooting Bec) Underground station. © Transport for London

In July 1947, Games wrote to Hutchinson:

“I would like to say how very much I appreciate the way in which you have allowed the designer free scope, and guided the work. They were very interesting designs to work on I look forward to seeing the whole series in action. If you could let me know when the time comes to discuss the typography and printing I shall gladly come along.”

Games liked to oversee the final print, often taking colour swatches to the printer. It is not known if Hutchinson allowed a visit to the Baynard Press, being aware that the designer had high standards and might hinder the lithographic printing process.

The ‘Zoo’ poster, published in 1975, would be the last of 18 posters and four typographical ‘pair posters’ Abram Games designed for London Transport.

Written by Naomi Games

www.abramgames.com

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Poster of the Week: Extension of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow

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Extension of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow, Tom Eckersley, 1971

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This week’s poster, Extension of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow by Tom Eckersley, commemorates an important milestone in the history of the Tube. On Dec 16th, 1977 the Heathrow extension was opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II with the words “I now have great pleasure in declaring the extension formally open and wishing success to those who will manage the line and those who will travel on it.” She followed in the footsteps of her great-grandfather Edward the VII (HRH The Prince of Wales at the time) who opened the Central Line “tuppenny tube” in 1890, called this because of its flat two-penny fare regardless of destination.

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Queen in interior of Piccadilly line 1973 tube stock, 1977

The Heathrow Extension offered direct access to the international airport from central London in just 40 minutes and for just 80p. It was the cheapest, quickest, and most direct way to reach the airport, beating out a £1 bus shuttle and £5.10 taxi ride. Prior to the extension, travelers who took the Tube would take a shuttle bus from Hatton Cross direct to the airport tarmac. The new extension, which was in the works for over 30 years, helped to liberate Londoners with quick and easy access to international travel via the new Heathrow Central Station.

Eckersley’s poster was in use on the network from 1971 to promote the project, and its style set the tone for the look and feel of the extension.  It is crisp and colourful, sleek and chic, and cleverly shows the Roundel supporting the graphic of the Tube line extension. The Heathrow Extension and the new station, in the middle of the airport complex, was the height of technological and design innovation. The new Tube trains featured the popular ‘Straub’ moquette. Designed by Marianne Straub, a contemporary textile designer and member of the well-known artist community of Great Bardfield in Essex, which also included the illustrators Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious, this moquette was sharp and chic in blues and greens and was extremely popular with the public and widely used on the transport network.  The new Heathrow Central Station also featured a mural from Eckersley, which refined the design of an airplane to a sleek and simple four-colour graphic. There was a new, and quite imposing, automatic ticket machine in the station, which employed early computer technology to allow travelers to book their own journey without having to go to the ticket office. The station also featured new moving payments, aptly named “travelators” and computer assistance for underground routes in several languages.

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Tail fin Mural designed by Tom Eckersley

The extension was a great success, but innovation hasn’t stopped there as travelers are always looking for faster and better ways to get to their destination. In 1988 Heathrow Express opened with a new and improved solution, traveling from Paddington Station to Heathrow in just 15 minutes. A key part of this service is the top fleet of Heathrow Express trains, kept in top shape by Siemens, which is responsible for 24 hours a day, 365 days per year full-maintenance service of the fleet including overhaul and refurbishment.  The 16,000 passengers travelling each day on Heathrow Express journeys are now assured of a premium travel experience, thanks to the recent completion of a £16million, 20-month project of fleet transformation by Heathrow Express in partnership with Siemens and Railcare. The Heathrow Express has carried over 60 million people since 1988 and in the last decade, its energy-efficient trains have saved enough energy to boil 400 million kettles.

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The experimental press-button Passenger Route Indicator machine

Tom Eckersley’s work helped to define the style of London Transport, designing posters, station decoration, and graphics for timetables, events, and on-board information signage for buses and tube trains for an astonishing 60 years (1935-1995). His work was quite prolific and helped shape the style of the times. In addition to the vast amounts of work he did for London Transport he also worked other public and private agencies including BBC, Shell, the Ministry of Information, and the General Post Office. He is perhaps best know for his bright and colourful tile designs that decorate the platforms along the Victoria Line which Londoners still love today.

The poster Extension of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow by Tom Eckersley is particularly appealing and has been a favorite for many years with audiences. It has been consistently in print and a top request in the London Transport Museum Shop.

basket Shop Fly the Tube gifts

Written by Susannah Pegg-Harmel, Commercial Projects Manager

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Poster of the Week: Quickly away, thanks to pneumatic doors

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Quickly away, thanks to pneumatic doors, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1937

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This week is the London Design Festival, the annual event that celebrates great design with a flurry of events and exhibitions around London. Design means different things to different people; it may mean the way something looks, or the way something functions, or a combination of the two. This week’s poster, Quickly Away, thanks to Pneumatic Doors by Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, 1937, can be examined in two ways, both for its striking modern appearance as well as for the innovative technology that it illustrates. It is a testament to the defining role of design and technology in the modern era.

Laszlo Maholy-Nagy was a Hungarian-born artist who first gained notoriety as a Constructivist painter but is best known for his involvement in the Bauhaus school in Germany (1919-1933). The Bauhaus is known for its great contribution to early 20th century design, aesthetics, and craft. It was founded on the principles set out by the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain in the late 19th century; that objects should be both useful and beautiful, that the life of the maker should be sustained by the things that he makes, and that design should be approached holistically to create complete environments which aim to improve the lives of the inhabitants. The Bauhaus adapted these ideals for the modern age, using new techniques and materials to create furnishings and buildings for a post-Great War society.  Maholy-Nagy moved from Dadaist circles in Berlin to the Bauhaus School in Weimar in 1923 to teach the foundations course and serve as the head of the school’s metalworking department. He made a significant impact to the ideals of the school though his approach to combining photography and typography which he named ‘typophoto’. He recognized photography as a ‘productive’ medium, not just a tool for reproduction and documentation but an artistic medium worthy of consideration and experimentation, and he instigated this change of view at the Bauhaus. In 1928 he resigned from the Bauhaus and moved to Berlin where he began to work as a commercial artist, typographer, and independent curator.

Moholy-Nagy and others from the school including the founder, Walter Gropius, immigrated to London in 1935 where they hoped to open a new Bauhaus but failed to secure financial backing. At this time design was at the forefront of London Transport’s activities under the guidance of Frank Pick, with dramatic changes made in the 1920’s including the universal adoption of the modern Johnston font, Harry Beck’s diagrammatic map, the roundel, new architectural commissions, and artistic poster commissions that established the Underground as one of the first holistic and modern corporate identities.

Quickly Away, thanks to Pneumatic Doors was commissioned by London Transport in 1937 to illustrate the new doors on the Tube. The last manual doors on Tube trains were fully replaced with automatic ‘slam doors’ by 1929. Pneumatic doors were a 1930’s innovation that used air vacuum technology to open and close the doors. By using a simple enclosed air vacuum chamber, the air-engine arms were pulled back to open when the chamber was pressurised and a vacuum created, and then when released the doors would close slowly. These doors replaced the more forceful ‘slam doors’ which, as they sound, were not very pleasant to passengers and posed a safety risk. The new doors were more pleasant and also served as an automated safety check, as the train could not be signalled to start unless all doors were closed, and the poster served to enforce London Transport’s commitment to safety. Maholy-Nagy was quite taken with the role of new technologies. In his own words: ‘The reality of our century is technology: the invention, construction and maintenance of machines. To be a user of machines is to be of the spirit of this century. Machines have replaced the transcendal (sic) spiritualism of past eras.’

The pneumatic technology is simply, elegantly illustrated in the poster. Maholy-Nagy employs his trademark style to provide the information needed to understand the technology through text and image in a graphically pleasing and colourful design.  One can imagine rushing by the poster on the way to catch an approaching train, just seeing it at a glance, and noticing its colourful and balanced composition of yellow, green, and black – simple colours and bold lines which had dominated the Bauhaus approach. On the other hand, with time to spare waiting for the last train to come, one would have had the time to take in all of the information provided and fully understand the technology, as the design concisely explains it.

After working in London for just two years, Maholy-Nagy moved to Chicago in late 1937 to open the New Bauhaus School of Design, which was reorganised as the Institute of Design and still exists today as part of the Illinois Institute of Technology. His work through the school influenced an entire generation of architects and designers.

Written by Susannah Pegg-Harmel, Commercial Projects Manager

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Poster of the Week: Simply nightlife by Tube and bus

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Simply nightlife by Tube and bus, Dan Fern, 1998

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In the 17th century Samuel Pepys wrote “when one is tired of London, one is tired of life.” With countless opportunities for going out, eating out and having fun it’s still true today.

Entertainment in London has provided an endless array of vibrant and enticing subjects for transport posters. Many have aimed to encourage travel to the city in the evenings and at weekends. Others have encouraged regular commuters to stay in the city after work, rather than travelling home at rush hour, thereby managing demand on the system.

Trends in leisure are also reflected in London’s transport posters. This week’s Poster of the Week, produced in 1998 by Dan Fern, ex-Professor of Graphic Art at the Royal College of Art, draws on the popularity of the 90s House superclubs. A closer look reveals a collage of encounters during a night out – a DJ mixing records, a crowd dancing and a night bus.

London’s nightlife is now more diverse than ever – for the achingly hip Dalston or Shoreditch are the places to see and be seen, the rich and famous can be found in the trendy up-market bars of Chelsea and Notting Hill, and around the Angel tube station you’ll find plenty of ‘townie’ type pubs.

Across London, the drinking holes du jour are now speakeasies. Taking inspiration from America’s Prohibition era, you’ll find them hidden in a block of flats and behind unmarked doors and unassuming entrances. Think cocktail menus hidden in books, drinks served in teacups, decor that isn’t all it seems and glamorous dress codes. So remember to take a second look next time you pass a mysterious doorway!

London’s transport has played a huge role in helping the Capital’s nightlife to function and we’re proud to be part of something so lively and exciting!

Written by Tamsin Lancaster, LTM Development Manager

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Poster of the Week: Where is this bower beside the silver Thames?

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Where is this bower beside the silver Thames?, Jean Dupas, 1930

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As the swoosh of skirts, flash of the fashion photographers lenses and clip-clop of heels rings around Somerset House, we are celebrating next week’s opening of London Fashion Week with Jean Dupas’s 1930 poster Where is this bower beside the Silver Thames?. Whilst todays fashion pack navigates the cobblestones of The Strand in six-inch stilettos, Dupas depicted Art Deco dames lounging beside the river Thames. Not unlike the street style blogs that capture the fashion frenzy that peppers the streets of London from September 13th to 17th, Dupas creates a poster which mimics the editorial style of a magazine shoot and combines it with a more natural and authentic surrounding.

Dupas’ style was based on the new precepts of Cubism, creating surreal, idealised landscapes. He won the Prix de Rome (a scholarship for art students) in 1910 and spent two years in Italy where he painted Les Pigeons Blanc. This final painting from his time in Rome was presented at the Salon des Artistes Français (an association of sculptors and artists that holds a yearly exhibition) in 1922 where it received a gold medal and was thought to be the work that established his reputation as a painter. In 1925, he participated in the Grand Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, one of the most heralded exhibitions of all time. Dupas exhibited Les Perruches and, whilst not one of his more famous paintings, it is considered one of the most defining of his career and the Art Deco movement.

Dupas’ women were almost always depicted with elongated necks; almond shaped eyes and cropped hair. In this particular poster the scene is reminiscent of a fashion shoot – the lounging yet posed positions of the figures and the mixture of long gowns and bathing suits emulating what you would expect from a fashion photograph today. This may have been influenced from Dupas’ contributions to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, as well as the inspiration he drew from one Robert Bridges poems, There is a Hill. Dupas evoked particular imagery from the poem the title of this poster was taken from. For instance, Bridges wrote:

There is a hill beside the silver Thames,
Shady with birch and beech and odorous pine
And brilliant underfoot with thousand gems
Steeply the thickets to his floods decline.
Straight trees in every place
Their thick tops interlace,
And pendent branches trail their foliage fine
Upon his watery face.

This section could have inspired Dupas’ depiction of elongated female, model-esque figures (Straight trees in every place…) in long gowns (…trail their foliage fine…), which in turn evokes the feel of models on the set of a fashion shoot.

This reflects what was happening around the time the poster was produced. Dupas designed posters for the Underground Group and London Transport from 1930-1933, a time when cheaper fabrics such as rayon and the availability of ready-made clothing meant fashion was no longer the privilege of the upper classes. Advertisers were putting more effort into appealing to this expanding female market that were interested and involved in fashion. This is when the adoption of the fashion plate style that Dupas’ poster reflects began, showing stylish women in sumptuous clothing that female consumers would, hopefully, want to emulate. This was also a time when newspapers were dedicating more space to fashion news and events and magazines devoted solely to the topic of fashion were widely available. Dupas depiction of these statuesque women posing in a completely contrasted natural environment is reflective of the current evolution of street style and the spectacle that is Fashion Week. Capturing the beauty of the subject and their distinction from their surrounds is a subtle feature in this particular poster and one that will not go unnoticed next week as the fashion world saunters from show to show.

Written By Keely Quinn and Kirsty Parsons

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Poster of the Week: For Lost Property

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For Lost Property, Tom Eckersley, 1945

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Transport for London’s Lost Property Office (LPO) in Baker Street is one of their lesser known services. In 1945 Tom Eckersley produced a poster to advertise it entitled For Property Lost featuring an umbrella crying after being lost by its owner.

The LPO is fast approaching its 80th anniversary. It deals with items retrieved from the Underground, buses, taxis, the DLR, London Overground and Victoria Coach Station and is such a busy operation that it requires 39 permanent members of staff. The office receives around 200,000 items every year, a large proportion of which are from the Piccadilly Line due to its connection to Heathrow Airport at the western end.

Many of the standard items you would expect line the walls of the cavernous space with around 38,000 books, 31,000 bags, 28,000 pieces of clothing, 23,400 mobile phones, 10,600 keys, 8,000 umbrellas and 4,000 pieces of jewellery collected annually. £1 coins are also handed in on a regular basis by honest Londoners!

A range of slightly more bizarre items have also been stored here during its history including many sets of false teeth, breast implants, a puffer fish, a coffin, human skulls, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, three dead bats, a stuffed eagle, a royal wedding invite, a 14 ft boat, a park bench, a lawnmower and a grandfather clock! Amongst these more unusual items are artworks of varying quality, some of which were gathered together by TfL a couple of years ago and displayed in an exhibition entitled the Lost Collection.

Fortunately one in three of the more standard items are reunited with their owners. The LPO staff go out of their way to return the more obscure items if there are clues available. A suitcase containing £10,000 was returned to an elderly gentleman who didn’t trust banks or the safety of the money in his own home. Having left the suitcase on the Tube he was fortunate that a decent commuter found it and handed it in, and that documents containing his address were still inside. Thanks to the detective work of the work of the LPO staff (and inscriptions) two urns of ashes have also been returned to family members of the deceased.

The LPO is a good place to monitor trends, current events and the weather, with an influx of umbrellas in the winter and caps in the summer. During the Wimbledon Championships more tennis racquets are handed in and when a popular book is released, such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, a significant number of copies are always found on the network.

All items handed in are kept for three months and thereafter donated to charity with toys given to less fortunate children at Christmas and prosthetic limbs to landmine victims. Items of great personal value are often retained for longer in the hope that they can be reunited with owners and items of greater financial value are auctioned off for charity and to help towards the operation of the office.

Tom Eckersley, the artist behind our featured poster, designed posters for London Transport for 60 years from 1935 until 1995. Born in 1914 in Lancashire, he moved to London aged 20 to become a freelance poster designer, his talent having already been recognised at art college. He collaborated on many commissions with fellow student Eric Lombers and they were greatly influenced by Edward Mcknight Kauffer who also designed posters for London Transport. The pair produced posters for other large organisations such as Shell and the BBC.

During the Second World War Eckersley designed propaganda posters for the RAF and the General Post Office among others and in 1948 was awarded an OBE for services to poster design. He later began teaching and was a lecturer at the Westminster School of Art and the London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication). He ran the first undergraduate courses in graphic design in the UK and was Head of Graphic Design for 20 years from 1957 until 1977 with Charles Saatchi one of his more notable students. Eckersley died in 1997.

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