|This is my contribution to Round Eleven of ABC Wednesday and again I am focusing on people, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten.|
Edwin Embleton was a graphic designer who was born in Hornsey, London in 1907 and at the outbreak of war in 1939 he was studio manager at Odham’s Press.
He was seconded to the Ministry of Information as Art Director and Studio Manager in charge of the visual aspect of all home and overseas propaganda, he was given a free hand to commission designs from whichever artists and designers he chose.
The MOI produced many propaganda posters that were intended to maintain the wartime spirit of the population, but the first three were ordered to be uniform in style and use ‘a special and handsome typeface’.
The third was Keep Calm and Carry On and is the one that is best remembered. Which is odd because it was never actually issued.
Although two and a half million copies were printed, they were meant to be used in the event of an invasion that never came. Only one copy survived, turning up in a box of books bought at auction by Barter Books in Northumberland.
The owners of the shop framed and displayed the poster and the interest was so great that in 2001 they began to produce facsimiles. The rest, as they say, is history and a whole range of Keep Calm merchandise is now available.
As for its original creator, Edwin Embleton, at the end of the war he received a letter of thanks from Winston Churchill and was awarded an MBE as he returned to his work at Odham’s Press.
Below is a video which tells more of the story of his poster.