Royal Mail is celebrating its history of delivering Christmas by showcasing a selection of vintage posters which encourage customers to ‘Post Early for Christmas’.
Royal Mail 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. Even today it is still an important part of getting cards and presents delivered in time for Christmas.
Initially, the call to post early came in the form of notices affixed to post boxes. Then, in 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.
These iconic prints were designed by some of the leading graphic artists in the UK. 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 World War Two. After the war, he went on to design the tapestry for Coventry Cathedral when it was rebuilt after the Blitz.
Other artists included Barnett Freedman, born in the east end of London, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. As a child he 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, stylised text that characterised his 1930’s Post Early designs.
During the 1940s, Jan Lewitt and George Him (see image below) 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, where they worked together until 1954, producing a number of posters for the postal service.
George’s later work included book illustrations, advertisements and exhibitions. He also designed stamps and taught at Leicester Polytechnic for eight years in the 60s and 70s. Jan 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 British Postal Museum collection and have now been made available to view in a special Royal Mail online gallery.
Post Early for Christmas
Royal Mail is asking customers to order their gifts well in advance and post parcels early. This helps postmen and women deliver all the festive post in time for Christmas, which is our busiest time of year. Be sure to write the address clearly and always use a postcode.
Last posting dates
The recommended last posting dates for the UK are:
December 20 for Second Class Mail
December 21 for First Class Mail
December 21 for Special Delivery
December 22 for Special Delivery Saturday Guaranteed