Keep Calm and Carry On: the story behind the poster

Keep Calm and Carry On: the story behind the poster

The 'Keep Calm and Carry On' slogan has become so familiar it can be hard to remember how it became part of national consciousness in the first place.

The iconic message - along with its many permutations - has reached cult status in recent times. You’ll find it emblazoned on everything from mobile phone cases to mugs and hot water bottles and, of course, replica posters.

However, it was only fairly recently the slogan took on a new lease of life. Its roots go back to 1939 when the poster was created by the Ministry of Information as part of a series to reassure the public and boost morale at the outbreak of the second world war. 

This design was never officially issued, though, and it is believed that most of the Keep Calm posters were reduced to a pulp at the end of the war in 1945.

The message was all but forgotten until 2000 when, reports the BBC, a copy of the poster was discovered in a box of books bought at auction by bookseller Stuart Manley.

His idea to recreate the poster and sell copies was featured in a national newspaper in 2005, leading to sales rocketing. But it was when the economic crisis took hold in 2009 the poster started to appear everywhere, says Bex Lewis, author of Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster. “It seems to sum up a very British character – yet it is used the world over to represent the fight against adversity”, she says.

And its popularity has endured. The traditional slogan on a bold red background soon morphed into a myriad of variations on the theme. Some are light-hearted - “Now panic and freak out” did the rounds not long ago - but many stick with the feeling of nostalgia the poster evokes.

Make your twist on the iconic style by personalising a design at Posterhaste.com - there are a range of colour schemes and product types to choose from

 

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