The Modern Discovery of Wise Words from a War Era

Keep Calm and Carry On.

The Making of… 

In the spring of 1938, a war with Germany was imminent. The British government commissioned a series of reassuring propaganda posters according to the following guidelines.

Each poster should:

  • be uniform in style with only two colors.
  • employ a “special and handsome typeface,” which would be difficult to counterfeit.
  • use the crown of King George VI as the only graphic.

Three final posters went into production, but only two were widely distributed. The third was reserved for crisis or invasion, and was never officially issued. It went unseen by the public until a copy turned up over 50 years later in a used book store in northeast England.

Rediscovery / The Modern Story

Stuart and Mary Manley founded Barter Books in what was once a Victorian railway station. In 2000, Stuart found the forgotten poster and Mary liked it so much that she hung it on the shop wall. Customers liked it too, and the Manleys soon began printing and selling copies. Since then, the poster has been “reproduced, parodied and trivialized, and has become a truly iconic image of the 21st Century.”

It’s design is simple and timeless, but the words are enchanting. “Like a voice out of history, it offers a very simple warmhearted message to inspire confidence in others during difficult times.”

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