Minor British Institutions: Keep Calm and Carry On

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The Independent Online

"Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases"; "Dig for Victory"; "Keep Mum". All still famous. But it is odd that the most currently ubiquitous of the Second World War's propaganda slogans, "Keep Calm and Carry On", was never officially adopted.

Some two million copies of it were printed, but they remained in storage throughout the war, presumably because the British stayed, mostly, calm throughout.

A few years ago, one of the old posters was rediscovered by a bookseller from Northumberland, and the rest is (new) history. At least one marketing company has seized on the striking design as a motto for our own troubled times, slapping it on to posters, bags, deckchairs, cufflinks and, most appropriately, mugs for the sort of hot sweet tea the WRVS used to hand out at bomb sites.

The sans-serif typeface and minimalist crown logo are a masterpiece of modernism. Sadly, the patriot who came up with the idea remains anonymous, buried in the tomb of the unknown spin doctor.

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