LONDON – The Keep Calm and Carry On poster has become one of the most famous propaganda icons of World War II, and the irony is that the poster was never displayed in public. The rare poster will be offered at a Sworders auction on Dec. 15.
In September 1939, Keep Calm and two other letterpress posters had been put into production, Freedom is in Peril … Your Courage … were displayed in public places, but the third – now recognized the world over with the unforgettable slogan – was not. It is now widely accepted that it was held back in anticipation of an invasion of Britain by the enemy or a severe air raid.
The “Phoney War,” the period September 1939 to May 1940, proved to be largely uneventful for the home front, and a change in attitude to the wording probably contributed to the poster never being used.
Although many thousands in several sizes were originally printed, only a few examples have ever appeared for sale. This example is in the larger double-crown format of which, according to HMSO records, 496,500 were printed. The poster is expected to bring £7,000-£10,000 ($9,300-$13,287).
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