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Read the amazing story behind Keep Calm And Carry On.
Keep Calm and Carry On was a propaganda poster produced by the Govt of the UK in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain. It had only limited distribution, and thus was little known. The poster was rediscovered in 2000 and has been re-issued by a number of private companies, and used as the decorative theme for a range of products. It was believed there were only two known surviving examples of the poster outside government archives until a collection of 15 originals was brought in to the Antiques Roadshow in 2012 by the daughter of an ex-Royal Observer Corps member.
The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information, at the beginning of the IInd World War. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster. Over 2,500,000 copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers.
The poster was third in a series of three. The previous two posters from the series, “Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might” (400,000 printed) and “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory” (800,000 printed) were issued and used across the country for motivational purposes, as the Ministry of Information assumed that the events of the first weeks of the war would demoralize the population. An icon of a “Tudor” crown was chosen to head the poster, rather than a photograph.
In 2000, a copy of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was rediscovered in Barter Books, a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland. Since Crown Copyright expires on artistic works created by the UK government after 50 years, the image is now in the public domain. The store’s owners, Stuart and Mary Manley, were thus able to reprint copies at customers’ requests, as did others, inside and outside Britain. It has inspired ranges of clothing, mugs, doormats, baby clothes and other merchandise from various vendors, as well as a book of motivational quotations. Parodies of the poster, with similar type but changing the phrase or the logo (for example, an upside-down crown with “Now Panic and Freak Out”), have also been sold.
The poster’s popularity has been attributed to a “nostalgia for a certain British character, an outlook” according to the Bagehot column in The Economist, that it “taps directly into the country’s mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall.” Its message has also been felt relevant to the late-2000s recession and has been adopted as an unofficial motto by British nurses, the poster appearing in staff rooms on hospital wards with increasing frequency throughout the 2000s. Merchandise with the image has been ordered in bulk by American financial firms and advertising agencies, and it is also popular in Germany.
The poster has appeared on the walls of places as diverse as the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit at 10 Downing Street, the Lord Chamberlain‘s office at Buckingham Palace, and the United States embassy in Belgium. The Manleys sold some 41,000 facsimile posters between 2001 and 2009.
The poster and its parodies have appeared in almost every channel open to graphic design and graphical parody, ranging from the political messages to cute slogans. Many versions of it reference other aspects of popular culture, from the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton to the Mario videogames, with altered text, colors and iconography. It is also used on the internet as a meme. Today, People use the poster and change it according to them self.
In August 2011, it was reported that a UK-based company called Keep Calm and Carry On Ltd had registered the slogan as a community trade mark in the EU, after failing to trademark the slogan in the United Kingdom. They issued a take-down request against a seller of Keep Calm and Carry On products. Questions have been raised as to whether the registration could be challenged, as the slogan had been widely used before registration and is not recognisable as indicating trade origin. An application has been submitted by British intellectual property advisor and UK trademarking service Trade Mark Direct, to cancel the trademark on the grounds that the words are too widely used for one person to own the exclusive rights. The company is now trying to trademark globally in the United States and Canada. In early 2012, Barter Books Ltd, debuted an informational short “The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On”. The video provided visual insight to the modernization of the phrase as well as details surrounding the commercialization. Once viral, the internet buzz for Keep Calm & Carry On regained traction and several media outlets picked up the story.