The Story of “Keep Calm and Carry On”

As a reader of this blog, you’ve probably seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, as well as the numerous parodies:

"Keep Calm and Carry On" poster

You probably also know that the posters are from World War II. What you might not know is that they were never seen by the general public during that time; they were held in reserve just in case things went really badly. The poster was never officially issued and would’ve remained in obscurity if Stewart and Mary Manley, the proprietors of Barter Books in the northeast of England, hadn’t found one in a box of books bought at an auction. Mary like the poster so much that she framed it and displayed in their shop, and soon came the requests for copies.

The posters that people did see during the war were this one:

"Your courage / your cheerfulness / your resolution / will bring us victory" poster

and this one:

"Freedom is in peril / Defend it with all your might" poster

The short film above, The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On, tells the story of how that poster went from unknown to nearly ubiquitous.

Wall in Barter Books displaying all three framed posters

If you’d like to find out more about the “Keep Calm and Carry On”, here’s Robyn Schneider with more about the poster.

She points out that the poster was under crown copyright, which lasts 50 years, meaning that it had passed into the public domain by the time the Manleys found it and started reproducing it. However, a sleazeball named Mark Coop has acquired the EU copyright for the slogan and has been suing people – but not the Manleys, oddly enough – who try to sell Keep Calm and Carry On merchandise.

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