The Story Behind Keep Calm & Carry On

From the Huckberry blog July 12, 2012 | By: Ali Ruhfel

You’ve seen the slogan on everything from aprons to iPhone cases, but before it made its way into gift shops around the world, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was a forgotten lyric of history. Just before the start of WWII, the British government commissioned the printing of propaganda-style posters intended to empower and reassure the country during the impending war. The three final designs that went into production included “Your Courage Your Cheerfulness Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory”, “Freedom Is In Peril Defend It Will All Your Might”, and finally “Keep Calm and Carry On”, though only the first two ever made their way to shop windows and railway platforms. “Keep Calm and Carry On” was never officially issued, and was kept in storage, only to be brought out in the event of an invasion. As it turns out, they were never used, seen, and were all but forgotten.

Over fifty years later, in the year 2000, one of these limited edition posters was rediscovered in a stack of old books by Stuart Manley, a bookstore owner in the northeast corner of England. His wife liked it so much that she had it framed it and hung on the wall of their bookstore, where to this day it causes patrons to stop in their tracks. As fate would have it, Barter Books is a reconstructed Victorian railway station, the very type of facility where the posters would have hung during the war.

Below, a scan of an original 1939 Keep Calm and Carry On poster.

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