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How sorted are you for Christmas cards this year? Take inspiration from some iconic festive design, unearthed from the vaults at Mount Pleasant

We're all so familiar with the phrase: Post Early for Christmas. And no wonder, as it reigned as a Post Office advertising slogan for more than 30 years. The reason being that it was incredibly effective; in fact, so successful was it that an internal memo from the Sixties states: "It's something of an embarrassment, since it produces a large volume of traffic before we are ready for it." After that, the call to action was watered down to "Don't Miss the Christmas Post".

The whole thing started with the appointment in 1933 of Stephen Tallents as public relations officer. Meanwhile, graphic design had flourished in the Twenties. The two soon came together in the very first Post Early poster, a text-only design by Barnett Freedman. In the decades that followed, the Post Office commissioned many well-known designers and artists, including Ronald Searle, Abram Games and Tom Eckersley, for its eye-catching Christmas notices.

All of them are kept in Clerkenwell, at The British Postal Museum & Archive on Phoenix Place, just around the corner from the Mount Pleasant sorting office. They live there next to some real hidden gems from British history: telegrams from the Titanic, rare Penny Black stamps and memorabilia from the Great Train Robbery.

There's also the world's first Christmas card, sent by Hampstead businessman Sir Henry Cole in 1843. Why not use it as your card this year? You can buy reproductions of it, as well as cards featuring many of the Post Early posters, from the museum's online shop. Melissa Crowther

For the shop and more information on the museum, including how to visit it, go to www.postalheritage.org.uk

 

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