Postmarks that have caused offence

September 25, 2017 by Stanley Gibbons

The British Post Office celebrates 100 years of the machine slogan postmark this year. This specialist area of postal history, often ignored by collectors, is rich in reflecting the social and political issues of the time. In doing so, the British Post Office has managed to upset, as well amuse, the public with a number of ill-conceived designs and ideas. David Pollard highlights UK slogans of a controversial nature up to 1960.

1931–35 Telephone Slogans

In 1931, the Post Office decided to promote its telephone business by producing ten different slogans advertising the use of the telephone. Catchy phrases such as ‘The Telephone – A Sound Investment’, ‘Get the Telephone Habit’ and ‘Trade Follows the Phone’ were used from 1931 to 1933 in a number of towns and cities throughout the UK. All were designed to encourage businesses in particular to invest in the telephone to enhance their efficiency and to reach a larger market. Of course, the majority of those receiving these messages on their envelopes were members of the public.

One of these slogans ‘The Best Investment A Telephone‘ (Fig 1) prompted a number of complaints. Why you might ask? The answer lies in the arrangement of the words. They were in two lines with ‘A Telephone’ bordered by an ‘L’ ornament on the left hand side. Some people of a nationalistic disposition interpreted this as using French i.e. ‘La Telephone’ in our postmarks.

Fig 1 :  A bad call: a slogan postmark from the 1930s advertising the benefits of a telephone. Unfortunately, the position of the L-shaped ornament gave the message a continental feel

They made their objections known and, amazingly, some offices took action. They removed the die and filed off the offending ornament (Fig 2).

Fig-2: After members of the British public complained of ‘French’ slogans on their mail, some offices doctored the slogan die to remove the offending ornament

These doctored slogans are worth more as only a few offices took these complaints that seriously. I have examples of the un-doctored slogan from 22 offices of which four later removed the ornament. Surprisingly, two of the three Welsh offices (Colwyn Bay and Rhyl) removed the ornament, whereas Birmingham and Bournemouth were the only two English offices. No doubt other collectors can identify further offices from their collections.

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