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May 6

Glorious Posters From the Golden Years of the London Tube

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This Is All In The Air, Montague B Black, 1926. (All Photos: Courtesy London Transport Museum)

In 1908, the very first Underground logo, known as a roundel, was introduced at St James’ Park station. It consisted of a red disk intersected with a blue bar. During the same period, the word “Underground” also began to be used across London’s many separate railway lines which marked the beginning of a more unified identity for what was soon known as the Tube. The roundel was registered as a trademark in 1917. While some of the proportions and colors have changed, it is still the same recognizable logo from over one hundred years ago.

A few years later, Frank Pick, of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited, wanted to encourage more Londoners to travel by Tube. Pick began commissioning graphic posters from artists such as Graham Sutherland, Abram Games and Edward McKnight Kauffer, that could be appreciated by subterranean travelers and street strollers alike. The resulting posters are bold, colorful works depicting elements of train travel, sometimes in the abstract. Even Man Ray designed for the London Underground, in 1937.

These posters, along with other Tube-related historical ephemera, are now held at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. The originals are also available to view by way of guided tour. Below are some of the most creative and beautiful posters in the collection. Gaze upon these delightful designs and be transported. 

Power - the nerve centre of London’s Underground, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1931.

By Bus to the Pictures, Tom Eckersley and Eric Lombers, 1935. 

To the shows by Underground, Harold Sandys Williamson, 1939.

To Wood Lane, Frederick Charles Herrick, 1920.

Electricity supercedes St Christopher, Vladimir Polunin, 1934.

London’s tramways to Central London, Harold McCready, 1930.

London after dark, Fred Millett, 1968.

Milestones of progress, Harold McCready, 1930.

Light, power & speed, Charles Sharland, 1910.

More power to the people, artist unknown, 1992.

More light, artist unknown, 1935.

Four times the light per seat, Theyre Lee-Elliott, 1936.

London Zoo, Abram Games, 1976.

London After Dark, Fred Millett, 1968.

Art Today, Hans Unger, 1966.

The first Underground poster to be commissioned by Frank Pick: No need to ask a p’liceman, John Hassall, 1908.

London Transport, Man Ray, 1938.

Theatre - go by Undeground, Barnett Freedman, 1936.

The swiftest way to pleasure; Whitsun joy wheel, Charles Sharland, 1913.

Keeps London’s heart aglow, Frederick Charles Herrick, 1925.

Underground - theatres, Verney L Danvers, 1926.

The trains now arriving, artist unknown, 1992.

Out and about; winter London, Molly Moss, 1950.

The bright and speedy way to pantomime, Alma Faulkner, 1925.