Return of the Imperial

Here’s a pair and a quintet, with a lesson for those doing this job – check every copy found, in books and online. Several of the well known, even famous posters we’ve seen here exist in variant forms – sometimes with different text, sometimes with different backgrounds – or more, as we shall see. It’s apparently coincidental that all of these  are of Imperial Airways and most from the Smithsonian’s poster collection.


I posted the V.L Danvers 1938 ‘4 Engines For Security’ version at the start of the blog, here. But here we see another, earlier, 1934 version, with exactly the same artwork, albeit a different crop, but with a completely different text and thus embedded messages. It’s interesting the earlier one shows less of the original painting – for some reason in 1934 they chose to discard art on both sides. The later ‘4 Engines …’ is all about safety, the earlier ‘Travel Luxuriously’ was all about ‘the greatest air service in the world’ with ‘the world’s largest air liners’. The font for the ‘Travel Luxuriously’ version, is a lot less tidy than in the other poster – note the ‘R’ in ‘Luxuriously’ and ‘g’ in ‘largest’ – correct for the font, but somewhat ragged looking. Note also ‘air liners’ as two words, then, a classic example of words  becoming one over time.


Next up is the cutaway Empire flying boat we posted back here. I was surprised to find another version I’d not seen before (particularly as I’d been searching for non-Qantas marked examples, so I had been looking). This seems at first glace to be a 1937 night version of the day poster, listed by the Smithsonian as by James Gardner (1908-1995) – yet side by side it’s clear that this is a whole new poster, although exactly the same base drawing and cutout areas of the flying boat have been used (slightly rotated). One presumes because the significant workload of creating the cutout would be a lot more work to redraw, while repainting over the projection would be a big time saving. Even so, it’s mostly a new poster, yet with a familiar feel. You can quickly see different registration letters are used for different aircraft, and the shadows fall from different directions, not just because they’re cast by the sun and the moon!

But there’s more – at least two more versions of the ‘night’ version, but the more expected variations – one, the same poster with a new background (and text) and the other a French language text replacing the English. Then a daytime version of the ‘night’ one (confused yet?) without any advertising text, and apparently intended for a book or magazine insert.


I haven’t dared look closely to make a side by side comparison, yet. What else might become evident? I’m still being surprised by even apparently familiar old friends in this project. Are you?

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

‘New’ versions from the Smithsonian’s excellent digitised collection, the Heracles poster here and the first Short C.30 ‘night’ here, the French ‘night’ here and the ‘coast’ here. The ‘non-commercial’ version from Flickr here.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Phil Vabre says:

    The tighter crop on the first version of the HP.42 poster makes it look larger and more imposing, don’t you think?

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