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1930s - finding new users

Two very different examples of 1930s Telephone lieterature

Tallents, Sir Stephen (1884-1958) : early marketing genius

Sir Stephen Tallents was an advertising high-flier of the 1930s, who possibly did more than anyone else to expand the market for the telephone.

Between 1926 and 1933, Tallents' reputation as an imaginative and effective civil servant, led to his selection as Secretary of the Empire Marketing Board (EMB), where he specialised in promoting awareness of the British Empire through an innovative programme of press and poster campaigns, exhibitions, shops and radio broadcasts. Foreshadowing his later work at the Post Office, he set up (under John Grierson) the EMB Film Unit, which pioneered the production of documentary films.

With the demise of the EMB he was appointed Public Relations Officer for the GPO, where he devised a series of marketing and advertising campaigns that were ground-breaking and bold for their time - and in retrospect have been hailed as brilliant.

Publicity leaflet, designed by Leslie Holland

Artists and illustrators : illustration becomes a fine art

Between the wars there was a new fashion in British advertising to use fine artists to bring out the best in graphic design. The expanding publicity department of the Post Office embraced and developed the trend, to improve the quality of its marketing images.

Young artists were commissioned fresh from art schools, many of whom went on to achieve great success in their careers.

Greetings Telegram publicity poster - from the BT Archives

Greetings telegrams (1935) : bringing telegrams out of the gloom

As the telephone rose in popularity, the telegram started to decline, until eventually its main use was for communicating bad news. It was great to chat on the telephone - but easier to let someone know of a death in the family through a telegram.

In 1935, to buck the depressing trend and try to return the telegraph system to a more sustainable level of traffic, the Post Office introduced the 'Greetings Telegram' and encouraged the public to share joyful news like a birth or wedding with their loved ones.

The service carried a premium price but was a great success, which reversed the fortunes of the telegram and guaranteed its existence for several decades.

Three Minutes of Heaven' sheet music

Three minutes of heaven (1930s) : serenaded in a song

By the thirties it seemed as if the telephone had entered everyone's consciousness as there was no part of society that hadn't embraced it. So much so that it even became serenaded in this love song.

Long-distance calls were paid for in blocks of three minutes and sometimes if lines were busy this was all the time a caller would be allowed. The song picked up on this theme, which was illustrated by a soldier having an intimate chat with his girlfriend.

The song goes:
Poverty has never been a crime
So I save my pennies all the time
Twice a week on distance telephone
To speak to you alone
Three minutes of heaven and it seems too good to be true
Three minutes of heaven and soon I'll be with you
Three minutes of heaven are when we're together alone
It's three minutes of heaven at some old telephone ......

Telegram printing

Telegram printing
fun and games

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The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

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