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Ceylon, her Tea and other Industries

  • Author: GILL, (Leslie) MacDonald (artist) (after)
  • Publisher: The Ceylon Tea Centre, London (publishers)
  • Date: c1945-50 or later ?
  • Dimensions: 74 x 47 cms


A fine post-war reduction of MacDonald’s Gill early 1930s map of Ceylon published by London’s Ceylon Tea Centre, c1950(?)

About this piece:

Ceylon, her Tea and other Industries

Lithographic colour printing, the colours fresh & bright. Ample margins. Some slight paper creasing, most notably across diagonal at lower right corner. Overall a very attractive example.

This uncommon pictorial map poster is a reduced and revised version of MacDonald Gill’s striking 1933 Map of Ceylon showing her Tea and other industries commissioned under the auspices of the impressively named Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board (CTPB) which had first been established in 1932.

Ceylon’s reputation as a great centre of tea production had emerged in the 19th Century through the operations of such men as James Taylor & Thomas Lipton.

As an established nation of tea drinkers, it was only natural that Great Britain should be Ceylon’s principal market for her teas, taking some 67% of Ceylonese tea exports in the early 1930s. However there was a significant overall decline in Britain’s tea drinking capacity during this same period, which was also accompanied by reports of an equally worrying decline in the quality of that exported tea, much of it said to be being adulterated with poorer quality substitutes.

The aim of the CTPB was threefold: to try and reverse the decline in tea drinking in Britain through active marketing and promotion of Ceylon tea; to ensure a control on the high quality of Ceylon tea exports by banning adulterated or sub-standard tea through officially established validation, inspection & quality checking procedures: and thirdly to try to expand the potential market for Ceylon tea amongst Britain’s other colonial dominions, especially in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, as well as in the United States, where both hot and iced teas offered potentially lucrative new opportunities. A levy was introduced on all export shipments of tea from Ceylon to support the new “propaganda” effort. And as an natural extension of this programme, a new Ceylon-based International Tea Market Expansion Board (ITMEB) was also established in 1935. The “propaganda” effort brought together a wide range of writers, artists and film makers, and it is interesting to note that it was in 1934 that the now famous “Song of Ceylon” documentary film directed by Basil Wright and produced by John Grierson was also broadcast under the auspices of the CTPB.

Macdonald Gill’s map of Ceylon was part of this same campaign, and was described in the Tea and Coffee Journal of 1934 as …a most artistic pictorial map…a valuable medium for bringing the Island to the general public. It was accompanied by a small 12 page explanatory booklet authored by John Still, the Secretary of the London-based Ceylon Association, and honorary Ceylon trade representative in Britain for the community of commercial tea planters and growers on the Island. Copies of Gill’s posters were distributed widely within Britain and around Britain’s colonial dominions in large numbers, as were promotional map postcards, also designed by Gill.

Whilst plans for a London-based Ceylon Tea Headquarters had been postponed at the time of the formation of the CTPB in the early 1930’s, it is known that the Ceylon Tea Centre did eventually open its doors to the British public in London in 1946 at a new & large Headquarters building in Regent Street. The Ceylon Tea Centre became a significant feature of the central London’s post-war landscape, almost an unofficial representative of the Dominion of Ceylon in London, prior to Sri Lankan independence in 1972. Further Ceylon Tea Centres were also opened in Manchester and Glasgow in the 1950s & early 1960s. Competition arrived in the form of a rival Indian Tea Centre established in London’s Oxford Street in the early 1960s. It is very possible that this copy of Gill’s earlier pictorial map was in fact published at this time as a direct response to the perceived threat to Ceylon’s primacy in the British Tea market from the new Indian centre. This is probably the third or fourth example of this uncommon poster that we have handled in the last five or six years. Examples are also preserved in the Rumsey Collection & National Library of Australia.

Refs: Rumsey Collection (postwar Ceylon Tea Centre edition, (misdated(?) 1933); National Library of Australia