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MacDonald Gill – The International Tea Market Expansion Board Limited – Tea Around the World – 1951

  • Author: GILL, Leslie MacDonald (artist)
  • Publisher: The International Tea Market Expansion Board Ltd (ITMEB)
  • Engraver: S H Benson (SHB) Ltd
  • Date: [1940]1951
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 153 x 75 cms


Stunning 1951 World map poster extolling the benefits of tea consumption – a reissue of MacDonald Gill’s iconic 1940 original

About this piece:

Leslie MacDonald Gill (artist) – The International Tea Market Expansion Board Limited (publishers)

[1940] 1951

Tea Around the World

Sheet: 153 x 75 cms. Colour printed lithograph in bright and attractive condition. Ample margins as issued. Some light soiling and very minor damage at upper and lower left corners at edges of sheet. Some old creasing to sheet at upper left corner with some localised retouching of outer black border line. Several old pinholes to corners and peripheries of sheet. The entire verso of sheet backed with museum-quality archival tissue. With the imprint of S H Benson (SHB) Ltd, advertising agency and printers, in lower left blank margin, and with the additional words “Reqd No.1396” (as compared to the 1940 edition which has the words “No. 4611” after SHB Ltd). Given its dimensions, a remarkably well-preserved example.

Extremely rare & bibliographically unknown 1951 re-issue of MacDonald Gill’s iconic 1940 “Tea Map of the World”.

Gill’s remarkable large-scale Poster map was an impressive promotional piece originally issued at the beginning of the Second World War by the International Tea Market Expansion Board (ITMEB), the London-based vehicle through which Britain’s & the Netherlands’ colonial tea producers, principally in India, Ceylon, and the Dutch East Indies, organised their tea sales and distribution on the international market and promoted wider tea consumption around the World.

Caroline Walker, in her superbly researched and beautifully illustrated biography of her relative, Leslie MacDonald Gill [1884-1947], highlights the background to the original production and publication of this spectacular map in 1940:

“Max also managed to produce the artwork that would become a sixteen-sheet tea poster, “Tea Revives the World”, which, when printed and assembled would measure some 20 x 10 feet, an enormous map to rival his “Highways of Empire”. It was pasted on street hoardings around the country, while a scaled-down version was printed for display on the walls of tea companies and their retail emporia. The poster had been commissioned in 1937 by Gervas Huxley, now joint head of advertising at the Tea Marketing Expansion Board, a new organisation representing all the regional tea boards. He believed that having rival tea boards with separate advertising campaigns simply “diverted trade from one producer to another” and was therefore a waste of their natural resources.

The map was finished on 3 October 1940, just one month after London and other British cities had begun suffering the horrors and devastation of the Blitz. Although the map’s original aim had been to encourage tea drinking by all ages, genders and nationalities, thereby increasing profits for tea companies such as Liptons, it can also be seen as a piece of imperial propaganda. It show tea as a unifying drink enjoyed by people in every corner of the globe and for those suffering the hardships of the Blitz it extolled the virtues of a nice cup of tea by means of quotations, such as Longfellow’s “Tea urges the tranquillity of the soul” which echoes the Ministry of Information slogan “Keep calm and carry on”. The map is also packed with facts and figures, including such oddities as “Samuel Johnson drank 16 or more cups of tea at a sitting.”

MacDonald Gill – Charting a Life p.281 (& double-page illustration of map, pp.282-3)

This hitherto bibliographically unknown 1951 reissue of the map replicates almost all of orginal detail of its 1940 precursor, though two significant features are amended and updated.

The white-lettered title of the map, displayed in a stunning red banner that stretches across the upper part of the image, is amended from “Tea Revives the World”  to the simpler and perhaps more inclusive “Tea Around the World”. This would appear to be the only example that is currently known with this new & revised title. Additionally, the triple display panel of facts and figures about tea production in the lower left corner is now brought up to date to show the figures for Tea Production, Exports and Imports in the period since the late 1930s, as originally outlined on the 1940 edition.

It is interesting to compare the two. In the period between 1934 & 1938, international tea exports had averaged roughly 871 million Pounds (by weight) per annum. This dropped dramatically in the immediate aftermath of the War (to 741 million, 1946-1948) before rising again in the late 1940s to an average of 941 million Pounds per annum. The principal tea suppliers to the World in the pre-war period (1934-1938) were India, Ceylon, and the Dutch East Indies, whose combined 700 million Pounds (by weight) per annum represented some 80% of global tea exports. By contrast, in the post-war period, between 1949-50, the principal tea suppliers to world markets had now expanded considerably to include China & Formosa, East Africa and Nyasaland, newly-established Pakistan and Japan, as well as the three main exporters, India, Ceylon and Indonesia. And the significantly larger annual average of 890 million Pounds (in total) colllectively supplied from all these countries now represented 99% of the World’s total tea exports.

It is equally interesting to compare the level of tea imports between the two editions of the map. In the UK, the annual average of tea imports between 1934-38 and 1945-9 drops from 435 million Pounds (by weight) to just under 409 million respectively. Those into Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands also fall significantly, from 23 million to just under 19 million in Eire and from 23 million to just under 12 million in Holland. Interestingly tea imports into the USA remain static at 83 million over the decade. By contrast tea imports into both Canada and Australia grow slightly, in Canada from 38 million to 41.6 million and in Australia from 46 million to 47.7 million.

Apart from the insertion of the words “Revised 1951” below Gill’s signature & the original 1940 date in the small panel at the lower right corner of the map, all of the engraved detail and decorative embellishment of the map appears to remain entirely unchanged. The map is a wonderful encyclopaedic compilation of tea trivia, incorporating famous quotations about Tea and its efficacious qualities from a wide range of authors including Dr Johnson, Sydney Smith, William Gladstone and ancient Chinese scholar, Lu Yu. The innumerable decorative embellishments and illustrations across the map also provide an array of historical references to tea and highlight its hugely significant economic & cultural impact across the World & through the centuries.

We know little about the background to the 1951 advertising campaign for which this new edition was printed. As with the 1940 poster, the campaign was clearly organised under the auspices of the Samuel H Benson (SHB Ltd) advertising agency, whose initials appear in the lower right corner. They were behind many of the advertising campaigns of British consumer staples of the 1920s and 1930s such as Bovril and Coleman’s Mustard. It seems likely it was part of an attempt to revive declining tea consumption around the World in the post-war period, an era that also witnessed the independence of many former colonies of both Britain and the Netherlands which also happened to be primary centres of tea cultivation & production, notably India & Pakistan, Ceylon, and the former Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Britain’s imperial standing in the post-war World was much diminished as this onward march towards colonial independence gained momentum. Wartime rationing had also had a major impact on the international tea market and abetted the decline of tea consumption in the UK itself and in many other countries around the globe. Equally demographic changes and significant post-war immigration from Europe into countries such as Australia & the United States, and the latter’s increasingly close cultural links with Central & South America, accompanied as this was by social habits and cultural palettes more accustomed to the daily consumption of coffee rather than tea, also placed constraints on achieving any significant growth in tea consumption in these countries, even with the help of extensive advertising campaigns. Indeed, as Erika Rappaport notes in her wonderful book,  A Thirst for Empire – How Tea shaped the Modern World,  America was a particularly challenging marketplace in these post-war years. In 1951 half of the ITMEB’s advertising budget of nearly £750,000 was targeted at the US market. But television and the rapidly rising cost of US consumer advertising and the pressure exerted by the competiton of huge US soft drinks manufacturers such as Coca Cola and others demonstrated that this annual advertising budget was simply not sufficient or robust enough to make any significant impression on US consumers.

Gervas Huxley [1894-1971] who had headed the ITMEB prior to the War and had commissioned the original Gill Tea map in 1937, had returned to this post after World War Two (after being seconded to the Ministry of Information) and in 1951 was once again the Board’s Vice-Chairman. He was most probably the driving force behind the new advertising campaign and this updated reissue of Gill’s iconic poster.

As Erika Rappaport continues:

When Gervas Huxley..and…colleagues thought about selling tea after the war, they were not sure whom they worked for, what they were selling, how to go about promotion, or whether they would be paid. Independence, Partition, Coca Cola, communism, austerity and the continuation of rationing in Britain challenged an industry that had devolved into rival nations with unclear borders. The end of Empire made bodies such as the International Tea Market Expansion Board anachronistic or, worse, a holdover from the imperial past. Thus it might be suprising to find that this body and its successors did not immediately disband at independence. India, Ceylon, Pakistan and other producing nations actually continued to work together to sell tea in key markets, employed the same sort of methods they had used in the past….To put it simply, whilst producing areas became separate nations, trade associations…and international agencies such as the ITMEB, acted as though they were working the same world as had existed in the 1930s….

The chameleon agency dropped imperial rhetoric and presented itself wholly as “a service organisation” that provided “information and service to those who sell, distribute and consume tea”. Or as Gervas Huxley explained, his job and that of the ITMEB was “to maintain and expand a climate of public opinion favorable to tea consumption”. This involved selling itself as an “international” agency that could foster “frequent personal interchanges between producers and consumers in Britain and its former colonies”….The Tea Buyers’ Association called the ITMEB….”the national shop window of the Tea Trade” and a “press liaison service” disseminating, documenting, and shaping media information about the commodity”

(Erika Rappaport – A Thirst for Empire – How Tea Shaped the World, pp.352-353)

In this regard, Gill’s revised 1951 Tea poster more than fulfilled the stated aims & purposes of the post-war ITMEB.

As a final footnote, it is no surprise to discover that Gervas Huxley himself would continue the self-same promotional work encapsulated in Gill’s poster, when, five years later, he wrote his own personal paean to Britain’s favourite national beverage, The Story of Tea (Thames & Hudson, 1956)!

Several examples of the “scaled-down” original 1940 poster are held in institutional collections around the world, including one at the British Library (acquired from us several years ago). To our knowledge no other examples of this revised 1951 issue with the amended title appear to be known. The example in the National Library of Australia (see below) is a similarly revised 1951 issue, but interestingly retains the original 1940 title “Tea Revives the World”. In all other respects it appears to match our example exactly.

A true rarity, this remarkable large-scale poster remains one of MacDonald Gill’s most impressive and iconic works.



National Library of Australia [revised 1951 edition but with original “Tea Revives the World” title]

British Library: Tea Revives the World [1940] 

David Rumsey Collection: Tea Revives the World [1940]

Caroline Walker: MacDonald Gill – Charting a Life [Unicorn, 2020], pp 281 & 282-83 (ill)

Peter Barber & Tom Harper: Magnificent Maps – Power Propaganda and Art [British Library, 2020], pp. 166 & 167-68 (ill)

Erika Rappaport: A Thirst for Empire – How Tea shaped the Modern World [Princeton University Press, 2017]