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Post Office Radio-Telephone Services

  • Author: GILL, (Leslie) MacDonald (artist)
  • Publisher: General Post Office (GPO)
  • Date: 1935
  • Dimensions: 123 x 99 cms


MacDonald Gill’s stunning large 1935 map poster – the global radio-telephone communications network of British Post Office

About this piece:

Post Office Radio-Telephone Services

Colour-printed map poster printed on thick paper stock and in fine bright & fresh colours. Some very minor creasing and some occasional raggedness to outer sheet edges. Generally a fine example.

Commissioned by the GPO in 1935, MacDonald Gill’s striking map poster depicting the impressive international radio and telephone networks of the British inter-war postal service. The map itself is framed by attractive vignettes in the upper corners depicting in diagrammatic fashion the transmission and receipt of long and short radio waves. Across the bottom of the poster five roundel vignettes depict the working environment and scientific hardware of modern radio telephony. The first shows the Telephony Transmitter Room of Rugby Radio Station; the second the main Power House of the same facility; the third London’s Faraday House, the Post Office’s International Telephone Exchange; the fourth the Rugby Station’s Long Wave Aerial Tuning Inductance Coil; and finally the fifth, the same facility’s Demountable Valve.

The Rugby Radio Station first began transmitting on January 1st 1926 using the call sign “GBR”. In its time it was one of the world’s most powerful radio transmitters, its low frequency waves following the curvature of the earth, so enabling messages to travel huge distances around the globe and provide important one-way communication with the overseas outposts of Britain’s Empire. It later played a vital role in the transmission of covert submarine communications during the Cold War. It finally ceased transmitting in March 2003. However the Station’s Long Wave Aerial Tuning Inductance Coil, pictured in the fourth vignette, was saved, and after careful restoration, now has pride of place in the London Science Museum’s Information Age Gallery

The unusual semi-circular map projection depicts British colonial outposts (in pink) and the dark black network of radio communications that appear to emanate from London & spread, in spider-like fashion, around the globe. Curiously the map includes Antarctica twice in the lower left, below South America, and in the lower right, below Australia. Appropriate quotations from Ovid, Tennyson, Wolfe and Shakespeare on the theme of waves and the girth of the earth further embellish the peripheries of the map.

The GPO’s new circular logo with Royal Crown and initials, also designed by Gill, is added in the lower left corner. The poster is also signed by Gill and dated 1935 in a small scrolled banner in the lower right. Just below in the lower corner outside the printed border, the poster bears the publisher’s imprint “P.R.D. 98”.

Gill himself also mentions his work for the Post Office in a December 1944 article entitled Decorative Maps which appeared in The Studio Magazine (p.166):

For the General Post Office I designed one (poster) showing the Radio Telephone Services of the World (with the wave lengths in diagram), one of the Steamship Routes (which offered an opportunity to display chronologically the shipbuilding up the ages) and another of the Wireless Stations of Great Britain…

In all a fine example of this striking decorative map poster, making a fine & well-matched companion to the similarly designed Post Office Steamship Routes poster of 1937.

Refs: David Rumsey Collection; MacDonald Gill: Decorative Maps (in The Studio Magazine, Dec 1944, pp.161-169)