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Colouring Inside the Lines 2

This post is a follow-up to Colouring Inside the Lines

At last I had the opportunity to trawl through back issues of the Evening News for 1907, and it proved to be very fruitful. The Evening News and its readers seem to have been fascinated by the latest developments underground. We have evidence that the newspaper worked directly with the UERL to choose a new ‘trade mark’ or logo at more or less the same time that it independently commissioned its own tube map from George Philip and Son (rather than Waterlow and Sons or Johnson Riddle, the firms used by the UERL) in order to fill a ‘void’. This map first appeared in late April 1907, even earlier than I had thought, and the colour coding was a special feature, a selling point picked out in block capitals in contemporary advertisements: ‘EACH TUBE IN A DIFFERENT COLOUR’.

On April 24 1907 the Evening News announced that ‘the London Underground Electric Railways Company has £10 to count out to any reader… who can supply it with its new insignia’. By May 1 it reported that all London was ‘attacked by sketching fever’, and almost every issue reminded readers that ‘what is wanted is a simple emblem, plainly distinguishable, able to be seen from a long distance, and which will be liable to be remembered’ (May 2). The competition closed on May 11, and a winner was announced on May 18.  The winning design by Mr W.J. Pawsey, ‘employed in the showcard department of Imperial Tobacco’ was chosen from 4000 entries by the editor of the Evening News and a representative of the UERL. The UERL expressed satisfaction with their new trade mark, and with its legends ‘Swift and Sure’ and ‘the way through London’, Pawsey’s design was in official use for a year or two.

Pawsey Swift and Sure UERL logo

W.J. Pawsey’s 1907 ‘Swift and Sure’ UERL trade mark

All this reveals that the Evening News and the UERL could work together if they wanted to, and say so if they did, and although it was a smart publicity stunt it also suggests that the new organisation was still quite weak on the design front. On April 24 the Evening News suggested that readers might want to study the map of the network for inspiration, noting that ‘older maps are obtainable at all Piccadilly and Bakerloo Tube stations’. By May 2 readers were told that ‘the ‘Evening News’ Tube Map and Guide… may also help you. In a plain and compact form it shows the whole of the underground systems of London’.  It was on sale for three pence (later editions cost one penny) ‘at all newsagents and bookstalls’. It was first advertised on April 25, and for a fortnight from April 29 copies were given away to advertisers who spent at least one shilling in the classified section of the paper. It was cross promoted in other Evening News competitions. As well as the competition to design the UERL logo, it was the basis of a clue in ‘the great mystery’ (May 10), a competition to solve the disappearance of Mr Ronald ‘X’. 

The early box advertisements are the most substantial and revealing. That of April 25 explained: ‘the opening of London’s new tubes and the linking up of the old ones have necessitated a handy guide to London’s latest travelling facilities. The ‘Evening News’ London Tube Map fills the void. Containing no advertisements, it has been produced simply with a view to the useful purpose it will serve… The cost is 3d. – but do not think of the cost, think of what it will save, not only in money but in time… it is a well-printed large scale map produced in eight colours – each tube in a different colour – each station distinctly marked, and the connection between each Tube system brought out in the respective colours of the lines to which it refers. Nothing could be clearer. Other railways and the tramways which feed these Tubes are also shown. Cheapness has not been thought of in the compilation of this map. It has been prepared with care by the London Geographical Institute [ie George Philip and Son] with a view to legibility and the useful every day purpose it is intended to serve’.

The advertisement of April 26 is similar, once again emphasising the colour element in both text and layout, and the originality of the design. The new map ‘gives a large scale map of the different tubes and connections with each tube in a separate colour… specially prepared by the London Geographical Institute’.  The advertisements placed over the next few days are variations of a theme: ‘essential to the Londoner and the visitor to London’ (April 27).

Before the Underground Group brought design firmly in house after the First World War, their official maps were designed by their printers. It may be that the design briefs survive in the London Transport Archive – it would be interesting to learn more about the level of input which was forthcoming from the UERL itself. Having created a design, the printers then exercised a degree of control over it. Referring to the 1911 map (one of the first with simplified line trajectories; see ‘Underground Maps Unravelled’, p. 29), Maxwell Roberts notes that the printer Johnson Riddle ‘was sufficiently pleased with the design to register it’.

In any case, the UERL’s earliest official maps carried over some of the worst design sins of its wholly independent predecessors, emphasising its own lines over those of its rivals, at the expense of producing a map which was easy for passengers to use. It really does seem that one of the things we take for granted in the modern map, easily differentiated colour-coded lines, was introduced by a London newspaper. However, there’s one other intriguing mystery. The original ‘Evening News’ Tube Map and Guide was issued with a smaller map of the environs of London and a bird’s eye view of Theatreland, and it was issued in April, not June 1907 (as illustrated above). I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a copy.   

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2 Responses to Colouring Inside the Lines 2

  1. John Sweeney 21/07/2016 at 19:48 #

    Fascinating as ever Tim. Glad the Maxwell Roberts book was of some interest.

  2. Peter B Lloyd 31/07/2016 at 12:45 #

    Astounding, Holmes, astounding!

    Tim, you are a hero. I must admit I was, at first, sceptical of your theory that the colour-coded map of the London underground railways was invented by the Evening Standard. But you have proven it! Excellent detective work! It must have been exhausting but exhilarating to trawl through the Evening Standards of 1907. (Microfilm or the original paper copies?)

    This is a very exciting contribution to our understanding of the historical evolution of the London Underground map.

    I am looking forward to further discoveries on your odyssey through the archives!

    Peter

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