Government-issued posters in the late 1930s and 1940s urged people to buy war bonds or to conserve on scarce resources like gasoline. But others had important health and safety tips, including some issued by the British Ministry of Health from 1939-1945, that ring true in 2020.  
Particularly pertinent today are four posters, ranging from 19 3/4 inches by 30 in. to 22 inches by 28 inches, recently sold at Cowan’s Auctions. The British posters with artwork by HM Bateman (1887-1970) between 1939-1945 feature cartoons of people coughing or sneezing while surrounded by concerned onlookers. Messages include, “Ministry of Health says: – / Coughs and sneezes spread diseases / Trap the germs by using your handkerchief / Help to keep the Nation Fighting Fit,” reminiscent of health warnings right now.  

The posters are from a lot of six posters that auctioned at Cowan’s for $813. The other two posters, not pictured, advertised Victory Gardens and the Red Cross.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Trap the germs by using your handkerchief poster.





Photos: Cowan’s Auctions


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