Edwin J Embleton was born in Hornsey, London, studied at Hornsey Art School and did ‘hound work’ at a studio off the Grays Inn Road. In 1924 he started work at Odhams Press as a layout and lettering artist at £2.00 per week. He later became Studio Manager for Odhams Press. Embleton, although a commercial and graphic designer, has not been personally identified on any wartime posters, but, along with three other staff from Odhams, was seconded to the MOI at the outbreak of the Second World War.As Art Director and Studio Manager, Embleton employed up to seventy members of staff by the end of the war, including ‘painters, designers, illustrators, visualisers, layout artists, typographers, retouchers, letterers and calligraphers, cartographers, pictorial statistics’, and cartoonists. This effectively created ‘an advertising agency within the publication division of the Ministry of Information’. Embleton’s task was to produce all required official government literature, and he was in charge of the design, poster and visualising group for both the general and overseas production divisions. Embleton was responsible for preparing, overseeing and following the projects through to completion, and was given a free hand to commission designs from whichever artists and designers he chose. Embleton returned to Odhams Press after peace was declared in 1945.
Winston Churchill wrote a special letter of thanks through the Minister of Information for a ‘special job of work’ and Embleton was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his service to the war effort. Various items from his collection of MOI printed material are held at the National Art Library (NAL), and the Imperial War Museum (IWM) holds three scrapbooks of press clippings related to the MOI, which Embleton kept throughout the war. In September 1989, Embleton’s collection of Second World War posters was put up for auction by Onslow’s, specialist auctioneers.
Information collated from: ‘Edwin J Embleton 1907- Great Britain, Ministry of Information’, AAD/1996/4 – Archive of Art & Design. Entry in Public Access Catalogue, National Art Library, V&A; National Art Library, ‘AAD Holdings’, http://www.nal.vam.ac.uk/aad/aadalpha.html, accessed August 28 2003; Onslow’s Auction Catalogue, ‘War Posters: Including the Great War and E J Embleton Collection of Second World War Posters’, September 14 1989 (A copy of the catalogue for this exhibition is held at the Imperial War Museum); Questionnaire submitted by Royall, K. to Embleton, E., Royall, K., ‘Posters of the Second World War: The Fourth Arm of British Defence’, Unpublished M.A., University of Westminster, 1991, p.123 [Royall is Graduate Officer at the V&A.]
You can now visit the Embleton Archives at the University of Brighton, which holds a lot of Ministry of Information material, not as much as the Imperial War Museum or National Archives (yes, I wrote that page too!), but I found them very helpful in accessing a number of design texts (living nearby helped!).
Featured Image: Embleton Archives
Mass Communications Academic, @MMUBS. British Home Front Propaganda posters as researched for a PhD completed 2004. In 1997, unwittingly wrote the first history of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, which she now follows with interest.