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August 2015

My name is Alison Roper and I look after the Lucas Collection at the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust; this comprises archive material and also a number of artefacts representative of the Lucas company’s diverse range of products and activities.

The Lucas archive contains a wide variety of material: publications, letters, photographs and negatives, posters, advertisements, sales aids, wiring diagrams, catalogues and films, to name but a few. These relate not only to the parent company but also to its many famous subsidiaries such as CAV, Rotax and Girling. This diversity helps us trace what became a worldwide name back to its origins selling cycle oil lamps in Birmingham in the 1880s.

Happily the material does not simply relate to products. It also provides a great insight into what it was like to work for the company. Photographs and documents illustrate a huge variety of social, sporting and work-related events which for many people seems to have made working for Lucas feel like being part of a family. There were productivity campaigns, safety campaigns and quality campaigns, coronation celebrations, sports days, sports clubs, craft competitions, doll dressing competitions, Easter bonnet parades, retirement and leaving presentations, all there for us to see in photographs, posters and house magazines.

Lucas Safety Drive

Why This Document?

My document of the month is a safety campaign poster which goes by the chilling title ‘I won’t be scalped’.

Work began on collecting material for a Lucas archive and museum when the company was operating at its Great King Street headquarters, largely at the instigation of the Advertising Department. It would appear from the wealth of advertising material in the collection that this department played a prominent role in the company so I think it’s appropriate to choose a poster designed by them.

‘I won’t be scalped’ is one of a series from a safety campaign which includes other similar warnings of the dire consequences of daydreaming, standing underneath heavy loads, not looking where one is going and not keeping one’s mind on the job. I like the contrast between the femininely-overalled, nail-painted operative and the stark warning of the dreadful fate which would befall her if she were not to tie her hair back in a safety-conscious fashion. Sadly this poster was not in great condition when it came to light but I’m delighted that it has recently been restored and we can continue to enjoy it, not only as a rather quirky piece of artwork but also as piece of social history.

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