An A to Z of the Shell Heritage Art Collection

This A to Z takes you on a journey through the Shell Heritage Art Collection to explore the history of Shell's advertising in the 20th century. Behind each letter is an insight into the unique ways the company used art, sponsorship, products and extraordinary marketing to develop and promote the Shell brand.


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Shell Heritage Art Collection A to Z

A is for Artist

From the 1920s to the mid 1950s, Shell commissioned known and unknown artists to produce artworks for Shell’s advertising posters, known as Lorry Bills. The most innovative designs were produced from 1932, when Jack Beddington became responsible for the company’s advertising. Under Beddington’s direction a list of artists, not instinctively associated with commercial art, were commissioned to convey simple messages for the Lorry Bills. Some of these artists went on to become famous names in British contemporary art, including: John Armstrong, Ben Nicholson, Edward Ardizzone, Duncan Grant, Tristram Hillier, Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and Vanessa Bell.

In 1938 Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery, pronounced Shell to be ‘among the best patrons of modern art. They are all that a patron should be – they employ young and little – known artists, they provide definite subjects and they make it possible for an artist’s work to be enjoyed by a very large number of people.’

Artists were also commissioned to produce illustrations and cartoons for use in Shell’s press advertisements, from the 1920s through to the late 1980s. The Shell Heritage Art Collection holds examples of these advertisements by artists such as; Rex Whistler, Edward Bawden, Mel Calman and Charles Mozley.

From the left: Hans Schleger, Edward McKnight Kauffer and Shell’s Publicity Manager, Jack Beddington.  Photograph.

B is for Brand

For more than 100 years Shell has been a leading name in the oil industry. Shell has stood the test of time as one of the most recognised brands in the world.

The origins of Shell can be dated back to a small London antique business owned by Marcus Samuel in the 19th century, popular for its oriental seashells. In 1891, the business started trading kerosene with the Far East, in tankers named after different seashells. Business boomed and in 1897 the ‘Shell Transport and Trading Company’ was founded.

By 1904 a scallop shell, or ‘Pecten’ emblem as it’s known, had been introduced to give an image to the corporate name. The Shell Pecten has evolved considerably since then in line with contemporary trends in graphic design. The current Pecten was created by Raymond Loewy and introduced in 1971.

The strength of Shell’s advertising has continuously promoted the image and reputation of the Shell brand by ensuring its name and the logo were firmly embedded into every household. The progression of the Pecten can be seen throughout the Shell Heritage Art Collection. The Pecten features on all forms of advertising including: postcards, Lorry Bills, oil cans, memorabilia, publications and educational material.

The Shell Pecten from 1900 to the present day.

C is for Campaigns

Shell’s early posters caught the attention of art critics and the British public for its selection of advertising campaigns, bursting with catchy and memorable slogans.

In the mid 1920s Shell adopted abstract campaigns in order to sell the Shell brand to the British public. Colourful images paired with memorable slogans, such as ‘Quick Starting Pair’, ‘Pull’ and ‘That’s Shell – That Was’, worked to endorse the reliability of Shell’s products.

The most prominent campaign that Shell used throughout the 20th century was one centred on Britain. Shell promoted motoring as a leisure activity, encouraging people to get out in their cars and explore the country. This started in 1925 with the ‘See Britain First’ campaign. In the 1930s Britain continued to be celebrated in the ‘Everywhere You Go’ and ‘To Visit Britain’s Landmarks’ campaigns. These used follies and natural landscapes to tempt the British public to drive out in to the countryside.

1930s advertising also targeted new audiences with the ‘People Prefer’ campaign. The series showed the broad range of people that opted for Shell, including: Farmers, Film Stars, Tourists and Doctors. No reason was given as to why these people preferred Shell, it was simply enough that they did.

Theatre Goers Use Shell, John Armstrong, 1938. Poster.


D is for

Discovering Britain

ITV first arrived on British screens on 22nd September 1955, and along with it came the birth of TV advertising in the UK. As frontrunners in British advertising, Shell made their TV debut on ITV’s second day on the air, with a three minute film titled ‘Discovering Britain with John Betjeman’. This continued Shell’s tradition of promoting the discovery of Britain and Betjeman took to the roads talking about everything but petrol.

Betjeman was the perfect choice to narrate the series of short films. As a poet, journalist and TV and Radio presenter, Betjeman made a prestigious reputation for himself as one of Britain’s most loved broadcasters. Britain’s landscapes, architecture and heritage were the focal point of Betjeman’s career.

Together with Shell and Random Film Productions, Betjeman made twenty-six of these three minute films. The short travelogues highlighted how and why you should visit the selected locations. The films were not overcome with academic commentary, but instead Betjeman’s narration was instinctive and original. The films covered various locations including: Avebury, Abingdon, West Wycombe, Clifton Suspension Bridge and Mereworth Castle. Shell also produced leaflets to accompany the weekly short films.

Discovering Britain with John Betjeman, 1955-6. Film still.

E is for Exhibitions

The Shell Heritage Art Collection is committed to ensuring that its artworks are enjoyed by as many people as possible through a variety of exhibitions and displays. Individual works are also loaned to museums and galleries across the UK and Europe for bespoke exhibitions.

In the 1930s Shell’s Lorry Bills were so well received that a demand for exhibitions of the artwork emerged. Exhibitions were held at the New Burlington Galleries in 1931 and 1934, and at Shell-Mex House in 1938. Shell was highly commended by critics of the day for bringing art to the public. Exhibitions of the artwork continued, and prove to be just as popular today.

The success of the Collection’s exhibition history demonstrates the scope of the Collection and the diversity of artists and designs used. It also shows the public fondness towards such an important collection of British advertising.

A permanent exhibition of Shell’s heritage can be seen at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, where the Collection is housed. More examples from the Collection can also be seen at Mottisfont Abbey, Brooklands Museum and Nature in Art. Details of new exhibitions and items on loan from the Collection can be found on our What’s New page.

A selection of Shell Lorry Bills loaned for the Spot On! exhibition at the Danish Poster Museum, Aarhus, Denmark, 2015.


F is for Film

Shell’s earliest example of film dates back to 1927 when ‘Mr ... goes Motoring’ was commissioned. Designed by H. M. Bateman, the graphics of this silent, black and white animation, related to a series of posters produced by the artist for Shell in 1924.

As the popularity of cinemas soared in the 1930s, Shell seized the opportunity to bring their advertising to the big screen. The Shell Film Unit was set up in 1934 and started producing films to target this new audience.

One of the Unit’s first big successes was the animation ‘Birth of the Robot’, directed by Len Lye. Audiences watched as a motorist is stranded in the desert. Saved by Shell Oil, the motorist is reborn as the company’s trademark jointed robot man. The film played in over 300 cinemas to over 3 million people, a great success for the new Film Unit.

After the war, Shell continued to advance in film. The unit covered global motorsport events and produced historical and scientific documentaries. Some of Shell’s most memorable TV advertising came from the ‘Go Well- Go Shell’ campaign of the 1960s. The campaign aimed to entice motorists into the countryside, and featured the company’s mascot Mr Shell, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bing Crosby.

‘Mr... Goes Motoring’ by H. M. Bateman, 1927. Film still.

G is for Guides

One of Shell’s most memorable and loved products of the 20th century was the Shell County Guides. The popular guides were published over 50 years, between 1934 and 1984. During that time the guides covered 35 counties across Britain, in many editions, issues and designs.

Under the editorial control of John Betjeman, and later John Piper, the guides were commissioned to produce modern and comprehensive guides to the counties of Britain. Innovative writers, artists, designers and academics, such as John and Paul Nash and Robert Byron were used to illustrate a great fondness for Britain’s heritage and love of exploring it.

Unlike any guides before them, their distinctive quality comes from a combination of literature, history, art and design. Created to encourage the British public to take motoring holidays in Britain, the guides promoted a sense of national pride. By endorsing the discovery and pleasure of the British landscape the guides celebrated the ordinary and peculiar culture of small town Britain. In a gazetteer style they were neither too serious nor too trivial. They rarely discussed food or drink, or even accommodation. They were purely concerned with the pleasure of discovering the country. The guides documented a unique record of Britain during the 20th century.

A Shell Guide to Wiltshire cover, by David Verey, 1935. Edited by Robert Byron. Published by Architectural Press.

H is for Humour

Shell adopted a fun and humorous approach to much of its early advertising. Illustrations and witty rhymes inspired years of impressive campaigns that kept the public engaged with Shell.

Some of Shell’s early postcards and Lorry Bills mirrored the ‘Punch’ style comedy of the 1920s, with robust, clear humour. One of the most notable examples is H. M. Bateman’s series of lorry bills in which a motorist comically promotes his pride in using Shell.

In the 1930s Shell’s humour was transformed with the commissioning of quirky illustrators and cartoonists. Rex Whistler kicked off the new era of Shell humour with a series of ‘reversible head’ illustrations. One of Shell’s most successful campaigns of the 1930s was a series of adverts creating puns that played on place names from across the country. The series captured the imagination of the nation and resulted in countless suggestions from the public for future puns. Artists such as Denis Constanduros, Nicholas Bentley and most notably Edward Bawden contributed to the series.

The Collection holds numerous examples of humorous adverts covering topics related to the events of the time, society and motoring. With the success of TV and forecourt advertising, Shell’s humorous campaigns were scaled back in 1963.

His Worship the Mayor, Rex Whistler, 1932. Press advertisement.

I is for

International Aviation

In the early 1900s the new phenomenon of flying was taking off across the world. Public interest in flight provided Shell with an opportunity for exposure and established a long and successful relationship between Shell and aviation.

On 27 July 1909, Shell fuelled the first cross-Channel flight in a heavier than air machine, by Louis Blériot. Conscious to promote the brand and the power of its products, Shell promoted its achievements and attendance at Aviation events in their early advertising postcards.

In 1919 Shell fuelled the first transatlantic flight, famously achieved by John Alcock and Arthur Brown. Shell’s prominence in the industry was flourishing and the success of their aviation fuels was heavily publicised in their early Lorry Bills.

By the 1930s, Shell were fuelling some of the world’s biggest airline companies including, Imperial Airways, KLM, Luft Hansa and S.A.B.E.N.A. As business boomed, Shell continued to fuel record attempts. These achievements and the personalities behind them were promoted in Lorry Bills and press adverts.

From 1960s Shell developed oils for Concorde, and fuelled its first commercial flight in 1976. This event, plus earlier developments, made Shell a prominent figure in the development of aviation fuels and products.

International Aero Exhibition, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1929. Poster.

J is for Jack Beddington

Jack Beddington was a revolutionary figure in Shell’s advertising history. As Publicity Manager from 1932 to 1939, Beddington transformed the brands image, through artist commissions, campaign slogans and humorous press adverts. Britain’s commercial advertising heritage owes much to Beddington, and his extraordinary influence in this period of Shell’s history.

In 1928 during a meeting with F. L. Halford, General Manager of Shell UK, Beddington criticised the company’s advertising. It is rumoured that Halford responded with a job offer. If Beddington thought it was that bad, he should take it over and do it better. Beddington lacked previous experience of advertising, but with a good judgement, a brother in the art world and a position of power, Beddington excelled.

Beddington’s success in his new role made him a stand out patron of British art. Instead of commissioning safe academic poster artists, Beddington surprised and delighted the public by selecting artists such as Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash and Duncan Grant. A host of new, young talents were also sought by Beddington, who helped launch the careers of artists such as: Barnett Freedman, Richard Guyatt and Graham Sutherland.

Beddington’s new era of advertising shifted the focus from Shell’s products to the Shell brand. Under Beddington, Shell became a household name. 

Jack Beddington, Shell-Mex & BP Ltd. Publicity Manager, 1932-1939.

K is for Knocking

The modern car boasts a sophisticated engine and a variety of petrols and oils to choose from, but this was not always the case. Throughout the 20th century Shell researched and produced new products that would help avoid many of the problems that commonly faced early motorists.

Knocking is an unwanted problem that can occur during combustion. After part of the petrol-air mixture has burnt smoothly, the rest suddenly explodes causing a knocking noise. This annoying sound can cause severe damage to an engine. The superior anti-knock properties of Shell’s petrol were promoted through Shell’s Lorry Bills of the 1920s and 1930s.

During this period, the cold winter months also caused problems for motorists. Good quality products were developed to provide ease of starting in cold weather. Shell determined that different grades were necessary throughout the year, in order to protect cars from changing weather conditions. The importance of seasonal oils and petrols can be seen through the long running Summer and Winter campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s. Seasonal images promoted the need for these products: Summer adverts depicted sunny scenes of cricketers and tennis players, against the snowy views of the Winter series.

Shell for Anti-knock, Yunge, 1930. Poster.

L is for Lorry Bill

Posters are characteristic of Shell’s advertising during the 1920s and 1930s. Posters were made to fit boards of 30 by 45 inches (76cm by 114cm), and displayed on the side of Shell’s delivery lorries. These posters were known as Lorry Bills.

The early designs were very simple and illustrated Shell’s products. They were functional in their message, promoting the reliability of Shell’s petrol at a time when garages were few and far between.

As the design of the Lorry Bills progressed during the 1930s, they began to appeal to a wider audience. The Lorry Bills provided the country with a touring picture gallery, making art more accessible to the public. The public looked forward to the new lorry bills, and eagerly awaited the delivery lorry to catch a glimpse of the new design. The story of the Lorry Bill came to an end in 1953, when deliveries were taken over by tankers.

Between 1920 and 1953, over 500 Lorry Bill designs were created. The Shell Heritage Art Collection contains over 7,000 Lorry Bills, and some of the original artwork. The range of artists commissioned for these Lorry Bills makes this a unique collection of British advertising. 

A Shell Lorry Bill displayed on the side of a delivery lorry in 1925. Photograph.

M is for Motor Sport

Shell have supported motor racing since the Peking to Paris rally of 1907. The company has been a prominent name in Formula 1 since the beginning of the modern world championship in 1950.

Shell’s early victory sparked a strong relationship between Shell and the world of motor sport. Early advertising postcards of the 1910s illustrated the successes fuelled by Shell. The Lorry Bills of the 1920s announced more achievements on simple, text based posters. As Lorry Bill designs progressed throughout the 1920s and 1930s, motor racing was illustrated with bold, colourful images of racing cars in motion.

In 1937 the famous partnership between Shell and Ferrari was formed. Together the partnership won the first Formula 1 World Championship, and over the next 45 years brought victory in more than 150 races. Shell produced ‘Successes’ booklets in the 1950s and 1960s to document their triumphs. From the 1950s onwards Shell’s advertising turned to towards the publicity of the personalities behind the steering wheels. Partnerships, victories, products and developments achieved by Shell in the world of motor sport continued to be documented in advertising.

For Shell, motor sport has always been a great opening for high-profile advertising; and an even better opportunity to developing high performance fuels and lubricants.

Shell 1961 Successes. Shell publication.

N is for Nature

Britain’s natural landscape was a prominent feature in Shell’s early advertising. After the Second World War Shell started to produce more nature themed products including sound records, books, calendars, Lorry Bills and wallcharts.      

In 1952, Shell released a number of Lorry Bills showing a variety of British birds, as part of the Shell Tractor Oil series. Artists such as Harold Hussey, Leonard Applebee and Cedric Morris were commissioned to paint birds such as woodpeckers, owls and wrens.

From the 1960s Shell began to encourage an appreciation and understanding of Britain’s wildlife. In 1965, Shell released the Shell Guide to 12 great British Bird Sanctuaries with artists such as: Stanley Roy Badmin, Eric Ennion, Richard Eurich and Rowland Hilder selected to illustrate them. The series was promoted in full page press adverts and a calendar. This was followed in 1966 by The Shell Bird Book and the Shell Nature Lovers’ Atlas both by James Fisher. A set of Shell Nature Records were released in 1967, to help Britain’s naturists identify the sounds of birds, incorporating artwork by Peter Scott and Eric Ennion.

Numerous calendars and books continued to be published by Shell throughout the 1960s and 1970s, encouraging Britain to understand, enjoy and protect their nation’s wildlife.

Estuary Birds, A Shell Nature Record British Birds Series, 1967.

O is for Oil

Crude oil, or petroleum, is the natural fossil fuel that is used to produce oil and petrol. Shell has been a leading developer, producer and supplier in both oil and petrol since the early 1900s.

Shell first started selling petrol, or motor spirit as it was originally known, in 1904 in easily recognisable red cans. The red cans featured in Shell’s early advertising from 1908 until the mid 1920s when kerbside petrol pumps were beginning to pop up around Britain.

The advertising of Shell’s lubricants began in 1920, when the black ‘Motor Oil’ cans began to appear in the early lorry bills. In the early 1920s, four grades of Shell oil were available: Single, Double, Triple and Golden Shell. Shell’s engineers and chemists worked with vehicle manufacturers to ensure product development was suitable for new cars.

In 1923, Super Shell was introduced for use at Brooklands for racing teams who required speed and power to win. The success of Super Shell was so striking on the race track, that it was made available for public use.

Shell also led development in this period for Marine, Industrial and Aviation oils. By the end of the 1930s there were over 100 grades and types of Shell products available. 

Shell Lubricating Oil, Marc, 1928. Poster.


P is for Postcards

Between 1908 and 1914 Shell produced postcards which present a snapshot of Britain before the First World War.  The colourful illustrations refer to events of the time and capture a period when motoring and aviation were in early development. 

At the beginning of the 20th century postcards became extremely popular.  People bought postcards to keep as souvenirs and to send to friends. They were cheap and reliable, and with up to seven postal deliveries a day, they were used almost like a telephone call today.

As a company, Shell recognised that its corporate persona should reflect the rapid pace of change and the excitement of the era. This early form of advertising captured this excitement with an array of comical designs featuring classical themes, historical events and images of early motor cars. Motor racing and aviation were prominent themes, as postcards provided a means of promoting new records and race wins fuelled by Shell to the masses.

From vehicles of a bygone era to the endorsement of women’s rights, Shell’s wit and vision illustrates a charming and innocent period of motoring history, in a uniquely English manner. 

Votes for Women, Shell Studio, 1908. Postcard.

Q is for Quick Starting

In the mid 1920s Shell began to move away from merely advertising their product to more abstract campaigns such as the ‘Quick Starting Pair’. Artists such as Jean D’Ylen and George Denholm Armour were commissioned to design Lorry Bills that demonstrated the advantages of using Shell oil and petrol together.

From 1926 to 1932, the ‘Quick Starting Pair’ series used a variety of themes to represent the reliability and power of using Shell’s products simultaneously. A sporting theme incorporated images of rugby, polo and hunting. Jean D’Ylen’s mechanical horses were also a regular feature in the campaign. Perhaps the most memorable feature of this campaign was the use of wildlife to express the strength of Shell’s products when used concurrently. Animals in the series include: otters, kingfishers, cheetahs and crickets.

The benefit of using both Shell’s oil and petrol together was promoted further in campaigns to reduce carbon in engines. This brief promotion in 1926 titled the products ‘The Anti-Carbon Pair’. Advertisements announcing race successes and record achievements claimed that these triumphs were won on Shell Petrol and Shell Oil. 

Quick Starting Pair, Shell Studio, 1928. Poster.

R is for Retail

One key aspect of a brand as iconic and longstanding as Shell is retail. In the case of Shell it can come in the form of fuel products, toys, memorabilia or collectables. Retail is an important part of reaching new audiences and sustaining a sense of brand loyalty and pride.

Shell have produced and sold a vast range of products since the 1910s including: playing cards, crockery, paperweights, model lorries, keyrings, games, stationary and even clothing.

Some of the most memorable items produced by Shell were used in forecourt promotions from the 1960s onwards. Collectable items were promoted at Shell garages and given to each Shell customer upon their purchase of petrol. Campaigns such as ‘Historic Cars’ and ‘Man in Flight’ featured a series of collectable coins related to each campaign. Other examples include the ‘Great Britons’ postcard series and ‘The World Wildlife Collection Card’ series offering 3D prints and collectors wallet.

The Shell Heritage Art Collection is currently developing a small collection of Shell memorabilia and objects, to help tell the story of Shell’s heritage.

Today Shell is still producing an array of merchandise, produced by Magic of Motoring.

A selection of Shell branded products from the Shell Heritage Art Collection.

S is for SMBP

Shell-Mex and BP Ltd. (SMBP) was formed in 1932 when, prompted by competitive pressure in the oil market, the two companies decided to merge their UK marketing operations.

Under the organisation of SMBP, Shell and BP continued to be promoted separately. Joint branding was adopted for selected campaigns including the ‘Shell and BP Farm Service’ and ‘Pink Paraffin’. One of SMBP’s most successful advertising campaigns was ‘Mrs 1970’. Mrs 1970 promoted SMBP’s oil fired central heating as an avant-garde form of home heating in the 1960s.

Building on the success of the existing Shell County Guides, SMBP decided to develop a cheaper alternative in 1963. 48 small booklets were commissioned to be sold for a shilling in service stations across the UK. The guides featured a two colour map of the area, an essay on the history and landscape, followed by a short gazetteer of the main towns and attractions. The cover art for each guide was produced by famous artists, depicting the highlights of the county. They soon became known as the SMBP Shilling Guides.

SMBP was demerged in 1976, an archive of SMBP material was created and this collection is currently stored at the BP Archive, University of Warwick.

SMBP, Shell Studio, 1950. Poster.

T is for

That's Shell - That was!

‘That’s Shell – That is’ was a slogan created in 1928 to accompany a series of drawings by Rex Whistler, showing speeding cars and astonished pedestrians. The addition of an extra head to the characters in the series made this slogan one of Shell’s most memorable.

The idea to add an extra head came from a member of the public. Inspired by an image similar to this one of a workman by John Reynolds, a member of the public traced the head and reworked it in order to superimpose a second head. Shell loved the idea and he was later sent a cheque for two guineas.

The double headed image was used in all remaining posters from then on. John Reynolds changed the slogan to ‘That’s Shell – That was!’ in 1930. The new slogan became so popular that Shell ran it in their advertising for a further 20 years.

The campaign went on to include other characters exclaiming ‘Crikey! That’s Shell – That was!’ including a double headed chick, emerging startled from the speed of its shell and a double headed Loch Ness monster. 

That’s Shell – That was!, John Reynolds, 1930. Poster.

U is for UK

Many of Shell’s most successful advertising campaigns have centred on the promotion of motoring as a pleasurable activity. From the 1920s, Shell encouraged the British public to get out in their cars and enjoy the delights of the UK. Britain acted as a muse for Shell’s advertising, a theme that is evident throughout the collection today.

The idea to encourage the British public to embrace and enjoy the uniqueness of their country was adopted in 1925 when the ‘See Britain First on Shell’ campaign was introduced. The popularity of this series was followed by later campaigns such as: ‘Everywhere You Go’ and ‘To Visit Britain’s Landmarks’, up until the 1950s.

Since the 1950s Shell has continued to promote the exploration of Britain in a number of their retail products. These include the Shell Guides published from the 1930s until the 1980s, Shell road maps from the 1930s onwards, and ‘Shellsound Guides’ audiotapes in the 1970s.

The Shell Heritage Art Collection is one of the most important collections of commercial art in Britain. Not only does it highlight the nostalgia of early British advertising and motoring, but also provides a unique insight in to the landscapes of Britain from the 1920s until the 1980s.

Shell Touring Service Map, Area 1. South-West England, 1968. 

V is for Valentines

Shell’s interest in Valentine cards began in 1938 with the idea of sending Valentine greetings to its female customers. The cards were designed by artists of the day and carried witty jokes and rhymes on motoring and petrol themes.

The Shell Valentine cards were not used as a form of company advertising, and the identity of the sender always remained anonymous. Emphasis on anonymity was so strong in fact that ordinary postage stamps were used instead of the company’s franking machine. In 1950 65,000 customers received cards.

The tradition continued up until 1975, when changing attitudes among women meant that they no longer appreciated being singled out as ‘lady motorists’.

Alongside the Shell Valentine cards held at the Shell Heritage Art Collection, is a collection of over 200 Victorian Valentine cards acquired by Shell in 1964.

This significant collection of Victorian and Shell Valentine cards is one of the Shell Heritage Art Collections most popular exhibitions. The exhibition traces the history of the Valentine from the early 19th Century onwards. It has romance, sentiment and gushing sincerity, in contrast to satirical cartoons and cruel verse, expressing the bitterness and disenchantment of loves lost.

In 2015, the collection underwent a programme of conservation and reframing to ensure its preservation for the future.

My Valentine – My Basic Need, Shell Studio, 1949. Valentine Card.

W is for Wallcharts

Educational wallcharts were produced by Shell in the 1950s and 1960s to help educate and promote the importance of the British landscape and its heritage. The wallcharts were distributed to schools across Britain. The images and information found in the wallcharts was also used in calendars, books and press advertisements.

In the 1950s Shell brought out a sequence of Nature Guides that were used as calendars and wallcharts. Each year Shell covered a different aspect of British nature, including: ‘Flowers of the Countryside’, ‘Birds & Beasts’, ‘Fossils, Insects, Reptiles’, ‘Trees and Shrubs’, and ‘Wildlife’. Artists such as Rowland Hilder and Stanley Roy Badmin were selected to illustrate a series of 12 images for each series.

In 1959, Shell moved on to a County Guide series. 27 artists were selected to produce nearly 70 paintings for the series. These paintings illustrated the landscapes, flora, fauna, buildings, historical and cultural associations of each county. Four calendars were produced between 1959 and 1962, and 32 of the 70 paintings were reproduced in the educational wallcharts. The artwork produced in this series also featured on a set of 48 Shilling Guides produced by Shell-Mex and BP in the 1960s.

Shell guide to Hampshire, Keith Shackleton, 1960. Wallchart.

X is for X-100

During the Second World War, petrol was the first product to be rationed. All branded petrol disappeared and supplies became ‘pool’ petrol until 1953. Keen to reintroduce the Shell name back into Britain after the war, Shell devised and launched their new lubricant, X-100 in 1949. Marketed as a new superior lubricant, nothing like X-100 had been seen before.

The launch of X-100 coincided with the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. The event offered Shell a great marketing opportunity, and a chance for Shell to be seen all over the world again. Giuseppe Farina’s winning Alfa Romeo of 1950 was fuelled and lubricated by Shell. This winning partnership brought victory in over 150 Formula One Grand Prix races for the next 50 years.

Shell X-100 is still available today. It has been re-launched as a ‘Classic Oil’ and is a popular lubricant for the classic car market.

After the sale and marketing of branded petrol was reintroduced in 1953, Shell launched ‘Shell with ICA‘ in 1954. ICA stands for Ignition Control Additive. This new petrol formula was one of the greatest advancements in petrol development for nearly 30 years.

Both Shell X-100 and Shell with ICA dominated Shell’s 1950s and 1960s advertising. 

Change your oil for Summer, John Castle, 1953. Poster.

Y is for

'You Can Be Sure of Shell'

‘You Can Be Sure of Shell’ was Shell’s longest running slogan of the 20th century. Introduced in 1931, the phrase ran throughout numerous campaigns until the 1990s. The six simple words promoted a sense of trust and reliability in the Shell brand.

In the 1930s Shell garages and pumps were few and far between. The emergence of this new slogan assured motorists that they could be sure of Shell’s petrol to get them between garages. ‘You Can Be Sure of Shell’ ran as a poster campaign in the early 1930s, adopting images of strength and precision to market the brand; including: posters of anchors, chains and archery targets. In 1932 the slogan was incorporated into the new landscape campaign, ‘Everywhere You Go – You Can Be Sure of Shell’. The promotion of Shell’s reliability was integral to the brands image and so the slogan was used in conjunction with many other notable campaigns.

The slogan was not only used in the Lorry Bills of the 1930s and 1950s, but adopted in all forms of Shell’s advertising. By the 1960s, the slogan appeared in television adverts, press advertisements and posters. It was sometimes edited to simply read ‘You Can Be Sure of It’. 

You Can Be Sure of Shell, A. Eisner, 1932. Poster. 

Z is for Za Za

In the 1950s, Shell introduced the UK to Za Za the British bulldog. Za Za became the face of Shell’s latest lubricant, X-100. Guard dog Za Za looked after the house when her owner was away, just as Shell X-100, looked after your car. Za Za appeared in television and press advertisements to promote the dependability of X-100.

Za Za was not the first mascot for Shell. In the 1930s Edward McKnight Kauffer designed Shell’s memorable trademark robot man, appearing in press adverts and Lorry Bills from the mid 1930s. The jointed robot man went on to become the mascot of a new Shell Lubricating Oil in 1937. It was proudly displayed on the new yellow, triangular cans and in animated form in cinema adverts.

In the 1960s a black and white Pecten was given a face and arms, and used on various ‘Go Well – Go Shell’ press advertisements. The personified Pecten was transformed in the 1970s by David Edgell into Mr Shell. Mr Shell was the face of ‘Go Well – Go Shell’ in press adverts throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 1976, Mr Shell also featured in a cheerfully animated form in Shell’s TV advertising.

Long life to the new Hillman Husky, Shell X-100 Advertisement. Featured in The Motor, 8 January 1958.


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