A new exhibition coming to Manchester Central Library showcases an array of visually striking adverts created by commercial artists throughout the twentieth century to promote Manchester Ship Canal and the Port of Manchester around the world.

The collection marks the first time the work has been displayed in one place for the first time and has been curated by Dr Martin Dodge from the University of Manchester, working with archivists from Central Library.

Marketing the Manchester Ship Canal 1919-1939 includes original artwork that hasn’t been seen by the public in nearly half a century.

The 36-mile Manchester Ship Canal was opened by Queen Victoria in 1894, linking the landlocked city to the open ocean for the first time. The transformational impact of the canal – which was the largest of its kind in the world when it was opened – led to the Port of Manchester becoming the third busiest port in Britain. By 1958, almost twenty million tons of freight was being carried by ocean-going vessels along the route.

An advert for the Manchester Ship Canal on the cover of the Textile Mercury’s Annual Trade Review. The striking artwork was created by A. Paxton Chadwick.

“The range and quality of original marketing that we unearthed seem to warrant sharing with a wider audience,” Dr Dodge said. “Much of the artwork is striking and largely unknown, not having been reproduced since the 1920s. The time period also saw a revolution in publicity with modern ideas on typefaces, much more dynamic imagery and bolder use of colour.”

A special event is being held on Sat 9 Sep from 12pm – 1pm to launch the exhibition, featuring contributions from speakers including Dr Dodge who will talk about the exhibition, and about the lives of commercial artist Bert Wilson, and Ken Brady, Manchester Ship Canal publicity chief from 1926; and Mike Ashworth, retired design and heritage manager London Underground, who will talk about commercial advertising in the ‘Twenties.

The exhibition has been supported by Archives+ at Manchester Central Library, The University of Manchester and the Manchester Geographical Society and is on display from now until Mon 15 Jan 2024.

Sat 9 Sep - Mon 15 Jan, Manchester Central Library,
St Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD
Bradley Lengden
Published on:
Wed 30 Aug 2023