Sir,—I write to ask the kind attention of all thoughtful citizens to what I cannot help thinking is a scandalous abuse of the right to advertise on public hoardings. From time to time I have been shocked by the posters which depict as large as life murder, acts of violence, sudden death, and catastrophes, and have witnessed with horror the intense interest with which little children coming from school have drawn the attention of their playmates to the poster in question. Last week I noticed one more insidious in its far-reaching suggestiveness than others of the blood and thunder type. This poster, which was probably going through the whole of England, was the preacher in our country of a new gospel. In America and in the West we have heard that these things existed, or at any rate are spoken of as existing. In England, as far as I know, nothing of the sort has yet been thought of. And it seems to me that at this time, when we are being urged to take a right view of Life and Death and to do what we can to keep up a high ideal of self-sacrifice, to print or to allow publication for the sake of an advertisement such a demoralising picture as the one to which I refer on hoardings in a public thoroughfare is little less than criminal.
And this is what I mean by “criminal.” The rate-payers are spending large sums of money on the education of the young in our city. Congregations are supporting clergy and ministers to preach the Gospel of Christ, social workers are doing what they can to help the young people of the town to clean ways of thinking and living, and all this work is jeopardised by the suggestion—implanted probably for life—of gross wickedness and down-grade thought. I have often wondered the Government, in its search for objects of new taxation, has not taken a leaf out of the book of both Italy and Switzerland and taxed all posters according to their size. In several of the cantons in Switzerland the rule is that nothing which offends public taste is allowed to be on any hoardings. This goes to the root of the matter. The appeal through the eye to the mind is very direct; I myself know that there are certain pictures of horror which I saw as a child which I cannot possibly forget. Why should we admit that our children who pass backwards and forwards to school should thus be tortured for life by some horror on a public hoarding?... I appeal to my fellow citizens to strengthen the hands of the Town Council. We have suffered from the horrors of the hoarding too long.
(Carlisle Journal, 1917, 26 January, p. 8)