The Tonic Holiday poster

To most people these days, I suspect, a tonic is something you add to your gin as the sun goes over the yardarm.

But in its truest sense, a tonic is a medicinal substance taken to promote vigour and wellbeing, or, when used as an adjective, as here – The Tonic Holiday – anything invigorating and health-giving. 

Our pictured poster is one of several in the collection which sport the phrase – another features a family of cheery penguins on the beach of the South Bay, the chicks with buckets and spades, dad with a suitcase and mum shading herself from the sun with an oriental parasol.

I’ve been unable to track down who originated the slogan, or when – but its invigorating call to action and the Art Deco styling of our pictured poster suggest the 30s, when Scarborough was a sporting mecca. People visited from far and wide to play tennis, take part in watersports and, if they were wealthy enough, angle for the huge tunny fish that swam the North Sea on the hunt for herring.

A copy of this poster went up for auction in the States last August, and was estimated to fetch between $700 and $1000. Unfortunately, the website of Swann Auction Galleries in New York doesn’t record how much it ultimately went for. But a collection of later posters, mainly from the 50s and 60s, was seen on the Scarborough edition of the Antiques Roadshow last month, and expert Judith Miller estimated those as being worth between £400 and £600 each.

Measuring 30 inches by 20 inches, and featuring a view of a positively Mediterranean-looking South Bay seen from the Spa and framed by seahorses, crabs, shells and starfish, the poster is signed in the bottom right-hand corner with the letters ‘BAN’, but whether those are initials or a pseudonym, we don’t know. 

This beautiful poster is just one of a wide selection of tourism and railway posters held in the collection. You can see a display of these posters in the Sitwell by Eat Me café at Woodend Gallery and Studios.