Looking For Inspiration For A Can-Do New Year? These Retro Motivational Posters Have It

As calamities like the fiscal cliff make us wonder, “How did we go so wrong?” perhaps the time is right to revisit the motivational wisdom of an earlier time. Wisdom like “Life’s Too Short For Groping: Choose An Objective and Go After It” and “Tough Luck Is Not Recognized By Real Men.”

Back in the ’20s, British printing company Parker-Holladay created a series of posters around the fictional character Bill Jones. He was the person all workers were meant to emulate. Jones offered up choice nuggets of savvy advice to that era’s cubicle-farm set, emblazoned on multicolored lithographs. Eventually, the character even made it to America, where he continued dispensing no-nonsense advice that seems oddly obsessed with “licking” problems and also “sticking” them, on posters and trading-size cards.

Although these original posters and cards were created to motivate workers–and from the looks of it, men exclusively–the Rockwell Museum points out that they speak to the progressive Arts and Crafts movement, which involved interior decoration, household taste, and lifestyle choices. Not only did families crochet mottos like “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings” to be framed above the mantelpiece, entrepreneurs pre-sold similar items.

Have a look at some of Bill Jones’ best bits in the slide show above.