Gilroy Guinness Posters. A brief history and Buyers Guide.

The Campaign

In the 1920s Guinness had a problem. The venerable Irish brewer had been around since 1759—nearly two centuries—but geopolitical events were threatening to render its sales flat. Irish independence had leveled a new import tax on England-bound barrels. Add this to the near total loss of a prohibition-era U.S. market and things were not looking good for the sultan of stout. Guinness needed a marketing strategy—a relatively new concept at a time when legacy brands saw advertising as desperately uncouth. The in-house tagline “Guinness is good for you” was born in 1929 (the first of many touting the beer’s health benefits) but it wasn’t until Guinness tapped London creative agency S.H. Benson that the brand’s first legendary ad campaign would begin. Illustrator John Gilroy was given the account.

Gilroy, a former cartoonist for the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, transformed Guinness’ image from town drunk to safari satire by incorporating simple, effective slogans into his trademark animal illustrations. In a Draper-esque moment of clarity, Gilroy, on a trip to the circus, noticed a sea lion balancing a ball on its nose. His Eureka moment was replacing that ball with a pint of plain.

The Posters

Where to start ? For this article I am focusing on two of the most prominent themes : Guinness For Strength & My Goodness My Guinness

The Three Sizes

The majoirty of designs were produced in a combination of Double Crown 20 by 30 inches (51 by 76 cm)  ,  Quad 30 by 40 inches (76 by 101 cm) & Double Quad 40 by 60 inches (101 by 152 cm)

The Four Eras

1930s ; these are the original and probably most valuable, the Double Crown does exist but the majority seem to be in the larger sizes. These all have a border, usually but not always green and black. The printers name is always there (usually bottom right)

Guinness for Strength 1934 T B Lawrence 101 by 76cm

Guinness For Strength 1934 printed by TB Lawrence

My Goodness 1936 101 by 77 cm John Waddinton

My Goodness My Guinness 1936 printed by John Waddington

1950s; this is the ‘second issue’ the majority of designs are repeated although now often in the smaller 30 by 20 inch format. These are generally borderless but still clearly show the printers name


My Goodness My Guinness 1953

My Goodness My Guinness 1953 30 by 20 inches

My Goodness My Guinness 1954 printed by Sanders and Phillips

1990s; there is a large run of official reprints from the Guinness Storehouse, these can be identified by the words ‘From the Original John Gilroy Artwork Copyright Guinness Published by the Guinness Museum’ So its very clear what you are getting. They all seem to be 20 by 30 inch format. There is some intrinsic value here but beware later Guinness Museum prints which are only worth face value.

The 4th Category ; Miscellaneous. Here the difficulty starts. There are many posters out there purporting to be original or of unknown origin. The majority of these have decorative value only. The rule of thumb is ‘has it got a printers name?’ Then it would be a matter of checking the print and paper quality. Beware of framed items.


Unusually S H Benson used a number of printers including

TB Lawrence, Dangerfield, John Waddington, Sanders Phillips

Also look out for a G A number bottom left as a sign of originality

Guinness GA number.jpeg


So that it; a run around the Gilroy poster universe. Hope it was usefull and will help you track down that original gem!







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