A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



This investigation was carried out by the Social Survey in April and May 1945 at the request of the Beard of Trade and of the Council of Industrial Design. The purpose of the Survey was threefold:

1. To give the Board of Trade an indication of future demand for furniture and, if possible, to determine those groups to whom priority should be given.

For this purpose inventories of informants’ furniture possessions were taken, and housewives were asked whether they wanted to buy furniture in the near or distant future.

2. To find out the attitude towards Utility Furniture of the general population on the one hand, and of those who had had experience with Utility Furniture on the other. The B.O.T. wished to know this in order that it might more adequately supervise the specifications, design and production of furniture.

3. To explore the taste in furniture of the general population as tested by a limited choice of different types of bedroom furniture. That is to say, an attempt was made to divide people’s taste into two categories, those who tended toward modem simplicity, and those who tended toward the old-fashioned, decorated style of furniture.

The information required was obtained by interviewing two samples of housewives. One * chosen at random from the Rating Lists in 24 towns and villages in England, Scotland and Wales. The other, ** taken at random from the B.O.T. lists of furniture docket holders for June and July 1945. (For details of sample see appendix 1).

The information was collected by a team of 27 trained interviewers. The schedules (see appendix 2) included the following:

  1. (a) a general questionnaire including classification data.

  2. (b) a furniture inventory.

  3. (c) four photographs representing different styles of Utility bedroom furniture.

The inquiry was carried out by Dr. Gertrude Wagner, assisted by Miss Mary Gentles, and the final report was compiled by Mr. Gavin Reeve.

So far as is known this is the first time that a study of this type has been attempted. Only the elementary stage has been covered, and it would be dangerous to assume that the conclusions drawn are more than tentative. Even since this information has been collected, the Board of Trade has made some extension in the range of Utility Furniture, and for the coming year considerable extension is planned. Not only will the scope of production be broadened, but there is a likelihood that there will be change in specification and design. For examples, for reasons of economy, the panels from the ends of bedsteads have been removed, which may have an adverse effect upon their popularity. This in itself will alter the summary in the section that deals with the articles of furniture which people most wish to buy. Other changes may also affect other conclusions. Therefore, when this material is considered, these points should be kept clearly in mind.

However, the results are sufficient to indicate that the subject warrants a good deal of further study.

[1] For simplification this sample will be referred to as the “Random Sample”.

[2] This Sample will be referred to as the “Utility Furniture (U.F.) Sample”.

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