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The London Underground An icon, an innovation and an everyday adventure

Five million people travel on the Tube every day. For a little perspective, the population of London is 8.9 million. That means, over half of Londoners, plus quite a few tourists, rely on the Tube to be on time and running every day.

To accommodate this many passengers, there are often over 540 trains in operation during rush hour.

Bond Street Station (Top), South Kensington (Bottom Right), Green Park (Bottom Left)

The Tube is unique among city transit systems. It's more than a way to get from one place to the next, it's a symbol of London, a piece of British history and a marvel of design innovation.

Walk into any Camden Market or Covent Garden souvenir shop and you're sure to find one or two references to the London Underground. Maybe you'll find the map printed on a poster or perhaps a shirt that reads, Mind the Gap. These mugs from the Royal Shakespeare Company use the Underground map to identify central archetypes in Shakespeare's plays.

Tube memorabilia takes up whole tables at museums like the Design Museum in Kensington. The Underground sign is as iconic as Big Ben, the queen's guard and double decker buses.

But before the Tube could become an icon it had to become the London Underground as we know it today.

The London Underground developed as a series of railroad lines starting with the Metropolitan line in 1863.

In 1908, Underground Exec Frank Pick launched a poster campaign to encourage Londoners to explore their city via public transit. A lover of art, Pick commissioned young artists to create innovative and vibrant poster designs. This campaign ran until 1939 and you can still find posters in the Underground today.

Last year, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted an exhibit titled, Everyone’s Art Gallery: Posters of the London Underground. This exhibition featured 100 poster's gifted to the museum by Frank Pick.

In 1916, Edward Johnston designed his eponymous font for the Underground, which is still in use today.

Tube stations were used as shelter for Londoners fleeing bombings and air raids during WWI and WWII. This photo was taken at Aldwych Station during the Blitz.

In 1931, Engineer Harry Beck developed a map for the London Underground, which became the most famous city transit map and inspired city transit maps across the globe.

Today's Tube Map

To London's commuters the Tube may feel like just another part of city life, but if they stop for a moment they may see this iconic, historic and innovative transit system as the marvel of engineering and city planning it was and continues to be.

Created By
Meredith Gallo
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Credits:

Meredith Gallo