Archive for the 'the faith of graffiti' Category

“Forward to Recovery” sticker


I recently found a great pro-labor political sticker about capitalism and the economy that looks very much like an I.W.W. stickerette due to its size, medium, and message.  It states “Forward to Recovery – Increased Activity – Price Rise – Employment.”  We see “Business” dressed as a fat cat in a fancy suit and pinstripe pants racing forward while being dragged down by the heavy anchor of “Low Wages.”  The artist’s name is difficult to decipher; the signature looks like “Terry Costello,” but I can’t find anything similar online or in any of my I.W.W.-related books and articles.  The reason I think the sticker comes from the I.W.W., however, is because it’s glued onto an envelope dated September 30, 1933.


The envelope was addressed to Kenneth N. Rinker, 417 W. First St., Greensburg, Indiana, and it cost three cents at the time to send through the mail.  There is no return address on the front or back of the envelope.  The envelope was sealed when I acquired it.  I opened it only to find a blank sheet of white paper….

I thought I might find mention of the “Costello” artist in Franklin Rosement’s “A Short Treatise on Wobbly Cartoons” in the newer 1988 edition of Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology by Joyce L. Kornbluh.  I also checked “Wobbly” – 80 Years of Rebel Art, a catalogue that accompanied an exhibition at the Labor Archives and Research Center in San Francisco in 1987.  No luck.  I learned about many other I.W.W. artists, though, and discovered a few other sources to check later, including “The Iconographics of American Labor,” a chapter in From the Knights of Labor to the New World Order: Essays on Labor and Culture by Paul Buhle, and Images of American Radicalism by Paul Buhle and Edmund Sullivan.  (As a side note, in the late 1960s Paul Buhle founded the S.D.S. journal Radical America, which features a story about the I.W.W. in Volume 1, Number 2, and even mentions stickerettes!  I have a theory that S.D.S. stickers were inspired by stickerettes, which I plan to write about in the near future….  I need to connect the dots, and Franklin Rosemont and Paul Buhle are two key figures with interests in both the I.W.W. and S.D.S.)

Anyway, back to the mysterious envelope.  The little NRA sticker on the lower right states “NRA Member – U.S. – We Do Our Part” and shows a blue eagle clutching a gear, symbolizing industry, and lightning, symbolizing power.  You can read more about the NRA blue eagle logo here.


I have other NRA stickers in the Street Art Graphics digital archive, but they aren’t from the National Rifle Association.  The early NRA stickers, which Arline Wolfe catalogued last year, were, as she wrote, “from the National Recovery Administration, a U.S. government agency established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to stimulate business recovery through fair-practice codes during the Great Depression.  The NRA was an essential element in the National Industrial Recovery Act (June 1933), which authorized the President to institute industry-wide codes intended to eliminate unfair trade practices, reduce unemployment, establish minimum wages and maximum hours, and guarantee the right of labour to bargain collectively, according to”  The Social Welfare History Project Web site also describes the NRA here.

Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid stickers

Two stickers in my collection focus on Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid in South Africa.  The first states “Stop Apartheid, Boycott Shell – Owen Bieber, UAW President and National CAP Chairman,” and the date 1985 is penciled on the back.


Owen Bieber was then President of the American United Auto Workers Union and a strong Mandela supporter.  In 1984, Bieber was even arrested in an anti-apartheid demonstration in DC.  An article entitled “Campaign to Boycott Shell” in the United States Anti-Apartheid Newsletter (Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 1986) describes Bieber’s role in the campaign and the call for “Shell and other companies doing business in South Africa to stop ‘buttressing’ apartheid.  The major objective of the campaign is to educate the American people on the role of multi-national corporations in a country which has statutes allowing them to seize oil and computer companies on the basis of security and war needs.”  (Sound familiar?)  After Mandela was released from prison, he traveled in 1990 to the United States and during one stop met with UAW members at a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, with Bieber at his side.

The second sticker, “Nelson Mandela Must Be Set Free!!!,” was produced in 1988 by The Pyramid Complex, PO Box 21212, Washington, D.C., with a phone number listed as (202) 332-3908.  At the time, the anti-apartheid leader Mandela would have been in jail for 26 years after having been arrested in 1962 and charged with treason for attempting to overthrow the South African government.


The International Institute of Social History has another sticker from The Pyramid Complex that states “Free South Africa Now!” with the same address and phone number, though dated 1989.  It’s housed at the Nederlands Instituut voor Zuidelijk Afrika in Amsterdam.  The catalogue record for it is here, and a low-res screen shot of the sticker is below.

Free South Africa Now

The IISH put together a Web dossier memorial tribute called Nelson Mandela and the Netherlands, where you can find several stickers.  In addition, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (where Mandela studied law) has an online collection called KAIROS, Dutch anti-apartheid organization 1970s-1990s, which includes stickers from The Pyramid Complex.  There are no pictures, but the collection is described as:

  • Details: Stickers.  Stickers with various slogans in English and Dutch: ANC, Anti Apartheid, Anti Shell, Trade Union slogans, Solidarity with SWAPO.  The sources and dates are not known, except for a few of the stickers [that] have The Pyramid Complex, Washington DC, 1989 printed on them.

The only other reference I can find for The Pyramid Complex is a book they published by W. Bruce Willis called The Adinkra Dictionary: A Visual Primer on the Language of Adinkra (1998).

The IISH mentioned above is an online database/archive that actually includes stickers.  In fact, when I do a search for stickers in their catalogue, I get over 4,200 results!  Based on my initial review, the stickers come from Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Namibia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Some date back to the 1920s and ‘30s, but most appear to be from the 1970s to 1990s.  There is even a handful of I.W.W. stickerettes!

Vote Republican 1926 sticker

I recently came across a U.S. political sticker from Iowa in 1926 that is one of the first of its kind, from what I’ve seen, that isn’t an I.W.W. Wobbly labor union stickerette (see previous posts on I.W.W. stickerettes).  What’s interesting, however, is how Ralph Chaplin, a 1910s-era I.W.W. key artist/agitator, talked about printed labels on various fruit and vegetable cartons that helped inspire him to create political stickers.  I’ll dig up those references for a later post.


Three new “stickerettes”

Three new Industrial Workers of the World “stickerettes” for the Street Art Graphics digital archive!


The text reads, “I.W.W. — For More of the Good Things in Life — Organize — One Big Union”


This one reads, “Join the I.W.W. — We Know He Won’t Join — But How About You?”


And this one reads, “One Big Union — The Key to Industrial Peace — OBU — Join the I.W.W.”

(I add the text here in case people are doing keyword searches.)  For more on “stickerettes,” see my previous posts:

I.W.W. “stickerettes”

“Stickerettes at NYU’s Tamiment Library

More on I.W.W. “stickerettes”

“Stickerette” ad in 1917 I.W.W. Solidarity newspaper

Two new “stickerettes”

“Weaving the Streets & People’s Archive”

Stickerkitty is collaborating with The Weave: Mediocracy Unspun on a new project entitled Weaving the Streets & People’s Archive (WSPA).  John Collins, professor of global studies at St. Lawrence University and co-founder of the Weave, and I put together a proposal to create “a new blog and digital archive that will document the creative ways in which ordinary people make use of public space to express themselves” (excerpted from our proposal abstract).  We learned on Monday that our proposal was accepted and will be funded for the first two years by a grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Crossing Boundaries: Re-Envisioning the Humanities for the 21st Century initiative at SLU.  WSPA will complement the Street Art Graphics digital archive that is presented on the SLU art gallery Web site.  Street Art Graphics exists at this point as a catalogued image database.  For WSPA, however, team members will gather street ephemera, conduct research, and write about various topics in blog posts.

One of our first bloggers will be Lukasz Niparko ’13, the SLU alum I visited in Poznań, Poland, last June.  I think he is going to write about Rozbrat, the oldest occupied squat in the country.  Lukasz and I spent an entire day touring around the city and photographing street art.  “Miasto to nie firma” in the modified sticker below means, “The city is not a business,” in response to urban re-development and the privatization of public spaces in Poznań.


Odzyskujemy miasto” in the stencil below also comments upon this issue with “We recover [reclaim?] the city.”  The sideways-looking N on the right is the international squatters’ symbol.


On this sticker, “Przeciwko prywatyzacji.  Uslugi publiczne naleza do wszystkich.” stands for “Against privatization.  Public services belong to everyone.”


A Sticker A Day: Western History and Pop Culture through Street Art Stickers

I’ve got a new angle for my sticker book – to select 365 stickers and tell a story each day with a sticker.  I worked on January today, and here below is what I have so far.  Dates in bold mean I know of a sticker in my collection that could match the event.  In some cases, there is more than one event, so I’ll have to choose later.  Dates in italics mean I’ve already found the sticker image file to match the event.  Ultimately, I’ll write a few paragraphs for each day/sticker of the year.

A Sticker a Day: Western History and Pop Culture through Street Art Stickers

January 1: The beginning of the Internet as we know it today; The ARPANET officially changes to using the Internet Protocol, creating the Internet (1983); Ellis Island opens in the U.S. (1892); European Central Bank established (1998); Euro adopted by 11 countries (1999)

January 2: World War II: Nuremberg, Germany is severely bombed by Allied forces. (1945); Ronald Reagan sworn in as Governor of California (1967)

January 3: The last original weekday Peanuts comic strip is published (2000)

January 4: The New York Stock Exchange opens its first permanent headquarters at 10-12 Broad near Wall Street (1865)

January 5: The Ford Motor Company announces an eight-hour workday and a minimum wage of $5 for a day’s labor (1914) (sticker done)

January 6: President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his Four Freedoms speech in the State of the Union address (1941)

January 7: The Senate trial in the impeachment of U.S. President Bill Clinton begins (1999)

January 8: The trial of seven men accused of illegal entry into Democratic Party headquarters at Watergate begins (1973)

January 9: Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils the first iPhone (2007)

January 10: Bush announces “The New Way Forward” for troop surge in Iraq (2007) (No Blood for Oil sticker – done)


January 11: Immigrant textile works in Lawrence, Massachusetts, go on strike when wages are reduced in response to a mandated shortening of the work week (1912)

January 12: The Royal Aeronautical Society is formed in London (1866)

January 13: Johnny Cash performs live at Folsom State Prison (1968)

January 14: The Human Be-In takes place in San Francisco, California’s Golden Gate Park, launching the Summer of Love (1967)

January 15: The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, is incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia (1889)

January 16: The United States ratifies the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, authorizing Prohibition in the United States one year after ratification (1919)

January 17: Matt Drudge breaks the story of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair on his website (1998)

January 18: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is officially observed for the first time in all 50 states (1993)

January 19: The United States Senate votes against joining the League of Nations (1920)

January 20: George W. Bush State of the Union linking church and state (2004) (sticker – done)


January 21: Black Monday in worldwide stock markets. FTSE 100 had its biggest ever one-day points fall, European stocks closed with their worst result since the September 11 attacks in 2001, and Asian stocks drop as much as 14% (2008)

January 22: The Supreme Court of the United States delivers its decision in Roe v. Wade, legalizing elective abortion in all fifty states (1973)

January 23: President Richard Nixon announces that a peace accord has been reached in Vietnam (1973)

January 24: The United States Department of Homeland Security officially begins operation (2003)

January 25: Charles Manson and three female “Family” members are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders (1971)

January 26: Birth of Angela Davis, U.S. political activist (1944) (2 stickers – done)



January 27: Arab Spring: The 2011 Yemeni revolution begins as over 16,000 protestors demonstrate in Sana’a (2011); Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site begins with a one-kiloton bomb dropped on Frenchman Flat (1951); The trial of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators began. They were executed on January 31 (1606)

January 28: United States troops leave Cuba with the exception of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base after being there since the Spanish-American War (1909)

January 29: In his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush describes “regimes that sponsor terror” as an Axis of Evil, in which he includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea (2002)

January 30: Mahatma Gandhi is released from prison by Jan C. Smuts after been tried and sentenced to 2 months in jail earlier in the month. On the same day 40 years later in 1948 Gandhiji is assassinated (1908)

January 31: The Soviet Union exiles Leon Trotsky (1929)

“Stickerette” ad in 1917 I.W.W. Solidarity newspaper

This is the first image I’ve ever seen of someone putting up stickers.  I found it in two issues of an I.W.W. newspaper called Solidarity published in Cleveland on September 9 and 16, 1917.  Stickerettes were advertised in Solidarity between at least June 24, 1916, and August 25, 1917, though I’ve seen a reference that they might have been advertised as early as November 20, 1915.  In 1916, one could buy stickerettes in packages – 110 per package cost 15 cents, or a box of 1,100 cost $1.00.


I’ve been trying to find photographs of stickerettes put up on buildings or other surfaces, too, but no luck yet.

The Wicke case continues

Good news.  Guy Wicke is indeed the son of James T. Wicke.  Here is what Guy wrote in response to my email.

James T. Wicke is my father.  He died suddenly when I was 17, so obviously anything from his youth or political activism during the 60s-70s is a treasure beyond words for me.  The Pied Piper Lane address is my grandparents’ house (his childhood home).  I’ve never heard of the organization he was supposedly acting secretary of, but I wonder if it was a bit of tongue-in-cheek grandiosity.  He was a fan of that type of humor.  Or maybe it was a real group of activists in Wisconsin.

I’m going to send Guy the envelope that the stickers came in plus some spare stickers.  Who knows, maybe at some point we’ll get to know the background of these mysterious little paper thought bombs.  A friend of mine suggested that I check Google Scholar.  Pay it forward!



Tracking down info on the “night raiders”

It’s been difficult finding information on the “night raiders” gummed labels and stickers that I posted about previously.  Google searches for the sender of the envelope—J S Kennard—and text on the stickers—FANSHEN, FANSHAN, Peace Products, night raiders, and Vietnam War—have yielded next to nothing.  I’ve only got one lead with FANSHEN, but need to do some more research before I can post anything.


Today, however, on, I found out that a James T. Wicke, formerly from Wausau, Wisconsin, died at age 51 on January 16, 1999, in Chicago.  Survivors included a son, Guy F. Wicke, who is now a Chicago-based comedian and works in marketing and public relations for the theater community.  His company is called Wicke International, and he writes on his Web site that the name was a joyous nod to his late father, James T. Wicke’s, sense of humor.  Dad ran two apartment buildings, and as a property manager created letterhead, cards, and pens to look like a global corporation, bringing a playful irony to his business.  I emailed Guy Wicke to see if he can help fill me in on the stickers.  Stay tuned!

Possible sticker show in NYC!

There is a chance I might be able to show stickers from my collection at an artists’ collective gallery in NYC next February-March 2013!  I can’t say where exactly yet until the artists in the group confirm the idea, but the director of the gallery is very positive.  I met with him on Wednesday, and we spent over an hour talking through different ways to approach the project in ways that would be a good fit with the well-known street artists in the collective (inc. Faust and others).  Brian, the director, suggested we show individual stickers on the wall rather than stickers in thematic groups.  I like the idea a lot.  It would put the focus on stickers as individual works of art and creative expression.  We also talked about emphasizing the D-I-Y aspects of stickers to show one-of-a-kind handmade stickers (drawings, paintings, silkscreens, Xeroxes), as well as commercially printed vinyl stickers.  I think of D-I-Y in this context as often using free or cheap materials (US postal stickers, “Hello, my name is” stickers, etc.) and creating idiosyncratic mysterious messages with image and/or text, but even vinyl stickers can carry a D-I-Y attitude.  Here are two little magical D-I-Y stickers, in vinyl on the left and hand-drawn on the right:


One of my favorite books on D-I-Y is Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture by Stephen Duncombe.  Most everything that the author describes about zines pertains directly to stickers, too, in my opinion.  Primarily, both zines and stickers offer an alternative to commercial culture and consumer capitalism (how apt that I’m writing today on Black Friday, ugh….).  I’ll write more about zines and stickers in a later post.

Since I didn’t have to go to work today, I went through hundreds of stickers in my collection looking for any possible themes, genres, etc., for the show in NYC.  It was really fun and a nice change of scenery since I’ve spent so much of the last couple of years focusing on political stickers.  Here is some preliminary info I sent to Brian:

  • U.S. Postal stickers – I have about 75 that are hand-drawn, hand-painted, silkscreened, and a few Xeroxed.  From the strange to the wonderful!  I also have a bunch from Germany, too, which I’ll go through later.  Some German ones are done by well-known taggers such as Tower, Nest, and Ed Crew.
  • Animals and insects (35+): taggers – birds, cats, rabbits, lions, fox, mouse, zebra, panda, wolf, penguin, bugs, roaches, and bees.
  • Skull and crossbones (36+): taggers and advertising – tattoo salons, bands, hair salons, punks.
  • Portraits – hand-drawn and vinyl (50+) – mostly unknown faces – taggers; humanoid animal/human figures.  These are some of the most creative stickers, I think.  Really individual styles.
  • More well-known street/sticker artists (30+): Faile, Matt Siren, Gary Baseman, Serkos, 20 mg, Skarekroe, London Police, Evoker, Bäst, Toaster, Bishop 203.

And finally, here is a hand-drawn postal sticker that states, “Twerps!  Area Riot!  Rap Music Godz Ate Thier Oats!”



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