Archive for the 'Stickin' it to the Man' Category

“Forward to Recovery” sticker


I recently found a great 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.

I.W.W. “stickerettes”

After learning recently about S.D.S. stickers (Students for a Democratic Society) in the U.S., I’ve been expanding my collection with a few more examples like these from the 1970s.

Online today, I came across something even older – stickers from the early 1910s-1920s that were created for the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W) and used as “silent agitators” or “silent organizers.”  On Facebook, the Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State University features six stickers, which at the time were called “stickerettes,” and writes, “they were easy to anonymously stick on surfaces throughout the job site (including the back of a boss).”  In the State of Washington, Centralia College’s Kirk Library also shows a digitized collection of 17 stickerettes.

And in a new book called The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon, William M. Adler, the author writes, “[t]he novel stickerettes represented a low-cost, high-visibility advertising campaign for the union.”  One from the book is pictured here.  Another book by Gibbs Smith of Joe Hill includes a reference to stickerettes, too.  Below is a screen shot of page 8 from Google books.

Apparently, these stickerettes were printed by the millions.  Working Class Heroes describes how “Hill dispatched caustic, if crude, cartoons to Industrial Solidarity, the union’s newspaper, some of which ended up on silent agitators—stickers meant to slapped up in mess halls, in lumber camps, in city flops and beaneries, and even factory floors.”

All of this in time for the June 5, 2012 vote to recall Wisconsin Governer Scott Walker and his attempts at union-busting.

STUCK UP and “They Live”

My “I’m Sorry (George W. Bush)” sticker is included in an exhibition entitled STUCK UP, A Selected History of Alternative & Pop Culture Told Through Stickers, which opens on January 20, 2012, and runs through March 3, 2012, at Maxwell Collette Gallery in Chicago.  The exhibition, which was curated by DB Burkeman, draws from his extensive personal collection and:

provides an unparalleled opportunity to explore the expanding role that stickers have played in popular culture over the past four decades.  ‘STUCK UP…’ features stickers from Street Art legends (Banksy, Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, KAWS), and internationally lauded contemporary artists (Andy Warhol, Jenny Holzer, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Tom Sachs) shown side by side with anonymous stickers peeled from the streets of NYC.”

The exhibition opened at the Scope Art Fair during Art Basel | Miami Beach in December 2011.  For this project, Burkeman created seven large themed panels, sort of like what I’ve done in sticker exhibitions in the past, but his stickers look like they’re floating in air, which is pretty sweet.  My sticker is on the lower left of this panel, second row up from the bottom:

Aside from this, I watched John Carpenter’s 1988 film They Live yesterday on the recommendation of friends at Peace Paper.  With a more contemporary cast, the film could have been made in the last couple of years with its themes of corporate greed, capitalist consumption, police surveillance, and the role of advertising and the media in controlling human thought.  When the main character in the movie puts on a special pair of sunglasses, he is able to see the truth that alien ghouls run the banks and government and that billboards, magazines, and material objects contain subliminal messages to “OBEY,” “CONSUME,” and “MARRY AND REPRODUCE.”

Shepard Fairey is said to have been influenced by the film for his OBEY Giant propaganda campaign.

Evil of colossal magnitude

The second U.S. President John Adams condemned slavery in 1812 by stating it was an evil of colossal magnitude, but evil, years later, took on a new meaning.  In the days and weeks after the 9/11/2001 attacks, we heard the 43rd President, George W. Bush, appropriate the term almost like a mantra, with speeches announcing “a campaign against evil-doers,” to “rid the world of evil-doers,” and to “hold the evil-doers accountable.”  “Civilized people around the world denounce the evil-doers who devised and executed these terrible attacks.”  Bush used the term “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address in January 2002 to include Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.  I think this sticker collected in 2006 points the evil finger back at G.W.B.

Protests everywhere

Research from yesterday:

February 13th and 14th mark the anniversary each year of the Dresden bombings, during which Allied forces killed an estimated 25,000 civilians by dropping incendiary bombs.  Far-right extremists have since used the occasions to gather in remembrance and march through the city with flags, banners, and torches.  In 2011, two funeral marches were scheduled within days of each other.  The first on February 13th drew 1,300 neo-Nazis, but what was remarkable were the 17,000 counter-protesters who also showed up to block the parade by creating a human chain extending two miles around the city.  The second gathering on February 19 drew some 600 neo-Nazis (fewer than the 4,000 expected) and an estimated 21,000 counter-protesters made up of an alliance of political parties, church groups, trade unions, and associations.  Five thousand police were deployed to keep the peace at each event.

I’ve searched online for stories about the Dresden protests.  Nothing in The New York Times as of today, February 19 (though plenty of suggestions for restaurants and hotels).  It’s early, though.  I’ll give them a few more days.

A set of photographs on Flickr, however, depicts violent confrontations between what look to be antifa protesters and riot police (images copyright Noktalia 2011).

Example of anti-Nazi sticker – this one from Berlin:

Ha ha.

The .png shots I take for this SK blog are too small in size and too low-res to be used in any other printed matter.  No surprise.  It’s weird, though.  I can re-save a .png shot as a .jpeg, and the file size remains the same?  I can’t remember.  In any case, I created a .png shot at 72 dpi, re-saved it as a 72 dpi .jpeg, and re-saved it again as 150 dpi and 300 dpi .jpegs.  You’re not supposed to enlarge files like this, but I’m having Shutterfly make 5 x7-inch photographs to see how they compare in printed form.  The Web site I used to make .png shots is the blog called Fighting Fire with Gasoline.

Shutterfly also offers easy POD print-on-demand publishing services for people to create personal scrap books and photo albums.  I guess they took random images from folders I’ve set up to entice me to make an album, b/c what I saw today had the status of my current order juxtaposed with a sample photo album entitled “Fuck Kapitalism.”

“Check it out.”  Ha ha.  Can’t make this stuff up.

Also can’t make up the fact that federal funding for Planned Parenthood got axed today in the House.

A.C.A.B. stickers

A.C.A.B. is an acronym that stands for “all cops are bastards,” a punk phrase that can be heard shouted at public demonstrations and protests throughout Germany and many counties in Europe.  The formidable police presence at these events gets little notice in the United States, yet hundreds of videos on YouTube depict violent head-on clashes between armed police and unarmed protesters and passersby.

In prisons in the United Kingdom and United States, the letters A.C.A.B. can often be found tattooed on the front of a person’s four fingers in clenched fist.  Alternately, in various other contexts, the acronym can mean, “always carry a Bible,”[1] “anarcho-communists are beautiful,” and in the photograph below, “acht Cola, acht Bier” (eight colas, eight beer).[2]

Banners and flags with A.C.A.B. appear at European football games, and in April 2010, police in Amsterdam arrested three men at a game for wearing T-shirts with the number 1312.  In January 2011, the men were each fined 330 Euros.[3]

A.C.A.B. stickers depict a range of sentiments from photographs of militant antifa hooligans clad in black standing face-to-face with armed riot police and uniformed Polizei snorting coke, to cartoons of young punks, musicians, and street artists.  In one sticker, a vengeful Bart Simpson and clan are shown running from a calamitous scene of fire and smoke with bottle rocket, wrench, and wooden bat, chasing down dopey and bewildered cops.

The AJAK antifa sticker (Antifa jugendaktion Kreuzburg) shows a photograph of a young man being arrested.  Dressed in green as a mischievous Peter Pan with arms bound in cord behind him, he is escorted into a police car.  The interaction depicted here is not overtly violent, unlike some of the others.

Proposal accepted

My proposal to give a paper at the international Arts in Society conference in Berlin in May 2011 was accepted.  Here ’tis. Other accepted proposals are here.

Backwoods in northern NY

Driving through some backwoods territory in northern NY this fall, I got a little lost and drove through Onchiota, where the Iroquois Six Nations Indian Museum is located (but unfortunately wasn’t open at the time).

Pretty tree near Onchiota

The six Iroquois nations include the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Tuscarora.  I thought (mistakenly) that Mohawks made up the Haudenosaunee, but I learned in fact that Haudenosanee represents all six nations.  Now that I think about it, duh, Akwesasne is the term for what used to be called the St. Regis Mohawks near where I live.

There were a bunch of political signs along the road there, as well as this White House for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Bill and Hillary outhouse

Sometimes/all the time

“Sometimes the pencil is stronger than I am” is my favorite quote right now from an Inuit artist, Suvinai Ashoona.  I can kind of relate.  Sometimes stickers and street art have such a strong presence and force, stronger than me.  Well, not sometimes. All the time. I hope that’s not too weird.  I love the creativity, the hope, the commitment, the optimism.  That people will notice.  That people will care.



Flickr Photos

December 2022