Bumper Stickers



Whether it’s a stick figure family, a stick figure family being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, “My child is an honor roll student” or “My miniature schnauzer is smarter than your honor roll student,” people love getting cheeky with their bumper stickers. But what are the origins of these mobile signifiers?

Many credit Forest P. Gill, a silkscreen printer in Kansas City, Kansas, as the creator — it was he who realized the advertising potential of self-adhesive paper. Before stickers on car bumpers was the norm, advertisers put business names on signs, wheel covers and horsefly nets. When bumper stickers caught on, early versions promoted tourist attractions like Marine Gardens in Florida, Meramec Caverns in Missouri and Rock City Gardens in Tennessee. In the 1940s and 1950s, visitors to Rock City wound up with a “See Rock City” bumper sticker, thanks to staffers who roamed the parking lot and applied one to every car.

The first known presidential campaign sticker appeared in 1952’s race between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. No matter what message drivers are sending, one commonality seems prevalent: road rage. Colorado State University social psychologist William Szlemko found a link between aggressive driving and the number of stickers on the person’s car, regardless of the messages displayed.