Ah, the ubiquitous bumper sticker – that 3” x 10” self adhesive miniature billboard that tells everybody in the car behind us who we’re voting for, what school our kid is an honor roll student at, or where we spent our summer vacation.  They seem to stick on your car forever, but how long have they really been around?

Well, to answer that, we have to go back nearly 100 years to 1927 when Ford first put bumpers on their Model A’s as a safety measure.  Shortly after, people began decorating their bumpers with all sorts of slogan and signs, but not with stickers as we know them today. You see, early forms of bumper stickers were actually a sort of flag that was attached to the bumper with wires or twine. However, not all people thought that was attractive and wanted to do away with the “bumper sign” altogether.

Early bumper stickers were actually not “stuck”, but were held in place by string or wire.

One of those people who had an idea of how to make the bumper sign obsolete was a Kansas City, Missouri, print shop owner named Forest Gill.  Gill went out into a nearby parking lot in the mid-1940s and started measuring bumpers. He then when back to his print shop and took advantage of two new technologies at the time – self-adhesive paper and fluorescent ink – and made a prototype with some dummy copy that said something like “Fred Garvin for Sheriff”. Then they went back to the car and test-fit the sticker and –Voila! – the bumper sticker, a novelty item perfectly created for America’s highways, was born.

Mr. Forrest Gill, inventor of the bumper sticker.
(Photo via: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/8305)

Soon after Gill’s invention hit the market, bumper stickers became popular as travel souvenirs, sporting events and county fairs. However, though Gill started out mostly making bumper stickers for some of the best roadside attractions in each state, national elections are where he really made his money. In fact, the first bumper stickers produced for political advertising was during the Eisenhower-Stevenson presidential races of 1952 and 1956, and by the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential election, bumper stickers were everywhere, giving political buttons a run for their money in the political advertising market. In the years that followed, Gill would wait on “pins and needles” as soon as the national conventions for each party were over because it was then that the big orders came rolling in.

The ways that bumper stickers are made have come a long way since Mr. Gill’s first screen printed paper when they were easily damaged and the adhesive was gummy and hard to remove. Today’s bumper stickers are made from vinyl and include full color printing and new materials such as magnetic vinyl makes these stickers easier to remove without damage to the car.

However, one thing has remained the same – they continue to be a familiar part of how we express ourselves on the road and there’s no doubt of their impact on popular culture which has also made them prized collectibles usually fetching between a few dollars up to $100 at most for rare vintage stickers. For example, a 1968 “Nixon’s the One” bumper sticker is currently listed for $49.99, while a vintage “South of the Border” sticker will take about $12.99 out of your wallet. (Incidentally, Alan Schafer used to pay high school students to apply his bumper stickers on the fenders of every car that stopped by his South of the Border roadside attraction in the 1960s and 1970s.)

Bill Heermann of Lincoln, Nebraska, lays claim to the Guinness record for the largest collection of bumper stickers. Mr. Heermann has collected 4,131 since he started collecting them in the eighth grade in 1984. Bill was on his way to an Eagle Scouts meeting when a passer-by gave him a handful of stickers from passers-by and he’s been hooked on collecting them ever since.

(Photo via the Lincoln Journal Star)

Unfortunately, Mr. Forest P. Gill passed away on February 28, 2005, at the ripe old age of 99. If you’d like to pay homage to the man and his contribution to pop culture, or you’d like to give Mr. Bill Heermann of Lincoln, Nebraska, a run for his money, you can start by making a stop at your nearest Stuckey’s location and picking up one of our retro-inspired bumper stickers today.  They’re also available in our “Take a Stuckey’s Stop” Retro Gift Box  and our “Bundle it Up” Special Box for that special someone who loves everything Stuckey’s (even if that special someone is you). Order them now from stuckeys.com!

While you’re there, be sure to grab your family and friends some of our world famous Stuckey’s pecan log rolls or other fine pecan candies including our pecan divinity bars and pecan pralines. And while the weather still a bit cool this time of the year, keep warm with including our “Since 1937” hoodie and our Stuckey’s black wool cap or get ready for spring with some of our cool retro-inspired t-shirts and caps. After all, Stuckey’s merchandise always makes great gifts, no matter what time of year it is!

By the way, did you hear that we just bought a candy plant? Yep, we sure did and we’ve got to sell our old line of candy to make room for the new, so we are knocking down the price 50% per bag of Southern Sweets.  (Order $50 worth, and you get FREE SHIPPING!)

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!