11 Classic Posters You Might've Had on Your Wall

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Well, most likely you wouldn't have had all 11 of these iconic posters on your wall simultaneously, but if you grew up in a certain era you probably either owned or saw one of the following posted somewhere, whether in your own bedroom, on the wall of a dorm room, in a "hip" teacher's classroom, etc. Here are the stories behind those iconic posters:

1. Hang in There, Baby

There were hundreds of variations of a dangling kitten hanging in there, but this black and white poster was the original. Sadly, there is not much information to be found as to who created it; the copyright info leads to nothing but dead ends. However, one thing we can probably be certain of, as Marge Simpson noted when she saw the copyright date of 1968, is that the kitty model for the poster is either long dead or a candidate for Guinness World Records.

2. Farrah

The Pro Arts Company of Ohio was run by two brothers who specialized in selling youth-oriented posters. They hit pay dirt in the early 1970s when their "Fonzie" poster sold a quarter of a million copies. In early 1976, one of Pro Arts' founders heard from a friend that many of his dorm-mates at college were buying women's magazines just for the Wella Balsam shampoo ads that featured a blonde beauty named Farrah Fawcett. Pro Arts tracked down Fawcett and arranged a photo shoot beside the pool at her Bel-Air, California, home. Photographer Bruce McBroom used an Indian blanket that doubled as a seat cover in his Chevy as a backdrop. Farrah chose a red one-piece bathing suit in lieu of a bikini in order to cover a scar on her stomach. In the ultimate example of serendipity, between the time Farrah posed for the poster and its release in late 1976, she had been hired as one of Charlie's Angels and the first few episodes had aired. The free publicity provided by the show sent poster sales into the stratosphere, and made Pro Arts a multi-million dollar company.

3. Footprints

This is another poster that was reprinted in several thousand forms graphics-wise, but the poem remained basically the same: the narrator was chatting with the Lord about how when he imagined his life there were two sets of footprints in the sand, but during the lowest parts of his life there was only one set of prints. The Lord replied that those were the times when he was carrying the narrator. Sadly this inspirational verse has a very contentious history, with no less than four people vehemently insisting that they wrote the original poem. Oregon artist Burrell Webb claims that he composed the verse in 1958 after being dumped by his girlfriend. Mary Stevenson, who went on to first be a showgirl and then a nurse, states that she wrote the poem as a teenager in 1936 during the Great Depression. Evangelist Margaret Fishback Powers insists that she wrote the words in 1964 when her future husband proposed to her on the beach, and the verse became ever so meaningful to her in succeeding years when she was struck by lightning (twice), saw her daughter go over a 60-foot waterfall and her husband suffer a heart attack while rescuing her, and suffered a bout of meningitis. Carolyn Joyce Carty, who is one of the most litigious "authors" when it comes to the Footprints poem, says that she wrote the verse in 1963 at the age of six on an old Remington typewriter based on the Sunday school teachings of her aunt Ella.

4. Keep on Truckin'

Robert Crumb first drew the "Keep on Truckin'" cartoon in 1968 as part of the first issue of an underground comic called Zap. Crumb later confessed that he thought the "Truckin'" panel was the "dumbest page in the whole comic" but somehow the image caught on with the hippie counter-culture and took on a life of its own. On the advice of a friend, Crumb retained a lawyer and went after the biggest retailer of "Truckin'" merchandise, A.A. Sales, a company that was using the image on everything from posters to coffee mugs to bath mats. A lengthy legal battle ensued that resulted in Crumb receiving a whopping $750 settlement, but A.A. Sales disputed even that paltry amount and pursued the matter to federal court, utilizing a little-known defense known as "notice omission" – that is, Crumb had lost all claims to his drawing because he'd never included the little C in a circle copyright symbol along with his name and date. The case dragged on and on (and on) and even changed some copyright laws along the way, but R. Crumb ultimately stated that he'd had no intention of becoming a "greeting card artist for the counter-culture movement" – he never wanted to do "shtick."

5. Love is...

Kim Grove met Roberto Casali at a Los Angeles ski club in 1967. She drew little cartoons of a boy and girl together to document the budding romance and to give to Roberto as "love notes." Luckily Roberto kept all the drawings and submitted them to the Los Angeles Times, which published the first Love Is... panel on January 5, 1970. Soon the cartoon was syndicated worldwide and the subject of coffee mugs, T-shirts, and posters. In 1975, Roberto was diagnosed with cancer, and Kim made the then-controversial decision to have some of his sperm frozen for later use. A little over a year after Roberto passed away, Kim gave birth to their son Milo.

6. Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Today most folks view seagulls as nothing more than rats with wings, but back in 1972 one of those scavengers was the subject of a multi-million dollar franchise. Richard Bach's feel-good story Jonathan Livingston Seagull contained less than 10,000 words but sold more than 8,000,000 copies in hardcover and paperback, and various posters based on the warm fuzzy axioms in the novella were equally successful sellers.

7. Mark Spitz

Swimming superstar Mark Spitz was the first athlete to win seven gold medals at an Olympiad. When he posed for a poster wearing a Stars and Stripes Speedo and his medals, he became not only a household name but also a sex symbol. Look carefully at Spitz' famous poster and you'll notice his hand casually obscuring the "Speedo" logo. That's because he had a contract with German swimsuit manufacturer Arena at the time and was trying to avoid any "conflict of interest" lawsuits.

8. War Is Not Healthy...

Printmaker Lorraine Schneider sat at her Los Angeles work table one morning in 1966 and etched out a sunflower and a child-like anti-war slogan on a two-inch square piece of metal. The resulting poster sold millions of copies worldwide, but Schneider earned not one penny from it; shortly after she designed it, she gave all the rights to a small local group called Another Mother for Peace. AMP closed its offices in 1986, but the group was re-established in 2003 with the advent of the war in Iraq.

9. Peter Max

No bedroom was officially groovy or trippy enough without an official Peter Max poster. Max ushered in the psychedelic era of the 1960s with his vibrant colors, abstract stars and planets, and messages of love and peace. Max's artwork also powered 7-Up's 1968 "un-cola" advertising campaign.

10. Jaws

It took Bantam Books illustrator Roger Kastel six months to get the paperback cover illustration just right for the Peter Benchley book Jaws – none of the drafts seemed scary enough. Finally it was decided that the best way to get a good view of the great white shark's razor-sharp teeth was to picture him from underneath. Universal Pictures was so impressed with the final product that they agreed that it would be the only picture used in any promotional materials for the film.

11. Jim Morrison

Joel Brodsky photographed Jim Morrison in New York City for the 1967 "Young Lion" shoot. He later recalled that Jim had been drinking heavily the entire time and was stumbling around the studio, knocking lights over. Despite his faulty equilibrium, Morrison still managed to engage the camera; when the above photo appeared in The Village Voice, the paper received more than 10,000 requests for a print of it.

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March 12, 2012 - 1:11pm
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