On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg, the largest German airship, exploded in flames as it was landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Although the immediate cause of the spark is debated, the underlying cause was well known – the United States was the only industrial source of helium in the world and would not sell the “strategic material” to the Nazis. The Zeppelin Company was forced to substitute hydrogen, a flammable material, for helium. The rest is history.
The poster featured above was once owned by the advertising director of American Airlines, the company that managed flights from Lakehurst to New York City for Zeppelin customers. It is still attached to the original board he displayed it on in his office.
For photographs and additional history on the Hinderburg Disaster, we recommend this recent article featured on theatlantic.com.
Otto Baumberger, Doelker Die Weisse Mode, 1923. Many of the early posters were designed for Bally shops, such as Doelker. An exceptionally elegant image by Baumberger.
Emil Cardinaux, Bally Chaussures de Sport, 1924. One of the pioneers of Swiss poster art, Cardinaux created 8 posters for Bally, mostly for sport and work shoes.
Fashion Week is a perfect time to show off one of the best fashion poster series of all time. Perhaps the longest running, most extensive (over 200 posters) and beautiful is the series for Bally shoe. Founded in 1851 in Switzerland, Bally became an internationally respected name in men’s and women’s shoes within 20 years. In 1907 the Company went public and created a position for a publicity manager. Although the first poster was created that year, posters only became a regular part of the firm’s marketing mix around 1920.
What resulted was a spectacular explosion of posters, many created by the best designers in Switzerland, France and Spain that has continued to the present day. Here are six fine examples.
Ribas, Bally Chaussures, 1924. Ribas created three stunning images for Bally in the Roaring Twenties, and captured the glamor of the era perfectly.
Pierre Augsburger, Bally Radar, 1955. Bally started promoting ski boots in the early Thirties. This Object Style poster was a terrific call to action – Lace ‘Em up and Go!
Jacques Demachy, Bally, 1947. It is perfectly clear from Demachy’s post-World War II poster that Paris couture is back.
Bernard Villemot, Bally Ball, 1989. In the late 80s, Villemot’s Art Deco inspired posters carried on the Bally tradition to a new, hip consumer. Note that our Bally girl has a Bally man in the shadows.
The contrast in these propaganda posters from WWII could not be more stark. Some of the most vitriolic racist posters of the war were created in Italy by the Fascist government to stiffen Italian resistance as the Allies began their invasion. Boccasile’s shocking poster showed a Black GI as a gorilla hawking a priceless Italian treasure, the Venus de Milo, for $2.
The American poster is one of the few in the war that shows a Black man, and the only one we can recall to feature an integrated workforce. It would not be til 1948 that President Truman would officially integrate the armed services, but this 1942 poster portrayed a societal shift that was slowly in the making.
Paris printer using stone lithography, ca. 1925. Artists or master lithographers would transfer designs to stone using a grease pencil. The design was fixed with acid, and the stone could then be inked with one color and run through the press. Most jobs consisted of four colors (yellow, red, blue and black) which required four stones, as seen here.
February 26 marks the 177th anniversary of the death of Alois Senefelder (1771 – 1834). All poster fans owe a debt to Senefelder, a German actor and playwright. It was while seeking an inexpensive way to publish one of his plays that Senefelder developed stone lithography, the technique of printing an image multiple times using a set of specially prepared stone plates. It was this discovery, refined by Jules Cheret in the 1860s and 1870s, that eventually made possible the exuberant color and rich textures that characterized the “Golden Age of the Poster” from 1890 to World War II.