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Bumper Sticker History

Sept. 23, 2021

Set of Bumper Stickers

Custom Bumper Stickers have been around for a long time. They have almost been around as long as car bumpers to be exact. But before there were bumper stickers or bumpers people were advertising on their horses and buggies! The idea of using your vehicle or mode of transportation as an advertising space has been popular since before the 1900’s!

Now in order for bumper stickers to be created - cars first needed bumpers! The earliest cars did not have this safety feature. It came around in 1927 when Ford released the Model A car. But bumper stickers were not created for a little Sticker of an Old Carwhile after. Before the sticker came around people would put cardboard signs on their bumpers and hold them in place with string and rope. Needless to say - these cardboard signs did not withstand any sort of rain, snow or other types of inclement weather. Thus, the idea of custom bumper stickers was born.

Before the bumper sticker was created - the creation of the sticker as we know it today happened. A man named Ray Stanton Avery is often credited with the creation of the modern day sticker because he created the first pressure sensitive labels. Shortly after Avery created the first commercial labels the bumper sticker was born. With the creation of pressure sensitive labels and the wider use of bumpers on cars - a man named Forrest P. Gill who lived in Kansas City, MO, created custom bumper stickers! In the 1940’s he took adhesive backed paper and fluorescent paint and combined them to create what was essentially the first ever bumper sticker. Back then they called this creation “bumper strips”!

The first industry to grab hold of this new trend was the tourism industry! While people were visiting resorts, tourist attractions and amusement parks the resort staff would actually run out into the parking lot and adhere their bumper stickers to the cars in the lot! This practice would probably not be widely accepted today. The other benefit this industry saw was that their guests could advertise for them across the country - wherever their visitors were driving back to after their trip. I Like Ike Stickers

After the tourist industry got a ho ld of this trend - next came the presidential campaigns. To this day political advertising is one of the most prominent uses of bumper stickers. The idea of using custom bumper stickers for political advertising was born during the 1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson Presidential Election. Dwight D. Eisenhower promoted his campaign with his slogan “I Like Ike” everywhere! Bumper stickers were used widely during the election campaign and have been used widely during every single presidential campaign since!

Now - Gill’s creation was pretty messy and not very streamlined because they all had to be made by hand. So, people started using flexography (a method that was around since 1890). In the 1950’s however people started using less dangerous and toxic inks which led to its growth in popularity. Flexography allowed printers to pass self adhesive vinyl through presses allowing for quicker production. This was the primary method of printing labels and stickers for a long time.

Next came the General Press which was invented by James Black in the 1960’s. This became the screen printing standard and the prominent method for printing stickers. Screen printing was essentially used until the 1990’s when Digital Sticker Printing was invented. This allows people to use computers to digitally send their artwork to a printer that would print out the labels and stickers. This is one of the most widely used methods today because it is efficient, streamlined, and offers the ability to do short-run sticker orders as well as long runs!

Bumper Stickers on Rear Windshield of a Car

Today - Bumper stickers are widely used in a variety of industries. They are still one of the most popular forms of political advertising. They are used by churches and religious groups. They are personal statement pieces. Sometimes, they are used for communication too. Bumper stickers might say “baby on board” or “student driver” to send a message to the car behind them. They come in all shapes and sizes. They come in lots of different materials. They are sometimes funny and sometimes harsh. And they are loved by many and hated by many too. Regardless of how you feel about them, we think the custom bumper stickers are here to stay!

Multiple Bumper Stickers on the Back of a Truck