When Walt Disney’s groundbreaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937, it was accompanied by one of the largest publicity campaigns in film history.
A wide variety of posters, banners and standees were created for distribution to theaters all over the world.
Many of them are highly sought after by collectors today, but none more so than the elusive 24-sheet billboard.
Made from 24 sheets lithographed separately and then knitted together to form three character groupings spanning an incredible 19-and-a-half feet in width and 9’11″ in height, only a few of them were ever produced and only one of them is known to survive.
Among the gems released into the public domain by the British Library last December is an advertisement for Batkin & Kent, Hairdressers and Perfumers of Stafford, (or Staffford – whoever proofread it probably hoped it would disappear with the next edition of the book rather than re-emerge on the internet 128 years later, but c’est la vie).
It is illustrated with the image of a man seated in a barber’s chair, undergoing the fashionable process of hair-brushing by machinery.
This attractive and somewhat intriguing advertisement has scored more than 4,200 views so far – not bad for one image among a million.
But how did this hair-brushing process work? Was it a one-off eccentricity that never caught on, or a familiar sight in every hairdressing salon?
The answer is that it became more than familiar – hair-brushing by machinery was a Victorian sensation, capturing the public imagination at a time when the mechanisation of everyday activity spoke of prosperity, progress and improvement to the human condition.
It was also a solidly British development; something that the ‘Yankees’, for all their inventiveness, had failed to come up with.
When the phrase “San Francisco rock posters” is uttered in certain circles, most people picture bold blocks of psychedelicized Art Nouveau lettering, a skeleton crowned by a garland of roses, shimmering collisions of equiluminant colors, and a flying eyeball peering through a burning ring of fire.
That describes the most iconic work of the so-called Big Five poster artists—Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and Rick Griffin.
But as good as those artists were (in the case of the late Griffin and Kelley) and are (in the case of the rest), it took more than just five artists to create all the posters and handbills required to publicize all the concerts produced during these years.
In addition, if it weren’t for the career pressmen at companies such as Bindweed Press, Cal Litho, West Coast Litho, and Tea Lautrec Litho, the drug-fueled dreams of some of these artists might never have seen the light of day.
“One of the best pressmen in the business was Levon Mosgofian, who owned and operated Tea Lautrec Litho.”
Recently, I was invited to curate an exhibition of San Francisco Bay Area rock posters at the San Francisco International Airport, whose SFO Museum produces more than 50 shows a year across 25 exhibition spaces for the 44 million travelers who pass through the airport annually.
My qualifications for this incredible honor are essentially a love of rock posters since I was a kid, membership on the board of The Rock Poster Society as an adult, and a collection of maybe 400 pieces, which is paltry compared to the holdings of most of the collectors who supplied posters to the show.
Thanks to their generosity, I was able to organize “When Art Rocked: San Francisco Music Posters, 1966-1971,” which features about 160 posters, along with another 100 or so postcards, handbills, tickets, and other scraps of ephemera from the era.
A smaller companion exhibit of 1960s fashion and design, curated by SFO’s Nicole Mullen, is located conveniently nearby.
Romeo y Julieta, imported Havana cigars. Rodriguez, Arguelles y Ca., n.d. [after 1902]. Published by the Compania Litografica, Havana. Chromolithographic poster. 62 x 50.4 cm. Graphic Arts Collection GC149 Ephemera.
The French expatriot artist Frédéric Mialhe (1810-1881) lived and worked in Cuba from 1838 to 1854.
He was brought there to be a landscape painter for the newly established lithographic press of François Cosnier and Alexandre Moreau de Jonnes under the sponsorship of the Royal Patriotic and Economic Society of Cuba.
With three presses, five operators, and one master painter, it was “one of the most outstanding enterprises of its kind ever attempted in Cuba” (Cueto).
A particular relationship between the tobacco industry and the chromolithographic printers developed.
Everything from the largest posters to the smallest cigar bands were printed and embossed in elaborate multicolor designs.