Site Information

  • My Account
  • Gift Certificates
  • 678-235-3464

Printing & Design Tips

History of Bumper Stickers

Posted by Clash Graphics on

Don’t miss out on the marketing brilliance and fun of bumper stickers. By knowing how bumper stickers came to be, you can appreciate their deeply rooted potential in marketing and advertising.

Bumper stickers used to convey messages and advisories gathered information about the history of bumper stickers and how they’ve managed to “stick” around for so long.

Bumper Stickers - The Bumper

Ages before the invention of the automobile, marketing and advertising campaigns were already using the available modes of transportation to spread their word. Slogans and company names were being displayed on horse-drawn carriages, stagecoaches, and buggies.

When automobiles became widely available to the masses in the early 1900s, the practice of using vehicles to display information continued. However, these first automobiles didn’t have bumpers.

Bumper sticker history includes advertising and marketing displayed on vehicles before the bumper

It wouldn’t be until 1927, with the release of Ford’s Model A, that bumpers were adopted as a safety feature. As quickly as bumpers became commonplace, so did their ornamentation with makeshift signs attached using wire.

Bumper Stickers - The Sticker

Forest Gill, the owner of a Kansas City, KS print shop, is credited with using two wartime technologies (day-glow paint and adhesive-backed paper) in the mid-1940s to create the beginnings of what we now recognize as bumper stickers.

Initially, it was the tourism industry that seized the marketing value of this invention. The first known large volume request from Gill’s print shop was 25,000 bumper stickers for Marine Gardens in Clearwater, Florida. Roadside attractions were no longer limited to their often larger-than-life signage, their name and message were now traveling on highways throughout the country.

It didn’t take long for the giant wheels of political marketing to embrace the bumper sticker. During the 1952 presidential race between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, bumper stickers gained significant national popularity. Bumper stickers have since been produced and used in most political campaigns, and every presidential election.

Bumper stickers were literally everywhere by the 1960 presidential election. They had become a favorite way for voters to declare their intentions at the ballot box.

Bumper stickers became wildly popular after being used in political campaigns

Then, in 1968, the company that produced the beginnings of the bumper sticker printed 20 million of them for the presidential campaign of then Alabama governor George Wallace. By this time, bumper stickers had cemented their place in the marketing and advertising industries.

Bumper Sticker Evolution

Over the decades, bumper stickers have been made from various materials. The first bumper stickers were made using paper, but practicality and durability led vinyl bumper stickers to become the standard. Screen printing bumper stickers was commonplace until the 1990s when they were produced with a variety of different printing technologies.

Bumper stickers eventually evolved to include decals and placards. The most successful of them is the “Baby on Board” sign. The sign was developed and marketed by Michael Lerner, a Massachusetts businessman with no children. In less than a year of its release, Mr. Lerner sold 3 million of his signs.

Other significant, and wildly popular, bumper sticker creations include:

  • The ichthys, “Coexist”
  • My Child is an Honor Roll Student
  • Soccer Mom
  • Please Be Patient Student Driver
  • Stick Figure Family (decals)
  • Peace and Love
  • M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Diving)

Stick figure decals evolved from the popularity of bumper stickers

In 1991, a Georgia resident was charged with violating a state law prohibiting automobile owners from attaching “any sticker, decal, emblem, or other device containing profane or lewd words.” In Cunningham v. the State, the owner successfully argued this law was unconstitutional. The court agreed with him, ruling that the law violated the 1st and 14th Amendments. As such, the bumper sticker was now protected by freedom of speech.

European Bumper Stickers

The United States saw a massive explosion of messaging and marketing through bumper stickers. But, 1969 saw European countries requiring white, oval bumper stickers with the iconic black outline, and a 1, 2, or 3 letter country code be displayed on all vehicles.

European country identifying decals are a part of bumper sticker history

The 1980s saw the European oval bumper sticker gain popularity in the US as a status symbol. And by the 2000s, as Europe phased out the sticker, it had gained increasing popularity with restaurants, popular vacation destinations, tourist attractions, and other marketing uses in the US.

Bumper Stickers

In this article, you discovered how bumper stickers were created, how they evolved over the decades, and how they’ve been used to convey information.

By knowing how bumper stickers evolved and, in many cases, earned their place in our memories, you can better appreciate their potential impact in a marketing strategy.

Without including bumper stickers in your marketing strategy, you are excluding a powerful means of communication, potentially leaving significant revenue opportunities on the table.


Clash Graphics Print Shop Atlanta Flyer Printing

2233 Peachtree Rd NE Ste 202 AtlantaGA 30309
(678) 235-3464

The Future of The Printing Industry

Not knowing where the printing industry is heading can put you at a disadvantage. Despite the explosion of online marketing and social media advertising, the printing industry is evolving but continues to be vibrant. Clash Graphics gathered information about the future of the printing industry, what has happened over past decades, and new strategies and technologies [...]

Read More »

How Many Types of Printing Are There

Avoid wasting your time and money on a bad print job. By knowing what types of printing are available to you, you can achieve stunning results on your next print project. Clash Graphics gathered information on 7 forms of printing to help you make informed decisions when selecting the right type of printing for your next [...]

Read More »

Choosing The Right Paper Quality and Type for Your Print Project

Don’t let the wrong paper ruin your print job or marketing materials. Make a more significant impact on your clients by knowing which paper is best suited for your printing projects. gathered the following information to assist you in making informed decisions when selecting the right type and quality of paper for your next print [...]

Read More »

The Importance of Quality Customer Service to Growing Your Business

Poor customer service can kill your business. By knowing how quality customer service translates to business stability and growth, you can better train your employees and associates to exceed your customer’s expectations. gathered the following information on what quality customer service is, how it improves customer relationships with your business, and how it translates to [...]

Read More »

Looking for Yards To Mow to Grow Your Lawn Care Business

Are you trying to grow your lawn care business with little to no results? By knowing how to market your lawn care business, you can find more yards to mow and turn them into loyal customers. gathered the following information on marketing your lawn care business to attract new customers, and how to keep them. How [...]

Read More »

Digital vs. Offset Printing Explained

You can avoid unnecessary expenses for your printing needs. Knowing the differences between digital and offset printing can help you make smarter decisions when it’s time to print. gathered the following information about digital printing and offset printing, the differences, turnaround time, quality, color, and cost-effectiveness. What Is Offset Printing? Offset printing is the most used form [...]

Read More »

How To Ask Businesses to Sponsor Your Event

Don’t allow a lack of funding to derail or limit the impact of your upcoming event. Businesses and corporations spend billions of dollars sponsoring events every year, and many times all you have to do is know how to ask. gathered the following information and steps on how to successfully ask businesses to sponsor your [...]

Read More »

The Perfect Baby Shower Ideas, Games, and Planning

Avoid hosting a boring or disaster baby shower. A baby shower is a significant celebration that should be well-planned far enough in advance to eliminate any potential issues or problems. gathered baby shower ideas, fun and inclusive games, and details how to plan for this incredible celebration of life. Baby Shower Ideas Baby showers can accommodate any [...]

Read More »

How Wristbands Help You Identify People

Don’t lose money, control, or security of your next event. Using poly wristbands can help you clearly identify patrons, notice those that have yet to pay, and avoid the hassle of uncertain or mistaken identity. gathered information on the varied applications of custom poly wristbands and the qualities that make them a highly sought after [...]

Read More »