Whether you’re expressing your political views or making the driver behind you laugh, bumper stickers have been doing all that and much more for decades. Long seen as a way to express one’s individuality, bumper stickers can convey an almost unending array of messages. However, while people may look at bumper stickers while on the road, they probably know very little about them. If you happen to be one of those people who always had plenty of questions about bumper stickers but were afraid to ask, here are five little-known facts about bumper stickers that are sure to amuse and amaze.
1- No Bumpers, No Bumper Stickers
In the early days of automobiles, safety standards were nothing like they are today. Because of this, there were actually no bumpers on automobiles until 1927, when Henry Ford’s Model A introduced bumpers as one of the first safety measures for automobiles. Once bumpers became a common part of all vehicles, drivers decided to start decorating their bumpers with various signs and slogans, thus starting the proud history of bumper stickers.
2- Bumper Stickers Weren’t Always Stickers
Contrary to the popular assumption that bumper stickers were always stickers, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the first bumper stickers were actually flag-like signs that were attached to the cars with wires or strings. As the years went on, many bumper stickers were made of paper, but since paper stickers fell apart quicker due to weather conditions, vinyl bumper stickers became the norm.
3- Thank You, Forest P. Gill
As with any invention, there had to be someone who had an idea and eventually saw it to fruition. In the case of bumper stickers, that distinction goes to Kansas City’s own Forest P. Gill. A silkscreen printer in Kansas City during the 1940’s, Gill was fascinated by bumper stickers and figured he could make some money by creating something that would spotlight local tourist attractions. Using his skills as a silkscreen printer, Gill was the pioneer when it came to using adhesive to help the stickers stick to vehicles, thus making bumper stickers what they are today.
4- Bumper Stickers in Song
Because they have long been a big part of pop culture, bumper stickers have naturally been immortalized in song. Believe it or not, one of the best-selling rap songs in Israel, appropriately called “The Sticker Song” by Hadag Nachas, consists entirely of bumper sticker sayings from Israel. And along with this, there is actually a world record for bumper sticker collecting. As of now, the record stands at 4,131 bumper stickers. With such a large number, we can only assume they are all not on the same car.
5- Bumper Stickers and Road Rage
Since bumper stickers can convey a variety of messages, such as showing support for sports teams, expressing one’s religious or political views, endorsing a certain product or service, or telling a joke that hopefully others will find funny, it’s only natural that from time to time they may trigger some strong emotions. Based on this assumption, various studies have been conducted on people who have an array of bumper stickers on their vehicles. One of the most comprehensive studies on this topic was conducted at Colorado State University, where the Social Psychology department interviewed people who regularly placed bumper stickers on their cars, and also examined statistics from across the country. When this study was finished, psychologist William Szlemkmo concluded that individuals who used bumper stickers to express their individuality were linked to more acts of road rage. Surprisingly, the study found that aggressive driving incidents went up with the number of stickers a person had on their vehicle, no matter what views they were expressing.
So while we have Forest P. Gill to thank for today’s modern bumper stickers, there’s no doubt people will continue to express their views by putting these items on their vehicles. Whether it’s supporting a political candidate or joking about this or that, bumper stickers are sure to be around as long as we have bumpers to put them on.