Preserving a Unique Kind of Ephemera...Bumper Stickers

Though she’s seen thousands of bumper stickers, Whitney Baker isn’t all that interested in what they have to say. She’s more interested in keeping them around for a long, long time.

She’s a conservator for the KU Libraries and took a five-month sabbatical to go around the country to look at bumper stickers, and she’s learned a lot about how to preserve them for others.

During her research, she found that the history of bumper stickers points back to Kansas. Many credit Forest Gill, a screen printer from Kansas City, Kan., with developing the idea. He founded Gill Studios Inc., which today operates out of Lenexa. Gill’s son-in-law, Mark Gilman, today is chairman of the board for the company.

He said Gill developed an adhesive paper sticker to replace cardboard signs tied to bumpers that were beginning to gain popularity at the end of the 1930s and early 1940s.

Though many have said the concept can be traced back to Gill, that’s not something the company has definitively established, Gilman said.

Check out the thumbnail gallery and Baker's video about the collection now housed at the Spenser Research Library at Kansas University.

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