The Fading Art of the Bumper Sticker

Although they still linger on the corners of the bumpers of a few cars, the heydays of bumper stickers have faded, likely due to the dwindling popularity of the traditional, exposed bumper itself. Let’s explore the sticky history of the bumper sticker.

The Beginning of Bumpers

Which came first: the bumper or the sticker? The first car to feature a bumper was the Model A. What initially was a safety feature soon became a canvas for Forest P. Gill, the inventor of the bumper sticker. Gill created his first sticker in the 1940s. They took off as a trendy way to display tourist attractions drivers had visited. In 1952, the popular vehicle accessory began to include political messaging during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Presidential campaign.

The Diminishing Bumper

As car technology and safety features have evolved, car-engineering experts have developed a theory called the Bumper Conundrum. This theory asserts that the more effective a bumper is at protecting against minor dings and collisions, the less aesthetically appealing it becomes. In response, automakers began disguising the bumpers with paint jobs that matched the body of the car in the late 80s. This look ultimately yielded to the modern bumper, which is entirely disguised under plastic or fiberglass. And of course, without a big, unsightly bumper, what place do bumper stickers have?

The Sticker Comes Unstuck

While bumper stickers are still visible on the roads, their popularity has declined in recent history.  These days, instead of bumper stickers touting tourist destinations on the rear of a car, it’s more common to see a family of stick figures in the windshield, a small state flag, or even a university being represented. Most car brands, especially in the luxury category, have veered towards a more discreet hidden bumper, and with that change, have brought the decline of the bumper sticker.

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