The Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at NYU’s Tamiment Library contains close to 30 original stickerettes, i.e., the “silent agitators” I wrote about in my previous post. I went down to NYC last week to see them in person and had no idea there would be so many different designs. From what I’ve been reading, some were used as early as the 1910s, while a later one referred to the fighting in Viet Nam (sic). I also saw a catalogue for an exhibition entitled “Wobbly” 80 Years of Rebel Art that was held at the Labor Archives and Research Center in San Francisco in 1987, so I ordered a copy of my own from AbeBooks. The catalogue identifies some of the artists who made these stickers (William Henkelman, for example, a sign painter by profession), though most of the creators weren’t artists at all (C.E. Setzer a.k.a. “CES” or “X13” was a construction worker on the Los Angeles aqueduct). According to the catalogue, “The IWW pioneered the use of these little pieces of gummed paper. Over the years countless different ones in a variety of sizes were produced in quantities that must total in the millions. Old and new, they are still in use by the IWW as a simple, succinct method to spread ideas or just to generally raise the consciousness of the passerby.”
I get asked all the time if it’s right or wrong to take stickers off the streets, but seeing the stickerettes at NYU confirmed my dedication to building a sticker archive. The stickers in my collection are just not available anymore, and some day, I’ll donate the collection to an institution for future research and scholarship.