No More Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee

Paul Smith, Rand Mcnally advertising, 1957

One of my bizarre obsessions is riverboats. I don’t particularly want to take a ride on a new casino riverboat in St. Louis, but I’d be fine taking a riverboat cruise in 1850 up the Mississippi. I’ve found a repeating motif of riverboats in illustrations between 1950 and 1960. They were used on ads for pharmaceutical products, handkerchiefs, posters, and wallpaper. If the riverboat craze happened in 1940 it would make sense. Gone With the Wind was released in 1939, and all things antebellum south were the cat’s pajamas. Perhaps the 1950s trend with riverboats had something to do with the nostalgia for a simpler time when atomic warfare was a constant worry.

Maybe that’s my issue too. Noreen keeps telling me, “Sean, it’s not 1955. The Soviet Union is not planning a strike. You can stop digging that bomb shelter.” Or, maybe I just like the way these riverboats look. Like Mark Twain said, “Riverboats look like floating wedding cakes.” In the past few months I’ve been able to use riverboats on two projects. I made one for my lecture poster for AIGA Orange County, and I used a wonderful painting of another riverboat in the latest Mohawk Via promotion (to be released soon).

Verband Schweizerische Konsumvereine, Basel, 1957

Maria Bieri, 1954

Robert Schneeberg, CBS, 1955

Muller-Blase, 1954

C. Piatti, 1955

Travel Monthly, 1954

Sean Adams, Mohawk Via promotion spread, 2010

Sean Adams, AIGA OC, 2010

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2 Responses to “No More Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee”

  1. Lydia Mann Says:

    These are charming and beautiful. Particularly love your interpretation for AIGA OC. Thanks!

  2. Tony Says:

    Love the OC AIGA poster! I believe they will be selling them for $10 (err, accepting $10 donations) at your talk Tuesday night.