Iconic New England Bumper StickersPhoto Credit : Lars Klove (Stickers); Zoom-Zoom/iStock (Background)
By Courtney Hollands
1. Since its debut in the early ’90s, the sticker for Nantucket sandwich spot Something Natural—a single flower that comes in a rainbow of colors—has become the ultimate New England “if you know, you know.” And it was once a ticket for free bread, too: Years ago, when owner Matt Fee drove his children around the region for club soccer tournaments, he would leave a fresh-baked Portuguese loaf on the windshield of any car that was sporting the cheery symbol (much to his tween daughter’s chagrin).
2. Featuring a block print of the historic Montague Bookmill by Northampton artist Betsy Frederick, this sticker endures because it’s funny, said current owner Susan Shilliday. The irreverent slogan—“Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find”—dates to the store’s founding era, the late 1980s, and evolved “out of the lunacy of the whole enterprise, of putting a bookstore in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “In an era of hype, people like the self-deprecation.”
3. The earliest iterations of the now-ubiquitous Mount Washington Auto Road sticker were four feet long, fashioned from cardboard, and fastened to bumpers with wire in the late 1930s—when driving up the narrow summit road was truly a feat. By the 1960s, those had given way to standard vinyl stickers, and today every motorist who heads up the 6,288-foot peak gets one of the retro mementos for free. “It’s a huge brand,” said Howie Wemyss, the road’s retired general manager. “I don’t think I’ve ever been on vacation anywhere in the United States and not seen at least one.”
4. To help prevent deadly moose-car collisions, the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department in the late 1980s borrowed a public safety campaign from Alaska, changing the tagline from “Give Moose a Brake” to the more urgent “Brake for Moose: It Could Save Your Life.” The yellow stickers came out in 1991, not only cementing the hulking herbivore’s celebrity status in the Granite State but also giving drivers a way to “express that they care about natural resources,” said the department’s Moose Project leader and wildlife biologist, Henry Jones.
5. When someone at a 2009 beer festival bought the bright orange “BeerME” shirt that Chris Avantaggio had designed right off his friend’s back, the creative director knew he was on to something. Soon he introduced stickers and spin-offs, all including the outline of and abbreviation for the Pine Tree State: “SkiME,” “FishME,” and more. “The collection encompasses everything we love about the state and the fun things to do here,” Avantaggio said. The original sticker celebrating Maine’s craft breweries remains a best seller; however, he recently released a “WineME” glass for oenophiles, too.
6. Because Narragansett Beer’s popular decal simply exclaims “Hi Neighbor!”, there are unsuspecting people “who pick up our stickers thinking it’s like a ‘Life Is Good’ sticker, not even affiliated with a beer company,” said president and CEO Mark Hellendrung, who estimates that the brewery has ordered 600,000 of them in the past five years alone. “It’s pretty funny.” Of course, New Englanders of a certain age know that the phrase comes from the slogan made famous in the 1950s by Red Sox announcer Curt Gowdy: “Hi neighbor, have a ’Gansett.”
7. In the almost four decades since marketing pro Gerald Muro came up with the award-winning “Ski It If You Can” campaign as an ode to Mad River Glen’s challenging terrain, the cult status of the red-and-white bumper sticker has, ahem, snowballed. It’s been spotted on the canopy of a U.S. Air Force F-16, among penguins in Antarctica, and even in space (thanks to astronaut and longtime Mad River Glen co-op shareholder Cady Coleman).
8. Kale was still just a salad bar garnish in 2000 when T-shirt artist Bo Muller-Moore traced his pointer finger with a Sharpie to create the original “Eat More Kale” stencil, first printing it on wildly popular tees and then on the green circles that grace bumpers from Brattleboro to Burlington and beyond. Although proud of his brassica-boosting legacy, Muller-Moore admitted he was somewhat late to the kale party: “I had to develop my taste for it over time, or I would have been quite the hypocrite.”
9. Almost too clever for an NHL logo, the design that Connecticut-based artist Peter Good dreamed up for the Hartford Whalers in 1979 depicts a green “W,” a curvaceous whale’s tale, and an “H” in the negative space between. It spoke to fans then—and still resonates with fans today, who continue to rock the beloved sticker even after the franchise moved to North Carolina in 1997 and became the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s no surprise then, that the Hurricanes’ official NHL shop sells throwback Whalers gear.
10. Thanks to the high-contrast “Ski the East” stickers slapped on their cargo boxes and helmets, New England skiers can easily identify—and commiserate with—other regional loyalists. That (hard)pack mentality is exactly why the circa-2005 decal has caught on, said Geoff McDonald, cofounder of the Vermont-based Ski the East gear company. “It represents what the whole East Coast is about: the rain, the pain, and the heartache, but also the occasional glorious day,” he said. “The ‘Ski the East’ community is all about accepting your fate—and reveling in it.”