These top seven iconic hippie counterculture posters are vivid political expressions from a decade that changed the way America viewed itself. The war in Viet Nam was a seminal event in America’s cultural development. For the first time since her foundation two centuries before she was now involved in a deeply unpopular war. By the mid-60s, a variety of diverse forces for change had come together to create the antiwar movement.
“Liberation” and “revolution” became watchwords of the decade, as resistance to the war made strange bedfellows of radical youth, hippies, musicians and artists. The ‘60s was a period when young people believed that progress was possible. They imagined better ways of living and then worked to achieve that change.
“Primer” Lorraine Schneider (1966)
It may have been the summer of love, but “Flower Power” didn’t begin in 1967. This image by San Francisco artist Lorraine Schnieder was actually created In late ’66. Schneider titled it “Primer” and entered it into a miniature print show at the Pratt Institute in New York. The only entry criterion was each submitted work could not exceed four square inches. With the war uppermost on her mind, Schneider made what she called her own “personal picket sign.” It had a significant impact with its straightforward anti-war message and eye-catching yellow background with a simple sunflower motif.
“Primer” became an international phenomenon and its popularity brought significant funding for the Another Mother for Peace organisation. It has served as a steady fundraiser ever since. Another Mother for Peace was a grass-roots anti-war advocacy group founded in 1967 in opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam. It was a seminal force in creating many hippie counterculture posters and is still active today.
Make Love Not War” Wilfred Weisser, (1967)
The 1967 poster “Make Love Not War” was based on a slogan that Diane Newell Meyer, a student at the University of Oregon, pinned to her sweater at an anti-war demonstration in 1965. A photograph of Meyer wearing the slogan appeared in “The New York Times” and helped make the phrase famous.
Wilfred Weisser created this poster after seeing Meyers photo. Weisser was a globe-trotting hippie from Germany, living in San Francisco in the mid-’60s. After attending rock concerts at various venues, he decided to submit several proposals for possible posters. In true Hippy style, he then wholly disappeared, leaving us with one iconic symbol and an awful lot of lost copyright revenue!
“Girls say yes to boys who say no” The Draft Resistance (1968)
Stop using sex as a weapon? Not if your Joan Baez you don’t. This poster shows Joan and her sisters sitting on a couch and making a non too subtle proposition to draft resisters of the Vietnam War. Baez’ then-husband David Harris was the creator of the “Draft Resistance Organisation“. which persuaded young men of conscript age to refuse to cooperate with the Selective Service System—to return all draft cards, including exemptions and deferments, and refuse to be drafted; and instead to work together to end the Vietnam War.
Within a few years, the Selective Service System discovered that only about half of the men sent draft notices actually showed up for their physical. The poster was created to combat the idea that draft resistance was unmanly and openly suggested that women who opposed the military draft should become involved with men who resisted it.
“Amerika Is Devouring Its Children” Jay Belloli (1970)
Hippie counterculture posters became infinitely more strident and aggressive after the Kent State shootings. In May 1970 a group of unarmed students were protesting against the escalation of the Vietnam war into Cambodia. However, when the national guard was called in; things got out of hand. Four students – two protesting, two just passing by – were killed, nine were wounded.
Jay Belloli was a student at Berkeley at the time. Outraged at the senseless death of his fellow students he created a poster image that was taken from Goya’s early 19th-century work “Saturn Devouring His Son,” with the Chronos figure as Amerika. The posters were printed on recycled IBM computer paper scavenged from trashcans but found massive popularity and traction in the wake of the campus shootings.
“American Flag” Carson-Morris (1970)
Just a decade earlier this “defacement ” of the stars and stripes would have been unthinkable. Today this kind of anti-American image utilising the flag is seen everywhere from Iran to China. In fact, it has become a bit clichéd, but in 1970 it was fresh and original, a clever, and more importantly, eye-catching image that embodied an insightful political comment in a simple design. One of the most original pictures of the Hippy counterculture.
“Bring the Troops Home Now” Nancy Coner (1967)
The Student Mobilization Committee, a national organisation that encouraged the formation of campus committees to end the war, issued the poster “Bring the Troops Home Now” in 1967.
They were the first student pressure group to take nationwide action. Their tactics centred on holding mass meetings on college campuses with well-known speakers. Having press conferences bringing together antiwar leaders to post demands on the doors of city halls and finally having local artists showcase antiwar pieces like the one above.
“Nixon Mass Murderer stop the bombing now!” Communist Party of America (1970)
It shows how much the Hippie counter-culture protests had changed in just a few years when we compare this last poster with its mid-60s “peace and love” counterparts. America was now a much angrier, openly divided and shrill society. President Nixon was vilified as a mass murder with a Nazi swastika forming a crucial part of his name. This is the harshest of the hippie counterculture posters and emphatically symbolised the end of the “peace and love” era.
See how the American Government cleverly used teenagers comics as anti-Soviet propaganda to counter the “Red Menace” during the Cold War http://www.englishmanlovesamerica.com/cold-war-comics/
See my blog on the “White House dinner party from Hell”. A look at how the insecure Nixon hosted the tarnished Ex-King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in a propaganda coup that badly backfired in White House dinner party from Hell
For a look at how the Reagan Government ridiculously dealt with the teenage drug crisis of the 1980s see my blog on http://www.englishmanlovesamerica.com/users-are-losers-drug-rehab-for-young-adults/