Poster Opens Door to Charles T. Coiner History Lesson

Posted inArticle
Thumbnail for Poster Opens Door to Charles T. Coiner History Lesson

We’ve had a poster up in our studio since we opened and I’m saddened to say it’s acted as a barometer for how little people know their history. Emblazoned with the letters “NRA”, more people guess its identity (along with a curious look in my direction) as being affiliated with the National Rifle Association.

INTERESTING NOTE: This poster design is what triggered the naming of Philadelphia’s NFL team “The Eagles” ! The club was established in 1933 as a replacement for the bankrupt “Frankford Yellow Jackets” when a group led by Bert Bell secured the rights to an NFL franchise in Philadelphia. Bell was strongly inspired by the (soon to be short-lived) heroic image of Coiner’s graphic eagle…


A view of the JJSP reception room. .

The poster depicts the logo of a short lived (1933-35) division of President Roosevelt’s New Deal (I’ll let you guess whether it’s Teddy or Franklin) known as the National Recovery Administration. The blue eagle design was created and designed by Charles T. Coiner, an artist/art director at the N.W. Ayer advertising agency in Philadelphia.


Charles T. Coiner 1898-1989

Designs for a logo were submitted by the ad agency to NRA administrator Hugh S. Johnson but he was dissatisfied. Coiner was asked to come to Washington and while there he sketched a layout that evidently pleased Johnson.

NRA logo ruff

Coiner’s rough NRA layout, 1933.

Coiner article cover 003

September 1933 issue of Advertising Arts magazine with article (below) by Coiner on design and government.

Coiner article001
Coiner article002

The National Recovery Administration was set up to eliminate “cut-throat competition” by bringing industry, labor and government together to create codes of “fair practices” and set prices, and although the Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional after only two years, the NRA logo had become nothing less than ubiquitous. Starting in July of 1933, it could be found on everything from Levi’s to movie titles, magazine covers to postage stamps.

NRA aerial
NRA pageant
NRA poster ruff

Rough design layout for NRA poster.

Final 14″x11″ poster design as printed. Note “C Coiner” signed in lower right corner.

Close-up of “C Coiner” signature.

Inscription on this poster from legendary art director Lou Dorfsman to Bernard Bellush, City College of New York history professor and NRA expert.

NRA pins stamps020

Miscellaneous material produced to promote and utilize the NRA’s stamp of approval.

InvisMan title

Opening title card to the Universal Pictures film, “The Invisible Man” 1933.

Charles Coiner’s design and art direction talents extended beyond the NRA, and he produced other work for other U.S. government agencies. . .

War Fund sopecs

National War Fund logo and identity designed by Coiner — 1943.

War Fund poster

National War Fund poster 1943.

Flag poster

Poster designed by Coiner for 1942. (Deceivingly simple design, between it’s composition and typography we’re still seeing the graphic vision of an individual.)

Flag stamps

Stamps produced from Coiner’s “Give It Your Best !” Poster — 1942.

Coiner also designed the Civil Defense logo used from 1939 to 2006.

CD decal 017

Decal of Coiner’s 1939 Civil Defense logo.

symbol book 013

Small hardbound book, “United States Service Symbols” — 1942

symbol book 014

Chapter in “United States Service Symbols” discussing various applications of CD logos.

symbol book 015
1942 CD booklet 018

Civil Defense booklet published in 1942.

1942 CD booklet 019

Illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist, Gluyas Williams.

Boys Club stamp

Coiner designed a USPS stamp commemorating the centennial of the Boys Clubs Of America in 1960.

Charles Coiner’s most impressive contributions are those in the realm of art directing fine artists. During the 40 years he art directed at N.W. Ayer, Coiner helped pioneer the casting of artists to produce work for Ayer’s clients. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Jean Carlu, Georges Roualt, Miguel Covarrubias, Edward Steichen, A.M. Cassandre and Georgia O’Keefe all contributed to ads for companies like Dole Pineapple, DeBeers, Boeing, and Container Corporation, thanks to Coiner.

OKeefe Dole

Coiner sent Georgia O’Keefe to Hawaii to prepare for a Hawaiian Pineapple Company (Dole) commission.

OKeefe Dole1

One of O’Keefe’s full page Dole ads.

OKeefe Dole2

Subsequent designs by O’Keefe done for Coiner and Dole while in Hawaii.


A.M. Cassandre was also asked to create designs for Dole.

Cass Dole1

Cassandre — 1938.

Cass Dole2

Cassandre — 1938.

Cass Dole3

Cassandre — 1936.


Jean Carlu — 1942.

covarr dole

Covarrubias — 1944.

Steichen Cannon

Edward Steichen — 1936. (This ad has been touted as an early, if not the first, U.S. advertisement using a photograph of a nude figure.)


Photographer/film director Irving Penn — 1955.

Container ad

A painting by Coiner used in an ad for Container Corporation: part of the company’s “Great Ideas Of Western Man” campaign.


NYTimes 12/1/2006 — Out with the old, in with the new. . . (I’m with the old.)


When we moved into our space in The Bar Building here in White Plains, the management was dumping all the old Civil Defense supplies that had been stored in the basement since the early 1960’s. This Geiger Counter.


And box of cracker tins were some of the survival items we saved.

It’s amazing how many designers of iconic images have gone unheralded. Coiner is hardly unknown, but I hope I’ve been able to expand the audience.

Resource for DesignersAre you ready to dip your toes into web design? Check out the Getting Started in Web Design Ultimate Collection.