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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.

Coiner’s rough NRA layout, 1933.

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

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.

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

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. . .

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

National War Fund poster 1943.

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.)

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

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

Decal of Coiner’s 1939 Civil Defense logo.

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

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

Civil Defense booklet published in 1942.

Illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist, Gluyas Williams.

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.

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

One of O’Keefe’s full page Dole ads.

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

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

Cassandre — 1938.

Cassandre — 1938.

Cassandre — 1936.

Jean Carlu — 1942.

Covarrubias — 1944.

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.

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.

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