By Lee Gardner (Baltimore City Paper, 1/26/2011)
Bob Cicero has the air of a man carrying a heavy load, despite the fact that his load just got a bit lighter. The day before a reporter visits Globe Poster Company, the printing business run by Cicero's family for nearly 40 of its 81 years, he sold its two Miehle letterpresses. Nine feet wide and 18 feet long, the cast-iron presses had stamped out batches of colorful posters for Globe for decades. The rigger who hauled the behemoths away, Cicero says, told him the scrapyard weighed them out at 24,000 pounds each.
The money Cicero gained from selling the presses may help him pay rent on Globe's cavernous Highlandtown warehouse space a little while longer. But, leaning back in a padded leather office chair, he doesn't look relieved. “It's hard,” he says quietly about the sale, looking away. “I used to run them presses every day for a long time.”
Like the Miehles, Globe Poster is an anachronism. Throughout much of the mid-20th century, bold, colorful Globe posters bombed the walls and lampposts of American cities large and small, advertising circuses, carnivals, auto races, and appearances by touring musicians. By the time Cicero began working full time in his father's shop in the 1960s, television had begun to supplant such live entertainment, but Globe retained a faithful clientele highlighted by constantly touring R&B stars such as James Brown, Solomon Burke, and Ike and Tina Turner. Globe kept churning out its distinctive designs into the hip-hop era, though cheap four-color reproduction flourished and cities began passing ordinances against posters.
Continue reading “Pressed for Time” at the Baltimore City Paper.