She is flirtatious, risqué and erotic but fiercely independent, never explicit and always safe for work, a welcome sight for prudish mother and your teenage cousin alike. She is an all-natural American sweetheart pin-up girl, created to win the adoration of men all over the country. The bouncy curls, hourglass figure and rosy cheeks – if you saw her you would know her. However, how exactly did she come to be? We will begin with the invention of the safety bicycle in the 1800s.
In the early 19th century, safety bicycles caused quite the raucous amongst Western women when they were introduced. The new vehicles were denounced by ministers and doctors who claimed that bouncing harmed women’s fragile insides and it was likely that the friction of the seat would get them arouse. However, the bicycle was the freedom machine to women, freeing them of ties to a male escort. Women eschewed their layered skirts and petticoats in favor of boots and bloomers, soon after bicycles hit the scene.
By doing this women revealed their legs and bodies in mainstream culture like never before. Things were getting interesting, since women were more sexual. The first calendar which featured ads beneath the image was printed by Edmond Osborne and Thomas Murphy. It was quite inspiring since the calendars guaranteed ad space for an entire year. However, the first calendar didn’t do so hot, because it featured an image of George Washington.
In fact, until the release of the first girl calendar called “Cosette” in 1903, the calendar market didn’t heat up at all. An illustrator for Life magazine, Charles Dana Gibson, shook up the fashion with his cover illustrations of bosomy women with full, luscious lips, dark piles of hair and hourglass torsos. This national icon was inspired by his wife and her family and she became known as the Gibson Girl, a girl which was loved by Americans, known for her independence and sensuality.
She became the first dream girl, which was unattainable aside from pinning her picture up on the wall. After this success many other magazines followed its lead. Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States during World War I, formed the Division of Pictorial Publicity in order to inspire new troops to fight by stirring up patriotism. Some of the posters included pretty women, which were usually dressed in sexy military ensembles, announcing messages of support.
In the 1920s, women had tasted freedom with their partners away at war and they weren’t willing to let it go. Rolf Armstrong, artists who responded to the trend, dressed his pin-up girls more scantily. During the World War II, the government of the United States carefully designed pin-ups in order to boost morale by showing an all-American view of the sweetheart waiting for him, the girls which were worth fighting for. These pin-ups were found hung in submarines, tucked into soldiers’ pockets and pasted inside barracks.
It didn’t take too long before the erotic war advertising were extended to all advertising. Hugh Hefner used pin-up magazines as his muse in order to launch his notorious nudie magazine. However, he was aware that the future of the female image was in photography. Many magazines looked more like Playboy by 1955, than the pin-up covers which were so popular ten years before.
When pop culture was losing interest in pin-ups, Charles Martignette was old enough to purchase them.
He bought his first at the age of 27 and spent many years buying up all he could. Martignette’s collection had 4,300 pin-up artworks. Thanks to an exhibition organized by Louis Meisel, pin-ups emerged from their neglected state in 1982. The credit also goes to the publication of The Great American Pin-up in 1996. In 2008, Martignette died of a heart attack and his collection was passed on to the Heritage Auctions in Dallas (Texas). His pin-up artworks were removed from the warehouse and free to be pinned up as they were always intended to.