“Yes, Columbus Did Discover America!” by John Gutmann (1938)

The photograph titled “Yes, Columbus Did Discover America!” was taken by John Gutmann in San Francisco in the year 1938. It shows a scene on a street with a parked car in the foreground that’s covered in various handwritten signs making political and social statements. The signs on the car include phrases such as “USE CAR FALLING PRICES?”, “YES, COLUMBUS DID DISCOVER AMERICA! HE RAISED HOPE BATTERIES HAVE LOWERED IT! SAYS JOHN N. HE VOTED” and “THE TRUTH MARCHES ON.” Behind the car, there appears to be a storefront, “MISSION PRODUCTS CO. WINES & LIQUORS,” with many additional signs on its exterior, providing a contrasting backdrop of commercial advertising including a Coca-Cola sign. The juxtaposition of the car’s message-laden surface with the commercial storefront provides a tableau of contrasting modes of communication, one seemingly grassroots and the other commercial. The image captures a moment of expression and possibly protest during a tumultuous time in history, just before the outset of World War II.

Other Photographs from John Gutmann

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