The little Fisk Tire Boy was created in 1907 by an artist working for the advertising agency retained by Fisk Rubber Corporation. The artist, Burr E. Giffen, was only eighteen years old. He drew a sketch of a little boy wearing one-piece sleeper pajamas, and yawning very wide. In one hand he held a candle, and the other hand was wrapped around a Fisk tire. To go along with the sleepy little boy, Fisk created the slogan, “Time to Re-Tire.” The slogan and the drawing were copyrighted in 1910, and registered as a trademark in 1914.
The Fisk boy drawing and the slogan appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1914. Since then, many artists have done paintings of the Fisk Tire boy for advertisements in magazines and newspapers. The first was an oil painting done by Edward M. Eggleston. The most famous series of advertising paintings was done by Norman Rockwell, commissioned in 1917.
Part of the series done by Norman Rockwell focused on Fisk Bicycle Tires. These paintings were featured in American Boy from 1917 to 1919. The paintings were very popular, and helped increase the popularity of the Fisk Bicycle Club. In these paintings, the focus is on the Fisk slogan and the little Fisk Tire boy, appearing in the painting on an advertising sign or bicycle flag. Mr. Rockwell was also asked to do a second series of paintings in 1924 to appear in The Saturday Evening Post as well as other popular magazines. Many of these paintings still hang in the Uniroyal Plant in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the former Fisk Tire plant.
With all of this advertising, the little Fisk Tire boy and his slogan were trademarked, and registered in over 90 countries. By 1928, the Fisk Tire Boy was one of the most recognized trademarks in the U.S. The Fisk Rubber Company even called the Fisk boy “America’s Favorite Son” in press releases.
In 1930, the Fisk boy was given a smile instead of a yawn. Another artist was commissioned to update the original painting done by Eggleston. In 1934, the smile was changed back to a yawn, and the original painting was retouched again. All of these changes obscured the original artwork, and in 1941 Fisk asked the Metropolitan Museum to restore the painting to its original glory.
The Fisk Tire boy is a favorite among American nostalgic advertising, and his image will always be a part of advertising history. Besides all of the print advertisements, there have been statues, figures, and different kinds of memorabilia created in the form of the Fisk Tire Boy.