A cheeky little New Year’s T

January 3rd, 2014by Petra SlinkardFiled under: Collections, Stories

On January 31, 1978, the Museum acquired this sassy little T-shirt. Distributed in late 1977 by the Chicago Reader, most likely as a promotion, the shirt helped readers ring in the New Year. It features an illustration of a donkey adorned with a Santa hat and mittens and, of course, the Reader’s signature backwards R logo.

“Happy 1978 From Your R’s Backwards Friends” T-shirt, 1977
Gift of Archie Motley, Chicago Historical Society, 1978.11
Photograph by Museum staff

The Chicago Reader, first published on October 1, 1971, is one of the largest alternative weekly newspapers in the country. During the last 42 years, the paper has received much acclaim for being one of the first to adopt a free distribution policy and particularly for focusing reporting efforts on stories of everyday life and ordinary Chicagoans.

This object was donated to the Museum by its longtime, celebrated archivist Archie Motley (1934–2002). Motley, who began his career at the Museum in 1955, is credited with meaningfully adding to the breadth and depth of our archives and manuscripts collection by specifically concentrating on papers representing Chicago’s working people. In a Chicago Tribune article announcing Motley’s death, author Studs Terkel recalled, “[Archie] knew Chicago history from the bottom up. . . . He was a chronicler, the unofficial chronicler of Chicago working people’s history.”

The T-shirt not only represents a tradition and institution within Chicago’s journalism history, as well as marks the change in year, but it encapsulates the kind of brazen humor frequently employed by the Reader in reaching their audience—an aspect of its design likely not lost on the donor.

Happy New Year from your history-loving friends at the Museum!

> Check out the Chicago Reader

> Read more about the city’s newspaper industry

> Learn more about the life and legacy of Archie Motley

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