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Letter Men

The Globe Poster Company Would Like Your Attention For a Moment

Photographs By Frank Hamilton
Bob and Frank Cicero at Globe Poster Company. View more images by Frank Hamilton

By Chris Landers | Posted 2/4/2009

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Bob Cicero has a story he likes to tell about advertising. A few years ago, he was driving down the street when his son noticed a sign-holding man bobbing and weaving by the side of the road. The younger Cicero thought it looked ridiculous, and pointed it out to his father.

"He says, 'Look over there on the corner--there's a guy from Little Caesar, it's kind of weird, he's going back and forth,'" Cicero remembers. He asked his son, "What did it say?"

"It said $5 pizza."

"That's all he wanted," Cicero told him. "It caught your eye. It doesn't matter how outlandish it is, but it caught your eye. . . . Now if you're hungry, you know there's a $5 pizza. That's all it did. Nothing else."

That idea has been the focus at Globe Poster Printing, a nearly 80-year-old company that the Cicero family has run for the past 35 years. They have become specialists in grabbing your attention, just for the time it takes to read a poster. Once you've read it, their work is done.

Times are tough for a poster company that has been changing with the times and trends since the Great Depression, through circuses and vaudeville and R&B tours, all the way to hip-hop, and the Ciceros are beginning to look to their past to preserve Globe for the future. Last year, they started marketing reproductions of some of their most popular work, such as posters from the great R&B shows of the 1950s and '60s, trying to turn a profit on posters from the company's golden era.

Globe currently takes up every inch of a cinder-block warehouse building a few blocks off the commercial strip of Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown. It's still very much a going concern, from the front counter where Frank and Bob rush to answer the phone to the cavernous and unheated back room, where employees feed corrugated plastic blanks into the rollers of a huge screen-printing press. But alongside the current operation, in drawers and cabinets and sometimes in piles, they have preserved the tools of their trade going back to Globe's beginning: thousands and thousands of blocks of type, in different fonts and sizes, in metal, wood, rubber, and linoleum--some never touched by printer's ink.

"We even have a set of Hebrew type," Frank says. "We're just not sure it's a complete set--none of us speaks Hebrew."

Even the hulking Miehle letter presses, which haven't been used in decades, sit piled with posters in the back. If the Ciceros get their wish, someday the presses will roll again.

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