Thursday, February 04, 2010

The "You Want It When?" Poster


Anna Collins recently emailed me with some new information about the above image: that ubiquitous "You Want It When?" poster that's been around on office walls for decades.

She writes that she's the one who did it.

BACKGROUND: Where did that "You Want It When?" poster come from? Who drew it?

Like I wrote on the old MySpace April 14, 2006 edition of the Mike Lynch Cartoons blog:

The other day, Mark Evanier posted [the above] iconic image on his blog.

Anyone who's done any office work in North America in the past couple of decades has seen this widely reproduced little poster of the laughing "You Want It When?" guys.

Mark asks: Who drew it and what is its origin?

... I've always wondered who drew it. It sure looks like a 1950s style. Most of my colleagues don't know where it came from. But a lot of cartoonists agree that it's Henry Syverson.
And Mark Evanier provides the post mortem proof here.


Above: a Henry Syverson illustration from the March 29, 1958 Saturday Evening Post.

For your consideration: Here is Anna Collins, who says she drew the original in 1978 that Syverson later copied:

I can clear up the origin of that cartoon for you. I did the original one that was coped, copied and then re-drawn by Henry Syverson.

I was working for a company (Lee Mark Elenka in Aylesford [UK]) in 1978 that had a problem with clients wanting deliver on items before we'd even received them.

I used Michael Bentine's book of cartoon drawings to get the idea for the figures and drew it with the wording on. This was one of many cartoons that I used to do.

My father (Ben Collins) who worked for Reed Paper Mills in Kent took a copy into work, they had a representative from the Daily Mirror come in who liked it and also took a copy back. From then on it was copied all over the place and I only wish I'd copyrighted it at the time as the numbers of times I have seen it I would have made a bit of money from it.

So now you know how it all came about. I am glad people love it.

Kind regards

Anna Collins



Alright, does this help clear or muddy the water?

I don't know the book that Anna is referring to. But, OK, Michael Bentine's Bumblies (above) sorta look like the Syverson nebbishes. Maybe Syverson picked up a copy of the Daily Mirror somewhere and saw it. Maybe he saw it somewhere else. It's hard to believe he decided to redraw the poster. Why would he? He already had a nice gig at The Saturday Evening Post. More likely it was a copy and paste affair like Anna did with the Bentine book.

Regardless, like Anna says, it was one popular sign.

9 comments:

Kevin Spear said...

Interesting. It's one of those ubiquitous images that is part of American business culture. Nice to know some of the history on the cartoon.

leslie said...

If Anna says she created the YOU WANT IT WHEN cartoon in 1978, then Anna is lying!
The first time I saw this exact poster (with same caption) was in a small music reprint office in Los Angeles, called Alpheus Music, owed by Judy somebody, and this was in 1974.
Many orchestra parts for musical shows and movies were all hand-copied on transparent paper at that time, which we then had reproduced on machines like the ones that did reprints of architectural drawings. It was always a last minute rush for reprints. That is why the poster was so perfect for her office wall. At that time I got a copy of it from Judy and mailed it to a friend.
I am absolutely certain of the time frame because I Left LA the following year and never visited Alepheus Music again.

leslie said...

If Anna says she created this cartoon in 1978, Anna is either hallucinating or lying!
The first time I saw this exact poster (with same caption) was in a small music reprint office in Los Angeles, called Alpheus Music, owed by Judy somebody, and this was in 1974.
Orchestra parts for musical shows and movies were all hand-copied on transparent paper at that time, which we then had reproduced on machines like the ones that did reprints of architectural drawings. It was always a last minute rush for reprints. That is why the poster was so perfect for her office wall. I got a copy of the poster from Judy at that time and mailed it to a friend.
I am absolutely certain of the time frame because I Left LA the following year and never visited Alepheus Music again.

patmat2350 said...

I'll also vouch for 1974 (or earlier afaik). I specifically remember seeing it the for the first time in an imported auto parts store that I frequented, while trying to keep my triumph Spitfire running as a senior in high school... in 1974. And it was already a multi-generation photo-copy.

Stephanie Turner said...

My father drew this picture for my mother when they worked together at Tarmac in 1974. It was done for the print department. We're just looking for the original now. How do we go about claiming ownership for this? We didn't know that it had done the rounds, until we went to Greece and saw it on t-shirts!

Stephanie Turner said...

My father drew this picture for my mother when they worked together at Tarmac in 1974. It was done for the print department. We're just looking for the original now. How do we go about claiming ownership for this? We didn't know that it had done the rounds, until we went to Greece and saw it on t-shirts!

BrooklynBabe said...

I also vouch for 1974. I had just been hired as "The Girl" (yes, that was my original official title) at a small trucking company, Trans Jersey Express, in Avenel, NJ. Larry Kosko was one of two partners, and he had it taped to the wall by his desk. It was pretty tattered. I left a few years later as Administrative Manager. It was still there. I came across it a couple of years later while picking up my (then) husband's pay at B & B Motor Freight, Linden, NJ. I always assumed it was a Jersey trucking thing. I had no idea it was so widespread.

wahoospa said...

I personally saw a fellow co-worker draw that cartoon around 1971-1972. We hung it on our shop walls because we were in the service business and it went along perfectly for what we did. I worked there from 1969-1974 and that cartoon was history when I left there in 1974.

Kenneth J. DeVries said...

I just wrote a quick blog post about the discovery of what appears to be another figure by the artist of You Want It When?
http://kjdevries.blogspot.com/2012/04/you-want-it-when-1.html