Tattoo Jack Cripe’s canvas [TATTOO ARTIST IN PERSON 1986.65.157] is typical of several generations of banner paintings that lined carnival midways to advertise, or “hawk,” sideshow acts and exhibitions. Called “valentines” during their heyday at Coney Island in the early 1900s, banner paintings were graphic shorthand, vividly executed to capture the attention of the consuming public. With the proliferation of traveling carnivals, banner paintings were in great demand. When the shows changed or moved, the banners were taken down and rolled up for storage, making them very practical advertisements. Cripe worked with famous banner painters such as Bobby Wicks (also a tattoo artist) and Snap Wyatt. Cripe went into business with Sigler and Sons Art Service, banner painters in Tampa, and was no longer working the carnival circuit by the early 1950s.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)