A Pittsburgh First

Published by Tim McNulty on .

JimW poster

Behold the greatest, and maybe only, campaign painting in Pittsburgh City Council history.

Jim Wudarczyk, 61, may be a Strip District customer service rep, but he is also a Civil War buff, author, and Lawrenceville tour guide who knows his local history. Like the fact that some well-known paintings of Pittsburgh's Stephen Foster were done by early 20th century magazine illustrator Howard Chandler Christy. And that Christy, famous for WWI-era patriotic posters ("Gee!! I Wish I Were A Man. I'd Join The Navy" says the winsome gal clad in a sailor's uni) and the Constitution-signing painting displayed at the U.S. Capitol, also did campaign posters for the era's presidents. Such as Warren G. Harding:

harding poster

Christy did the "America First!" painting for Harding's 1920 campaign (featured in the first season of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire"), with the slogan a reference to his push that the U.S. not join the League of Nations. Wudarczyk changed it to Pittsburgh First!, getting to his neighborhood-centric campaign platform in the District 7 special election.

With the help of Lawrenceville Historical Society president /Foster Doo Dah Days founder Dan Simkins, Wudarczyk stood in front of a wall projection of the Christy poster (which is no longer copyright-protected), blocking out Harding while having his photo taken, which was then re-painted to create his own campaign poster. Wudarczyk recalls Simkins pitching the idea like this: "Jim, you have the same expressionless face as Harding."

If historians have other Pittsburgh campaign posters that rival -- or remind one of -- this we're all ears. Council races weren't all that competitive in the machine/David Lawrence years of most of the 20th century and by the time they became so in the 1980s (see: Jack Wagner) campaigns had replaced their paint brushes with Xerox machines.

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