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Little Red Riding Hood – 1930’s Vintage Poster


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This classic Little Red Riding Hood poster was originally a silkscreen illustration by artist, Kenneth Whitley, circa 1939. This vintage poster was part of a body of work that the Work Projects Administration created during the New Deal Era of the Great Depression. These posters were originally designed to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and health and educational programs in many states around the US.

I love how this poster in particular combines a vintage art style with the classic fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. The style may be retro now but these characters are truly timeless! It’s the classic nature of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf that make this cool poster as recognizable to us today as it would have been to its intended audience decades ago. But I also love the way this poster sets the story. From the moment we see the words Once Upon A Time across the bottom of the poster, we know we are dealing with an old tale. And just look at the startled look of Red Riding Hood upon seeing the infamous wolf! The radiating shape around her face is known as emanata, an old trick of cartoonists to illustrate shock and surprise.

Restoring this particular poster to a fresh appearance was a lot of work. If you look at the original from the Library of Congress, you’ll see it’s not a large image to begin with and the poster they scanned was quite worn. But the necessity to work on it inch by inch really allowed me examine the whole work. At first blush, this vintage poster seems very simple, a collection of mostly angular lines and only a few colors. Much of that I suspect is owed to economy. Each color in a silkscreen print like this was a separate step. The simpler the design, the less it cost to make. But the original artist clearly did all he could with each of those colors in his design. From the emanana to the details of the basket in Red Riding Hood’s hands under her cape, to each little blade of grass, this was clearly a carefully thought out work. Even the wolf’s toothy grin tells us quite a story.

Having worked in such detail on this vintage Red Riding Hood poster in the process of restoring it, I am quite proud of the result. While others are offering this vintage WPA poster as a print in its original weathered state, I’m glad to be able to show it as the artist intended. The retro style speaks for the period during which it was created on its own, don’t you think?


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