The Mysterious Case of the Hungarian Trumpets

1963 Original Hungarian Poster, Damask Table Cover – Sandor Lengyel

Recently, we received a beautiful batch of Hungarian posters (seriously, we’re in love!). While editing the photos, we began to notice an interesting detail – a tiny symbol of a trumpet in the poster design. Almost every single Hungarian poster had this symbol despite being designed by various artists and printed by different publishers. We decided to do a little bit of digging.

It would seem that the trumpet is the symbol of the “Hungarian Advertiser” known as MAHIR; a then state-owned organization aimed at curating posters and their placement throughout Hungary. We believe that the inclusion of the trumpet indicated that the advertising bureau had approved the poster, a tradition similar to the French tax stamp.

The placement of advertising posters greatly affects the aesthetics of a city and therefore agencies such as MAHIR were established to control poster content and distribution. This could be compared to the Montreal-based Publicité Sauvage, mandated with the production and “affichage” of all posters in the city of Montreal in designated areas. While a company such as Publicité Sauvage deals in curating the content of posters advertising cultural events, a company such a MAHIR was born of a political agenda and was initially responsible for the production and placement of propaganda posters. The State Owned Advertising Company as it was first known became MAHIR in 1956 at which point it began to produce a broader range of advertisements such as the vibrant posters that we currently have in our collection.

This is a poster advertising MAHIR from the 1950s. The trumpet boasts a banner showing the words “Magyar Hirdetö” which translates to Hungarian Advertiser. In this case, the trumpet takes up the entire poster.

1950s Poster for the Hungarian Advertiser (MAHIR)

Our posters sport smaller versions of this trumpet. Here are some close-up shots:

For more information about MAHIR and its inception, have a look at this text from the Budapest Poster Gallery:

“The story of the Hungarian Advertiser started in 1909 when the Budapest municipality decided that the right to place advertisements in public areas should belong to the Advertising Company. The reason was said to be the fact that placing advertisements on the streets had a lot to do with the aesthetics of the city thus the municipality of the capital is more competent in decision making related to posters than private companies. In 1911 there were 195 advertising pillars throughout Budapest and by the beginning of World War II (1939) this number rose significantly whilst boards and placards also appeared. At the beginning of the Socialist era in 1949 the planned economy committee decided to establish an organization which doesn’t only cover Budapest but the whole country thus the State Owned Advertising Company was born which was operating which was responsible for placing mostly political posters in 120 locations in Hungary. The company was named MAHIR in 1956 when it started to deal with advertisement design and research, realization of certain advertising tools such as posters as well as the broadcasting of advertisements. Its scope of duty involved exhibition planning, making of gift cards, etc…. It had 19 directories and local offices in different counties. By the 1980s numerous foreign PR companies appeared thus MAHIR started to lose territory on the Hungarian advertising market. The situation worsened after 1989, the change of the system. Today MAHIR is still existing but is owned by a private company.

This poster is a bianco piece for the local office of MAHIR. The design is very simple. It only has the symbol of MAHIR on it – the trumpet with the flag on which Hungarian Advertiser is written. The text below it says: local office and at the bottom there is a blank space where the address of a particular local office was to be written.” (Source: Budapest Poster Gallery)

Case solved!

We just love these posters. Here are some of the posters currently for sale at the gallery.

Thanks for reading!

-Amanda Brownridge

1964 Original Hungarian Poster, Faredonyt Window Ad – So-Ky
1967 Original Hungarian Shoe Poster – So-Ky
1969 Original Hungarian Poster for UNIMO Carpet Cleaner

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