Catalog Archive
Auction 194, Lot 695

Levi's First Edition of Jo Mora's Decorative Rodeo Poster

"Levi's Round-Up of Cowboy Lore", Mora, Joseph Jacinto

Subject: Prints - Cowboys

Period: 1960 (circa)


Color: Printed Color

22.9 x 30.4 inches
58.2 x 77.2 cm
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This is the first issue of the Levi's edition of Jo Mora's iconic poster, with Levi's logo in capital letters. One of Mora's most enduring creations, the "Evolution of the Cowboy" (Mora's copyright, dated 1933, still appears in the bottom right border) was originally used as a promotional item for the Salinas Rodeo. Later on, the American band the Byrds used the image of the Sweetheart of the Rodeo (directly above the rodeo scene) on their pioneering country-rock album of the same name, released in 1968. The poster is a veritable illustrated encyclopedia entry on the cowboy, filled with information on the various types of cowboys, their fashions, their saddles, their horses, and their relationship to the cattle. A hectic and exaggerated rodeo scene appears in the center, with more realistic illustrations directly below depicting different rodeo activities in close-up detail. Across the top of the sheet and along the sides is a medley of cowboy types throughout history, from the Spanish conquistador of the 16th century to the modern vaqueros and cowboys. Levi Strauss & Co. purchased the rights to Mora's poster from his son, added a new title across the top, and replaced Mora's dedication with their logo. In the center of the poster's new title is an illustration of the World's Champion Cowboy Buckle from 1950, an award issued by the company to "the Champion All-Around cowboy of the year." Ad copy linking Levi's to the cowboy lifestyle surrounds the Sweetheart of the Rodeo, replacing the silhouettes of cowboys and their horses from the previous, Levi's-free issue.

Mora (1876-1947) was an Uruguayan-American artist and cowboy with a deep fascination with the American West and an inimitable style. He is best known for his "cartes," cartoonish yet precise maps of locations out west that are packed with humor and detail.


Condition: B+

Vivid color on a bright sheet with a couple of minor creases in the upper left portion of the image and minor wrinkling throughout. There is creasing in the right blank margin (not visible in the image scan) and some minor edge chips and tears mostly at top and bottom. There are a couple of paper remnants adhered to the bottom blank margin that just touch the border, with a tiny portion of border drawn in facsimile.

Estimate: $550 - $700

Sold for: $400

Closed on 9/13/2023