Picture this: it’s 1970 and you return to your Chicago home from work or the local bodega to find a card wedged into your security door. You go to throw it in the bin along with your other junk mail, but then something gives you pause: it's not from the neighbourhood plumber or handyman, but from a local gang called the Insane Pope’s.
Depending on just how much trouble you're in, this might not be the only gang-related business card you find. According to urban historian Brandon Johnson, it wasn’t just mad ecclesiastical figures with poor grammar who had their own business cards – plenty of illicit Chicago outfits did.
For his new book, Thee Almighty & Insane: Chicago Gang Business Cards from the 1970s & 1980s, Johnson has gathered 60 business cards that belonged to everyone from small-time gangs of four to white supremacists to a posse with so many members their names barely fit on the card.
The carefully crafted, in-house designed cards are rife with graphic design and grammatical curiosities, such as clipart prints of druids and Olde English imagery. The cards also display a penchant for gothic fonts, which can be seen scripting out intimidating names such as Sinbad, Shotgun, Lil Greaser, Lil Ron, Rat, Birdman and Topcat, to name a few. We can only assume a portion of their intergang parlays consisted of time set aside for American Psycho-esque card comparisons.
To get your mitts on a copy, head to Almighty and Insane Books.
Related: Like business card curios? We take a close look at the business cards of the Los Alamos employees who developed the atom bomb in Smith Journal volume 22. Grab a copy, subscribe or find your local stockist.