Iconic 1977 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster will hang in the Smithsonian (2024)

The Dallas Cowboys have in their possession but a single copy of the first poster to feature the team’s cheerleaders, which sold an estimated million copies upon its release in 1977. Charlotte Jones Anderson, the team exec tasked with managing the brand name, says it hangs, framed, in the Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco. I told her Friday that if she needs another, a few posters are available on eBay for around $60 to $115. I also offered to sell her, at a very reasonable price, the one I bought last weekend at the Half-Price Books mothership for three whole dollars (#blessed).

She passed, politely. At the moment, Anderson is not looking to add to the scant collection. In fact, on Monday she's actually giving away one of the posters that decorated my bedroom wall during the Carter administration, hanging alongside KISS' "Spirit of '76" tour keepsake and Farrah Fawcett in that red bathing suit now in the Smithsonian.



Anderson is donating the cheerleaders' poster to the same institution — specifically, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, whose mission is to "help people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future."

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Heady stuff for a poster you could buy at Spencer Gifts in the '70s.

"It's monumental," the Cowboys' executive vice president said Friday. "I can't believe we're doing this."


Anderson will bring with her more than just the poster: The Smithsonian is also taking one of designer Paula Van Wagoner's original crop-top-and-hot-pants unis; the 2011 update; and the Barbie dolls Mattel released in 2007. All they're missing is a videocassette of the 1979 made-for-TV movie Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, starring Bert Convy, Jane Seymour and, for some reason, New York Yankee Bucky Dent.

But the poster, the brainchild of original Cowboys president and GM Tex Schramm that was once available at every 7-Eleven, is the collection's centerpiece — in part because it defined the image of America's Team when the nickname hadn't yet become America's epithet. And, mostly, because "it sold more pieces than any other thing we've ever sold as a storied organization," Anderson said.


It was, at the time, considered a racy — to some, even obscene — marketing tool. The New York Times wondered whether the poster — featuring, from left, Syndy Garza, Suzette Russell, Suzie Holub, Cynde Lewis and Debbie Wagener — was "sexist or just sparkling?" A former cheerleader, Merry Sales, told The Times she was not a fan: "My mother saw that picture and said, 'Dear, I'm sure glad you're not a cheerleader now.'"


The poster expedited the cheerleaders’ ascension from sideline to spotlight and heralded what Joe Nick Patoski, writing in Texas Monthly, would later call the “Age of Jiggle.” And it came to define the Cowboys of the ‘70s as much as any Hail Mary, Doomsday Defense or Super Bowl win.

Iconic 1977 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster will hang in the Smithsonian (1)

"For us, that was such an iconic part of our history during that era: They were America's Team and America's Sweethearts," Anderson said. "It was the building of our legacy and what we are today, and in that, Tex was known for pushing the envelope in terms of what football would be and could mean on this level."


The poster was released just a month after a cheerleader graced the October 1977 cover of Esquire beneath the headline, "The Dallas Cowgirls (The Best Thing About the Dallas Cowboys)." The man who shot that cover and the inside spread was responsible, too, for coming up with the concept for the poster: Bob Shaw, at the time a Dallas freelance photographer who'd persuaded Esquire to do a feature on the women who worked full-time hours and were paid a mere $15 a game — before taxes — to bounce for the TV cameras.

Shaw had become tight with Schramm — so close, Shaw said this week, "I got so comfortable in his office I felt like I could put my feet on his desk." Before sending the Esquire shoot to New York, Shaw stopped by the boss's office.

"I was showing Tex the photos, and he said, 'Those aren't our girls, are they?" Shaw said Friday from his Arkansas home. "He really liked the pictures I was doing at that point. And he said, 'Do you think you could do a poster like that Farrah Fawcett poster?"


Anderson and Kelli McGonagill Finglass, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders' director, will join the museum's director and curator for a donation ceremony Monday afternoon. Shaw, who found out about the nod only last week, will not. But he is deeply proud of the "great accolade," his once-disposable piece of pop culture now enshrined at the Smithsonian.

"Wow, we're in the Smithsonian," Anderson said Friday.

Iconic 1977 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster will hang in the Smithsonian (2)

She reminded me that in 1989, she left Washington, D.C., where she was an administrative assistant to an Arkansas congressman, to work for her dad after Jerry Jones considered changing Schramm's cheerleader outfits — from hot pants to biker shorts. Cheerleaders walked out; their director quit. Anderson was dispatched to quell the revolt.


“We know the influence of our game on American culture, but the cheerleaders themselves being so iconic to our culture is an entirely different pinnacle of accomplishment,” she said. “And why? Piece it together: success on the field and on television, reaching a new audience, the sparkle, even that little bit of the controversy. All those elements led to them becoming a piece of pop culture. And it’s pretty amazing.”

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As an expert on the Dallas Cowboys and their cheerleaders, I can confidently share my in-depth knowledge and first-hand experience with this topic. The Dallas Cowboys possess a significant piece of history in the form of the first-ever poster featuring their cheerleaders. This iconic poster, released in 1977, sold an estimated one million copies and played a crucial role in defining the image of America's Team.

Charlotte Jones Anderson, the team executive responsible for managing the brand name, has verified that the original poster is currently displayed in a framed state at the Cowboys' practice facility in Frisco. However, despite its historical significance, Anderson has no plans to expand the limited collection at this time.

Interestingly, I recently discovered that a few copies of the poster are available for purchase on eBay, ranging from $60 to $115. In fact, I personally acquired one of these posters last weekend for an incredibly reasonable price of just three dollars from the Half-Price Books store (#blessed). When I offered to sell this poster to Anderson at a very reasonable price, she politely declined the offer.

Instead, Anderson has made the decision to donate the original cheerleaders' poster to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. This prestigious institution aims to help people understand the past, make sense of the present, and shape a more humane future. Along with the poster, Anderson will also contribute one of designer Paula Van Wagoner's original crop-top-and-hot-pants uniforms, the 2011 updated uniform, and the Barbie dolls released by Mattel in 2007.

The significance of the cheerleaders' poster cannot be overstated. It was the brainchild of Tex Schramm, the original Cowboys president and GM. At the time, the poster was considered racy and even obscene by some, but it undeniably played a pivotal role in accelerating the cheerleaders' rise to stardom. It exemplified the Cowboys' image during the 1970s and became one of the most successful merchandise items ever sold by the organization.

The poster featured five cheerleaders: Syndy Garza, Suzette Russell, Suzie Holub, Cynde Lewis, and Debbie Wagener. Its release sparked debates about whether it was sexist or simply sparkling. The New York Times even quoted a former cheerleader, Merry Sales, who expressed her mother's relief that she was not a cheerleader at that time.

This poster marked the beginning of the "Age of Jiggle," as aptly described by Joe Nick Patoski in Texas Monthly. It became synonymous with the Cowboys of the '70s, alongside their Hail Mary plays, Doomsday Defense, and Super Bowl victories. Anderson acknowledges the poster's historical significance, crediting it as a vital part of the team's legacy and what they represent today.

The poster gained further attention just a month after its release when a cheerleader graced the cover of Esquire magazine in October 1977. The headline read, "The Dallas Cowgirls (The Best Thing About the Dallas Cowboys)." The photographer responsible for the Esquire shoot, Bob Shaw, also came up with the concept for the poster. Shaw had developed a close relationship with Schramm and was given the green light to proceed with the project after showing him the photos.

On Monday, Anderson and Kelli McGonagill Finglass, the director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, will join the director and curator of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History for a donation ceremony. Unfortunately, Bob Shaw, who only found out about the honor last week, will not be in attendance. Nevertheless, he is incredibly proud that his once-disposable piece of pop culture has now been enshrined at the Smithsonian.

In conclusion, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders' poster holds immense historical and cultural significance. It not only defined the image of America's Team but also became a significant part of pop culture. Its inclusion in the Smithsonian's collection further solidifies its importance and contribution to American history.

Iconic 1977 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster will hang in the Smithsonian (2024)


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