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Don Schnably – RIP

Advertising artist and executive Don Schnably has passed away.

Donald James (Don) Schnably
September 12, 1936 – April 20, 2020


From the obituary:

He graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art and went on to have a highly successful career in advertising, winning countless CLIO and Addy awards. He has a TV commercial for National Boh on permanent residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. Don worked for the Elliott Axelrod Agency in New York for several years and then Buddermeyer Advertising in Baltimore. He then became a senior art director at WB Doner Advertising, where he worked for many years on accounts including The Baltimore Orioles, National Beer’s “Land of Pleasant Living” campaign, and Colt 45. He left Doner to start his own company, Don Schnably Creative Services, which later became Schnably & Evans Advertising.

Don gained fame (notoriety?) for his 1987 full page ad for Baltimore’s City Fair under I-83.

From the obit:

Don was legendary for his intricate illustrations, many hilarious, including the infamous JFX “Merry Go Round” City Fair ad that ran in the Baltimore Sun in 1987, and subsequently was published in publications and broadcast on TV and radio stations around the world, and to this day is remembered with delight by thousands of people. His illustration and creative concept skills were extraordinary and he was dubbed a “creative genius” by many. He was generous to a fault, inordinately charismatic and flamboyant, and had a very special chemistry with all people. As several friends said, “He was one-of-a-kind; everyone fell in love with Don.”

above: lower right corner with Schnably signature

The Washington Post reported it this way:

“Suddenly it’s all fun and games under the JFX!” read the headline on the full-page ad for Baltimore’s annual City Fair, held under the Jones Fall Expressway that cuts through downtown. And in the drawing underneath, amid hundreds of tiny pen-and-ink figures crowding the fairgrounds, was a couple engaged in fun and games of the most primordial nature on the carousel.

The WaPo continued:

As of yesterday, the ad was gone; the advertising agency was told it could keep its $900,000 contract with Baltimore’s Transportation Department but must publish an apology in three Baltimore papers; and the artist had tendered his resignation, effective immediately.

But Donald Schnably, art director and founding partner of the Baltimore advertising firm of Schnably, Evans & McLaughlin, was not going without proclaiming his innocence.

“That was a lion,” Schnably said when initially contacted about the curly-haired female figure.

“It’s the first lion I’ve ever seen that has obvious bosoms,” said Lester Kinsolving, a Baltimore radio talk show host.

Not to mention that the male figure appears to be wearing a striped shirt and his trousers around his ankles.


Don would later admit to the deed. A deed that still lives on in the hearts of Baltimorians.
Thirty years later, when Baltimore’s alternative City Paper did a “Sex Issue,”
the cover brought to mind Don’s carousel couple.



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