Stamp view.

World's Largest Rubber Stamp

Field review by the editors.

Cleveland, Ohio

The World's Largest Rubber Stamp is a conspicuous landmark near the harbor in downtown Cleveland, a nexus of tourism thrills that includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the USS Cod, a W.W.II sub.

The story we heard about the stamp is this:

Standard Oil of Ohio (later purchased by BP, which merged with Amoco) commissioned artist Claes Oldenburg to create the 28-ft tall, 48-ft long steel office stamp in 1985. Intended for [installation in front of] their Euclid Avenue headquarters, the company had a change of management before its completion. The new boss didn't care much for a gigantic rubber stamp with the word "FREE" on it, so it was put in storage in a warehouse in Whiting, Indiana.

Stamp view.

There it sat for seven years. In 1991, BP/Amoco offered to donate it to Cleveland as a grand piece of public art. The city politely refused, noting that they didn't have the funds to install or maintain it. Amoco offered to do the whole job for "FREE" -- and the rest is rubber stamp history.

April 2009: Nicholas T. Giorganni, project director for construction of the SOHIO (later BP) building, worked directly with Claes Oldenburg regarding the Free Stamp, and provides this account: "The Free Stamp was not relocated because of high storage costs at the Chicago Bridge and Iron plant in Illinois, but rather because it took that long to locate a site agreeable to the sculptor. Even then, he redesigned the sculpture from its upright position to lying on its side. To quote the sculptor, it was as if a giant hand picked up the free stamp and hurled it several blocks to its current location at Willard Park."

"The rationale behind the word 'free' relates to its original proposed position in front of the BP Building, just across from the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which, upright, it roughly resembled in shape. The word free has several meanings but the main one in this case, was designed to parallel the freedom of slaves but also -- because the stamp pressed down on the word free -- that many today still are not free."

World's Largest Rubber Stamp

Address:
Lakeside Ave. E., Cleveland, OH
Directions:
2 blocks from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Hours:
Aug. 2014: Reported undergoing renovation, fenced off.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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