Advertising History’s Unexpected Link to National Poetry Month

The month of April is National Poetry Month, 30 days of celebrating a broad range of prose that evokes emotion in readers. 

From tragic ballads like Poe’s Annabel Lee and Shakespear’s powerful sonnets, to the epic masterpieces like Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, and the short-form Haiku, poetry offers something for  just about everyone. 

But have you heard of the quirky ad campaign by Burma Shaving Cream? The clever word play is now as much a part of Americana as is apple pie and baseball. 


Buckle up for a journey down memory lane, filled with shaving cream, poetry, and a dash of roadside charm. 

In the early 20th century, America’s highways were expanding and billboards were an eye-catching way for advertisers to reach a wider market. But as billboards became more common, making a product — such as shaving cream — stand out took a bit of extra creativity.

An American brand of brushless shaving cream knew just how to do it.

Enter the Burma Shave billboard series, a string of sequential signs spaced out along the roadside like poetic breadcrumbs. Each set featured a witty jingle, typically split into four to six signs, with the final one revealing the brand name. (It was like Twitter, if Twitter was analog on the roadside, but with fewer hashtags and more dad jokes.)

Drivers eagerly anticipated the next installment, chuckling at the linguistic twists and turns as they cruised down the highway. It was interactive marketing at its finest, engaging motorists in a way that traditional ads simply couldn’t.

Some were roadside safety messages, others were appeals to wives, while others still addressed war efforts. But each series of signs was truly special. Burma Shave’s knack for short poetic storytelling sold their product with flair, weaving lighthearted humor and heartfelt sentiment.

Burma Shave billboards continued until 1963. Although these charming signs gradually faded into the rearview, remembering them is a nice detour from the well-traveled paths of traditional poetry during National Poetry Month.


  • Every shaver / Now can snore / Six more minutes / Than before / By using / Burma-Shave
  • Past / Schoolhouses / Take it slow / Let the little / Shavers grow / Burma-Shave
  • Don’t take / a curve / at 60 per. / We hate to lose / a customer / Burma-Shave
  • Are your whiskers / When you wake / Tougher than /A two-bit steak? /Try /Burma-Shave
  • Train approaching / Whistle squealing / Stop / Avoid that run-down feeling / Burma-Shave