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Discovering Internationalism in the Pirelli Historical Archive

It was the urge to discover the innovative ideas of companies beyond Italy’s borders that led Giovanni Battista Pirelli to embark on the study tour that ultimately led to the creation of Italy’s first rubber industry. This was back in 1870, when the young student from the Politecnico University of Milan started exploring industrial Europe. He was actually still abroad when he decided to devote himself to this undertaking, and he went on a sort of “Grand Tour” of the most advanced factories and research laboratories in France, Switzerland, and Germany. Just thirty years after the opening of its first factory in Milan, in 1872, the Pirelli company became one of Italy’s first multinational concerns, when in 1902 it opened a factory in Villanueva y Geltrù in Spain. This was a decisive year, marking the beginning of Pirelli’s dealings with foreign countries. In 1913, the company opened in Southampton, England, in 1917 in Argentina, and in 1929 in Brazil. The journey that began over 100 years ago led to Pirelli being one of the world’s leading tyre manufacturers, operating in 12 different countries, with 18 factories.

The company’s successes were already being celebrated in 1922, when a series of illustrations went on show at the Museo Storico delle Industrie Pirelli to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. The various posters include the Pirelli Organisation Chart showing the numerous sales offices abroad and the company’s rubber plantations dotted around the world. It is indeed this celebratory drawing of a tree, which constitutes a snapshot of Pirelli’s expansion in the first half of the twentieth century, that introduces the educational programme entitled “Studying Internationalism in the Archive” for lower and upper secondary schools. The course introduces students to the history and present-day world of the company, helping them acquire an open approach towards other cultures. The students will be able to make use of archive documents to become “researchers for a day”, finding out about different types of materials, from documents that record how Pirelli became the first Italian company to be floated on the New York Stock Exchange, in 1922, to photographs of the most recent factories in Indonesia, Mexico, and China. And there are also the house organs published in various countries around the world, and global advertising campaigns, showing how Pirelli has worked for almost 150 years to become the international brand it is today. Advertising can speak all the languages ​​of the world, and the universal word Cinturato, Pirelli’s flagship product right from the 1950s, speaks even louder, as we see, for example, in the campaigns created by Pino Tovaglia in 1968. Or in the “International travellers travel Cinturato” advertisement of 1971, in which the design of the Cinturato is accompanied by the car plates of Europe on an imaginary journey from Holland to Greece, and from Austria to Spain.

During the course, the students will visit the exhibition Pirelli: Advertising with a Capital P at the Pirelli Foundation, which will introduce them to the international visual and graphic communication of forty decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s, which were characterised by an increasingly global outlook. In the advertisements created by the Agenzia Centro, showing Pirelli as a “world industry”, the Pirelli logo is multiplied countless times to create a sphere that recalls our planet, clearly conveying the international nature of the company. In the 1990s, with the agency Young & Rubicam, Pirelli’s endorsers were world-famous stars such as Carl Lewis, Sharon Stone and the footballer Ronaldo. Advertising can also be seen as a means for understanding the great social, economic and technological changes that have swept through our world and our lifestyles. Showing young people this original view of an ever-changing world is a way of giving them new instruments to interpret the reality that is all around them.

It was the urge to discover the innovative ideas of companies beyond Italy’s borders that led Giovanni Battista Pirelli to embark on the study tour that ultimately led to the creation of Italy’s first rubber industry. This was back in 1870, when the young student from the Politecnico University of Milan started exploring industrial Europe. He was actually still abroad when he decided to devote himself to this undertaking, and he went on a sort of “Grand Tour” of the most advanced factories and research laboratories in France, Switzerland, and Germany. Just thirty years after the opening of its first factory in Milan, in 1872, the Pirelli company became one of Italy’s first multinational concerns, when in 1902 it opened a factory in Villanueva y Geltrù in Spain. This was a decisive year, marking the beginning of Pirelli’s dealings with foreign countries. In 1913, the company opened in Southampton, England, in 1917 in Argentina, and in 1929 in Brazil. The journey that began over 100 years ago led to Pirelli being one of the world’s leading tyre manufacturers, operating in 12 different countries, with 18 factories.

The company’s successes were already being celebrated in 1922, when a series of illustrations went on show at the Museo Storico delle Industrie Pirelli to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. The various posters include the Pirelli Organisation Chart showing the numerous sales offices abroad and the company’s rubber plantations dotted around the world. It is indeed this celebratory drawing of a tree, which constitutes a snapshot of Pirelli’s expansion in the first half of the twentieth century, that introduces the educational programme entitled “Studying Internationalism in the Archive” for lower and upper secondary schools. The course introduces students to the history and present-day world of the company, helping them acquire an open approach towards other cultures. The students will be able to make use of archive documents to become “researchers for a day”, finding out about different types of materials, from documents that record how Pirelli became the first Italian company to be floated on the New York Stock Exchange, in 1922, to photographs of the most recent factories in Indonesia, Mexico, and China. And there are also the house organs published in various countries around the world, and global advertising campaigns, showing how Pirelli has worked for almost 150 years to become the international brand it is today. Advertising can speak all the languages ​​of the world, and the universal word Cinturato, Pirelli’s flagship product right from the 1950s, speaks even louder, as we see, for example, in the campaigns created by Pino Tovaglia in 1968. Or in the “International travellers travel Cinturato” advertisement of 1971, in which the design of the Cinturato is accompanied by the car plates of Europe on an imaginary journey from Holland to Greece, and from Austria to Spain.

During the course, the students will visit the exhibition Pirelli: Advertising with a Capital P at the Pirelli Foundation, which will introduce them to the international visual and graphic communication of forty decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s, which were characterised by an increasingly global outlook. In the advertisements created by the Agenzia Centro, showing Pirelli as a “world industry”, the Pirelli logo is multiplied countless times to create a sphere that recalls our planet, clearly conveying the international nature of the company. In the 1990s, with the agency Young & Rubicam, Pirelli’s endorsers were world-famous stars such as Carl Lewis, Sharon Stone and the footballer Ronaldo. Advertising can also be seen as a means for understanding the great social, economic and technological changes that have swept through our world and our lifestyles. Showing young people this original view of an ever-changing world is a way of giving them new instruments to interpret the reality that is all around them.

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