1967-1975: The Glory Days

Cornbread was the first to start tagging on walls outside of a gang context. He wasn’t tagging to mark off certain territories. He was writing to be recognized and let Philly know that the entire city was his territory. In his neighborhood growing up, most kids dreamed of getting out of poverty by becoming famous musicians or athletes. Cornbread had a different point of view—he wanted to be known globally. As Janet Powell Dailey, a longtime friend of McCray’s and lifetime resident of North Philadelphia notes, “He made his own importance. No one had ever done it before.” In years to come, McCray wrote his name into the books of history and was the youngest person ever to start an international art movement.

Cornbread and a small club of graffiti writers sprang up in Philadelphia in the late 1960s, continuing on into the 1970s. Tity, Dr. Cool #1, Cool Earl, and Top Cat wrote their names all over the city. They started competing to see who could get his name on the most walls. It became an alternative to the gang culture. You could earn a reputation and respect by being in the gangs, or you could opt out of that and become an independent tagger.

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