In an exciting discovery, a researcher in England has recently uncovered the original photograph that graced the cover of Led Zeppelin IV, a 1971 album renowned for hits like “Stairway to Heaven.” The album’s cover, which uniquely lacks the band’s name and album title, features a peculiar photograph of a man, known among fans as the “stick man,” carrying twigs on his back and leaning on a stick. This image, set against a backdrop of peeling floral wallpaper, has intrigued fans for over five decades.
Brian Edwards, a historian at the University of the West of England and a devoted Led Zeppelin fan, stumbled upon this Victorian photograph in a photo album while browsing auction house news online. He recognized the “stick man” image instantly. The album, titled “Reminiscences of a visit to Shaftesbury. Whitsuntide 1892,” was eventually acquired by the Wiltshire Museum for £420 (around $515). Edwards’ chance discovery was a blend of serendipity and his keen interest in Led Zeppelin.
The original black and white photo, possibly colorized for the album cover, was in an album gifted by Ernest Howard Farmer, a Victorian photographer and photography instructor. The museum has since identified the subject of the photograph as Lot Long, a 69-year-old roof thatcher from Mere, Wiltshire, living in a small cottage at the time of the photograph.
The photo album, containing various images of architecture, street scenes, and portraits of rural workers, captures the essence of Victorian Wessex. Next year, the Wiltshire Museum plans to exhibit these photographs in a show titled “The Wiltshire Thatcher: A Photographic Journey Through Victorian Wessex,” highlighting the contrast between rural and urban life—a theme that intriguingly echoes in Led Zeppelin’s album decades later.