Discovering the Origin of Led Zeppelin IV’s Iconic Cover: The Story Behind “The Stick Man”

Uncover the hidden story behind the cover of Led Zeppelin IV: the identity of The Stick Man and its connection to 19th-century photography.

Author: Marco Crupi

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Brian Edwards, a photographic researcher at the University of the West of England, has discovered the origin of the image on the famous cover of the album “Led Zeppelin IV” (the album containing the renowned song “Stairway to Heaven“). The image, depicting an elderly man with a grey beard bent under the weight of a large bundle of sticks, has been identified as Lot Long, a 19th-century reaper from Wiltshire, England, photographed by Ernest Farmer in 1892.

The reaper has been identified as Lot Long, photographed by Ernest Farmer in 1892.

Edwards made this discovery while browsing through an old photo album. Edwards, who had purchased the vinyl of “Led Zeppelin IV” in 1971, immediately recognized the image. His research revealed that the photographer Ernest Farmer, who died in 1944, had taken the photo, and that the subject, Lot Long, had passed away a year later, in 1893.

The cover of the album 'Led Zeppelin IV.'

The version of the image on the album cover is a coloration of the original photograph. It is believed that Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant found the image in an antique shop and chose to use it for the cover. Edwards, in an interview with The New York Times, speculated that Farmer, who was also a teacher, might have allowed a student to color the photo, and that somehow it ended up in an antique store. The original colored image has been lost.

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