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Mystery of Man on Led Zeppelin Album Cover Solved

Updated: Mar 21

A researcher in England has found a copy of the original photograph featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV. Known as 'stick man', his identity has long puzzled fans of the album that's sold over 37 million copies worldwide.


Album cover of Led Zeppelin IV
Album cover of Led Zeppelin IV | Wikipedia

Released in 1971, the iconic album which includes monster-hit Stairway to Heaven, is also famous for its curious cover, which doesn’t include text identifying the band name or the album title. Instead, it shows a framed photograph of a man hanging against a backdrop of peeling floral wallpaper. The man uses a stick for a cane and carries a bundle of long twigs strapped to his back.


The photo’s origin and the man’s identity have long been a mystery. As the story goes, Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, was rummaging through an antique shop when he came across the photograph, reports BBC News.


Recently, more than 50 years after the album’s release, Brian Edwards, a historian at the University of the West of England - who, as luck would have it, is also a big Led Zepp fan - came across a Victorian photo album that included the image of the stick man. So, he immediately recognized it.


Victorian-era photograph of the "stick man" featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV
Victorian-era photograph of the "stick man" featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV | Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

The photo album is titled Reminiscences of a visit to Shaftesbury. Whitsuntide 1892. A present to Auntie from Ernest. The local museum identified the handwriting inside as matching the signature of Ernest Farmer, a Victorian photographer. While the newly discovered photograph is black and white, the version of the image on the album cover is colorized. Edwards reckons that Farmer, who was also a photography instructor, used the image to teach his students how to colorize photos.


The museum has also identified the mysterious stick man in the image: His name was Lot Long, and he was a 69-year-old roof thatcher born in the town of Mere, Wiltshire, in 1823. At the time of the photograph, he was a widower who lived in a small cottage.


So, there you have it. The mystery stick man is Lot Long.

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