Hand-painted signs old & new


Chillicothe, Ohio, between US 50 (Main Street) and the other main road—making this road a sort of Main Street No. 2

There’s a very good article in Collector’s Weekly about the recent resurgence of hand-painted signs. It’s bound to tickle the hearts of all sign aficionados as well as those who admire the skill involved in such work—mass production has not won out just yet! Moreover, what a wonderful field of work for those with an artistic spirit.

Virden, Illinois wall of ghost signs. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning is okay).

An EMBARRASSMENT of ghost sign riches on a single wall in Virden, Illinois! I am not sure how old the Sly Fox sign is, though it’s clearly of more recent vintage than the Wrigley’s and the millinery.

The article inspired me to post some of the best hand-painted “ghost signs” I’ve come across during my travels, including a few contemporary examples.

Fairyland: Pictures Changed Daily. Weston, WV ghost signs. Photo by Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (though pinning is okay).

Another richly decorated wall of ghost signs, this in Weston, WV.

The above wall is one of the most richly-painted I’ve seen. My husband and I were on our way to visit friends in Nashville, taking old US-19 so as to better enjoy the ride. Though the weather was unseasonably cold and rain was pouring down to boot (see the raindrops on the lens?), my lack of proper attire didn’t stop me from taking quite a few quick snaps in the town of Weston, West Virginia.Weston is a gold mine of little cultural goodies like these ghost signs. I really need to get back…

Wilmington, OhioThe need for gyms and personal training not existing in the late 19th and early 20th century clearly indicate Wilmington, Ohio beauty as a newer sign—yet done in an old-fashioned style that fits in quite well with the town’s charm.

Flour of the Hour: Cambridge, Ohio. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

Though the White Satin Flour advertisement in the lower front corner of this Cambridge, Ohio building grabs our immediate attention, a second look reveals multiple ghost signs hovering near the top. Clearly something else was attached to the building and then removed to make room for the road. Bright Old Walldog, Route 66 Texas. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (though pinning is okay).

This bright Merit Feed & Seed sign still pops from the side of an abandoned, crumbling garage along Route 66 in Texas. I’m still not able to decide whether or not someone refreshed the paint or if the trees have sheltered it from further degradation.

A Fine Row, Tipp City, Ohio. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning is okay)

Tipp City, Ohio

The hand-painted “Gem City” ice cream sign takes the charm of this Main Street vignette right over the top!

"Buying Eggs No More", Depew, Oklahoma, Route 66. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning is okay)

Depew, Oklahoma

Another rainy-day treasure is this photo of a sign that hopes you’re selling, not buying. Unfortunately, the business appears to have gone under many years ago.

Hand-painted "Taxi" sign. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved

I spotted this, the littlest ghost sign yet, in Buchanan, a quiet town tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’d stopped for lunch (and because we’d gotten slightly lost!)—it’s another gem of a place like Weston.

Fresh Paint. Weirton, WV. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning is okay)

This is another vintage-looking sign, but it’s actually brand-new, painted in 2010 for the film “Super 8”, which was shot in the town we were living in at the time. Nice-looking, isn’t it?

Freshen Up!

I spotted this on an abandoned service station in Baxter Springs, Kansas. The flaking and wear actually makes it look all the better to me—though of course that means it’s likely to be gone completely some day. Of course, the things that wear us down are so often those that give us character, aren’t they?

Finally, one last (semi-) local ghost sign:

Schuler's Bakery, Springfield, Ohio. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning is okay)

Just in case you miss that glorious blue, white, and red neon sign and what just might be a Vitrolite storefront (to say nothing of the lift-y0u-off-your-feet heavenly fragrance), the folks of Schuler’s, one of Springfield’s most popular bakeries, has a simple but warm ghost sign on the broad white side of their building. Boasting that Schuler’s is the “home of home made” might seem presumptuous to the beneficiaries of talented grandmothers from sea to shining sea, but if the number of folks going in and out were any indication, the treats are delicious. (Being celiac, I had to stay outside lest the temptation be too much!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my favourite “walldogs”. Keep your eyes open for old ads like these—and their descendants!


8 thoughts on “Hand-painted signs old & new

  1. I love these old wall ads! On the small town near our family farm, there was an old Coca Cola ad that was faded – instead of painting over it, they spruced it up. It looks fantastic when you drive through town. Much better than any plastic sign.

    • Thanks, Melissa! They are so fun to see—sort of a folk art, in a way. Around here we see Mail Pouch Tobacco barns all of the time, and people are often refreshing them with new paint. There’s a certain charm to them.

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