In the 1900s signage became very poplar. Advertising signs were made in many different shapes and sizes. In the early 1920s through the 1950s sign painters were nicknamed “Wall Dogs”. They traveled across America, painting directly on brick buildings and wood barns. Painting large pictures and letters with lead base paint. The signs were high and visible. Today you may see a fading, peeling image, they are called “ghost signs”. The images are “ghostly”. Some signs have several layers of pigment. The lead base paint that was used, has survived the weather and their age. Many of the products that were being advertised may be obsolete but we see it as history and art. Technology has taken over today’s sign making.
Today murals have become city projects. Newly painted images on the side of buildings are painted by commissioned artist. Oil or water based paint has replaced the no longer used lead paint. The images look photographic. The town’s pictorial history, city scenes, and landscapes many times being portrayed. Murals give the communities, visual expression, cultural identity, and pride. The outdoor murals are our new public art galleries and museums.
Neon captivates us. Color lines and forms written out in words, blinking messages. The first neon sign introduced to the United States was in 1923. A Los Angeles Packard car dealership bought two signs from Paris. By the early 1930s neon signs became commonplace. Theatre marquees, bars, and restaurants signs were flickering. In the 1950s neon was at peak especially in Las Vegas. Roadsides diners, drive-ins and theatres were lit up. In the 1960s plastic signs soon replaced neon. Neon slowly faded out, only to be reborn in the 21st century.
Ghost Sign - “Eliot Ness For Mayor”
E.36th and Cedar, Cleveland, Ohio March 10, 1974
In 1933 Eliot Ness was the Chief Investigator of the Prohibition Bureau in Chicago. He would not accept bribes or turn his back on organized crime. He went after Al Capone. Newspaper columnists nicked named him “Untouchable”. When Prohibition ended, he came to Cleveland, Ohio. Appointed “Director of Public Safety” in 1935, he was in charge of the police and fire department. He fought police corruption and organized crime. He had some personal downfalls that changed his career. In 1947 Eliot Ness ran unsuccessfully for mayor. He died in 1957 of a heart attack.
Lawrence, Kansas February 29, 1984
This is truly Retro Americana
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