I love collecting sunrises and signage. There are many similarities between both mediums. Beer signs, street signs, license plates, gas station signs, eggs stands, everything we buy, sell, trade or collect has been advertised on a sign, somewhere, at sometime. My favorite sign of all times is the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square in Boston, MA.
Historically figural signs were used to advertise barbershops and drugstores, pawn shops and post offices. Collectors Weekly explains, ” in 17th and 18th -century Europe and early America, most of the population was illiterate, so shopkeepers often used figural signs outside their businesses to attract customers:Barbers used a pole painted with red, white and blue stripes in a corkscrew pattern, pharmacists used “show globes” filled with colored liquid, pawn shops displayed three golden balls and tobacco shops placed wooden statues of Native Americans outside their doors.”
Soon the square wood signs emerged. These were signs with the shape, size and material dictating simplistic graphics. “Fresh eggs”, “Gas”, “Motel” . They were mostly hand painted and very hard to keep up in the harsh weather.
The emergence of the billboard, murals, lettering on glass storefronts and tin signs began in earnest in the 1800’s. According to Frontsigns, “The first gas illuminated sign was made in 1840 in Chicago, Illinois for P.T. Barnum Museum. The sign was able to work 5 hours straight.” So began the age of illuminated signage eventually leading to the digital billboard.
Darryl Tilden, Vintage Advertising signs 1800’s//2000’s, writes,”…Lithography in the early 1800’s changed the advertising signs forever.”
Great graphics, logos, colorful backgrounds, neon brilliance, all began emerging in the 1900’s as industrial know how and art merged. Tin, porcelain, glass, vinyl, plastic, all began competing for the sign of choice for the advertiser. Good signage is key to delivering buyers to sellers.
Finding these fun, colorful messages in yard sales, estate sales and moving sales is similar to stumbling across and capturing an outstanding sunrise. It is always a delight and surprise when you stumble across a beauty.