Ghost Signs On A US Road Trip
10 GHOSTS OF MARKETING’S PAST | Sharon Henry
Ghost signs – are not, as the name might suggest, indicators to warn you’re being haunted. Rather they are advertising signage left behind by businesses, who in some cases have ‘given up the ghost’ – phantoms if you like of marketing’s past.
These vintage advertisements that miraculously still adorn brick walls in towns and cities today were hand-painted in a bygone era. Like a trail of historical breadcrumbs they offer a unique step-back-in-time to an artistic phase of American business culture. These mural-type adverts are typically over 50 years old and often go unnoticed; many are severely faded.
Gone For Good
Our US road trip was peppered with these ghost signs that I developed a casual interest in spotting. Through Google I also discovered there is such a thing as ghost sign ‘hunters,’ people dedicated to documenting these faded murals before they disappear through weathering and property development – forever. There are even specific tours for this niche available around the world.
What I find fascinating about these old-fashioned adverts, besides being works of art, is each one reveals an interesting piece of history. It feels good to spot one – even better when you learn the story behind it.
Many seem so embedded into the walls, it’s as if the pattern was cleverly made of bricks. But their longevity is down to the toxic, lead-based paint used during those times which isn’t as susceptible to the elements as today’s water-based alternatives. Because of this they are seemingly stained onto buildings.
Here is a collection of ghost signs we spotted driving through the US and across the border to Canada.
I hope you enjoyed this little delve into the fading USA, following the trail left by the ghosts of marketing’s past.
It’s likely that you too have ghost signs around you – the trick is to notice them.