Ghost Signs of Central Illinois
Ghost signs are old advertising signs-- neglected or hidden for many years—that are defunct or no longer relevant. There are examples of ghost signs all over the world, but they’re very common in the United States, especially from the “golden era” of advertising from the 1890s to the 1950s—when brick or wooden building sides were often painted by accomplished artists and sign painters in long-lasting lead paint. Many of these signs were subsequently hidden by buildings constructed adjacent to the advertising signs, thus protecting and preserving the signs from the fading effects of sun and weather. A broader definition of ghost signs includes signs in metal, terra cotta, stone or other forms.
Ghost signs are very common in older, densely populated cities with a great deal of brick construction. When adjacent buildings are torn down, their destruction often reveals long-hidden advertising signs. Because they’re fleeting remnants of a bygone era, chronicling ghost signs through photography has become a fascinating hobby for hundreds of people around the world. Because of its location on historic Route 66 and the age and construction of local buildings, there are several good examples of ghost signs in Central Illinois.
The photo sharing site Flickr has a group devoted to ghost sign photographs that includes more than 20,000 examples.