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Vintage Advertising Signs | Nostalgic brick wall signs of the past | The Wall Dog Movement of Today

Updated on May 6, 2013

These vintage signs are amazingly still advertising products today just as did from the late 1800s to mid 1900s.

"Wall Dogs" was the nickname given to the sign painters and artist who spent hours hand painting and bringing these vintage signs to life.

Advertising signs like these were hand painted on brick walls and barns across the American landscape.

Some call them ghost signs because they have faded so badly. They may not be as crisp as the day they were painted.

The faded elements make them visually appealing and photographic especially on an antique brick wall.

The new "Wall Dog Movement" is once again bringing these vintage signs back to life as well as small town murals providing insights to tourist and visitors of the towns historical past.

Countless photo albums and books have been produced on the history of these early outdoor advertising images.

Many of the businesses may be long and gone but the advertising still displays nostalgic images of a time when outdoor advertising was hand painted on the sides of stores and barns.

The bottom picture is of a sign that was found under stucco. It displays the business phone number for the Donley Cleaners as a single digit #8.

Early phone numbers were few and fer between in small towns. A single digit may have been one of the first numbers assigned before having to go to double digit numbers.

For all the advertising and media productions over the years these simple hand painted wall signs have provided some of the best long term advertising exposure that has ever been accomplished by any add agency.

Some of the businesses such as Coke Cola have enjoyed free Main Street advertising for well over a century now.

Other nostalgic tobacco signs like Mail Pouch still advertise the favorite brands even though billboard advertising was banned in 1999.

Today computer graphics have taken over the layout and design. These old vintage signs were all hand painted by mostly traveling sign painters who became known as “wall dogs”.

Many were not well educated but learned their trade by becoming apprentices of sign painting pros or learned by working within a family of sign painters.

There were several sign painting technical schools located across the country but most were in the larger cities and not affordable for rural areas.

Many sign painters were third and fourth generation owners of the family business. They were able to hold on to the business up until digital media finally took over and made hand painted sings obsolete.

Some owners were able to make the leap and keep the family businesses going, but most were small business people who worked either on their own or with very few employees.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s national companies would contract with sign painters to travel across the country to do nothing except to paint ad signs in prominent high traffic locations on the sides of stores and barns.

They weren’t paid much but earned and honest living doing something they enjoyed doing.

With very little media exposure except for magazines and newspapers, these signs were one of the only ways to spread the visual product images to sell their product.

More dramatic is that the signs were done in color when newspapers and some magazines at the time were only being printed in black and white.

Television was yet to be invented and radio images were invisible to the consumer.

Some of the store and barn owners were paid a small fee, but many allowed them to be painted for free.

Some of the owners received a free sign for their business in exchange for an advertising sign to be painted on their building as well.

Other small business hired a local sign painter to paint signs on the buildings and glass windows.

These were pure artist that could visualize and sketch out large signs on the sides of the building.

Some sign painters used paper templates with a bag of chalk dust similar to what was used in clothing pattern and fabric layout.

The layout would be sketched onto heavy paper and then the lines were rolled with pattern wheel containing sharp teeth.

The pattern wheel cut notches through the paper along the lines in the template very similar to a clothing pattern

The template would then be hung on the building and the sign painter would use chalk bag to pound along the lines.

The chalk would leave a tracing line on the building to outline the sign letters and layout.

To steady the sign painter’s hand a short wand with a rubber tip would be held in place with one hand to rest and steady the painter’s wrist and arm.

The sign painter through experience and skill could take a brush full of paint and with a swish form a letter with clean lines.

One of the reasons the paint has been able to endure all the years in the harsh outdoor environments is the paint was lead based and mixed with linseed oils.

Like many vintage things there are reenactment groups that keep the traditions going.

One such group known as the Wall Dogs

The Wall Dog Movement helps promote and organize groups of young and old artist to come together in small towns and paint wall murals and restore these vintage works of art.

They work to help sustain the cultural art of hand sign painting while helping small towns to better promote tourism.

The lasting works of art provide life size murals of the town’s heritage and historical images that shaped the town over the centuries since it was first became organized.

The pictures and information is from the back-to-basic folks at Cottage Craft Works .com

Cottage Craftworks .com carries many vintage reproduction items for the self-sufficient simple back-to-basics lifestyles.

Sponsored articles and blogs such as this help promote a nostalgic American heritage history when old fashioned products were originally made and used.


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