Ghost Signs

Description: Ghost signs are faded, painted signs, at least 50 years old, on an exterior building wall heralding a product, trademark or a clue to the building’s history.

Capital Cafe sign, Platteville, WI

Capital Cafe sign, Platteville, WI

Also called fading ads, or ghost ads, these works of art have often been preserved by being hidden by a neighboring building. When the neighboring building is torn down, ghost signs are often found on the side of the remaining building.

Restored Maxwell House ad - Pennington Grocery Co., Pauls Valley, OK

Maxwell House ad - Pennington Grocery Co., Pauls Valley, OK

Some towns have tried to preserve their ghost signs, while others have merely not destroyed them. They provide a window into the past, not only for advertisers, but historic preservationists.

Kennedy Biscuit Lofts, Cambridge, MA

Kennedy Biscuit Lofts, Cambridge, MA

I actually had the pleasure of living in a building with 2 ghost signs. The Kennedy Biscuit Lofts in Cambridge, MA was once home to the famous Fig Newton cookie. In fact, upon moving in, we were presented with a tin of Fig Newtons as a housewarming gift. Most exciting of all, however, was the “Kennedy Biscuit Works” and “Kennedy Steam Bakery” ghost signs on the building.

Kennedy Steam Bakery Ghost Sign, Cambridge, MA

Kennedy Steam Bakery Ghost Sign, Cambridge, MA

Fig Newtons were first produced in 1891 by the National Biscuit Company, now known as Nabisco. They have a long and interesting history. Nabisco states that these cookies were named after the town of Newton, MA. Neither the taste, shape, or size of Fig Newtons has changed in over 100 years.

Vintage Product Tins

Vintage Product Tins

The town of Newton celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fig Newtons April 10th, 1991: “The 100th anniversary of a cookie may not be considered a milestone for the history books, but residents of Newton believe the Fig Newton’s first century is something to celebrate. Newton is an all-American city, and the Fig Newton is an all-American cookie,” said Linda Plaut, the city’s director of cultural affairs. “We’re all proud of that.” …The Newton, as it was originally called, was created in 1891 at the Kennedy Biscuit Works in Cambridgeport, now known as Cambridge, said Mark Gutsche, a Nabisco spokesman.”

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4 thoughts on “Ghost Signs

  1. I could look at these old faded relics of commercialism for hours. I suppose there were people who hated them @ the time — thought they were, well, commercial. Now they look like windows into the past. I wonder what we have now that we dismiss or dislike that people of the future will find beautiful. Pop-up ads? : )

    Oh, and I like your blip.fm playlist too. : )

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